Five New York State Senators and former members of the disbanded Independent Democratic Conference have received a late fundraising boost from a campaign committee that was reprimanded by the state for improperly raising money for them, according to recent filings.

The Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC) has transferred $345,000 total into the campaigns of former IDC members Jeff Klein, Marisol Alcantara, Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, according to the last filing before the Democratic primary on September 13th. The bulk of the funds included $125,000 to Alcantara’s campaign and $100,000 to Klein’s, both facing tough challenges in their districts.

In June, a state judge ruled that around $1.4 million of the SICC’s donations to IDC candidates were illegal because when the contributions were made, the SICC was led by Senator Klein, who was also the leader of the IDC. The IDC was technically not a political party, and the state supreme court argued it should not receive the benefits of one, ordering that the committee “comply with the Election Law.”

The State Board of Elections (BOE) enforcement counsel, Risa Sugarman, took that vague ruling to mean that the former IDC members should return the $1.4 million in improperly raised money, and she demanded that the candidates give back the cash. Last month, Lawrence Mandelker, a lawyer representing the Independence Party and members of the dissolved IDC, argued that the BOE should “censure” Sugarman for abusing the office’s authority.

In the end, the state BOE voted to curtail Sugerman’s subpoena power, over the objections of good government groups and Governor Andrew Cuomo. None of the former IDC members have returned the contributions that were deemed illegal.

The most recent $345,000 in contributions were made after Klein kicked back control of the committee to the Independence Party in April, when the IDC disbanded.

"Election Laws are too often violated without consequence in New York State," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor for good government group Reinvent Albany. "IDC candidates are not above the law. They should return the contributions as required by the Enforcement Counsel resulting from the court's determination."

Camarda said Sugarman could bring the complaints against the former IDC members back to the Board of Elections to decide which penalties, if any, to assess.

Mandelker, the IDC’s lawyer, and Sugarman both declined to comment for this story.

Many of the former IDC lawmakers face narrow re-election bids. The Independent Democratic Conference, formed in 2011, was once touted as a vehicle for local bipartisanship and action. Now the eight Democratic state senators who previously belonged to the group are being accused of empowering Republicans in the legislature and of being complicit in blocking progressive legislation over the years.

Alessandra Biaggi, a former Cuomo staffer running to unseat Jeff Klein in the Bronx, has used Klein’s IDC credentials as a weapon against him.

“Klein depends on huge amounts of special interest cash, and the Senate Independence Campaign Committee is just another way for him to grab even more to fuel his outrageous and desperate spending,” said David Neustadt, press secretary for Biaggi’s campaign, in a statement.

“If he wins, the people of the District will suffer as he pays off all this debts to the landlords, healthcare industry and other special interests, as he has before," Neustadt said.

Klein spent $836,000 in the last filing period but still has $958,000 in cash on hand. The Klein campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Former IDC member and State Senator Marisol Alcantara received $295,750 from the SICC in 2018. She is facing former City Councilman Robert Jackson in Manhattan’s District 31, who is running as part of the anti-IDC wave of candidates in the state.

"Senator Alcantara has fully complied with state election laws throughout her campaign, and will continue to comply with them for the duration of her campaign,” said Michael Oliva, a spokesperson for the Alcantara campaign. Oliva then accused Jackson of being beholden to donors outside of the state rather than to the voters in the district.

The SICC’s latest filing also included fundraising; they recently received $50,000 from the Real Estate Board of New York. The committee still has about $328,000 in the bank.

Former IDC Senator Tony Avella has received $42,000 from the SICC. Former New York City Comptroller John Liu is challenging him in District 11 in Queens. Additionally, the SICC gave $39,000 to Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing Brooklyn attorney Zellnor Myrie in District 20. Senator Jose Peralta is squaring off against Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor de Blasio, in District 10 in Queens. Peralta’s boost from the SICC amounted to $39,000. All three did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

The Democratic primary is this Thursday, September 13th.

Jake Shore is a journalist in New York City. He previously worked as a reporter and podcast host at WFUV, NPR-affiliate in the Bronx. He's also written for FAQ NYC.