Golombek and Hoyt
by Geoff Kelly - posted 5:23 pm, September 9, 2010
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.