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Chasing Pigeon: The GOP Joins the Chase

Steve Pigeon

Steve Pigeon

Today Buffalo News politics reporter Bob McCarthy writes that GOP county election commissioner Ralph Mohr is asking DAs an three counties—Erie, Genesee, and Niagara—to investigate Steve Pigeon’s squirrelly campaign finance maneuvers. In doing so, he joins Sam Hoyt operative Jeremy Toth, who has asked the DAs in Erie, Monroe, and Albany counties to investigate Responsible New York, the $5 million committee funded by Tom Golisano and directed by Pigeon. Toth alleges that Responsible New York illegally coordinated its activities with the Barbra Kavanaugh campaign. Rivals of Joe Mesi, whom Responsible New York supports for the 61st District State Senate seat, have made the same accusation of coordination, which is a felony.

According to McCarthy’s piece, Mohr has latched onto Citizens for Fiscal Integrity, which was started in 2005 and spent a great deal of money on Erie County Legislature races that year; among its donors were the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which gave an eye-popping $20,000, and then County Executive Joel Giambra, who gave $11,000.

Here’s the registration form for CFI. A curious fact: Angela Irvin, designated as CFI’s treasurer, was just 18 when this form was filed in 2005, and registered to vote at 119 Treehaven Road, which is Steve Pigeon’s mother’s house. The other authorized check signer for CFI, Alexandra Lawkowski, is also known as Alexandra Schmid, who also worked for Change WNY Now, a Pigeon-controlled PAC, and for People for Accountable Government, another Pigeon-controlled PAC run by Pigeon’s ally David Pfaff.

Earlier this year Schmid received $1,000 in consulting fees from CFI, which itself received $4,000 from Responsible New York. CFI also gave $1,000 to Mesi, $500 to Kavanaugh, and $500 to Frank Sedita—the front-runner for Erie County DA, who, if elected, will decide whether to investigate Pigeon’s money-handling. CFI made these donations even as it was, according to its campaign finance disclosure forms, in the hole more than $7,000. So CFI, with no money of its own to give, must have acted as a pass-through—laundering Responsible New York money, essentially, as Mohr alleges in his complaint.

This presumes, of course, a faith in the accuracy of CFI’s campaign finance filings. That faith is difficult to sustain: The committee quit reporting after a flurry of initial activity in 2005, then suddenly began filing again this year, when election officials began to scrutinize the committee’s finances. One curiosity that scrutiny uncovered, according to a source at the Erie County Board of Elections, is a habit of skipped checks in the committee’s checkbook. For example, there might be accounts of check numbers 1001-1005…and then the next check accounted for is number 1014. What happened to all the checks in between?

Unfortunately for Pigeon, it seems Tom Golisano is not so careless with his checks. According to Mohr’s complaint, Golisano signed a Responsible New York check and noted on the memo line that it paid for consulting fees in the 61st District. An unauthorized committee such as Responsible New York may purchase advertising for a candidate it supports, but it may not directly purchase services for that candidate. It may not pay a consultant to the candidate. That would constitute coordination.

Last month, Golisano told Artvoice that what Responsible New York’s discosure filings called “consulting” fees—specifically, consulting fees paid to Pigeon’s firm, Landen LLC—were in fact used to purchase radio and TV advertising. He said the disclosure forms were “wrong.” Perhaps that’s the case, too, with the check Mohr is waving around now.


  • Eventually the stink of this will force authorities to act.

  • Adam K.

    I’m a Democrat, but this is disgusting. Root out corruption – all corruption. My finger just might end up missing this lever…

  • Bruce Kogan

    The lid on this garbage can will not be held down. It’s what Uncle Tommy Moneybags gets for putting his trust in a mutt like Pigeon.

  • Peter A Reese

    It should be noted that the Erie County Board of Elections can only act on the unanimous consent of both Commissioners Mohr and Ward (Election Law 3-212(2)requires majority vote for any action). When Joe Mesi was running against Commissioner Ward’s wife in the Democratic Primary, Ward led the charge. Ralph Mohr never attended a single hearing. Now that Mesi is running against Mohr’s colleague, Mike Ranzenhofer, Ralph Mohr opens the attack with a press conference.

    Pardon my cynicism, but the timing and methods employed by the local Board makes it clear that they are more interested in partisan politics rather than any sincere desire to enforce the Election Law. Do you think all political committee finance reports filed with the state board of elections (and not, as here, with the local board) receive the same type of scrutiny?

  • Some Guy

    It’s interesting to note that among the campaigns which are reported to have received illegal funding by Pigeon’s committee, Reese’s wife was a contributor to one of them.

  • Twixt

    Good for Mrs. Reese.
    It’s great to see the Average Joe and the Average Jane get involved.
    It’s also good to see the reporting system working well.

    I’ll guess that Mrs. Reese didn’t try to hide anything.
    And I’ll go even farther out on a limb and guess her contribution was less than 5 million.

  • Mr. Bumble

    “It should be noted that the Erie County Board of Elections can only act on the unanimous consent of both Commissioners Mohr and Ward (Election Law 3-212(2)requires majority vote for any action).”

    Erie County should have at least a third member in it’s Board of Elections.
    An Independent one! (As v. an Independence one).

    The Common Councils have odd numbers; Buffalo has 9 the County Legislature has 15, West Seneca had 5 and will reduce to 3, etc.
    Having an odd number reduces tie votes.
    As it stands now, 2 political operatives; one Democrat and one Republican, are making decisions for other parties, ie. the Conservative and Independence Parties, etc.

    We have a majority of odd members; we should also have a majority of odd numbers.

  • Pomeroy

    Ralph Mohr should have begun investigating months ago.
    While Mohr was enjoying watching Lenihan and Pigeon battle it out in the Mesi Primary, he fell asleep at the wheel.

    Now you have a situation where today’s Buffalo News reports; “An Erie County elections commissioner says the district attorney’s office should investigate the G. Steven Pigeon – B. Thomas Golisano pipeline delivering thousands of dollars to their favorite candidates. But [Procesutor] Diane LaVallee thinks Frank Clark’s district attorney’s office should recuse itself and refer the matter to a special prosecutor.”

    Why?
    Because, according to the Buffalo News:
    “A Pigeon-run political action committee, Citizens for Fiscal Integrity, has given Sedita $500; Golisano has given Sedita $5,000; and their mutual friend, Hormoz Mansouri, gave $7,500 to the Sedita campaign fund.”

    Also the News reports:
    “Pigeon is the former Erie County Democratic Party chairman who … has provided strategic guidance to the Sedita campaign.”

    Now Sedita will be put in charge of investigating his campaign contributors?
    “What’s wrong with this picture?”

    The Buffalo News exposed some well planned criminal developments today.
    Everyone should keep an eye on this.
    There are 9 full days before the Election Tuesday.

  • Pete

    Uh oh, Peter Reese is trying to play election lawyer again, how did that work out for Kathy Konst?

    In Mohr v. Schroeder, the Appellate division ruled that an investigation takes majority vote. However, once an investigation is open, commissioners have the power to unilaterally issue subpoenas.

  • Peter A Reese

    Dear “Some Guy”:

    Too bad you don’t have the guts to post under your own name.

    I can’t find any contribution from Ellen to any of Pidgeon’s committees or “illegal” campaigns. BTW, our contributions usually come from our joint account and only get listed under Ellen if she signs the check (as per State BoE rules).

    I did attend Pidgeon’s CFI fund raiser at the Chop House on 8/21/08. It was a great party and was attended by numerous local hacks, many of whom I haven’t seen in years. We don’t apologize for who we support with our money. We earned it all.

    And we have the guts to sign our checks with our real names.

  • Twixt

    Peter Reese,

    Don’t you recognize Murphy’s Second Law; no matter what happens “Some Guy” will always complain.

    Just one question:
    If you were to bartend at a fund raiser; would the establishment call your work area a Reese’s Bar?

  • Mr. Bumble

    Peter Reese would make the perfect mixologist!

    His Ingredients:
    One Part Lawyer
    One Part Psychologist
    One Part Comedian (Top Shelf)

    Always stirred; never shaken!

  • Pomeroy

    Who cares if a bartender’s wife gave money to a politician.

    What is important is that there is now proof of a deliberate and premeditated crime:
    “Unfortunately for Pigeon, it seems Tom Golisano is not so careless with his checks. According to Mohr’s complaint, Golisano signed a Responsible New York check and noted on the memo line that it paid for consulting fees in the 61st District. An unauthorized committee such as Responsible New York may purchase advertising for a candidate it supports, but it may not directly purchase services for that candidate. It may not pay a consultant to the candidate. That would constitute coordination.”

    There is the conscionable proof!

    Goloisano pretends to be unaware of what everyone is telling him, notes the memo line as a defenseable excuse, and prepares to throw Pigeon “under the bus if the going gets rough!”

    After watching the Mayor; Golisano went out and bought himself a Casey.
    George Hearst bought Francis Wolcott (1876) in “Deadwood.”
    If you follow the series; the next one they’ll try buying is the District Attorney.

    Our areas problems are not rocket science.
    They can be handled surely and swiftly.

    Does anybody have Al Swearengen’s phone number?

  • betterbflo

    I fear this is one of those stinky problems that will go on stinking. Neither BOE side has a real interest in policing one another. This is pre-election banter. Once the election is over they will go back to the old deal of ignoring the other guys dirty laundry lest he start paying too close attention to yours.

    We have 2 foxes guarding the hens. Neither side is interested in any reform – all sides very interested in power – keeping the power they have and getting more. Power in a dying town like Buffalo means jobs – public union patronage jobs and supporting bad public works projects that do no long term good for the region but do give certain unions temporary jobs.

    If we had real reform here in western new york or in the state then we might have a successful economy. If we had a better economy people might start moving here. And if that happened it would dilute the power of the old guard and they sure don’t want that. They want things to stay just as they are. They all like being the big fish in our small and shrinking pond.

  • Twixt

    Well said BetterBflo!

    You are exactly correct.

  • Pomeroy

    The funniest part about all of Pigeon’s needless charades is that he wasn’t able to effect the outcome of a single race.
    The final results ignored Pigeon’s illegal activities an so did the voters.
    Hoyt overwhelmed him by a wide margin and Mesi was expected to win his primary.

    However, there is always a Yin to this much Yang.
    Pigeon made Mohr and Ward along with the District Attorney’s Office look like Abbott and Costello meet Frank-en-Frank (1948)!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbott_and_Costello_Meet_Frankenstein

  • Pete

    Pomeroy, in the 61st, the Senate Republicans had Iannello leading by double digits before the over 300K Pigeon/Golisano spent in the final 2 weeks on Mesi’s behalf.

  • Pomeroy

    Thanks Pete, I did not know that.
    That would account for her temperment.
    Her brother-in-law gets the last laugh.

    No wonder she lives in Kenmore and her husband lives in Amherst.

    I’d sure hate to be her fifth husband!

  • Mr. Bumble

    Is it that simple?
    Whoever has the money wins?
    That’s not saying much for the voters.

  • Pomeroy

    The voters are what they are.
    Golisano thinks they are a bunch of dumb pucks.
    That’s why he believes he can pay them off with Pigeon Droppings.