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Kearns Accused of Campaign Finance Illegality

6 Mar

Chairwoman of the Tonawanda Democratic Committee Gayle Syposs has filed a formal complaint with the state Board of Election against nominal Republican Assembly candidate and Common Council member Mickey Kearns. 

In her complaint, Syposs makes the following allegations: 

Mr. Kearns is currently an elected member of the Buffalo Common Council. In pursuit of said office, Mr. Kearns maintains a campaign finance committee under the name of “Friends of Michael P. Kearns” (filer ID # C22901). 

 

In addition, Mr. Kearns is the Republican party candidate in the special election for the vacant 145th district seat in the New York State Assembly, scheduled for March 20. For that election, Mr. Kearns has established and maintains a campaign finance account under the name of “Kearns for Western New York” (filer ID # A86775). 

The following specific complaints are made under the sections of the New York State Election Law as detailed below:

  • Mr. Kearns’ campaign committee “Kearns for Western New York,” utilized for election to the New York State Assembly is in violation of Section 14-126 of the Election Law. To wit:
  • The campaign has accepted multiple contributions in excess of the legally prescribed limit for individual and corporate donations for the Special Election. 
    • In his 32 day pre-election campaign filing, the campaign reports that he has accepted no fewer than six contributions from corporate entities in the amount of $5,000.00 each. 
    • One corporation, Red Earth LLC, donated a total of $10,000 on February 3, 2012 – an amount $5,900 in excess of the legal limit.
    • The legal limit for such donations for this special election is $4,100.
    • Accordingly, the campaign has violated section 14-146(2) of the Election Law. 
    • Mr. Kearns has accepted no fewer than five $5,000.00 donations from corporate entities operating from two different business addresses. The acceptance of these donations constitutes a violation of the Election Law as detailed above, but also represents a violation of the spirit of the Election Law, which seeks limits to the amount of influence one corporate entity may have over the political process. The fact that corporate entities operating from one business address (PO Box 25, Gowanda, NY 14070) would contribute $15,000.00 to Mr. Kearns within 10 days’ time raises substantial concerns as to the propriety of such donations.
    • Following an investigation, the state of New York is entitled to seek administrative relief in the form of (i) refunds to the contributor of the amount contributed in overage; and (ii) investigation of the circumstances of the contribution for potential criminal prosecution in accordance with Section 14-126(4) of the Election Law.
  • Mr. Kearns’ campaign for election to the Buffalo Common Council in 2011 is in violation of Section 14-126 of the Election Law. To wit:
    • Candidates for public office in New York State that meet certain fundraising thresholds are required to file campaign finance reports with the New York State Board of Elections at regular intervals. As a candidate for public office on no fewer than three occasions, and as a candidate whose campaign committees have in the past filed reports with the state BOE, it is clear that Mr. Kearns is aware of the requirements of the Election Law with respect to campaign finance disclosure. 
    • In 2011, Mr. Kearns failed to file three (3) consecutive campaign finance disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections. These reports are:
      • 32-day pre-General Election report, due on or about October 6, 2011;
      • 11-day pre-General Election report, due on or about October 27, 2011;
      • 27-day post-General Election report, due on or about December 5, 2011.
    • Mr. Kearns’ 2011 campaign is in violation of Section 14-126(1) of the Election Law. Moreover, given that the violation occurred on three consecutive occasions, the campaign filer appears to be in violation of Section 14-126(3), and may thereby be guilty of a misdemeanor. 

Honorable Commissioners, the fair and open conduct of public elections is your charge, and is a responsibility you undoubtedly consider with a tremendous level of importance. Through both his actions and his lack of action, information contained within the New York State Board of Elections’ website for Filer IDs C22901 and A86775 demonstrate prima facie evidence of multiple violations of the Election Law on the part of Michael “Mickey” Kearns and his associated campaign committees. Because of the importance of the conduct of fair and open elections, I ask for the maximum level of civil and criminal relief provided by law. 

 

The election takes place on March 20th.