Chasing Pigeon: Past Is Prologue
by Geoff Kelly - posted 3:54 pm, October 10, 2008
In making his case that Responsible New York—the political committee endowed with five million of Tom Golisano’s dollars and operated by former Erie County Democratic Party chairman Steve Pigeon—coordinated illegally with the committees of the candidates it supported, Sam Hoyt supporter Jeremy Toth refers back to North District Common Councilmember Joe Golombek’s primary challenge to Hoyt in 2004:
In that campaign, Steve Pigeon directed the expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars against Sam Hoyt on behalf of his opponent Joe Golombek. These expenditures, all derived from the PAC Renew NYS, which was funded primarily by then County Executive Joel Giambra, far exceeded all campaign contribution limits.
Here’s Toth’s full complaint against Pigeon and Responsible New York, which he sent to the district attorneys of Erie, Monroe, and Albany counties. Toth hopes that the circumstantial case he makes that Responsible New York staff coordinated its activities with the Barbra Kavanaugh campaign—a felony—will compel the DAs to take a closer look at Pigeon and company.
Hoyt filed a complaint about the Golombek campaign and Renew NYS with the state Board of Elections in September 2004 and followed with documentation a month later, but received no response after nine months. So he wrote the Board of Elections again. Finally, in January 2006, the Board of Elections closed the complaint against Golombek—because in the interim, Renew NYS had changed its filing status from a PAC to a a multi-candidate committee, under which its illegal activities would have been legal.
Except that Renew NYS was a PAC when it spent money against Hoyt. “It’s a little like making a horse thief simply return a stole horse after winning the Kentucky Derby with it,” Hoyt wrote to the NYSBOE in response. The message, he said, was: Break the law with impunity during the campaign, apologize later, and skate away scot-free.
Pigeon has a history of skating away from campaign finance shenanigans. Take, for example, People for Accountable Government, another PAC controlled by Pigeon. People for Accountable Government started funneling donations and buying ads and literature for candidates in September 2007, but did not file a campaign finance disclosure form until July 2008.
That’s a minor (and all too common) infraction, whose piddling nature is somewhat offset by how easy it is simply to comply with the election law. On Monday we’ll explore allegations of more egregious violations.