“We’re proud of the legislation we passed, and any connection to whatever this is exists only in the overactive minds of conspiracy traffickers,” Mr. Azzopardi said.
The infusion of cash from Mr. Lauder — who is also a longtime supporter of conservative causes (he gave $100,000 to two Trump re-election committees and another $100,000 to the Republican National Committee in August 2019) — will help Republicans, who are facing a gap in campaign funds. The latest campaign finance report showed the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee with a little under $1 million on hand; the Democrats’ campaign committee had nearly three times that.
Republicans acknowledge playing defense on some of their open seats, but are running hard on several issues — like last year’s bail reform laws, which were opposed by many law enforcement officials — that coincide with both Mr. Trump’s calls for “law and order” and the warnings from Mr. Lauder’s political action committee.
“If you’re not safe, if you don’t feel your community is safe, if you don’t feel your leaders have a handle on public safety, and are supporting the men and women who go out and defend us and protect us, then everything else doesn’t matter as much,” said State Senator Robert G. Ortt, the Republican minority leader. “You can’t get to those next things if you can’t protect people.”
Among the Democrats being targeted by Mr. Lauder’s PAC are three first-term incumbents in moderate districts on Long Island, including in Suffolk County, which Mr. Trump won in 2016. Chief among them is Senator Monica R. Martinez, who was among of a wave of younger progressives elected in 2018, when Democrats won eight Republican-held seats in the Senate and seized the majority.
One attack ad against Ms. Martinez, paid for by Mr. Lauder’s group, shows a person cocking a gun, and other gritty sounds and imagery, including sirens. “New York’s crime wave is no accident,” a narrator says. “Monica Martinez voted for it.” It mentions her vote for bail reform and ends with a blunt pitch: “Monica Martinez: More Crime.”
Similar ads target two other Senate Democrats on Long Island — Kevin Thomas and Jim Gaughran — as well Senator Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn. Two Democratic candidates — Jim Barber and John Mannion — running for seats vacated by Republicans are also facing negative ads paid for by Mr. Lauder.