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That Pigeon Won’t Fly

Steve Pigeon

Steve Pigeon

Here’s another example, this one two years old, of the way Steve Pigeon’s political committees are alleged to steer money to candidates illegally.

On September 15, 2006, the Pigeon-controlled PAC Citizens for Fiscal Integrity paid “RUR Strategy Group” $9,000 in consulting fees, according to CFI’s campaign finance disclosure forms.

That should be “RWR,” not “RUR,” and I’m told the check actually was issued September 6. But close enough. About the same time, the Committee to Elect Gary Parenti was paying RWR, too—a total of $42,000 in four installments between August 17 and September 1 of that year, for printing and mailing. Gary Parenti was running for State Assembly in the 138th District, challenging Democratic incumbent Francine DelMonte in the primary. The race was hot and lowdown, especially in the final month. Parenti lost.

CFI’s $9,000 almost certainly paid RWR for services rendered to Parenti’s campaign. “If CFI was paying RWR on Parenti’s behalf, and it seems highly unlikely it wasn’t, it would be an illegal contribution and fall under the felony section of the law,” said a source at the Erie County Board of Elections, who has been tracking the activities of the many committees Pigeon controls.

Parenti has long been close to Pigeon; both served on the staff of political consultants Byron Brown employed while a state senator. In 2004, Brown canned Pigeon as his chief aide; Parenti remained loyal to Pigeon and resigned from Brown’s staff. Brown was preparing to run for mayor of Buffalo at the time, and Pigeon’s reputation had become a liability. Discussing Pigeon’s firing with the Buffalo News, Brown said at the time, “Unfortunately, he has been unable to move beyond his attitudes toward those whom he believes have wronged him politically in the past…It was painfully obvious he just wasn’t a positive influence on my staff.”

Nor was he a positive influence as Democratic county chairman. His profligate spending drove the party into debt, and his heavy hand fomented internecine wars that made politics rather than policy the focus of local government for most of his tenure. That’s why Brown had to separate himself from Pigeon if he wanted to become mayor; major funders around here made it clear that Brown was welcome to the second floor of City Hall but Pigeon was not.

Brown and his chief political officer, First Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, have since reconciled with Pigeon, just as former Erie County executive Joel Giambra eventually reconciled with Pigeon, despite a rift so deep that it drove the ambitious Giambra to the GOP in order to seek political advancement. The patronage of Golisano, whose loyalty to Pigeon seems unassailable, has given him his strongest position yet.

Golisano shot back at  at Erie County elections commissioners Ralph Mohr and Dennis Ward last week, and good for him: Mohr and Ward are anyone’s worst choice as enforcers of election law. Most years they don’t seem to give a damn about election law; neither do most elected officials, and neither does the state board of elections. So it’s difficult to take seriously Mohr’s noises about investigating Pigeon’s committees, including CFI and People for Accountable Government. On the issue of Responsible New York, the unauthorized committee that Golisano set up with $5 million and which Pigeon directs, Mohr and Ward are both fatally compromised: Mohr sought to cripple Joe Mesi, who was running what appeared to be a close race with Republican Mike Ranzenhofer for the 61st District State Senate seat. Ward’s brother, Dan, and his wife, Michele Iannello, both ran against Mesi in the Democratic primary for that seat, and Ward is allied with Len Lenihan, Pigeon’s successor as county chairman. There’s no love lost between the two.

Golisano is probably correct that Mohr and Ward were seeking political advantage. But that doesn’t mean Pigeon is clean, this election year or in past campaigns. And his association with Pigeon tarnishes Golisano’s good reputation, at least in Western New York.

The great mystery is why Pigeon is so valued as a political strategist and ally. His win-lose record is not great. Locally, in this last election cycle, the only winning candidates endorsed by Responsible New York were Bill Stachowski (for whom RNY did very little; he was rescued from the Delano insurgency by state Democrats) and folks like Mark Schroeder and Dennis Gabryszak and Antoine Thompson (who didn’t need any help). The local losers: Kavanaugh, Mesi—the challenging races in which Pigeon invested the most time and money. In the last month before the campaign, Responsible New York spread $1,000 donations to a slate of candidates statewide, which will have increased the committee’s total win-lose record. But Pigeon accomplished no change whatsoever in the local state delegation.

Pigeon also failed two years ago to unseat a number of Erie County legislators. His one-time protege, Anthony Nanula, who was once touted as a future governor of New York State, is out of politics. So is Greg Olma, of course; his ouster was Pigeon’s last great success. That was 2001, and it cost Pigeon $150,000 to drive Olma out of the county legislature. Was that a good deal?

In a couple weeks, when the next round of campaign disclosure forms is released, we’ll know exactly how much of Golisano’s $5 million Pigeon spent in the last three months and balance that against the committee’s goals and its accomplishments.

  • Pomeroy

    “The great mystery is why Pigeon is so valued as a political strategist and ally.”
    Mystery? It’s incomprehensible!

    “His win-lose record is not great.”
    His record is horrific!

    He would be kicked out of sports, disbarred as an attorney, lose his medical license or be fired in industry.

    OSHA should be called in!
    He is a hazardous waste product!

  • hey kelly, you see anello got indicted this afternoon? the niagara falls reporter broke that story in print, much in the same way it broke the hoyt story in print. the buffalo news, the niagara gazette and buffalo business first all wrote that anello was going to sue me for sullying his name.

    your fine publication didn’t print a word about it, the biggest story to hit niagara falls in the new century. so now you’re gonna write about something that was nothing even when it happened two years ago.

    you want to write about the parenti race? why not write about how current niagara county chairman dan rivera illegally obtained information about parenti and released it to the gazette? and about how that information led to rivera’s dismissal from the liberty mutual insurance company, where he was employed as an investigator, and to a lawsuit that now has parenti living in the former home of the gazette publisher?

    now that’s a good story.

    you won’t write that because you’re taking it up the ass from marc panepinto, the great erie co. dem mover and shaker, only once convicted of election law violation. (pigeon’s been convicted zero times, btw).

  • Pomeroy

    “marc panepinto, the great erie co. dem mover and shaker, only once convicted of election law violation. (pigeon’s been convicted zero times, btw).”

    Pigeon will now keep his record of zero convictions!
    He and his buddies gave Frank Sedita $30,000 for insurance!

    Now that the elections are over Frank Clark can go after Paul Clark from 18 months ago.
    And Frank Sedita (Schultz)can claim to know nothing about it, and then call for Hogan.

  • Twixt

    Once the Republicans established the fact that Pigeon and Resposible NY were supporting Mesi, Joe’s campaign had about as much of a chance as Barbara Kavanaugh’s when the Democrats found out.

    Golisano’s imputs in the State Races were about as meaningful as Steve Casey’s in the City.
    But so what?
    You can’t blame a guy for trying.
    And there’s no crime in that.
    Mohr and Ward have been exposed as bumblers; they are laughing stocks.

    The Democrats took control of the Senate because of surprise losses by the Republicans in Queens (Serphin Maltese), Long Island (Caesar Trunzo) and Buffalo (Dennis Delano).
    Delano’s loss wasn’t just caused by the Republicans over-ruling him and not letting him debate, (If they had any brains they would have pointed out that Stachowski use to do the exact same thing against Hemotowski).
    The Democrat Victory was engineered by Antoine Thompson; when he stepped in to save Stachowski.
    Even if the Republican Hierarchy had any brains; Thompson sent Puerto Rican Activist into the lower West Side and long-time Polish Democrats into CheektaVegas.

    If the Republicans take another shot at the 58th District before the 2010 census; you can bet the next time they’ll be planning counter-measures for whatever Antoine Thompson throws at them from the 60th!

    The problem for the Republicans is Thompson will be countering their counter-measures.
    (Counter, counter, counter, the next round reads like a Mesi fight).

  • Mr. Bumble

    Kavanaugh and Mesi learned a good lesson:
    You have to be careful about the hand that feeds you,
    sometimes it bites!

  • Pomeroy

    Mike Hudson; “now that’s a good story.”
    You’re right!

    I was told you have a Mob Book about Niagara Falls coming out!
    I’d buy a copy!
    When does it come out?
    And where can I get a copy?

    (This is friggin excellent!).

  • Twixt

    Mike Hudson’s new book “MOB BOSS: A BIOGRAPHY IN BLOOD” hit the bookstores on November 7. It is the first book-length account of Stefano Magaddino and the rise and fall of the buffalo mob from the 1920s through the 1980s, and costs $19.95.

    It is available at Barnes & Noble, on and at the finest independent bookstore in Western New York, the Book Corner on Main Street in Niagara Falls.

    You can order signed copies direct through the Niagara Falls Reporter.

    (Hudson’s book probably tells about how the mob handled their “Pigeons”)?

  • Twixt

    Mike Hudson,
    One word: WOW!

    Don Stefano Magaddino murdered his way from the sleepy Sicilian village of Castellammare del Golfo to the mean streets of Brooklyn before heading to Western New York and seizing control of the notorious Buffalo mob.

    They called him The Undertaker, for the fortress-like funeral parlor he ran in nearby Niagara Falls, and by the end of Prohibition he ruled a criminal empire that stretched from Toronto to Youngstown, Ohio.

    Based on interviews with both underworld and law enforcement sources, and packed with never before seen photographs, Mob Boss is certain to take its place among the classics of Mafia literature!


  • Pomeroy

    Hey Twixt

    How about, “is that all there is?”

    Everyone knows those those things about the Falls.
    Thanks for saving me 20 bucks!

  • Twixt

    Want the real thing?
    Go to (

  • ooopinionsss

    How you think when the economic crisis will end? I wish to make statistics of independent opinions!