Chasing Pigeon: The Bad Reporter
by Geoff Kelly - posted 5:41 pm, October 28, 2008
In this week’s Niagara Falls Reporter, editor Mike Hudson writes:
Speaking of the Buffalo News, you may have noticed that Bob McCarthy — who seems to be assigned to the Tom Golisano beat — didn’t write a word about the Buffalo Sabres owner’s $10 million gift to Niagara University a couple of weeks ago.
It was the largest financial endowment in the august 152-year history of the venerable institution, after all.
But I think I have it figured out. McCarthy is paid by Warren Buffett and who knows who else not to report on Golisano in any generally accepted use of the term. In reality, he makes his money by smearing Golisano at every opportunity.
Anyway, we’ll see whether he writes about it next week when grand larceny charges against the sole source he used in attempting to harm the reputation of the Niagara Falls Reporter in a fraudulent Sept. 28 News story are filed by the Niagara Falls Police Department.
We’re guessing he won’t, since the charges will serve to completely discredit his earlier attempt at journalism.
As a rule, I won’t rush to the defense of the Buffalo News generally or Bob McCarthy specifically. And, though I don’t much care for the politics of Steve Pigeon, who so far has spent $3,283,730.06 of his patron’s money this election season, I do like Tom Golisano. (What’s not to like? The Sabres are winning. His company prints my paycheck twice a month. He’s pro-windpower, anti-casino, and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership leadership hates him.) But I wonder why Hudson thinks a political reporter like McCarthy should write about a donation to a university? What was wrong with Jay Rey’s front-page, above-the-fold Buffalo News story on October 8? Was that insufficient coverage of the gift?
No, it’s that “fraudulent Sept. 28 News story” that draws Hudson’s bile. Former Reporter publisher Bruce Battaglia accused Hudson of taking money from Pigeon in exchange for editorial services rendered—two attack pieces on Sam Hoyt, for example, and a piece promoting Joe Mesi—and McCarthy wrote a piece about the resulting squabble. Hudson, meantime, convinced the Reporter’s board and shareholders that Battaglia was stealing money from the paper. Hudson and the paper’s soon-to-be-new publisher voted to kick Battaglia off the three-member board; then, using proxy votes obtained from the majority of the paper’s shareholders, the two fired Battaglia as publisher. Whether or not this sad family drama will actually end in criminal charges remains to be seen. I hope not, for the karmic health of all parties.
At the shareholders meeting in which Battaglia was fired, Hudson acknowledged that Pigeon had in fact paid for an extra press run and expanded distribution of an edition sporting a cover story about Hoyt’s affairs with interns. (At least, that was the cover in Buffalo—the papers distributed in Niagara Falls that week had Mayor Paul Dyster on the cover. Hudson claimed Pigeon had not paid for the extra expense for printing separate covers.) Responsible New York, the committee funded by Golisano and directed by Pigeon, supports Mesi and opposed Hoyt in his primary against Barbra Kavanaugh. So Pigeon’s motive in picking up the tab is clear.
The extra papers and distribution could not have cost too much, in any case; the bill certainly did not approach the $5,000 mark, at which point Responsible New York would be required by state election law to itemize the expense.
Here’s the germane paragraph:
Whenever a person or entity, such as a consultant acting on behalf of a committee which supports or opposes candidates for any pubic office or party position or which supports or opposes any proposition, subcontracts for finished goods or services, the treasurer of the committee shall, in addition to reporting the expenditure made to such consultant or agent, report the name, address and amount expended to each person or entity providing such goods or services the cost of which exceeds, in the case of a committee supporting candidates for statewide office, $ 10,000 and all other committees, $ 5,000.
Leave aside whatever petty cash Pigeon has thrown Hudson’s way for advertisements, extra papers, and extended distribution. There’s no crime there except against journalistic sensibilities.
But that provision of the election law suggests that Responsible New York should itemize and report payouts over $5,000 by limited liability corporations like Landen Associates (a consulting firm controlled by Pigeon), which spent $93,103 of Golisano’s money on print ads in the last month alone. And what about New York Media Strategies (controlled by Pigeon associate Jack O’Donnell), which has spent $1,286,000 of Golisano’s money in the last month on TV advertising? Certainly some of those expenditures exceeded $5,000.
The law allows Responsible New York to file itemized breakdowns of its consultants’ spending on behalf of candidates after the election, but don’t count on that happening: This section of New York election law is routinely ignored. (A source at the local board of elections said Eliot Spitzer was the only candidate to have complied in recent years.) And Responsible New York did not file such reports after the September’s primary election, as the law requires.
More on Pigeon’s bad reporting on Thursday.