Pollster John Zogby says the money he’s donated to Upstate New York Democrat Mike Arcuri’s congressional campaign has nothing to do with politics and has everything to do with his close relationship to Arcuri’s late father.
Zogby’s $2,000 personal contribution to Arcuri and the use of his house for an Arcuri fundraiser—which amounted to a donation of $843.92—are just some of the ways Zogby is helping Arcuri, who faces Republican state Sen. Ray Meier in a quest to succeed Rep. Sherwood Boehlert in New York’s 24th District.
In addition, Arcuri’s campaign has paid the Utica, N.Y.-based Zogby International nearly $12,000 for polling and research. The Federal Election Commission also lists a $1,150 in-kind donation from Zogby International to Arcuri’s campaign for polling work, although Zogby said no contributions have come from Zogby International.
“In the wonderful world of hyper-partisanship and the great ideological divide, I am a non-participant,” Zogby told me, defending his relationship with the man he repeatedly referred to as “Carmen Arcuri’s son.”
Zogby openly acknowledged hosting a fundraiser at his home for Arcuri earlier this year. He said his relationship with his Arcuri’s father, the former general manager of the Utica Transit Authority, spanned 30 years until his death in 2004.
“This transcends any of the sort of stuff that folks inside the Beltway love to get their fingers into. I’m helping Michael Arcuri because Carmen Arcuri helped me,” Zogby said. “Through it all, I live in this community. I run a business in this community.”
He added: “I count myself as a dear friend of Ray Meier. … I guess I’m one of those anomalies. There aren’t too many folks like us anymore.”
According to his FEC filing, Arcuri began paying Zogby International for polling and research last November, months before Boehlert announced his retirement. Zogby told me that his business relationship with Mike Arcuri dates back to the early 1990s when Arcuri was running for Oneida County district attorney.
Mike Arcuri was just a child when Carmen Arcuri and John Zogby became friends. Zogby called the elder Arcuri an “uncle.” He said Carmen Arcuri offered advice when Zogby ran for mayor of Utica in 1981 at the age of 32. Zogby also said Arcuri was instrumental in helping to start his polling company.
That’s one of the reasons Zogby went the extra step and chose to host a fundraiser for Arcuri. He said that decision—and the fact that he’s a registered Democrat—doesn’t mean his polling firm leans to the left.
“My firm studiously avoids being labeled as either Democrat or Republican,” Zogby said. “I spent 10 years battling rumors that I was a Republican pollster.”
Zogby said that label came after doing work for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 1990s. He also named as past clients Republican Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and John Sununu (N.H.) and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Democrats who have used Zogby International include former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (Mo.) and organizations trying to draft Al Gore and Wesley Clark to run for President.
Zogby said he’s refrained from talking about the Meier-Arcuri race to the local press, and when he or his spokesman is called upon by reporters, they always make note of the fact that they’re working for Arcuri.
Zogby International spokesman Fritz Wenzel said that was the case in July when Syracuse Post-Standard reporter Glenn Coin wrote a story about Vice President Cheney’s visit to Utica for a fundraiser for Meier. Wenzel was quoted extensively in the article.
“We disclose that to the reporters all the time, but we can’t control what they put in the paper,” Wenzel said.
Coin confirmed for me that Wenzel did, in fact, disclose Zogby International’s relationship with Arcuri.
At the end of the day, Zogby said his work for Arcuri has actually cost him business. When the Utica Observer-Dispatch approached Zogby about doing polling work for the newspaper on the 24th District race, Zogby turned down the offer.
However, that hasn’t changed Zogby’s motivation to help of old friend’s son.
“This is Carmen Arcuri’s son,” he said. “This is a completely different level.”
(Correction: After this article was published, the Observer-Dispatch disputed Zogby’s claim. Zogby told me he has polled for the Observer-Dispatch in the past, but did not have any formal discussions about the Meier-Arcuri race because of his affiliation with Arcuri.)
John Zogby—Pollster and Fundraiser to Democrat Mike Arcuri
Contributions to Arcuri’s campaign, according to FEC
New Hartford, N.Y.
|In-kind: Food and drink for house party||6/8/06||$843.92|
New Hartford, N.Y.
Payments from Arcuri’s campaign, according to FEC