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Golombek and Hoyt

Phil Fairbanks at the News has been watching the money in the Golombek/Hoyt race, too. I wrote a little about it yesterday, and again in this week’s print edition.

Like Fairbanks, I spoke to both Golombek and Hoyt about money yesterday, but left their quotes out of the item I wrote: The story is about math, not about two candidates dissing each other. (Nor am I interested in offering Mayor Byron Brown and his aide, Peter Savage II), extra time in the limelight,: Their public commentary on the matter consists of  their campaign finance disclosure forms.) The math is simple: Brown’s political committee donated the maximum allowed directly to Joe Golombek—$3,800.

Brown’s committee also donated $5,000 to Committee for Change, which is controlled by Savage, a member of the mayor’s inner circle. That’s a significant portion of the $32,000 Committee for Change has raised as of last Friday.

Under state law, some of that donation Brown made to Committee for Change counts as a donation to Golombek. Savage, as treasurer for Committee for Change, gets to decide the formula by which the donations Brown and others made to Committee for Change are apportioned among the candidates Committee for Change supports. But he cannot decide that none of Brown’s money supported Golombek. And even a single dollar puts Brown’s committee over the $3,800 threshold.

A commenter on my post yesterday suggested that Brown for Buffalo’s limits is in fact $7,600, because he can give $3,800 to Golombek’s Democratic primary campaign and another $3,800 to Golombek’s general election campaign. (Golombek is endorsed by the Conservative Party, so he could run in the general election even if he loses Tuesday’s primary to Hoyt.) This is possible, but I’d hate to defend that position in court: Brown for Buffalo gave exactly as much money on Tuesday ($3,050) as it could to butt up against the $3,800 limit. If the mayor figured he could give more, why didn’t he? Will Golombek be careful not to spend whatever portion of the mayor’s donations thus far exceed the $3,800 limit until after the primary? Will he return the money if he doesn’t run in the general election?

Savage told Fairbanks that this was a fuss about a very small amount of money, and he’d be absolutely right if the fuss were about the amount of money. In fact, it’s about intelligence and ethics. Whoever holds the strings on the mayor’s campaign fund is either ignorant of the law or flouting it.

My guess is that they were ignorant of the law. As Dennis Ward, the Democratic commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections, pointed out yesterday, Savage decides how much of Committee for Change’s donations to the candidates it supports are charged against the donation limits of the committee’s various supporters. So Brown for Buffalo could have given $3,000 to Golombek on Tuesday, instead of $3,050, and Committee for Change could have created a formula whereby no more than $50 of the mayor’s donations to Committee for Change were counted as donations to Golombek

Another commenter on yesterday’s post argued that this issue wasn’t worth reporting because Sam Hoyt is raising so much money downstate and out of state, and that’s a bigger story. Hoyt certainly is raising tons of money downstate, especially from the pro-charter school advocates who revolve around Mike Bloomberg, and he’s outspending Golombek five to one. But one story does not erase another. The amount of money flowing from Brown to Golombek is trivial, but a propensity to ignore the law or to break it—sad, especially since the law is so simple to follow—is anything but.

  • ugh

    Mayor Brown, you are making me ashamed. Your comment in the News about Sam Hoyt demeans YOU. And breaking the law is wrong. You are supposed to be a role model.

  • Jones Bones

    Byron Brown is, like the proverbial fish,rotting from the head down. I hate to see Peter Savage,lll being contaminated by the likes of Steve Casey and Byron Brown.I hope he leaves the Brown Administration and get a lawyer job in the private sector. I wonder how Peter, Jr. feels, having struggled to be a good example and send his namesake to law school only to have the sleaze of Brown and company spread all over him. Run, Peter, run. Get away while you still have some integrity left.

  • Byron lackey

    Peter Savage III is a smart guy, I voted for him when he ran against Rivera. But, he has turned into a hatchet man for Steve Casey. Jones Bones, you are right, it’s sad to see this happen. A bright kid who seemed to understand many of the problems with how the city is run, now does little more than play politics all day on the city’s dime.