Chris' Tally-Ho

20 Jan

Assemblyman Errigo had been saving a seat for the woman, but she was somewhat late, so Collins took it instead. Here’s that exchange again between County Executive Chris Collins and an as-yet unnamed “Erie County woman” at the State of the State Address:

She comes up the aisle and now this is a very crowded situation here and so she looked at me and said, ‘I thought you were going to save me a seat,’ and I said, ‘Well, I told you to get here earlier,’ and he (Collins) says, ‘If you want this seat you have to give me a lap dance‘,” says Errigo.

The Daily News quoted Collins as saying,

I’m sure if you offer someone a lap dance, you can find a place to sit,”

Collins had spoken inappropriately to and about the same unnamed woman just the night before.

…another Western New York elected official, who also asked not to be identified, said Collins made an additional inappropriate remark to the same woman the night before during a reception at Albany’s Fort Orange Club.

“It was not something I would expect from someone running for governor,” the official said. “And it shouldn’t have been said in mixed company.”

How did he behave, exactly?

…according to Errigo, when over cocktails Collins approached the same woman and said, “Geez, you look good.”

“‘You guys should have seen her when she was 16,’ ” Errigo quoted the county executive as saying.

Assemblyman Daniel J. Burling, R-Alexander, who was part of the conversation, admonished Collins for the comment, Errigo said.

Errigo said the Buffalo woman was highly offended by Collins’ remark, corroborating the version given by another Western New York elected official Wednesday.

Collins’ response:

“The mischaracterization and fictionalization of my conversation with a friend that was purportedly overheard is something that is even beneath the low standards of slash and burn politics. One thing I’m learning is that fighting the status quo in New York is not easy. It’s amazing how far individuals will go to protect entrenched political agendas.”

Agendas. I love it when he says that. It’s as inevitable as the morning dew on a sultry summer’s morn.

The Answer Lady addresses this issue from a woman’s perspective – looking at it through the lens of power and submission. There is clearly an element to that, and Collins is a guy who does not like, and is not used to, people opposing him, much less disagreeing with him.  That’s why he can’t and won’t apologize, acknowledge he might have said or done something wrong, or otherwise behave like a normal human being might.  His angry denials and accusations only make him seem petty and tone-deaf.

I like to look at this issue through the lens of, “how do normal people behave”. The lapdance quip, taken by itself in a vacuum, is somewhat silly and ridiculous. But taken within the context of a political powerhouse who is allegedly running for governor, uttering it to an acquaintance in a public setting, whether it is offensive is wholly up to the person to whom it is said. Word is, the unnamed “Erie County woman” is pretty offended.

I find it to be more evidence of the fact that our county executive appears to be a more arrogant, skinnier version of Rodney Dangerfield’s Monty Capuletti character in 1983’s Easy Money.

But who is this woman? No one wants to go on the record with it, but Chris and I have confirmed with numerous people that Collins didn’t clumsily joke around about lapdances with an elected official or some county employee. In this instance, the woman’s identity is a critical piece of the puzzle. It’s a part of the story itself.

We quite quickly discovered the identity of the woman to whom Collins uttered the “lapdance” line, and it is by no means a big secret around town.  But not one media outlet or commentator would reveal it, indicating limply that she didn’t want to get involved.

I’m sure that most of the people in the paper today don’t want to “get involved” with stories about their malfeasance or victimhood.  Identities are shielded when there is a valid public reason to do so, e.g., someone is the victim of a rape, or is a juvenile.  Shielding the woman at the center of the Chris Collins gaffe story serves no purpose except the fact that she is by all accounts quite wealthy and powerful.  With respect, that’s not a good enough reason.

Laura Montante-Zaepfel

Laura Montante Zaepfel comes from a very prominent and powerful family indeed. The Montante family started Uniland, where Mrs. Zaepfel works, and she is a very generous benefactor to political candidates and committees on both sides of the aisle.

Volker, Spitzer, Brown, ECDC, Hayes, Case, Lee, Reynolds, Slaughter, Humiston, Giuliani – Zaepfel has contributed to all of them. Uniland has donated $12,000 to Collins’ committee, and also to names like Konst, Stachowski, Hayes, Marinelli, ECRC, Dixon, Tokasz, Grassroots, Volker, Hoyt, ECDC.

The political contributions and fundraising organized by Ms. Zaepfel, her family, and the company for which she works solidly place them all among the region’s political, economic, and social elites.

When Collins placed Sheldon Silver among the three anti-Christs, it took downstate Republicans’ breath away.

When Collins insults a powerful, politically connected woman who is an active political contributor and fundraiser, he’s just blown a cannonball through his political career.  And part of its newsworthiness is Mrs. Zaepfel’s identity.

Chris Smith has been digging around and a source within the Erie County GOP tells him, “It’s one thing to make a fratboy joke in the locker room, it’s another thing to ask Carl Montante’s daughter to give you a lapdance.  It’s not just offensive, it’s political suicide.  If Chris wants to run with the big boys downstate, he needs to learn to keep his ‘jokes’ to himself.”  Chris was able to confirm with two other GOP sources that Zaepfel was the target of Collins’ comments, one saying, “I doubt she’ll go on the record about it as Laura is a professional woman with a fantastic reputation and a tremendous resume.  I doubt she wants the negative attention that would come with this issue.”

Chris called Zaepfel’s office multiple times for comment and was told each time that Zaepfel was “unavailable”. My calls to Errigo’s and Burling’s offices were not returned.

Why did we reveal the woman’s name when no one else would? Because it’s an important part of the story. Because it matters. I don’t know why the big media wouldn’t do it, but part of what makes it a story is the balls – the chutzpah – the unapologetic, misogynist rudeness that Collins has even for powerful, wealthy, attractive women with whom he comes into contact. It is a story that fleshes out who Collins is as a man, as a leader. The result isn’t pretty.

When you offend someone who is a big benefactor to people in your political party, that can come back to haunt you.  When someone makes news, that person should be identified for her newsworthiness, regardless of who she or her family is.

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25 Responses to “Chris' Tally-Ho”

  1. Mike Walsh January 20, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    “Why did we reveal the woman’s name when no one else would?”

    Maybe the other outlets see no need to out and embarrass somebody who has done nothing wrong?

    You should start writing for TMZ….

    • Alan Bedenko January 20, 2010 at 9:17 am #

      How is she embarrassed? I think every name in the paper should be omitted, because they are all subject to embarrassment. Because that’s more important than newsworthiness.

      • Mike Walsh January 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

        It’s not newsworthy. It’s gossip. I wonder if you would dig so much and keep beating a dead horse if it was some politician you liked?

        The phony “sensitive male” act is amusing, too.

      • a woman January 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

        Mike might want to take notes. Women LOVE that sensitive male act.

      • Mike Walsh January 21, 2010 at 12:15 am #

        Only if it’s genuine and not used to score political points. Ted Kennedy had the sensitive male act down pat, in public.

  2. RvrSide January 20, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    ahhh, the power of the crotch

  3. answerlady January 20, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    Maybe she should be embarrassed. By not stepping forward and speaking out about this, she is enabling his behavior.

    If Collins feels so comfortable doing this in front of a large audience, it makes you wonder what he does when he thinks no one is watching. (I know of one ex-extremely pregnant woman who could fill in a blank on this one.)

    • pirate's code January 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

      Or, maybe, she told him privately to STFU, or piss off, or grow up, or “embarrass me again in public and I’ll kick you in the nuts.” Or, maybe she didn’t see this as all that big a deal. In other words, you don’t know what she has or hasn’t done.

      • Alan Bedenko January 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

        Well, now you know whom to ask.

      • pirate's code January 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

        True enough, but why would I add to her (apparent) embarrassment by bringing it up? It seems to me that victim, if you will, has the right to handle this any way she sees fit. Or not at all, if that’s her preference.

        I guess I just don’t see this as the “firestorm” others do (borrowing the phrase from another comment in this thread). Collins’ apparent fratboy behavious is both unfortunate and troubling, but a firestorm?

      • pirate's code January 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

        b-e-h-a-v-i-o-r Sorry.

  4. Hey Pockyway January 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    The Buffalo News, of course, would prefer to print pictures of a dying 20-year being wheeled out of Merge after he was shot, rather than to identify the “Erie County Woman” as the center of this firestorm. Great reporting BP!

  5. Dan January 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Why did we reveal the woman’s name when no one else would? Because it’s an important part of the story. Because it matters.
    Yeah! Enquiring minds want to know! Should we be expecting details on rape victims in the future? This is stuff you can’t get on Illuzzi’s site!

    • sara January 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

      Who owns the media outlets in this town, rich republicans. Maybe they don’t want to damage their own. I’m pretty sure, that touchy, feely political correctness didn’t enter into the Snooze, etc calculations not to print the identity.

      • Dan January 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

        The Buffalo News is owned by Warren Buffett. A Democrat.
        As bad as that outlet is, it rarely prints this sort of gossip.

  6. RaChaCha January 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    BP & BG, great reporting. This really is relevant in my view — it has a bearing on the situation of someone who is considering running for the highest elected leadership position of one of our nation’s most significant states (and one in dire financial straits).

    On a more human level, I’m sorry that this fine person of our community had to be subjected to such boorishness — as I would be for anyone who’s been treated this way (and I have been myself, despite being on the other side of the gender equation).

    BTW, Errigo: I’ve heard decent things about you from my RaChaCha-area peeps, but when you tell a lady you’ll save her a seat, don’t then give it to some boorish yokel who wanders in from the wild western fringes of the state. A simple “hey squab cob breath, I’m saving that seat for a lady” should suffice.

  7. tim January 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Alan, your hatred for and obsession with Chris Collins has officially crossed the line

    • Alan Bedenko January 20, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

      have officially crossed the line. hth.

  8. rastamick61@yahoo.com January 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    One can only hope that this will resonate sufficiently with power brokers and fundraisers. As we’ve seen this sort of boorishness doesn’t stop fox entertainment viewers, teabaggers and psychos from voting for political bottom feeders and social miscreants. In fact it may even feed into Collins’ notion that he’s being persecuted by the media and their agendas. Someone please tell him agenda is all ready plural, maybe one of you guys in the medias can break it to the lil fellow.

  9. Greygoose January 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    If the Bufffalo News can publish the picture of a 15 year old who was ‘arrested’, certainly they can publish the picture of a grown woman who should have come forward with the insult in the first place. If this rich chick can be insulted in public. Heavens help the lowly county clerk! Gov. Paterson’s son is a minor. Since when have minors who have been taken into custody have had their mug shots displayed on national news? Being rich does not- and should- not buy one selective and or exclusive treatment. Thank good for the Pundit-and the Answer Lady. Keep on telling it like it is and you will keep your status as the most blogged blog!

  10. Chris M January 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I don’t even follow Buffalo politics, but this post is pathetic.

    That gal looks like she can handle herself without your “help” (and publicity).

  11. jonsing4info January 24, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    i wanted this information. i can see why, now, that the news didn’t publish the name. it says as much about the news and how it perceives such antics. (remember reynolds / folley and the boy sex scandal?) it’s really important to look at how the insiders and the insiders media react to such events. if this had happened in the mayors office it would be front page scandal headlines for a month.

  12. see4ever January 24, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    she looks like the cute blonde hottie attoney that works for the county executive. i wonder….

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Frenzies, Agendas, and Mouths | WNYmedia.net - January 22, 2010

    […] every single person who came on here to tell me how it was TMZ-style gossip to publish the fact that Laura Montante Zaepfel was the recipient of Chris Collins&…, I received from several other people who thanked us and praised us for revealing the name of a […]

  2. Chris Collins and the Dictatorship of Petty Bureaucracy | Artvoice Daily - October 17, 2012

    […] to the State Senate. In January 2010, Collins was again caught with his foot in his mouth, having asked Republican fundraiser Laura Montante Zaepfel to give him a “lapdance” befor…. Next on his agenda was to take away day care benefits from the working poor in Buffalo and WNY. […]

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