Exclusive: Pirro Not Returning “Mob” Money

Jeanine Pirro‘s spokesman, Mike McKeon, told the Politicker that Pirro does not plan immediately to return $2,000 to Worth Construction Company, a firm linked by federal agents to organized crime.

McKeon said Pirro would not return the money today. The campaign’s general policy, he said, is to evaluate donations on a “case by case” basis, but he wouldn’t elaborate on this particular case.

McKeon defended the Worth contributions, first reported on The Politicker, as well as a set of other mob-linked donations reported today in the Daily News, by pointing out that Democrats had accepted contributions from officials at some of those companies.

Vice President Al Gore accepted $4,000 from Worth Construction executives in 1999. But the contribution triggered scandal when it emerged after the campaign (one Connecticut Post story about it appears on this weird site, more in Nexis), and campaign officials said they hadn’t realized who it came from. In 2003, Senator Joseph Lieberman accepted a $2,000 check from the firm’s president, who listed his occupation as “self-employed/construction” on the federal campaign finance filing.

No other federal, New York City, or New York State candidates, with the exception of one Westchester County judge, have taken money from Worth or Pontoriero since Al D’Amato in 1997. As the News reported, “In 2003, an FBI agent testified that Worth Construction owner Joseph Pontoriero is an associate of the Genovese crime family and that Worth had tried to bribe a local official.”

Pontoriero didn’t return The Politicker’s call seeking a comment.

McKeon blamed the stories on the Clintons (who, he hinted darkly, “know how to do these things without fingerprints”), though The Politicker’s tipster was not (as far as we know) Clinton-inspired and the News story was reported by Greg Smith, a veteran of the mafia beat who needs nobody’s help in spotting mob-linked names on a campaign filing.

He also emailed over a list of recipients of contributions from firms named in the News story, which shows that three of the five (other than Worth)have also contributed to Democrats.

One firm named by the News, the Bergassi Group, has contributed to Chuck Schumer and to several members of the New York City congressional delegation. Another individual in the News story, Richard Nasti, has written checks to Andrew Cuomo, Richard Brodsky, Elliot Spitzer, and Alan Hevesi.

“Jeanine Pirro has been a leader in the fight against organized crime – any suggestion to the contrary is just ridiculous,” McKeon said.