Steven Alembik, a Florida-based Republican activist who once referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim N—” on Twitter, contributed $5,400 to Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-NY) campaign since June 2017, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Alembik recently drew unwanted attention to Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis after a Politico story revealed his history of online racist remarks and his ties to the candidate. He acknowledged that he had indeed tweeted the attack on Obama but insisted that he is “absolutely not” racist.
For the DeSantis campaign, it was an embarrassment. Alembik had contributed over $20,000 to the Florida gubernatorial candidate over the years and got him to appear at a gala at Mar-a-Lago in February. Ultimately, DeSantis’ campaign disavowed Alembik’s remarks, with spokesman Stephen Lawson saying, “we adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric.” But it declined to return Alembik’s donations, saying that they had already been spent on the primary. Others have given back the funds, including Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Senate campaign, which said it would be donating the money it had received from Alembik.
Tenney’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast about what it would do with the campaign donations. Aside from the financial boost to Tenney’s campaign, Alembik also helped organize a February event called the Truth About Israel Gala where Tenney was invited to attend. Her name appears on a Facebook event for the gala as well as a press release, alongside pro-Trump YouTube celebrities Diamond & Silk, DeSantis and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL). Though, according to Bianca Hennings, the VP of operations at Alembik’s company SMA Communications, Tenney “was scheduled to go but then had something with a schedule conflict and had to cancel after our materials were printed.”
Alembik had initially booked the Boca Raton Resort & Club for the gala but moved it to Mar-a-Lago after 19 charities canceled upcoming events at the president’s Florida resort due to Trump’s equivocating about white nationalists after a deadly rally in Charlottesville.
“So I picked up the phone, I call Mar-a-Lago, they think I’m calling to cancel some other gala or some event, and I said no. I’d like to come here and show our support for the president of the United States,” Alembik was quoted as saying at the gala.
Tenney, a former attorney who represents upstate New York’s 22nd Congressional District, is in a tough reelection fight against New York state Assembly Member Anthony Brindisi. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report considers the race a toss-up.
The congresswoman, first elected in 2016, has been a strong supporter of President Trump and made a number of eyebrow-raising claims about mass shooters, former staff secretary Rob Porter, and HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s dining set.