The news rocked New York’s political world. After seven years as Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, 51, dropped a bombshell.
“After much discussion with my family and due to my desire to tackle other challenges I am announcing that I will not be seeking another term.”
It’s not unusual for incumbents to decide not to run for a third term. But what Levy said next in his public statement on March 24 was startling:
“Questions have been raised concerning fundraising through my political campaign. Since this occurred under my watch, I accept responsibility. In order to resolve these questions, I will be turning over my campaign funds to the Suffolk County district attorney.”
And just like that Levy’s $4.1 million war chest was emptied. But his decision hasn’t put the matter to rest.
Minutes after Levy’s shocking announcement Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota issued a statement that was just as explosive for what it didn’t say as for what it did:
“Today, our County Executive Steve Levy announced that he would not seek re-election and that he was turning his campaign funds over to the District Attorney’s Office. This action was taken by him to resolve a 16-month investigation conducted by the Government Corruption Bureau which began in the summer of 2009. I am satisfied that the actions taken by Mr. Levy resolve the investigation in the best interests of the citizens of Suffolk County. Our investigation included the full cooperation of the County Executive. He met with prosecutors and investigators on multiple occasions to answer questions and provide information relevant to our inquiry. There is no question that while the investigation revealed serious issues with regard to fundraising and the manner in which it was conducted, including the use of public resources, I am confident that Mr. Levy did not personally profit. The forfeiture of his $4 million campaign fund demonstrates his acceptance of responsibility for these failings.”
Flip the calendar back to January—at the Long Island Association’s annual breakfast featuring the two county executives—and realize how much has changed. Back then, Levy was his typically feisty self, while Nassau’s Ed Mangano was defensive and whiny (he was facing the imminent take-over by the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, or NIFA). Nobody at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury that cold winter’s morning would have dreamed that of the two county leaders at the podium Levy would end up the lame duck. As one Republican elected official tells the Press today, “He’s been emasculated.”