Archive | July, 2008

Who Do I Think I Am?

31 Jul

whoami.jpg

In my post about the Wendt foundation and the need for transparency on the casino lawsuit issue, long time reader and commenter Hank, asked the following question:

Hate to break the bubble, pal–but a private foundation don’t owe you shit. If the courts or the Justice Department wants a look, they have the power of a subpoena. A liberal blogger is neither the former or the latter.

I know who you are, but who the hell do you THINK you are?

Since this is a full service blog and I like to give the people what they want, I’ll tell you who I think I am…

I am a taxpayer and property owner in the State of New York and Erie County.  I work my ass off to put a roof over the heads of my family and I do so under one of the largest personal tax burdens a citizen of this country can endure.  I volunteer my time each year with local organizations in an effort to make this city a better place to live, work, and play.  These organizations conduct their efforts in the face of one of the most unresponsive and intransigent collections of governments in the country.  I spend a sizable chunk of my spare time trying to help new businesses get started in this town and trying to change the general stereotype that Buffalo is a town filled with know-it-all nanny staters, obstructionists, and unionistas who only support progress they personally deem worthy or from which they can derive profit.

I write a blog, co-own a media company, and participate in creating films, documentaries, written content, television programs, and activist events which attempt to mobilize people to work toward common sense solutions to our regional problems.  The first step in that is to provide the information upon which people can base their decisions and choose to act.

So, when an organization decides to use the judiciary to create public policy that affects a region of nearly 1 Million people, forgive me if I have some questions as to how they go about prosecuting that effort with tax exempt funds.

There are rules that govern the use of those funds that are codified in federal and state law.  As a matter of course, the media should invest time in making sure these organizations are following those rules and operating in the open.  If this were a lawsuit brought by an individual or was a case that only affected a small number of people, I would probably have nothing to say.  However, the existence of a casino in Downtown Buffalo represents a $333MM development and would result in construction jobs, casino employment for hundreds if not thousands of locals, and directly benefits the Native American population.

Agreement with the existence of a casino is immaterial.  The bottom line impact of a casino being either a net positive or negative for Buffalo and Western New York is also immaterial.  When a small group of people choose to launch a campaign that is intended to scuttle that development; the motives, funding, and those who ultimately benefit from the effort are a matter of public interest.

This is not a campaign of insinuations trying to prove that Joel Rose is a nefarious enemy of Buffalo.  It is not to demonstrate that the Wendt Foundation is an evil foundation.  It is to demonstrate that as a region, we need to ask questions and demand transparency whenever someone states that they are acting on behalf of, or affecting the region as a whole.  People often tell me that what holds us back as a city and region is our negative attitude, which is patently untrue in this writers opinion.  The problem is that we don’t demand better, that we fail to ask questions as the decisions that determine the course of our collective region are made.  We’re too concerned about propriety and being nice that we don’t ask tough questions.  Whether those questions are asked of local business leaders, politicians, or members of the Old Buffalo power structure.

Asking tough questions and seeking information is what being a citizen is all about.

And that is what I am, a concerned citizen…and a citizen journalist.

KTHXBAI

31 Jul

[HTML1]

If It's Sunday, It's…

30 Jul

Just like old times, Buffalo Geek and yours truly will join Professor Hardwick during the first hour of Hardline this coming Sunday at 10am.

Incidentally, 2nd hour in-studio guest is NYS Assembly candidate Jane Corwin (facing Mike Cole in the Republican primary).

10am on Sunday on WBEN AM-930, or online at WBEN dot COM

Yes, Ex-Republicans, We Can

30 Jul

Some of the Republican bloggers talking about the 26th race, (who evidently have little to write about when it comes to Chris Lee), have linked to me with respect to the “Jack Davis is a former Republican” post. They thrillingly write what can be summed up as: aha! Jon Powers was a Republican too! Alice Kryzan gave money to Tom Reynolds!

Well, no shit sherlock(s). Reeding komprehenshun. Not yours.

As I wrote yesterday, I, too, am a former Republican. The point of the post had little to do with former Republicanism and more to do with…

Jack Davis is now saying that other candidates are flawed because they accept PAC funds. Yet he himself proves his charge to be untrue. After all, even after giving all those thousands to conservative candidates and PACs, Dick Cheney still refused to give Jack Davis the time of day when he came to Buffalo in 2002. Davis’ first run for congress was an anti-Cheney temper tantrum.

In the end, it’s all about the money to Jack Davis. If his money can’t get conservatives to listen to him, he’ll use it on himself. His misguided anti-Powers temper tantrum has everything to do with the fact that Powers is trying to take what Jack things is rightfully his. After all, he bought and paid for it.

Just like Jack Davis tried to buy himself the IP line by basically paying off Tony Orsini’s wife’s do-nothing Florida corporation or the resigned-in-disgrace Blanca Semidey-Colon.

But there is something to point out to my Republican blogging friends that’s also pretty interesting. They’re all former Republicans. I wonder why?

Eight years of what amounts to a pathetic attempt by government-despising Republicans to govern has turned loads of people off to that particular political party. They’ve taken borrowing and spending to new, hitherto-unseen heights. They have divided and conquered. They have lined up American troops at the border of a sovereign nation and invaded and occupied it based on a flimsy-at-best and false-at-worse pretext. They have sanctioned and approved the use of torture against people locked up without charge (so we can’t really determine just how bad they are or might be) so as to obtain oftentimes useless information given more in an effort to make it stop than actual truthiness. Those are just a few reasons why there are loads of ex-Republicans out there. It’s become a fundamentally un-conservative party. Except maybe when it comes to letting gay people marry.

Oh, and yesterday it was revealed that the Justice Department, which is supposed to – above all – uphold the law and, one hopes, be a meritocracy, promoted and demoted people based on a political purity test rather than experience and merit. It is American tradition that loyalty is not due the head of state, rather to our flag and constitution.

So, yes, Virginia, there are many ex-Republicans out there, and chances are many of them live in the NY-26. Maybe they haven’t switched affiliation yet, but I’d be willing to bet that, at a bare minimum, the foundering economy makes their zeal for the GOP somewhat diminished. Which means that no matter who is the Democratic nominee come September, they will more likely identify with and support the young vet and teacher from Clarence, or the doddering old industrialist from Akron rather than the unemployed millionaire heir who helped sell out the company to out-of-towners. I’m sure Lee will do well in with his base. The Democrat, too, will have his or her base. But the enrollment advantage that a generic Republican might otherwise have in the 26th is, I think, a mirage.

While this blogger characterizes voters in two blocs – liberal and conservative – I think the average American can’t be pigeonholed like that. Most regular general election voters don’t fit perfectly into either box. They’re a little of both. And that’s where the Republicans, and their pseudo-Collins choice, have, I think, made an error.

Say what you want about Tom Reynolds, he comes across as a regular guy who speaks plainly and matter-of-factly. There’s nothing flashy about him, and he’s a guy who was a Realtor and insurance agent before he started his long political ascent. Chris Lee?

Questions, Questions

30 Jul

Bruce Jackson doesn’t return emails. The Wendt Foundation doesn’t return phone calls. We are mere peons who do not merit a response, as we are little more than reactionary online purveyors of rumor, defamation, and innuendo. The only person who has put himself out there to speak on behalf of casino foes is Joel Rose, who appeared on Bauerle’s show with Kevin Hardwick today.

So far, what we’ve learned is that:

  • The Wendt Foundation has paid about $2 million to fund the legal battle, and this is available at its IRS 990 disclosure;
  • The Wendt Foundation paid the money to the Network for Religious Communities, which as a faith-based organization does not have to disclose to the public where it spends its money;
  • The group that Joel Rose runs, CACGEC, is formed under the auspices of the Network for Religious Communities, and is a registered New York non-profit corporation, but does not have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. CACGEC is a party to the lawsuit now pending before Judge Skretny against the federal government;
  • The Citizens for a Better Buffalo, the membership of which includes all three Wendt trustees, is not a party to the pending lawsuit, but has been mentioned as being a recipient of Wendt Foundation funds via the Network for Religious Communities in furtherance of the lawsuit (to which it isn’t a party). The CBB is a non-profit corporation that does not have IRS tax-exempt status;and
  • The $2 million-ish has gone through at least one or two organizations before then being paid out to various and sundry lawyers, but no one knows exactly who and how much.
  • I am not an expert on any of this, but it would seem to me that if money is being paid from a non-profit, tax exempt organization to a non-profit but not tax exempt organization, there may be an issue there. At what point, if any, does the money become taxable? Where did the money go once it left the Network for Religious Communities?

    As WNYMind said, every time the Wendt Foundation gets to keep, tax-free, its capital gains, it derives a public subsidy. We have a right to ask these questions, and we have a right know the answers, without regard to whether or not we are anti-casino, pro-casino, or otherwise.

    Also see what Buffalo Geek has to say about his call to Joel Rose on Hardwick today.

    WNYM on WBEN with Joel Rose

    30 Jul

    joelrose.jpg

    This morning, Dr. Kevin Hardwick was hosting the “Tom Bauerle Show” on WBEN 930AM and featured as his in-studio guest, Joel Rose of CACGEC, CAGNY Action, LLC., and CAGNY, Information, LLC.

    I called in to ask Joel a few questions about statements he made on the show and in various responses to our questions on the Buffalo Issue Alerts email list, BuffaloPundit’s blog, and in other forums.  I would link to the podcast of this segment, but WBEN still does not save their shows for Internet broadcast and I wasn’t in a place where I could record the call.

    For some reason, the public seems to have accepted as fact that the Wendt Foundation was wholly unaware that their sole $120MM investment fund included $4MM of stock in Harrah’s Entertainment Corporation during a three year period.  I made the mistake in my haste by claiming that this investment represented 10% of the foundation’s holding, but, 3% is still a sizable portion of the fund.  For the trustees of the Wendt Foundation to claim that they were unaware, indicates a violation of their fiduciary responsibility to the fund.  The counter to this argument seems to be that Joel and Dr. Hardwick aren’t sure as to where the money in their TIAA-CREF funds are invested.  First of all, you should know where your retirement funds are invested and the comparison is false anyhow.  If your SOLE paid responsibility (at $1384 per hour) is to manage the assets of a charitable foundation, you have a responsibility to know where and how it is invested.

    Now, through Joel’s protestations that his organizations are not beholden to me or anyone else, my counter is that if his organizations and those which he is affiliated with wish to take legal action which affects a regional population of nearly 1 Million people, they owe us transparency.  Transparency on the sources of their funding, the manner in which that funding is distributed, and to whom that funding is eventually distributed.

    I asked Joel if his organization, which is a not-for-profit domestic corporation registered in New York State, was willing to open its books in regards to the prosecution of this lawsuit.  After all, they are the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.  He declined.  He says that he is unwilling to open up his donors to inspection from the public and not be “grist for the Chris Smith mill”.  If Julius Olmsted the IX of Woodward Avenue gave $50 to the group, you won’t find that on a Form 990.  If Mr. Olmsted were to have given $50,000, that would be on the document.  We would also know if this person had any personal stake in the eventual defeat of a Buffalo casino.

    When you are a not-for-profit corporation, you need to disclose your funding streams and your activities via an IRS Form 990.  Would this open up his individual donors to the public microscope?  No, we’re interested in the finances of his organization specific to the lawsuit.

    What’s this?  None of his three organizations have filed for tax exempt status in New York State and thus are exempt from filing any reporting documents?   They operate as a program of the Network of Religious Communities in Western New York and due to that organization being faith-based, they are exempt for reporting requirements through the IRS.  While I have been looking into non-profit law to assess how that process should and does work under the proper circumstances, I haven’t reached a conclusion.  However, the people have a right to know how the NRC has managed the funds received from the Wendt Foundation and other donors specific to the prosecution of the lawsuit.

    The public has a right to know about the motives, finances, and structure of the organizations that are creating and affecting policy in our region.  Will the NRC and Joel Rose’s three organizations, open their books for the public?

    So far, Joel says no.  Perhaps that will change as this process continues apace.

    The Geek Blogs Again

    30 Jul

    Nothing like a bit of smug self-righteousness from self-important Buffalo power elites to get Buffalo Geek to lock & load.

    Easy Peasy

    30 Jul

    I heard Jesse “the Body” Ventura on Stern yesterday, and he read this quote:

    Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

    He used it to describe what Bush and the neocons pulled off with respect to Iraq.

    Click here to see who actually said it.

    New York's Freefall

    30 Jul

    People leaving, energy prices staggering, taxes higher than average, and it’s only now – at the doors of a crisis – that action is going to be taken. Governor Paterson estimates a $6.4 billion deficit for 2009 – 2010, and in the middle of an election year, he’s calling the state legislature back in mid-August to take a break from chicken BBQs and do some work.

    Not just any work, but the kind of work that New York legislators are loath to do. They’re going to have to make extraordinarily tough choices with respect to spending and borrowing – the sorts of choices that piss of a great many of their special interest constituents.

    But what I’d like our legislature to remember is that they work for all of us. Not for SEIU, not for NYSUT, not for CSEA, but for every single New Yorker. They work for you and me, and they have hitherto tended to abandoned their responsibility to the population at-large in favor of the big donors and powerful lobbies. Lax oversight and regulation of lobbying means that Joe Bruno can go to work as a lobbyist – he can’t lobby the legislature, but the governor’s door is open.

    So, I don’t want to hear that such-and-such special interest is going to go ballistic over cuts that are desperately needed to fix what’s broken. I want to hear that these people who keep getting re-elected over and over again are making the hard choices and decisions that they supposedly get elected to make.

    What’s This? The Geek Is Gonna Blog?

    29 Jul

    karate_kid.jpg

    I announced my semi-retirement from long form blogging a few months back and moved into the short form blog world of Twitter and other lifestreaming applications.   I also said that I would write to the portal at wnymedia.net and that most of our other writers would be following suit.

    Yeah, so that worked out pretty well.  /sarcasm

    Anyhow, I’ll continue to write at this page, buffalopundit and the wnymedia.net frontpage just to keep you guessing as to where my content will show up.

    Actually, we’re working on Version 16.4.2 of the WNYM online gameplan and we’re moving in some new and interesting directions.  Wait, who are we kidding?  We’ll start moving in a new direction, get distracted with a shiny object and change our minds again.  That’s how we roll around these parts.

    As you now know, Alan and I created a bit of a dustup last week when we dared question the anti-casino opponents about their motives, organization, and cash flow.  Clearly, this means we hate Buffalo, we’re Pro-Seneca, love to gamble, are being paid through nefarious pro-casino backchannels, and any other sort of insult that has been thrown our way.

    As you might imagine, this dustup has inspired me to again put fingers to keyboard on a regular basis.  This time around, it will be less about politics and more about local business, technology, and Old Buffalo’s hold on the region.  It should be fun.

    In case you’re wondering about the title of the post, I watched The Karate Kid last night and it’s still in my “Top Five Terrible Movies That I Watch Regardless of Time, Place, Or Point In The Movie”.  Also on the list is Roadhouse, Tommy Boy, Bloodsport, Rocky III, and Rocky IV.  Yes, I know that’s six movies.  So what?

    [HTML1]