Tag Archives: unshackle upstate


20 Oct

These posters have been popping up all over town:

Here’s who paid for those:

The Committee for Economic Growth is nothing more than another name for “Unshackle Upstate”, the Partnership-led group that hates taxes and hates state spending even more.  It hates Democrats and lurves Republicans.

A quick scan of its donor list from the BOE website shows it receives names from Bob Wilmers, Andrew Rudnick, Jerry Zemski, Lou Ciminelli, and Mark Hamister.  I’m all for getting rid of Antoine Thompson and for UB2020, but there’s something so disingenuous about the Partnership moaning and whining about state spending (on Medicaid, e.g.,) while advocating for a UB2020 program.

But as a separate note, it’s quite important that donors to PACs that participate in the New York electoral process play by New York’s rules and disclose their funding.  It might be free speech to give money for political action, but it doesn’t violate free speech to require those names to be disclosed.

Is That Rain on My Leg?

9 Mar
New York State Capitol viewed from the south, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s what Andrew Rudnick, head of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, has to say about a new PAC he’s helping to set up:

It’s not really a Democrat or Republican thing; it’s an upstate-downstate thing

That must be why this PAC is dedicated only to electing Republicans to the state Senate and little else. It also must be why the PAC has teamed up with similar chambers of commerce from such upstate locales as Long Island, Westchester County, and the mid-Hudson Valley.

Rudnick said the realities of one-party rule in Albany force the Partnership and other groups across upstate and the metropolitan suburbs to consider Republican candidates.

“The object is to turn enough of those contested races back to Republicans,” he said. “That’s because of where the majority party is at this moment and what they’ve done.”

He pointed to the last state budget and projections of continuing deficits as evidence that the Legislature — under complete Democratic rule for the first time since the 1930s — is ignoring upstate’s economic plight.

“If everyone is Democrat and downstate, we’re now screwed more than we have been,” he said. “We’re all about trying to change that.”

I know that everyone pines for the days of a Republican senate majority, when taxes were low, businesses unencumbered, population and economic growth were the rule, when Bruno was one of the three in a room, and great names like “Volker” had an infinitesimally larger volume of clout than they do now.

And that’s the point – that it doesn’t matter what party an Albany politician belongs to. It doesn’t matter which party controls the Governor’s Mansion or a particular legislative chamber. No matter what happens, money trumps all, and the vast majority of the population gets screwed. For an Andrew Rudnick to suggest that flipping the Senate so that Skelos is in the room with the next embattled ethical mess of a governor will make a stitch of difference is epically ridiculous.

After all, these are the people who gave us the facile and self-contradicting Unshackle Upstate.

At least we can laugh at it all. There’s a wonderful and hilarious postscript to this story.

State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson, D-Buffalo, who coordinates the campaign efforts of Western New York Senate Democrats, did not return a call seeking comment.

Unshackle Upstate Fail

2 Oct

Unshackle Upstate held a town hall meeting yesterday, where businesspeople from WNY could talk directly to such luminaries as Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak.

The town hall was held between the hours of 3 – 5pm. When most people are at work.

Even what passes for a chamber of commerce can’t schedule something so regular working people can attend.

Unshackling Business Sector Shenanigans

12 Jun

It was certainly an eventful day in New York’s ongoing Senate coup saga, replete with hidden keys, locked drawers, lawsuits and one of the new “coalition” Senators contemplating a flip back to the Democratic voting bloc.  However, there was just as much excitement in the private sector as a slew of news erupted in a massive shakeup of corporate interest and advocacy groups.

New Florida resident, Tom Golisano, continued his efforts to shake up government in his former home state of New York by joining the Unshackle Upstate coalition.  As a quick aside, I’ve always found the term “Unshackle” to be quite comedic and odd.  A coalition of millionaires shuffling between their corporate offices, expensive import cars and suburban McMansions like slaves in shackles, just begging to be cut loose.  I digress…

Golisano has pledged his support to Unshackle Upstate as it has broadened its coalition to include business groups in Westchester, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.  Golisano did not say what amount his financial support for the organization would amount to, just that he would help “however he could”.


Over on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership blog, they laid out what Golisano joining their organization means for the effort and informs the reason as to why the BNP and Unshackle Upstate have had mild success to this point.

It’s clear in Albany that politics comes first – and forceful politics backed by money and manpower can be unbelievably influential in shaping policy. Take a look at the Working Families Party of New York’s web site – which promotes the state’s pro-labor, high tax agenda… It literally spells out how the game is played. So, in order for Unshackle Upstate to play the Albany game, we need to coalesce with people and organizations who have like principles and goals: lower taxes, smaller government and fiscal accountability. Mr. Golisano is one of those people, and we’re happy to welcome him as a member of Unshackle Upstate. Building the coalition of individuals, employers and groups that want to see change in Albany raises awareness, raises resources and, ultimately, raises clout.

There seems to be a sudden realization that after 16 years of advocacy, the BNP could rival a grassroots organization like the Working Families Party if they had some money at their disposal.  Isn’t this the organization that has the President and CEO of every major regional corporation on its Board of Directors?  I have to wonder about the effectiveness of an organization of well-heeled millionaires who can’t seem to outpoint the plucky hippie unionistas of the WFP.  Seems like a leadership problem to me…or the most uncoordinated and helpless millionaires in the nation.  It’s yet another WNY organization that measures success by its efforts and not results.

No wonder local developer and agitator Carl Paladino is calling for Rudnick’s removal as head of the BNP.

“It’s time for change,” said Paladino, who has repeatedly condemned the Partnership — and Rudnick specifically — for failing to aggressively advocate on behalf of downtown Buffalo. “We will form another Buffalo-area chamber of commerce and seek to provide the business services that are expected of a chamber of commerce, as well as advocate for a community that lacks any sense of leadership. We are sick and tired of waiting for the Partnership … or anyone else while our community continues to fail.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Rudnick pulling Golisano and his fat Florida wallet into the equation will stifle any dissent that may have resulted from Paladino’s efforts.  Bad timing, Carl.  Also, bad timing because it would appear that Rudnick’s friend, benefactor and fellow Harvard alumnus, M&T Bank CEO Bob Wilmers is heading back to Buffalo.

Wilmers resigned his position as Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation today, barely one year after being appointed to the position by Governor David Paterson.

Just one year after becoming the state’s economic development czar, Robert Wilmers is stepping down from the post, the latest in a growing line-up of officials departing the Paterson administration.

The agency has seen its share of infighting, sources have said in recent months, with tension between the various upstate and downstate offices of the department. A source said recently that Wilmers also has expressed frustration with the musical chairs among high-ranking officials in the governor’s office over the past year — making it difficult for the agency to get adequate attention at the Capitol.

Wilmers tenure at ESDC has been a rocky one, with little to show in the way of success.  While Wilmers took over the organization during a period of national economic upheaval and a collapsing state budget, his tenure will be remembered as ignominious, at best.  Wilmers complained for years about the problems of doing business in New York and when finally given the keys to the FAILvan, he handed them back after a year.  Maybe working for free (Wilmers opted not to take a salary) creates an environment in which plutocrats like Wlmers walk away when the going gets tough, eh?

All of this amounts to what, exactly?  I think we can all get behind the idea that Albany is broken.  The legislative process is fundamentally flawed, special interests dominate the discussion and the tax rates are out of control.  It’s a morass of self-serving connected insiders who are ultimately pushing for their own personal agendas.  Now, we have a group of well-heeled connected insiders armed with the cash to tilt legislation in their factor through lobbying, campaign donations, advertising, clout and influence.

It’s really tough to decide who wears the black hats and who wears the white hats when we have public and healthcare unions advocating for an agenda which results in higher taxes and bloated government and a group of anti-union corporatists looking to maximize profits.  Who is advocating for the people who are not members of either interest group?

I’m loathe to say it, but maybe Carl Paladino is on to something…or maybe it’s time to look at doing things a different way.