A Queens politician who raised more than $35,000 to replace a vandalized community refrigerator accepted the contributions through her campaign account, raising questions about the transparency of her charity effort.
When a fridge providing free food to the hungry outside state Sen. Jessica Ramos’s East Elmhurst office was damaged last month, the outcry was loud and contributions to replace it poured in quickly.
“The community fridge outside our district office was vandalized and destroyed last night. So many of our neighbors depend on the generosity of other neighbors to get through these difficult times. Now this lifeline is gone. I’m heartbroken,” Ramos tweeted Jan. 2., garnering coverage from multiple news outlets.
In a follow-up tweet, the Democrat included a link to accept contributions, explaining, “We’re going to need your help to keep our community fridge project going. Any little bit helps! 100% of your donations will keep our fridge stocked for our neighbors.”
But the link took visitors to an ActBlue page for her campaign account. The page, since taken down, stated, “All proceeds from this link will go directly to keeping the refrigerator stocked for our neighbors in need.” Above boxes used for specifying the amount of one’s contribution, the page said, “Your contribution will benefit Jessica Ramos.”
The more than $35,000 in contributions raised through the effort made up the majority of Ramos’s campaign haul for January, according to state filings.
She spent $6,000 on consultants and a few hundred on staff meals and transportation — but no money for the fridge or food for the community.
“It’s not right,” Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of government watchdog Citizens Union, told the Daily News. “I would not mix campaign work with charity.