Search results for 'fusion'

Join the Conservative Fusion Party’s “Police Brutality PAC”

27 Aug

Carl Paladino is shilling for the NYS Conservative Party, forwarding the email shown below (SFW): 

That’s pretty cool! Register with the Conservative Party, because the cops put a black man in an illegal-since-1993 chokehold and committed homicide! I mean, the NYPD is going to re-train officers as a result of this tragedy, but w/e! I mean, they killed this man and waited a full 7 minutes before trying CPR! He’s black, so he doesn’t count, right, Carl? Right, Conservative Party?  As Paladino so aptly put it in an earlier email

 

DEMOCRATS: STOP ASKING FOR THIS PARTY’S ENDORSEMENT.

IF YOU SEEK THE ENDORSEMENT OF THE CONSERVATIVE FUSION PARTY, YOU ARE EXPLICITLY ENDORSING SHIT LIKE THIS.

Advertisements

Ballot Access & Fusion: Keeping New York Corrupt

10 Jul

It’s petition day throughout New York State, and we’ll learn soon enough that Governor Cuomo will have a primary challenge from the left, and that locally, the Democratic race for the 63rd Senate District (Tim Kennedy, incumbent) is going to be especially fun, as will the Republican challenge to Mark Grisanti, as perennial party-switching candidate Rus Thompson clumsily attempts to manipulate the corrupt fusion system to try and oust the sane guy. 

But it’s not only electoral fusion that’s corrupt and awful, so is the petition process itself. It’s hypercomplicated and deliberately designed to be a minefield for the unwary. It’s not only time to abolish the electoral fusion system and shut down the Wilson Pakulas and backroom deals, but also to simplify the ballot access system to make it easier for candidates to run. The rules for petitioning should be simplified and written in plain English, and there should be an alternative whereby a candidate simply pays a fee (set on a sliding scale, depending on the scope of the office).  Hey, if the state needs another source of revenue, there you go. 

As it stands now, our petitioning process should rightly be named the Election Law Attorney Full Employment Act

As for SD-60, where Grisanti will possibly face off with Rus Thompson, here’s the entire campaign in a nutshell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the calm, professional man in the suit over the wildman in a sweatshirt. 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Albany’s Culture of Corruption & Fusion

3 Jun

In your real day-to-day life, does last week’s Zephyr Teachout / Working Families Party brinksmanship with Governor Cuomo matter to you? 

Mr. Langworthy hits on a key point of New York’s fundamentally corrupt electoral fusion system – all of this chasing of third, fourth, and fifth lines involves extortion and bribery.  All of it. Every single one.

The system is dirty because the system is set up to be dirty. 

You want to be angry about Cuomo dismantling the Moreland Commission on public corruption literally overnight to cut a budget deal? I’m angry, too, and hope the US Attorney in Manhattan truly does pursue what scraps he’s been able to gather. Asking Albany to clean house reminds me of Jesse Pinkman, the young henchman from Breaking Bad, attending group drug counseling so he can sell meth to other attendees. 

 But the system itself can’t be reformed as long as fusion is permitted to be legal. You can bet that just about very time a politico chases a minor party fusion line, there’s some degree of corruption afoot. The “Independence Party” is the worst, but they’re all cut from the same cloth. 

It really doesn’t get any simpler. If you want to end Albany’s culture of corruption, you have to end Albany’s culture of corruption. Just. Do. It. 

If you’re like I am, do you draw any comfort or satisfaction from the fact that Cuomo is equally reviled on both the hard left and hard right? 

Electoral Fusion And Terribleness

14 May

If you ever wanted to know how political staffers get their jobs, it’s by doing a lot of boring, annoying, time-consuming grunt work that no one else wants to do. They have to be loyal and trustworthy, and they have to be able to accomplish with a straight face the tasks required of their job. 

That’s not rocket science, that’s not automatically “bad”, it’s how it’s been done since time immemorial, everywhere, and isn’t going to change anytime soon. 

But New York State is unique the way in which it permits its politics to be manipulated, and it’s unique in how corrupt and pervasive it’s become. We are one of a very small handful of states that permit electoral fusion, which enables minor parties to endorse candidates who aren’t party members. We have a “Conservative Party” that has a conservative platform to which it adheres when convenient, and we have the Tom Golisano-founded “Independence Party”, which is never independent and exists largely to confuse people who want to register as small-i independents, and don’t realize that New York calls them “unenrolled”.  We also have the Working Families Party, which is very tight with both public and private sector unions, and is candid about its activist role. Only the Green Party eschews the fusion game. 

I have written about fusion for many years, and advocated for its abolition. It most recently came up during the State Senate’s debate of the same sex marriage law, when Conservative Party “leaders” were openly threatening Senator Mark Grisanti not to vote in favor of it. It’s notable that this horrible “party” is now endorsing anti-same-sex-marriage, nominal Democrat and former County Legislator Chuck Swanick to run against Grisanti. 

After the County budget crisis of the last decade, I thought it’d be impossible for Swanick to ever dare to re-gain elected office again. Or any job that didn’t end with the suffix “the clown”. At the time, Swanick had switched to the Republican Party in order to be elected legislature chairman, and even after that, he was at the forefront of a fiscal disaster, and had a hand in assisting Butch Holt to give a county contract to his brother’s Texas-based basketball camp, and a $3 million no-bid contract to a glorified answering service called “community corrections” – a huge attempted scam.

The Republican primary race in the newly constructed NY-27 district has revealed some dramatic cleaves in the WNY Republican firmament.  You have rich, country-club Republican against middle-class, war vet Republican. You have suburban vs. rural. You have conservative vs. crony capitalism. Above all, you have the story of David Bellavia and the Erie County GOP. In 2008, Bellavia agreed to step aside in favor of Chris Lee in the NY-26 race in a deal struck with current ECGOP chairman Nick Langworthy.  The deal was, Bellavia lets Lee have the seat, and when Lee vacates the seat, it would be Bellavia’s turn.

But it didn’t turn out that way, and Bellavia was not just snubbed in 2010 when Lee resigned in a Craigslist sex scandal – he was cajoled and threatened. In early 2011, Bellavia was cornered in a back room of an Elmwood Avenue cafe by Chris Collins, Carl Paladino, and Paladino’s lieutenant, Rus Thompson.  The trio played good cop/bad cop, attempting to clear the way for Collins’ neighbor, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, to get the NY-26 nod. They alternately threatened to reveal embarrassing information about Bellavia’s finances, then offering him an endorsement for an Assembly seat of his own.  Corwin went on to lose dramatically to Kathy Hochul in what turned out to be almost a frame-by-frame foreshadowing of the November 2011 County Executive race. 

To this day, the Erie County Republican Committee has refused to endorse Bellavia for any office, and has reneged completely on the deal it made to clear Chris Lee’s way to Washington. 

With redistricting, the lines have changed and Corwin isn’t trying again. Instead, in keeping with the apparent ECGOP policy that a chief qualification for Congress is that you reside on Cobblestone Drive in Clarence, the recently defeated hobbyist-politician Chris Collins has stepped out to yet again deny Bellavia a shot at a congressional race. Bellavia, however, is not bowing out. He has garnered the support of the xenophobic-but-wealthy Jack Davis, and the endorsement of the Republican committees of every one of the so-called “GLOW” (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming) counties. Bellavia’s campaign has been assisted by former Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo, and while his fundraising gap vs. Collins is wide, so is the enthusiasm gap – Collins hasn’t made many friends, and is finding that he’s a tough sell outside of Erie and Niagara Counties, within the Buffalo media market that treated him with kid gloves. 

There is some overlap between NY-27 and the State Senate district occupied by Michael Ranzenhofer. Although Ranzenhofer claims to be neutral in the Collins – Bellavia battle, he is a product of the Erie County Republican machine, and close friends with Collins ally and Washington strategist Michael Hook. A few weeks ago, one of Ranzenhofer’s Wyoming County-based staffers, Michelle McCullough, was named to Bellavia’s campaign’s steering committee. After all, she is a Wyoming County committeewoman and at worst, she was going along with her committee’s endorsement. She was quickly fired. The Batavian has a story that confirms the political rationale and scheming that led to McCullough’s termination. Text messages confirm that Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy criticized McCullough for her endorsement of Bellavia, and one of her colleagues warned her that “Hook called Ranz” just days before her termination. 

Ranzenhofer continues to insist that he is neutral in the NY-27 primary race. 

Yet that doesn’t explain another point that the Batavian revealed. In New York, one of the easiest ways you can circulate nominating petitions for a political party with which you’re not registered is to become a Notary Public. The Batavian story reveals that at least six of Ranzenhofer’s staffers are licensed notaries, and not coincidentally went out and collected petition signatures for Chris Collins for the Conservative Party line; everybody including Michelle McCullough, the staffer fired for her support of David Bellavia. All of the signatures were collected in eastern Erie County, following an instruction to ignore GLOW counties. 

In addition to the apparent lack of supposed neutrality in the Ranzenhofer office regarding the NY-27 race, sources confirm that Erie County Republican elections commissioner Ralph Mohr delivered the Conservative Party petitions to the Ranzenhofer staffers. They didn’t collect signatures on state time, but were asked to use their own “comp” time to do so – time that was theirs and that they had earned as time off. 

It shows that the Erie County Republican Committee is not just not neutral in this race, but that it is actively assisting Chris Collins’ effort, and working in concert – in effect controlling – the concomitant effort to get Collins on the Conservative Party ballot. 

This is nothing new, and it’s not unique to the Republican or Conservative Parties. The Erie County Independence Party has lost its right and ability to endorse candidates to the state party apparatus. This is because ECDC Chairman Len Lenihan had in 2006 attempted an outright takeover of the IP by urging Democrats to become active IP members. This resulted in the local committee endorsing one candidate, and the state committee endorsing another – a conflict that was resolved in the state’s favor through recent litigation. State committee chair Frank MacKay has taken to endorsing Republicans in recent local races

You’ll note that not one piece of information written above has anything whatsoever to do with good policy, platform positions, or anything else commonly associated with what government and politics are supposed to be about.  This is all about influence and power, and in the case of the minor fusion parties, their sole mission in life is to offer and execute Wilson Pakulas in exchange for influence, power, and – above all – jobs

One of the oldest and most-repeated excuses for why we allow fusion voting in New York has to do with the mythological straight-line voter. Presumably, such a voter who is, e.g., a registered and loyal Democrat would never, ever color in a Republican ballot oval, even if the choice was for an objectively superior candidate. (Think Antoine Thompson vs. Mark Grisanti). So, the minor party lines give that type of voter the cover to vote for the right person and not fill in the “R” line. 

I’m sure these people exist, but I’m not convinced that the existence of the “C” and “I” or “WFP” lines somehow magically give them the moral cover to do something they’d otherwise never do. I’d love to see some polling on that; I think it’s utter speculation and, if it exists, affects a very small number of voters. 

It wasn’t too long ago that the Erie County Independence Party was run by a Springville-based barber who was quite brazenly transactional. The current Erie County Conservative Party leader is well-regarded in political circles, and enjoys wide, multi-partisan friendship and support due to his friendly weekend kaffeeklatsches at Daisie’s in  Lackawanna. But during at least one local supervisor’s race last year, it was revealed that the Conservative Party endorsement could be inextricably linked with Mr. Lorigo’s own business interests, as it was alleged that he had withheld an endorsement on pretextual moral grounds, but in reality because the town board had voted against a zoning change that would have directly benefited Lorigo’s business interests, and he was punishing the sitting supervisor for not asserting more influence over the process. 

State Conservative Party chair Mike Long and Ralph Lorigo are persuasive when they threaten Mark Grisanti, who defeated Antoine Thompson by only about 500 votes, and 4,300 of his votes came on the Conservative line. It comes down not to doing the right thing, but counting votes.  But really,  the Conservative Party has no business wielding the political power it does. In 2010, about 4.6 million New Yorkers voted – only about 232,000 of them on the Conservative line; that’s 5% of people who cast ballots. The enrollment in Erie County breaks down this way: Democrats: 286,112; Republicans: 153,179; Conservative Party; 11,811; Independence Party: 24,962; Working Families Party: 2,665; Green Party: 1,225; Libertarian Party: 242; unenrolled: 90,908.  So, we have 571,104 registered Erie County voters, only 2% of whom are members of the Conservative Party, and only 4% of whom are registered as “Independent”. Yet these two little nothing parties with a negligible number of members have practical control over who gets elected.

The minor parties’ political influence exponentially outweighs their membership or ballot results. I’m tired of progress and legislation being held up by little men with little minds whose political parties are only mildly more legitimate and popular than the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party. Why was Tony Orsini taken seriously as a political player? Who is Ralph Lorigo to demand fealty from candidates? How did a panoply of Independence Party hacks get jobs at the Erie County Legislature in 2010? Are Lorigo’s decisions on endorsements based on Conservative Party principles, or on unprincipled self-interest?

To put it bluntly, electoral fusion is one of the chief reasons why we in western New York can’t have nice things. It ensures that our politics are uniquely and overwhelmingly transactional, to the benefit of the connected and the detriment of the average citizen. Somewhat ironically, fusion is the reason why fusion won’t be abolished anytime soon. Too many pols have too intense a reliance on a process that theoretically relies on inflexible low-information voters to succeed. The elected who campaigns too strenuously to unsuccessfully end fusion will find himself returned to the dreaded private sector, with its crappy health insurance and absence of fat, tax-free pensions. 

End electoral fusion, and New York will have enacted a very significant reform that will, in turn, help to hasten other policies and reforms that will help move the state forward. Next time you ask why any local pol chooses not to show leadership on some matter of controversy, refer back to transactional politics and fusion. 

Grisanti to Receive Endorsement of Other Horrible Transactional Fusion Party

28 Feb

At 1:30 pm today, a press conference will be held in Buffalo to announce that the Independence Party, which is neither independent nor really any sort of political party with any firm ideology or platform aside from the personal ambitions of its leadership, will endorse Mark Grisanti for re-election. 

This comes quickly on the heels of the recent announcement that the Conservative Party, which is hardly conservative nor really any sort of political party with a firm and consistent set of policy positions except for a generalized abhorrence of gays, modern society, and taxes, will attempt to throw WNY under a massive bendy bus by endorsing reprehensible homophobic retread Chuck Swanick – star of the mid-last-decade county financial meltdown – in a deal cut with former Pedro Espada patronage hire Steve Pigeon.  With Espada’s indictment, Pigeon finds himself needing something more to do than just ally himself with Albany-based cults.  

Also, Swanick received the endorsement of the reactionary homophobic bigots at the improperly named “National Organization for Marriage“. 

If you want to stop how pitifully transactional our local politics have become, and begin cleaning things up; if you want to promote good policy and less patronage-laden dealmaking, abolish electoral fusion in New York State. 

Help Wanted: Tell Me Your Electoral Fusion Horror Stories

19 Jul

I’m working on a story dealing with the small-time corruption and dealmaking that have become the hallmarks of electoral fusion politics in western New York. Specifically, I’m focusing on the Erie County Conservative Party and the extrapolitical financial basis for a few of its current endorsements and denials thereof, and on the fact that the Erie County Independence Party was being raided by the Democrats, didn’t like that, so it got bought out by the Republicans.

None of that is hyperbole.

I have some very good and helpful sources, but an specifically opening this up to you. I’d wager that there are more than a few of you who have some specific, additional, recent examples of something similar. If you have a story to tell, and can back it up with independently verifiable facts and evidence, please contact me at alan[at]wnymedia.net.

Abolishing electoral fusion wouldn’t automatically make politics cleaner and better, but it wouldn’t hurt. Without that opportunity for rampant and brazen horsetrading, government might become more honest and better focused on delivering excellent and efficient service to its constituents.

End Electoral Fusion, Reduce Corruption

22 Jun

Right now, the marriage equality vote is being held up by little men with little minds. Specifically, Conservative Party chairman Mike Long and his local counterpart Ralph Lorigo are doing their utmost to ensure that gay people remain relegated to second class status.

Both of them are doing the “political protection” dance, threatening pols in close districts that they can kiss the Conservative line goodbye in 2012. For some pols, like Mark Grisanti, this is persuasive. After all, Grisanti defeated Antoine Thompson by only about 500 votes, and 4,300 of his votes came on the Conservative line. Sources close to the situation say that Lorigo has all but told Grisanti that he will be persona non grata with WNY Conservative Party committees if he votes for marriage equality.

So, it comes down not to doing the right thing, but counting votes.

The thing about the Conservative Party is that it has no business wielding the political power it does. In 2010, about 4.6 million New Yorkers voted – only about 232,000 of them on the Conservative line.

That’s 5% of people who cast ballots.

The Conservative Party’s political influence exponentially outweighs its ballot results. Charvella does a great job here explaining why all of the fusion-dependent parties – the WFP, the IP, and the Conservative Party – are emblematic of bad government. I’m tired of progress and legislation being held up by little men with little minds whose political parties are only mildly more legitimate and popular than the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party.  Why was Tony Orsini taken seriously as a political player? Who is Ralph Lorigo to demand fealty from candidates? How did a panoply of Independence Party hacks get jobs at the Erie County Legislature last year? Are Lorigo’s decisions on endorsements based on Conservative Party principles, or on unprincipled self-interest?

Take for instance Lorigo’s endorsement last year of outspoken marriage equality proponent Tim Kennedy. Why is Lorigo OK with Kennedy’s stance on the issue, but threatening other Senators on the same issue? No, this is all about transactional politics.

For instance, I learned about a townwide race in Erie County where Lorigo had previously endorsed the candidate but won’t do so now. Why? Because Lorigo’s plaza-developer client wasn’t able to close a deal for a new shopping center, and this town official didn’t grease the skids for them to make it happen. Call it what you want – I call it corruption; Lorigo refuses to endorse because the official didn’t unlawfully ram Lorigo’s client’s plan through the town process?!

That’s why it’s time to end political fusion. If you don’t want little people like Ralph Lorigo or Tony Orsini (now deposed) or Mike Long or Frank MacKay or Steve Pigeon to wield political power that is far in excess of their actual political reach, then we need to put them out of business.

In the meantime, turning to Mark Grisanti and Pat Gallivan, the local Republican state Senators who are reputedly on the fence about this: Gallivan received about 9,000 votes on the Conservative line, but he defeated Cynthia Appleton by about 30,000 votes. You don’t need Lorigo or his line. As for Grisanti, it was a miracle that a Republican defeated a Democrat, but that was a special situation.  Enough Democrats in the district decided they’d had enough of Antoine Thompson. If Grisanti votes for marriage equality, Lorigo pulls Conservative support.  If Grisanti votes against marriage equality, Democrats revolt and he’s out next time. If Grisanti switches parties back to Democrat and votes for marriage equality, he’s Senator for life (HT Andrew Kulyk for the preceding 3 sentences).

I urge you to join the End Electoral Fusion in New York State Facebook group.  Fusion makes politics dirtier, and is oftentimes the root of political evil and backwardness in this state.  This needs to become a thing.

Marc Coppola: Abolish Electoral Fusion

21 Jul

[HTML1]

Coppola is running for the 61st Senate District, now represented by Republican Mike Ranzenhofer. Coppola has refused to seek or accept any minor party lines, and called on his opponent to do the same.

Marc Coppola for State Senate.

Marc Coppola Running in SD-61; Calls for End to Fusion Voting

23 Jun

The political system is remarkably broken and corrupt. As a result, the policies that emanate from Albany are generally stupid, short-sighted, and designed to ensure re-election and the pleasing of various lobbyists and other special interest groups.

It’s easy to lapse into the habit of criticizing what amount to the symptoms of our broken politics, but oftentimes it’s important to go for the cure, instead. Two antibiotics would help to kill the infections that sicken Albany. Firstly, the legislative reform proposals that NYU’s Brennan Center has been pushing for almost half a decade should have long ago been implemented. They won’t be, however, because the current three-men-in-a-room system is advantageous to the legislators, who seldom have to do much or act effectively or responsibly.

Secondly, electoral fusion must be abolished because it is corrupt and corrupting.

Electoral fusion is the system whereby meaningless, pointless, and redundant special-interest groups and PACs get to call themselves political parties. But instead of actually running candidates for office, they simply cut deals to endorse major-party candidates. The minor parties get something in return, of course. Usually jobs or the promise of jobs. If the parties call themselves something catchy, they may garner 50,000 votes in any given gubernatorial election, thus ensuring that they remain on the ballot statewide for the following four years, cutting deals and endorsing major party candidates.

You think of yourself as a conservative, and refuse to vote for a Democrat like Tim Kennedy? Kennedy got the Conservative Party line! So vote for him there, pretend your conscience is clear, and help somebody’s brother’s cousin get a job at some state authority.

You think of yourself as an independent voter and enroll in the “Independence Party”? Welcome to the world of Steve Pigeon and Frank MacKay, as well as Tom Golisano’s money. At least Sandy Rosenswie got a job out of last year’s endorsements. Whew!

It’s particularly noteworthy and appreciated, therefore, that former Buffalo City Councilman and former State Senator from SD-60, Marc Coppola, has come out swinging in his current, new campaign against State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer in SD-61. Instead of criticizing his opponent’s lack of leadership or ideas, he’s swinging against the system itself.

Coppola has pledged not to seek or accept the endorsement of any minor party lines, and has also promised to introduce legislation to abolish electoral fusion in New York State. Ours is one of only eight states in the Union that still allow minor parties to endorse members of other parties and to count the aggregate votes towards the total. This ensures that petty power brokers continue to wield influence that is disproportionately large in relation to the actual number of party members or voters.

Coppola’s effort is radical – and that’s unfortunate. Every candidate should stand on principle and transparency, but few of them do. Indeed, many of them create their own little party lines for vanity or strategy. Carl Paladino is doing it right now for the tea party, and Chris Collins did it with the “Taxpayers First” line.

You can’t clean up Albany without abolishing the anachronistic fusion system, which exists solely to encourage transactional politics and discourages good government. Here’s the text of Coppola’s press release on the issue:

Town of Tonawanda resident and candidate for NYS Senate Marc Coppola is calling for an end to political corruption in Albany. Several minor party leaders are now under investigation for alleged illegal activities.

Coppola, who is the endorsed Democrat for State Senate running against Mike Ranzenhofer for the 61st district, believes fusion voting is part of the problem. It’s an election system that allows for candidates to run on multiple party lines. “Minor parties and their leaders have a disproportionate amount of influence in New York State politics and our government,” said Coppola. “It has proven to be a pay to play system and a breeding ground for corruption. New York is one of only several states in the country that allows the tail to wag the dog and the voters and residents of this state deserve better.”

Coppola has not requested and will not accept any party nomination other than his own and challenges his opponent, incumbent Mike Ranzenhofer to do the same. “As long as candidates participate in this system that has become disingenuous, sometimes corrupt, and an insult to voters, it will continue. I for one choose not to.”

If elected, Coppola will sponsor legislation ending fusion voting in New York State.

Now, here’s the question: will Mike Ranzenhofer do the same thing? If not, why not? Will anyone ask him?

Electoral Fusion Must Go

17 Jun

It is fundamentally disingenuous for Andrew Cuomo to reject the Working Families Party line because of ongoing investigations into its activities, but then to accept the Independence Party line. After all, the Independence Party is knee-deep in the Haggerty money laundering / grand larceny case, and also in the Steve Pigeon / Pedro Espada investigation regarding, among other things, election law violations and tax fraud.

The Independence Party is the poster child for the corruption that naturally arises out of electoral fusion. Along with independent redistricting, part of what’s critically necessary to reform politics in this state is to abolish electoral fusion. Politics will always have money and quid-pro-quos behind the scenes, but fusion makes it particularly dirty, lucrative, and acute.