Metro

Biden taps wife of donor linked to de Blasio scandal as ambassador to Portugal

The wife of a major Democratic donor who landed in hot water for contributing to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial “pay-to-play” nonprofit is in line for a plum post as US ambassador to Portugal — after helping raise more than $100,000 for President Biden’s campaign last year.

Randi Charno Levine’s nomination to be the top-ranking diplomat to the scenic Mediterranean country was sent to the US Senate for confirmation earlier this month following Biden’s announcement of her appointment on Oct. 29.

Levine, 61, is an art-loving philanthropist who sits on the boards of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Manhattan’s New Museum.

She’s married to Jeffrey Levine, the chairman and founder of the Douglaston Development company, with whom she owns a historic townhouse in Greenwich Village they bought for $12.75 million in 2010 and a sprawling beachfront house in Quoque, LI, worth an estimated $13.7 million.

The couple is listed on Biden’s campaign website as among the “volunteer fundraisers” who raked in at least $100,000 for his winning White House bid.

Others include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Calfornia cable TV billionaire-turned-developer Marc Nathanson, who’ve been nominated as the US ambassadors to India and Norway, respectively.

AmfAR Trustee Randi Levine attends the Hennessy lunch for the tasting of Hennessy Paradis Imperial at Beach Hotel on May 24, 2017
Randi Levine sits on the boards of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Manhattan’s New Museum.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Hennessy

Both Randi Levine and Nathanson hosted fundraising events at their homes in 2019 and Nathanson hosted a virtual fundraiser last year that raked in $2 million, according to the New York Times.

Federal Election Commission records show that Jeffrey Levine has made nearly $230,000 in political contributions since 2005, including $65,000 to a PAC that supported Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.

Committee Co-Chairs Jeff Levine (L) and Randi Levine attend the 20th Anniversary Hamptons International Film Festival screening of  "Common Language: The Art of Composing For Film" at the Museum of Modern Art on June 20, 2012 in New York City
Jeff Levine and Randi Levine are listed on Biden’s campaign website as among the “volunteer fundraisers” who raked in at least $100,000.
Michael Stewart/WireImage

He has also contributed to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), as well as the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Jeffrey Levine also supported former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s ill-fated Republican primary campaign for president in 2007.

In December 2014, his company scored more than $12 million in taxpayer money and city-owned land to build 425 units of affordable housing and city-owned land in the South Bronx.

Two months later, Douglaston was hit up for a $50,000 donation to de Blasio’s nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, which was shuttered amid investigations into allegations it served as a slush fund to promote de Blasio’s political agenda and ambitions.

A probe by the FBI and federal prosecutors authorities was closed without any charges, with then-acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim citing in part “the particular difficulty in proving criminal intent in corruption schemes where there is no evidence of personal profit.”

Douglaston also had another proposal for a 1,200-unit development in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood pending at the time it was solicited and the company ultimately donated $25,000 — leading to an investigation by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Jeffrey Levine and Randi Levine attend the 10th Annual LACMA ART+FILM GALA presented by Gucci at Los Angeles County Museum of Art on November 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Jeffrey Levine and Randi Levine attend the 10th Annual LACMA ART+FILM GALA presented by Gucci on November 6, 2021.
Amy Sussman/WireImage

That probe led to a deal in which Douglaston paid a $10,000 settlement but admitted no wrongdoing.

Jeffrey Levine signed that agreement as chairman of his company.

It’s unclear when the Senate will take up Randi Levine’s nomination, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has reportedly been delaying consideration of  Biden’s appointments over the president’s decision to drop American opposition to the construction of a Russian natural-gas pipeline to Germany.

More than 50 ambassadorial nominations are pending, according to a Washington Post online tracker.

A spokesperson for Douglaston Development declined to comment and referred questions to the White House, which didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry.


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