Tag Archives: pay for play

Clarence Supervisor Race: Unethical Republican Fundraising

12 Sep

Fundraising & Primary Day

Tuesday the 13th is Primary Day throughout western New York, and I’ve taken quite an interest in the politics of my own town of Clarence. The politics have taken on a new shade of ugly there this season, mostly because certain Republicans find themselves unwilling to work with current Supervisor, Scott Bylewski.

First, two-time councilman Joe Weiss decided that his political feelings were more important than the Free Speech guarantees of the United States Constitution.

Then the Republican candidate for Supervisor, David Hartzell, politicized a routine IDA meeting and warned of an IDA “backlash” against those who dared to politically oppose him and otherwise engage in the lawful political process.

A palpable pattern of retaliation and threats from Weiss and Hartzell against those who oppose them has emerged.

Now? We have this letter sent by Mr. Hartzell to a prominent local law firm, soliciting for campaign donations and hinting not-at-all subtly about the possibility that, y’know, maybe a firm that gives him a nice sum of money might be, y’know, more likely to be selected to do outside legal work for the town, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.

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If you’re going to send out a letter soliciting for a political donation, you might put something in about why you’re the better candidate; why you think the other guy is a loser; what your plan is, should you be elected; how the town is going down the wrong path, etc. Something – anything – that outlines to the prospective donor why their money is well-spent on your candidacy.

Everyone knows that large political donations are often seen as investments in a candidate; that the donors believe that their money should at least buy them access to an unhostile ear. That in itself is bad, but this isn’t a post about why we need public funding of elections.

This is a post about a subtle promise for future favoritism. Hartzell’s letter contains no pretextual B.S. about why the law firm should give him money – it gets right to the point and hints around about the fact that, should he win, the town’s going to hire a new outside firm. Reading between the lines, the implication couldn’t be clearer:

Throw me some cash, and maybe it’ll be your firm.

Is it illegal? Maybe. Unethical? Definitely. Unseemly? Hell yeah.

I’ve heard from loads of Clarence residents and businesses over the past few weeks, all of whom have thanked me for helping to expose Joe Weiss for the bullying, intimidating creep they – but few others – knew him to be. The battle in Clarence right now may be over signs, but signs don’t vote – people do.

Although I absolutely abhor fusion voting, if you’re a registered Independence Party or Conservative Party voter in the town of Clarence, you have a primary Tuesday, and I urge you to write Scott Bylewski’s name in on those party lines. The IP line has been pretty uniformly denied to Democrats this year throughout the state, and the Conservative Party line, which is controlled by Ralph Lorigo, went to Mr. Hartzell.

Please fan/follow Supervisor Scott Bylewski on Facebook and Twitter:

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Why Should You Care?

The reason why this race is important has to do with Mr. Lorigo, actually. Clarence politics isn’t really controlled by party affiliation – not as much as you’d like to think.

What’s really going on is a battle over the growth of the town.

Clarence has a very precise and detailed Master Plan (map here) dating back eleven years. Some in the town consider that document to be advisory, and stand ready to disregard it for development by friendly developers. Others in the town, including Bylewski, believe that the Master Plan is the law of the town, and should only be changed, and variances granted, if the political process has been scrupulously adhered-to. Clarence may be a growing suburb, but it still retains a great deal of its exurban and rural roots, and while growth and development aren’t frowned upon, they are regulated and controlled.

Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo was personally, directly involved in the now-abandoned plan to build a large Wegmans’ on Transit Road in Clarence, just north of Transit Road. Lorigo represents local developers like Benderson, but in this case Lorigo owned the real estate proposed to be used for the Wegmans project, half of which was zoned residential. The process was followed, the people (directly, and by & through their elected representatives) spoke, and Wegmans won’t be building there – that’s democracy how it should work. In less ethical places, the wishes of the politically-well-connected owner or developer might have taken precedence over the wishes of the public. Apparently, because Clarence went against Mr. Lorigo’s personal pecuniary interests, he retaliated against Mr. Bylewski by refusing him the Conservative Party endorsement; ironic, since following the law and democratic process is what one might expect a doctrinaire conservative to support.

This goes back to my entreaties to abolish electoral fusion because it’s rife with corruption from corruptables, and has very little – if anything – to do with political ideology.