Assemblyman Dov Hikind dropped more than $800 of campaign cash on a car lease this month, raising the eyebrows of ethics watchdogs.
Mr. Hikind, a Brooklyn lawmaker with a war chest of nearly $1 million, spent $815.60 at a Bay Ridge Nissan to renew the lease on a car that doesn’t appear to have a specific campaign function. He spent the money on July 1, according to his campaign filings.
“I use it for anything related to work,” Mr. Hikind told the Observer. “I don’t take it to Albany.”
“I don’t know why suddenly you’re asking about it now. It’s nothing new. It’s something I’ve been doing for the past number of years,” he added, not specifying how the car lease pertained to his re-election bid against a long-shot Republican.
Mr. Hikind isn’t the only state legislator to use campaign cash for expenses that appear to have nothing to do with the campaign trail. State lawmakers have blown campaign cash on Tony Robbins seminars, a pool cover and cake. With lax oversight from the State Board of Elections–the BOE does not explicitly define what pols can and can’t spend their money on–expenditures like Mr. Hikind’s are not uncommon.
“We believe the law is written in a deliberately vague fashion,” said Susan Lerner, the director of Common Cause New York, a good government group. “It seems as much a personal expense as a campaign expense. If you need a car to commute for work, generally, you pay for the car–you don’t ask campaign contributors to pay for the car.”
Mr. Hikind, who considers himself a power broker in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, is no stranger to controversy. He was indicted in the 1990s and later acquitted on federal bribery charges and drew fire last year for dressing up in black face to celebrate a Jewish holiday.