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Death of fmr. Assemblyman & Nassau Co. Boss Joseph Margiotta (R-NY)

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  • D.J. Jones
    Former Assemblyman Margiotta died on 11/28/2008 in Roslyn, NY. ================================================ Joseph Margiotta, former Republican leader,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2008
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      Former Assemblyman Margiotta died on 11/28/2008 in Roslyn, NY.


      Joseph Margiotta, former Republican leader, dies at 81
      BY RICK BRAND AND JOSEPH MALLIA | rick.brand@...;
      November 29, 2008

      Former Nassau Republican chairman and power broker Joseph Margiotta
      died on Friday at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. He was 81.

      Margiotta had been hospitalized since Sunday when he indicated that
      he was feeling tired, said Mitchell Charchalis, his grandson.

      "Joe was a true believer in the Republican Party and its principles
      and will be long remembered for the central role he played in the
      county's history," said Joseph Mondello, the state and Nassau GOP
      chairman, who was Margiotta's hand-picked successor to run the once-
      dominant party.

      Margiotta was influential in Long Island politics for decades,
      heading the county Republican empire from 1968 to 1983. Earlier, he
      was a six-term state assemblyman, representing Uniondale.

      In 1972, Margiotta held a giant re-election rally at Nassau Coliseum
      for President Richard Nixon, whose first words to a crowd of 15,000
      were, "This is the biggest and best rally, Joe Margiotta, I have ever

      During his tenure, his county party produced national GOP officials
      like Alfonse D'Amato and top White House staffers.

      "He was a product of the old school of local politics," said Fred
      Parola, a former Nassau comptroller and the current executive
      director of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency. "He was close to
      the people and understood that politics was a two-way street. He
      served the public in hopes of getting their vote."

      His political career was not without controversy. He was convicted on
      Dec. 9, 1981, on federal extortion and mail-fraud charges.

      In essence, a jury concluded that his patronage system, which was the
      foundation of his party's power, had helped it win national prestige
      and had cheated taxpayers by usurping the authority of elected

      He was sentenced to 2 years in prison on Jan. 21, 1982, by a federal
      judge. He walked out of the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow 14
      months later, saying to reporters waiting for him at 5:53 a.m.: "I am
      delighted to be home with my family and my wife. I'm sorry I can't
      think of anything brilliant to say this morning."

      Margiotta worked as a lawyer with longtime partner Michael Ricigliano
      and devoted time to the Dante Foundation, a group that gives
      scholarships to college-aged Italian Americans.

      He underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in 1999, yet later remained
      active, most recently attending an Aug. 12 party celebrating three-
      time Nassau County executive Francis Purcell's 90th birthday.

      He also attended Hofstra University. In 1991, Margiotta Hall, Hofstra
      University's field house, was dedicated in his honor.

      With his wife Dorothy, he was a father of two and a grandfather.

      While his funeral will be private, a public memorial is planned but
      has not yet been scheduled, Charchalis said.

      Political kingmaker didn't mind doing hard work

      BY KEITH HERBERT | keith.herbert@...
      November 30, 2008

      For a political kingmaker, Joseph Margiotta did a lot of work usually
      done by pawns, those who knew him well said yesterday.

      When it came to knocking on doors, making phone calls and getting
      people to the polls on Election Day, no one worked harder than
      Margiotta, the former Nassau County Republican Party chairman who
      died Friday at 81.

      "He had one ingredient that very few leaders had," said Francis
      Purcell, who with Margiotta's backing was elected county executive in
      1977. "He never asked anybody to do anything he wouldn't do himself."

      With tireless work and a belief that community ties and winning
      elections were inseparable, Margiotta built his party into perhaps
      the most powerful GOP organization in the country.

      "It was really no secret," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). "He was
      an incredibly hard worker. He lived and breathed politics 24/7. The
      whole thing was an incredibly well-functioning organization. It was
      almost like a military organization."

      Margiotta, a lawyer who began his GOP career as president of the
      Uniondale Republican Club in 1958, was a community organizer who made
      certain that his people appeared at Knights of Columbus meetings and
      became active in youth sports.

      On election night, if you were a GOP leader and your vote totals were
      down from previous elections, you got an icy stare when you dropped
      off election results at county Republican headquarters.

      Always in a jacket and tie, his hair combed perfectly, Margiotta was
      respectful and even-tempered with people.

      Those who simply characterized Margiotta as the "boss" of the
      Republican political machine sold him short, King said.

      It was Margiotta's muscular Republican organization that attracted
      Richard Nixon to Long Island in 1968 and again in 1972 as president.
      Ronald Reagan also visited twice, in 1979 and again the 1980s, King

      "He was the best organizer I have ever seen," King said of Margiotta.

      A conviction on mail fraud and extortion charges sent Margiotta to
      prison in the early 1980s and robbed him of his chairmanship of the
      Nassau County GOP.

      A federal jury found that Margiotta had used a scheme in which fees
      from insurance brokers were used to enrich his political allies, and
      by extension the Nassau County Republican Party.

      Margiotta's political proteges, including former Sen. Alfonse
      D'Amato, followed the path Margiotta had cleared to political power.

      "He put party first," said D'Amato. "That's what got him into

      D'Amato said Margiotta was constantly on the lookout for new talent,
      young people who could be brought into the party to be future

      "He rewarded people who worked hard," D'Amato said. "He was always
      looking for the best and the brightest to make the party better. He
      based it on ability. Anybody who talks about him objectively will
      tell you that."

      Margiotta preached being responsive to constituents as a key to
      winning elections, said state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City).

      "It was always his belief that how you did things was person-to-
      person," Hannon said.

      Sol Wachtler, whom Margiotta helped elect to the state Court of
      Appeals in 1972, said Margiotta's strength was his commitment to
      building the party through strong candidates.

      "He was not a narrow partisan," Wachtler said. "When the Republican
      Party could have taken every judgeship in Nassau County, he said, 'I
      don't want the Republican Party to oppose judges who have served and
      served well.' As a result, Nassau County had a very strong judiciary.

      "He always felt that the way to win elections was, firstly, to run
      good candidates, and secondly, by having organization at the
      grassroots level. People felt that they were getting good, solid
      governance," Wachtler said. "That's changed, and the last vestige
      will be interred with Joe Margiotta."

      Staff writer Andrew Strickler contributed to this story.

      Political grooming

      Sol Wachtler

      Former chief justice of the state Court of Appeals, professor of
      constitutional law, Touro Law Center

      Having served as North Hempstead supervisor and as state Supreme
      Court judge, Sol Wachtler was already a prominent figure in the local
      Republican Party when he ran in 1972 for a seat on the New York State
      Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. Wachtler credits
      Margiotta's local organization, as well as his strong personal ties
      in Albany, with his win. "Joe just had a great organization. His
      strength was a statewide strength," said Wachtler. "I beat my
      opponent handily . . . and I did it out of the large, large plurality
      I took out of Nassau County."

      Alfonse D'Amato

      Former U.S. senator from New York

      In 1980, Margiotta plucked D'Amato, then presiding supervisor in Town
      of Hempstead, to run for U.S. Senate as a Republican. "He went out of
      his way to produce the best he could find and bring them into the
      party," D"Amato said. D'Amato went on the defeat Democrat Elizabeth
      Holtzman and Liberal Party candidate Jacob Javitz.

      Peter King

      U.S. congressman

      In the early 1970s, King was a young lawyer who Margiotta recommended
      for a job in the Nassau County attorney's office. With Margiotta's
      support, King went on to run for Hempstead Town Board and Nassau
      County comptroller, setting the state for a run for a successful run
      for Congress in 1992. "I would have no political career at all," King
      said. "I would never have had the money to run for councilman. I
      would never have had the money to run for comptroller."

      Francis Purcell

      Former Nassau County executive

      In 1977, Purcell, then Hempstead presiding supervisor, wins
      Margiotta's support to run for Nassau County executive. Margiotta
      supported Purcell over incumbent Ralph Caso. "He backed me for county
      executive in a very difficult primary," Purcell said. "He was very
      instrumental in my career."

      Compiled by Keith Herbert and Andrew Strickler


      A low point: Serving 14 months in jail

      November 30, 2008

      Joseph Margiotta was convicted in 1981 on charges of extortion and
      mail fraud in connection with a scheme in which municipal insurance
      fees were split at Margiotta's direction.

      Margiotta was accused of ordering the county's insurance broker to
      dole out $678,000 in commissions to party faithful who did not work
      for the fees that they received. Federal prosecutors also contended
      that Margiotta implicitly threatened to drop the county's insurance
      broker, Richard A. Williams, if he did not cooperate.

      Margiotta, who maintained that his actions were part of a decades-old
      statewide practice of patronage, served 14 months in jail.
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