A Lapdog Lap Dance

The rezone from hell is finally approved as the Strippergate ethics investigation looks outside City Hall, focusing on donors.

Does, for the moment anyway, Frankie win? He seems to have wound up with the most toysmore parking for his business, expansion of his nude-dance club, and his money back. If so, Frank Colacurcio Jr., a target of the ongoing investigation into the City Hall scandal called Strippergate, has continued the legacy of a family known for a half-century of naked aggression.

His father, Frank Colacurcio Sr., Seattle's tinhorn godfather, now 86, was once the stripper king who also dabbled in illegal gambling and racketeering dating back to the 1950s. The prison door slammed on him five times from the 1970s through the 1990s. But he always came back for more.

Once, young Frankie went to stir with his dad on a tax rap and came back, too. He's been running their four-club Seattle-Tacoma-Everett dance business since. But unlike Senior, who did business in back rooms and under tables, Junior made his disputes public. He sued politicians who opposed him or tried to ban the modern art of couch dancing.

Yet it seemed Frankie, 41, took a yellowed page from his dad's manual when last year he started doling out political money that is now under investigation. Probers wonder if he or someone else bankrolled widespread giving. For sure, he's at least partly responsible for the questioned donations to three City Council membersHeidi Wills, Jim Compton, and Judy Nicastro.

THE CITY HAS determined the official total given by Colacurcio and 37 of his family members, friends, and business associates to be $38,625. That's more than most observers, including the media, had estimated. Wills got $7,800 from 12 donors, Compton got at least $7,975 from 13 donors, and Nicastro received $22,850 from 34 givers.

The three recently returned the money, which was donated in 2002-03. Though they once expressed uncertainty about which donors were linked to Colacurcio, each drew up mostly matching lists. Compton said Monday he "returned all contributions to [Colacurcio] that I could figure out were connected in any way," although one $500 donor whom he didn't repay, Marsha Furfaro, is listed in contribution records as a Colacurcio employee.

Notably, Wills returned the donations of Colacurcio's attorney, Gil Levy, all the way back to 2000three gifts totaling $650. Big Al Rosellini, the 93-year-old rainmaking ex-governor who lobbied for Colacurcio and gave Wills $650 and Compton $200, has not been repaid by either.

THE CITY PROBE is focused in part on Colacurcio, his wife, and eight others who gave to all three candidates. Those 10 donors accounted for $20,550 of the $38,000. The 10 are especially closefamily members, employees, and business partners. Frankie and wife Teena gave the council trio $5,200. Colacurcio was eager to donate. He gave Nicastro three $650 contributions when the legal limit was one $650 donation. That extra $1,300 was returned earlier.

Colacurcio lists himself in campaign documents as an "investor." He says he was just investing in good candidates. He was also seeking to persuade the council to pass legislation benefiting his Lake City strip club.

On Monday, the council did just that. By a 5-4 vote, it OK'd the rezoning of a small lot for use as parking at Rick's dance club. The crowd demand for more nude dancing at Rick's has led to a $185,000 club expansion, requiring every inch of parking Colacurcio can get. Monday was at least the 12th time in 15 years that Colacurcio has asked some city bodycouncil, land-use department, hearing examinerto rule on the eight-stall lot. But if a scandal-backed 12th time was the charm, the saga might not be over. Neighbors are threatening to sue.

With that tiny piece of earth, Colacurcio might have remade Seattle's political landscape. Wills and Nicastro lost their elections this month, at least partly due to the scandal. Compton was bloodied but able to tromp an ex-cop who was convicted of spousal abuse. All three nonetheless voted aye Monday.

Still, if Colacurcio has triumphed, there's still that little matter of possible fines and other penalties from the city investigation, as well as a rumored federal probe. FBI spokesperson Ray Lauer last week said he couldn't comment. But the donations might have included an interstate transaction: $1,250 given to Nicastro by a Texas nightclub owner associated with Colacurcio.

City Ethics and Elections Commission investigators have made their breakthrough move, last week announcing that two donors admitted to violating campaign law. Sisters Stacee and Nicole Furfaro made their contributions "with the understanding" they would be immediately reimbursedand weresaid the commission. It didn't say by whom.

THE TWO GAVE an aggregate $2,300 to Nicastro, saying half was from their husbands. (One husband, asked in July by Seattle Weekly about giving Nicastro the maximum-allowed $650, seemed surprised: "I maxed out?" he asked.) The settlement states the reimbursed contributions were solely the sisters'. The siblings are now cooperating in the probe, putting pressure on other Colacurcio-linked donors, including, perhaps, the sisters' parents. Two $650 donations from their mom and dad, both Colacurcio employees, are being reviewed. In July, mother Marsha Furfaro told Seattle Weekly, "We all got togethermy familyand decided to support" Nicastro. She didn't, however, define family.

randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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