New York mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s political tour guides to Hasidic Brooklyn are two guys named Joseph — both famous influence-peddlers with strong community connections and checkered pasts.
When he campaigned in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Williamsburg on Labor Day, Thompson was accompanied by Hasidic fixers Joseph Menczer and Joseph Goldberger, the New York Observer reported .
Menczer and Goldberger are members of the Pupa Hasidic sect, a small ultra-Orthodox group based in Williamsburg. They have close ties to Rabbi David Niederman, a leader of the larger of the two halves of the divided Satmar Hasidic community.
Once owners of retail stores in Williamsburg, the two rose to prominence in the late 1990s after their prodigious fundraising efforts for George Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign gave them exceptional access to the governor’s office.
In 2000, the New York Times revealed that Goldberger and Menczer had parlayed their $500,000 in donations to the Pataki campaign into a highly unusual relationship with state health officials who they lobbied behalf of for-profit businesses.
A top official with the state health department was later fined for accepting gifts from Menczer and Goldberger.
Today, Goldberger runs Excellent Home Care Services, a firm that reached a $3.7 million settlement with the Attorney General’s office in 2009 amidst charges of Medicaid fraud. An article in the Village Voice in 2010 described the Excellent case as an example of “the routine looting of public resources by those who prosper regardless of who’s in office.”
Goldberger attended events backing Cuomo in his 2010 run for governor, and another person tied to Excellent raised money for the campaign. In June of this year, the New York Times reported that Excellent would benefit from a state-run health system overhaul despite its recent clash with the AG’s office.
Neither Menczer nor Goldberger appear to have donated to Thompson’s mayoral campaign. Yet Menczer and Goldberger also appeared with Thompson at an event in Williamsburg on August 29 at which members of the Satmar Hasidic sect endorsed the Democratic hopeful.
Thompson spokesman John Collins would not comment on Menzcer’s past. “What’s on their end is their end,” Collins said. “The leaders of the community endorsed us last week.”
The two Josephs don’t just back local politicians. In October 2008, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler spoke at a rally for then-Senator Barack Obama held in a sukkah outside of Menczer’s house, the Forward reported at the time.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.