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Greening Buffalo

No, not the kind of greening Sam Magavern writes about in this week’s AV. Money.

In the most recent New Yorker (the one that’s generated a flap about the cover illustration depicting Barack Obama in Middle eastern garb and his wife dressed as a terrorist), Ryan Lizza delivers a terrific profile of Obama’s determined entry into and savvy navigation of Chicago politics in the mid 1990s. Here he makes an interesting observation about the ascent in importance of fund-raising ability as a determinant of a candidate’s viability:

Gradually, Chicago caught up with the rest of the country and media-driven politics eclipsed machine-driven politics. “It became increasingly difficult to get into homes and apartments to talk about candidates,” Rose said. “High-rises were tough if not impossible to crack, and other parts of the city had become too dangerous to walk around in for hours at a time. And people didn’t want to answer their doors. Thus the increasing dependence on TV, radio, direct mail, phone-banking, robocalls, et cetera—all things that cost a hell of a lot more money than patronage workers, who were themselves in decline, anyway, because of anti-patronage court rulings.” Instead of a large army of ward heelers dragging people to the polls, candidates needed a small army of donors to pay for commercials. Money replaced bodies as the currency of Chicago politics. This new system became known as “pinstripe patronage,” because the key to winning was not rewarding voters with jobs but rewarding donors with government contracts.

Buffalo, of course, is not “the rest of the country,” though the new Democratic machine built by Mayor Byron Brown and his deputy mayor and chief political officer, Steve Casey, is doing its best to drag our politics into the heavily mediated modern world. In Buffalo, it’s still possible (and necessary) to build support by attending community gatherings, talking at block club meetings, and walking neighborhoods—and, just as importantly, to have folks walk the neighborhood for you. The Brown/Casey organization does that very well. Just ask Barbra Kavanaugh, the former councilmember-at-large who is running a primary challenge to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt: Without the help of Brown/Casey political operatives working out of City Hall to circulate her petitions, she might not have collected a quarter of the signatures she did. (Which, of course, would still have been enough to earn a spot on the ballot.)

Brown and Casey can move bodies, but they can also raise money, a fact in evidence from the moment Brown began his campaign for mayor and affirmed in July’s periodic campaign finance disclosure reports. The Brown for Buffalo committee raised $192,646.33 in the past six months, bringing its balance to $369,965.94. Brown’s other campaign fund, Mayor Brown’s Leadership Council, raised no money but maintained a balance of $239,521.95. It’s generally assumed that Brown would like to run for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s seat, if she should retire, but certainly he’d be raising money regardless of his specific ambitions.

So who’s giving Brown and Casey all this money and why? That’s my next post, but if you want a head start, have a look at the Brown for Buffalo disclosure statement for July and scan the donors for yourself.


  • Pomeroy

    Any money sent to Byron Brown is money well spent.
    He has brought Buffalo 4.5 Billion Dollars in new development.
    I’d rather see him in Congress than Hillary.
    What has she ever brought us? : 200,000 new jobs!

  • Tony

    Please- that list is as phony as a three dollar bill. There’s buildings on it that have been completed for years- nothing ever comes off and, even better, anything that is even an idea is added to the list. For instance- Bashar Issa’s tower.

  • Pomeroy

    Bashar Issa’s Tower wasn’t even 10% of the list.
    90% plus is more than a passing grade!

  • Brian

    Bashar Issa’s Tower was 25% of the list.

  • Pomeroy

    Are you sure Brian?
    I was going by $350 million out of $4,500 Million.
    Where can I find the list you and Tony are reffering to?
    Maybe that will lead to Geoff Kelly’s question:
    “So who’s giving Brown and Casey all this money and why?”

  • Brian

    I was going by private investment, not public investment. $350 Million / 1.4 Billion.

  • wastingfedtax$

    I rather see him in Congress too, just to get him out of Buffalo so this city can move forward. This fuzzy math is getting out of hand. What a joke this administration is.

  • inside

    political hacks, any money spent on Brown is well spent? Pomeroy, you are kiddding yourself with those figures, are you high, lots of good inside info to come, Heaney hope you read your emails………

  • Pomeroy

    Well “inside” … prove yourself!

    If you have “lots of good inside info to come;”
    how about showing a small sample? (if you’ve got anything?).
    Otherwise, I’m going to have to stick with the Mayor and the figures from city hall.

    Good Luck, Inside
    I hope you could do it!

  • inside

    you got it Pomeroy, already underway

  • Brian

    I was looking over the filing thing linked on the article (that is so neat they have that btw).
    Brian Reilly gave a couple hundered a week or two after he started. I wonder if that came up in the job interview.
    La Nova gave $100 – a week before the Mayor announced he was selling them a vacant lot for parking. I wonder if the neighbor contributed $101 if the mayor would have sold it to him instead.
    What kinda racket is being run out of that place. It is pathetic.

  • WNYMind

    If you dig a little deeper on that link, you can look at all the state elected officials. How the Mayor raises money is no different that other elected officials. This is a problem that goes all the way to Albany.

    Singling out the Mayor is the equivelent of burrying your head in the sand. If you want real change, then get the legislature to pass a ballot initiative process. Then the people can pass measures to break the patronage maching statewide.

    The way to do it is pretty clear. Just get a deep pocket like the Wendt Foundation to set up a shell organization like CBB. Then CBB can use Wendt money to make contributions to every elected officials campaign with some encouragement to pass a ballot initiative process. The trustees of the Wendt Foundation do this stuff all the time, they are as dirty as the politicians. So, using their money to manipulate the political system, and the courts if necessary, would be no problem for them.

    If the ends justify the means, then let’s send a proposal to the Wendt Foundation to set up a bunch of bogus citizens groups and manipulate Albany. We can use the model the Wendt trustees (Kresse, Day and Lunt) used to hassle the Seneca over their casino license.

    If the Wendt trustees are too intrenched in the currupt system to do this service to the public, then we can set up out own tax exempt foundation and do it ourselfs. What a scam, setting up a tax shelter to manipulate the political system. Thanks for the idea Wendt trustees.

  • Pomeroy

    Hey “Inside,” where are you?
    I still believe you were serious when you wrote; “already underway,” on Tuesday.

    ps. If your from Citistat, I didn’t mean to rush you.