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Obama bundler lands NYS pension contract

By Laurie Bennett

October 7, 2011 at 6:03am

Considering his office’s battered reputation from the recent pay-to-play scandals, one would think the New York state comptroller would go out of his way to avoid even a whiff of favoritism.

Yet Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has hired two firms with prominent Democratic ties to handle investments of state pension funds.

DiNapoli’s office announced Thursday that it had hired Artemis Real Estate Partners, whose co-founder is Penny Pritzker of Chicago.

Penny Pritzker
Penny Pritzker

Pritzker was national finance chair for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and is raising money for his re-election bid. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, named her earlier this year to the Chicago school board.

A spokesman for DiNapoli told Bloomberg that Pritzker’s political connections had nothing to do with her selection. He said 25 firms had applied for the contract.

Another firm managing fund investments is the Rock Creek Group, headed by former World Bank investment director Afsaneh M. Beschloss. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, is a senior adviser at Rock Creek.

DiNapoli was elected comptroller last year, after being appointed to the job in 2007, when his predecessor, Alan Hevesi, resigned in disgrace.

Hevesi was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he took kickbacks to steer pension money to an investment firm.

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