Tag Archives: PAC

A Confluence of Horrible Politics

24 Sep

When it comes down to less than 100 votes between the two candidates, you don’t get to be a sore winner and gloat over an exceedingly narrow victory. When the victory came about as a result of a relentless, libelous campaign whereby a young and promising legislator is defamed as a “Republican” sellout, it’s nothing to boast about. When the beneficiary of that campaign is one of the most toxic and corruptible figures ever to skulk through government, it’s shameful. Barbara Miller-Williams didn’t win for herself, had Steve Pigeon not formed a PAC and funded it with almost $300,000 within the course of a week, there’d have been no blitz of “Tim Hogues is a Republican” mailers that went to every home in the district every day. 

Betty Jean Grant – she was a victor, completely obliterating the opponent who stood to benefit from the same mailing blitz. Nice try, Tim Kennedy, but you didn’t get your revenge directly against your nemesis this time

Zydel and Moore – the Pigeon/Mazurek top of the marquee – both lost big to HQ-backed candidates Dearmyer (who, in turn, lost to Pat Burke), and Wynnie Fisher, respectively. Not a day for a Pigeon victory lap at all. 

Bert Dunn, on the other hand, lost dramatically to Dick Dobson. Dunn ran his own campaign with his own people and his own money, eschewing help from the party apparatus. Zellner stayed out of that race, for the most part, and Dunn lost big. Too big – it was embarrassing, but all he seemed to do was put signs up at Bert’s Bikes locations and let Pigeon’s committee beat him up on TV. 

Now, Dunn is pledging to continue his run on the “Law and Order” party line he created for himself. This is a foolish endeavor that will not work and is a stupid thing to do at a time when Democrats should be rallying around Dobson. Dunn failed and should step aside and perhaps try again another time. 

By the same token, Democrats should all be supporting Fisher and Burke in their general election battles. It’s one thing to run a primary campaign, it’s another to actively support the Republican to get one over on the party apparatchiks you don’t like. 

Finally, as the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy reported, complaints have been made to the Moreland Commission on public corruption. Let’s examine. 

– Senator Tim Kennedy gave $85,000 to the Pigeon/Mazurek PAC, half of which came from a defunct, closed campaign account in apparent violation of election law. Kennedy tells McCarthy that his donations followed the “letter and spirit” of the law. The facts and disclosures show the exact opposite, yet this is omitted from the article.  

– Pigeon told McCarthy: 

Pigeon labeled the Grant-Hogues letter a “frivolous action” and questioned whether Cuomo’s Moreland Commission is even charged with probing political campaigns.

“The charge is to investigate corruption of public officers,” Pigeon said, “not to be a campaign watchdog. That power still lies with the Board of Elections.

Yet the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was formed earlier this year, and the announcement read, in part, as follows

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the formation of the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic public corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State

…”I am formally empanelling a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption pursuant to the Moreland Act and Section 63(8) of the Executive Law that will convene the best minds in law enforcement and public policy from across New York to address weaknesses in the State’s public corruption, election and campaign finance laws, generate transparency and accountability, and restore the public trust.”

  • [The commission will investigate] Campaign financing including but not limited to contribution limits and other restrictions; disclosure of third-party contributions and expenditures; and the effectiveness of existing campaign finance laws.

So, the facts directly contradict Pigeon’s assertion about the commission’s mission, yet this key fact is shunted down to the bottom of the article, completely outside the context of Pigeon’s assertion. 

The way in which New York conducts is elections is horrible, rife with opportunities for bad people to do questionable and corrupt things. PACs can spend unlimited money and its campaign advertising doesn’t need to disclose the source. Electoral fusion allows our system to be more about dealmaking with otherwise irrelevant minor “parties” and does nothing to enhance electoral democracy. Ballot access is unreasonably complicated and rife with traps for the unwary, and should be simplified. Money flowing to and from PACs – which are not even formally recognized under state law – should be accounted-for, disclosed, and limited to prevent monied interests from stealing elections. 

The problem now is whether money in politics will prevent the needed reforms from being openly discussed and implemented. 

AwfulPAC

5 Sep

Yesterday, I wrote about the Kristy Mazurek / 2Sides / Steve Pigeon involvement in a shiny new PAC that sent out thousands of unattributed campaign literature smearing incumbent Democratic county legislators Betty Jean Grant and Tim Hogues, and supporting challengers Joyce Wilson Nixon and Barbara Miller-Williams. Instead of focusing on the politics as usual, I noted that the state should really change the rules to require that campaign advertisements disclose who paid for them

Yesterday afternoon, the PAC’s financial disclosure was revealed on the Board of Elections’ website, and Geoff Kelly wrote up most of the details in Artvoice’s print edition. Big news was a $45,000 influx of cash from Senator Tim Kennedy’s campaign fund, which represents a huge middle finger to, among others, Betty Jean Grant, who not only primaried Kennedy last year, but came within spitting distance of defeating him through a write-in campaign. There was also a $20,000 “loan” from Steve Pigeon.

But what we also noticed last night was the list of 24-hour notices of massive contributions. Here it is: 

Frank Max gave almost $2,000. Steve Pigeon donated a straight $30,000 – no loan, just cash. AJ Wholesale is a business that is not located in New York State, but on sovereign Seneca territory. It is owned by Aaron Pierce, who was targeted in 2010 for possibly illegal tax-free cigarette shipments in violation of federal law. Pierce unsuccessfully ran for Seneca President in 2012. He’s given money to Kennedy, among others: 

AJ Wholesale didn’t appear in any searches for prior donations. Curious, that. 

Responsible New Yo.. ZOMG, OBAMA!

13 Aug

The logo for Tom Golisano’s “Responsible New York” group:

rnylogo.JPG

Looks a lot like this logo:

The website for Responsible New York PAC is here, and its candidate questionnaire is here (.pdf). It gives you some insight into what Golisano is looking for in a candidate.

Tom Golisano's PAC

9 Jul

Responsible New York is just the latest effort by someone fed up with New York’s mediocrity and nonsense to try to shake things up. In this case, however, it’s being funded with $5 million from a billionaire, so there’s a lot more where that five mill came from.

It’s been reported that the new Responsible New York PAC will attempt to raise/spend/donate $1,000,000 for candidates “Baby” Joe Mesi and Kathy Konst in their bids to be elected to State Senate.

So long as Responsible New York works independently from the campaigns, that very well might happen. Here, however, Golisano has already met with Konst privately, and Golisano’s political guru, Steve Pigeon, is also very closely connected with Mesi, so the issue of coordination between the PAC and the campaign becomes an issue that will, no doubt, be decided by Judge Makowski. (He always seems to get these types of cases).

If the PAC spends more than $6,000 on the primary campaign and/or $9,500 on the general for, e.g., Mesi, you can bet that Iannello or Ward will sue. They’ll argue that there is improper coordination and that the PAC should be limited to those maximum amounts. Anything more would require the expenditure to be “independent of the candidate or his agents”, and no one from a campaign could “authorize, request, suggest, foster or cooperate in any such activity”.

Another problem arises from another section of the election law:

14-116

8. Except as may otherwise be provided for a candidate and his family, no person may contribute, loan or guarantee in excess of one hundred fifty thousand dollars within the state in connection with the nomination or election of persons to state and local public offices and party positions within the state of New York in any one calendar year. For the purposes of this subdivision “loan” or “guarantee” shall mean a loan or guarantee which is not repaid or discharged in the calendar year in which it is made.

Golisano’s goals for change in Albany are shared by many, especially in upstate and western New York. The problem is that laws are designed specifically to prevent the extraordinarily wealthy from having an unfair advantage in elections, unless they themselves are running.

Late yesterday, it was reported that Golisano’s plans have, therefore, changed

Trying to avoid the legal restrictions of a political action committee, Golisano plans to amend his filing with the state Board of Elections to create a different kind of entity that will enable him to spend unlimited amounts for or against – but not on behalf of – state legislative candidates, according to his top advisor Steve Pigeon.

Instead of a PAC, Golisano will create an unauthorized multi-candidate political committee, which will act independently of all candidates (and still be called Responsible New York), Pigeon said. This committee will not make any direct contributions.

The Golisano camp had already filed paperwork with the state yesterday to create the PAC he unveiled this morning and said he would seed with $5 million….

…But, Brehm said, a political committee that is independent and not authorized by any particular campaign can spend whatever it wishes on ads, mailings, and signs.

Such committees, which deal with mandated free speech requirements, merely have to register what candidates they are oppose or support and how much it has taken in and spent.

According to Pigeon, Golisano will still establish a PAC called People for Responsible New York, which will accept donations up to $100 and will make campaign donations (adhering to the existing campaign finance limits) to candidates Golisano is supporting.

One thing that is not clear is whether the fact that Golisano has already spoken to some candidates, plans to have candidates fill out questionnaires and might meet with them after they do so would disqualify him legally from claiming his committee is independent and unauthorized.

Brehem did not have an immediate answer.

Golisano and Pigeon maintain they are merely seeking out the viewpoints of candidates, but will be working alone in deciding whom to back and how to spend Golisano’s money.

So, there ya go.