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The Dog Ate My Homework, er…. Petition

Otto Golden Thief

Otto, Petition Destroyer

 It’s Designating Petition time again for New York politicians.   This sacred ritual plays itself out every year for the thousands of elected officials in the Empire State.   In general, these petitions are the vehicle for office holders and seekers to get their names printed on the millions of ballots consumed in party primary and general elections.   Ballot access requires approximately 5% of the voters registered in each political unit (county, city, town, ward, etc. ) to sign an otherwise meaningless document so that the person(s) listed at the top can run in a party primary.   If there is only one candidate, there is no primary and the office seeker proceeds to the ballot in the November General Election.   There are now eight political parties in New York, and candidates can run on all lines if they wish, so they often have multiple petitions.    The Democrats and Republicans have clouds of registered voters, so 5% can be a big number and the election law has minimum numbers like 500, 1000, and 2000, …. to make life easier.   With the smaller parties, like the Working Families Party (line #6), the number of required signatures in a county legislative race will only be about 20.   Sounds easy, but there are few people eligible to sign, scattered over a large geographic area, and the inconsiderate suckers are never home when you knock on their door.   This means a petition sheet with ten signatures is a valuable document intended to become official on filing with the Board of Elections.   Don’t have enough signatures or otherwise screw up your petition or filing and you don’t get the party line.   Very important for the Dem and Rep  lines, less so for smaller parties, but still highly sought after and prized.   Many elected officials would not be in office, but for the votes they got on the Conservative, Independence and Working Families lines.    And if you have the line, your opponent doesn’t.   Enter Otto, the Petition Eating Dog, who decides to chew on your precious piece of paper a few days before the final filing date, and you have a big problem: 

Chewed Pet Page

Not to worry.   While these petitions are important documents (What good is your vote if you don’t have anyone to vote for?), compliance with the numerous requirements of the election law is only required to be “substantial” and rules are liberally construed consistent with the prevention of fraud and proper administration of the election process.   In English, this means you can screw up a little as long as you are not committing fraud and the Board of Elections (or the courts) can figure out what you are trying to accomplish. 

So break out the glue pot and an  iron, grab a blank petition, and create a Frankenstein which preserves as much of the original  petition (particularly the signatures) as possible.   The result presented below, may raise some eyebrows, but it’ll get you on the ballot.

Fixed-0001

When you think about it, the only important part of the original which you cannot rebuild is the voter’s signatures.   If you could do signatures on your own, you could do this on the kitchen table.   So no harm, no foul.   The Board of Elections can still see who signed for you.   Initial any obvious changes and you are on your way to a career as a grinning, tax eating politico.

Politician


A Confluence of Horrible Politics

When it comes down to less than 100 votes between the two candidates, you don’t get to be a sore winner and gloat over an exceedingly narrow victory. When the victory came about as a result of a relentless, libelous campaign whereby a young and promising legislator is defamed as a “Republican” sellout, it’s nothing to boast about. When the beneficiary of that campaign is one of the most toxic and corruptible figures ever to skulk through government, it’s shameful. Barbara Miller-Williams didn’t win for herself, had Steve Pigeon not formed a PAC and funded it with almost $300,000 within the course of a week, there’d have been no blitz of “Tim Hogues is a Republican” mailers that went to every home in the district every day. 

Betty Jean Grant – she was a victor, completely obliterating the opponent who stood to benefit from the same mailing blitz. Nice try, Tim Kennedy, but you didn’t get your revenge directly against your nemesis this time

Zydel and Moore – the Pigeon/Mazurek top of the marquee – both lost big to HQ-backed candidates Dearmyer (who, in turn, lost to Pat Burke), and Wynnie Fisher, respectively. Not a day for a Pigeon victory lap at all. 

Bert Dunn, on the other hand, lost dramatically to Dick Dobson. Dunn ran his own campaign with his own people and his own money, eschewing help from the party apparatus. Zellner stayed out of that race, for the most part, and Dunn lost big. Too big – it was embarrassing, but all he seemed to do was put signs up at Bert’s Bikes locations and let Pigeon’s committee beat him up on TV. 

Now, Dunn is pledging to continue his run on the “Law and Order” party line he created for himself. This is a foolish endeavor that will not work and is a stupid thing to do at a time when Democrats should be rallying around Dobson. Dunn failed and should step aside and perhaps try again another time. 

By the same token, Democrats should all be supporting Fisher and Burke in their general election battles. It’s one thing to run a primary campaign, it’s another to actively support the Republican to get one over on the party apparatchiks you don’t like. 

Finally, as the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy reported, complaints have been made to the Moreland Commission on public corruption. Let’s examine. 

– Senator Tim Kennedy gave $85,000 to the Pigeon/Mazurek PAC, half of which came from a defunct, closed campaign account in apparent violation of election law. Kennedy tells McCarthy that his donations followed the “letter and spirit” of the law. The facts and disclosures show the exact opposite, yet this is omitted from the article.  

– Pigeon told McCarthy: 

Pigeon labeled the Grant-Hogues letter a “frivolous action” and questioned whether Cuomo’s Moreland Commission is even charged with probing political campaigns.

“The charge is to investigate corruption of public officers,” Pigeon said, “not to be a campaign watchdog. That power still lies with the Board of Elections.

Yet the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was formed earlier this year, and the announcement read, in part, as follows

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the formation of the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law Section 63(8) to probe systemic public corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State

…”I am formally empanelling a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption pursuant to the Moreland Act and Section 63(8) of the Executive Law that will convene the best minds in law enforcement and public policy from across New York to address weaknesses in the State’s public corruption, election and campaign finance laws, generate transparency and accountability, and restore the public trust.”

  • [The commission will investigate] Campaign financing including but not limited to contribution limits and other restrictions; disclosure of third-party contributions and expenditures; and the effectiveness of existing campaign finance laws.

So, the facts directly contradict Pigeon’s assertion about the commission’s mission, yet this key fact is shunted down to the bottom of the article, completely outside the context of Pigeon’s assertion. 

The way in which New York conducts is elections is horrible, rife with opportunities for bad people to do questionable and corrupt things. PACs can spend unlimited money and its campaign advertising doesn’t need to disclose the source. Electoral fusion allows our system to be more about dealmaking with otherwise irrelevant minor “parties” and does nothing to enhance electoral democracy. Ballot access is unreasonably complicated and rife with traps for the unwary, and should be simplified. Money flowing to and from PACs – which are not even formally recognized under state law – should be accounted-for, disclosed, and limited to prevent monied interests from stealing elections. 

The problem now is whether money in politics will prevent the needed reforms from being openly discussed and implemented. 


Defunct Tim Kennedy Campaign Account Donates $45,000

As noted last week, state Senator Tim Kennedy (who famously switched allegiances in 2010 to support a de facto Republican majority, Collins-puppet County Legislature, in order to, among other things, secure Conservative backing via Steve Pigeon for his Senate run against dinosaur Bill Stachowski) has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the questionably legal political action committee being led by Steve Pigeon and Kristy Mazurek. The “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC” has been supporting Democratic primary candidates who are opposed to Erie County Democratic Headquarters, such as turncoat Democrat Barbara Miller-Williams, Joyce Wilson Nixon, Rick Zydel, and Wes Moore. Indeed, there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that the PAC has been coordinating its activities with that of some of these campaigns, in contravention of the law. 

On September 5th, the 24 hour reports of big donations showed an influx of cash from “Kennedy for Senate”. 

 

Here is the first set of Tim Kennedy cash that the Mazurek/Pigeon/Max PAC reported: 

$45,000 from “Friends of Tim Kennedy” – an account that has been inactive since 2011

The most recent activity for “Friends of Tim Kennedy” shows a balance of $8.61. 

So, if the account had $8.00 in it and was inactive, how exactly did it re-appear and raise $40,000 just a few weeks ago? 

UPDATE: A correspondent with knowledge of Election Law emails this: 

Kennedy (probably both his committees) is in violation of the campaign finance law for failing to file two pre-primary reports disclosing his campaign contributions and expenses, including his contributions to the Pigeon / Mazurek PAC.  Once he starts to donate, he is “participating” in a primary election – and that triggers the obligation to file NOW (EL 14-102(1).  He’s going to pretend he doesn’t need to, and then try to just file his semi-annual report in January, claiming that he doesn’t have a primary and therefore doesn’t have an obligation to file.
 
Also, here’s video of Steve Pigeon and Deputy Mayor Steve Casey meeting with Tim Kennedy a few years ago (FF to 0:35): 

 

That’s not all – people close to the Dearmyer campaign report that there have been phony pro-Dearmyer calls being made by people who are (a) not affiliated with her campaign; (b) not really supporting her and providing false information; and (c) being very rude when calling. This smells of this PAC. 


Paid for by Citizens for a Horrible WNY

It’s not the fault of the newly constituted “WNY Progressive Caucus” that it (or someone using its mail permit) sent out anonymous, no-attribution lit blasting incumbent legislators Betty Jean Grant and Tim Hogues, and praising challengers Joyce Wilson Nixon and Barbara Miller-Williams. So long as people aligned with the breakaway Steve Pigeon faction of disgruntled nominal Democrats exist, there will be nonsense. It is ever thus. 

The literature in question accuses Betty Jean Grant of being evil and bad with money, and accuses Hogues of helping Republican towns with their roads. Smearing Grant is baseless and offensive, but Hogues is running against Barbara Miller-Williams, who collaborated with former Republican County Executive Chris Collins to give the GOP minority a de facto majority for two years. Miller-Williams sold out her district, her community, and her principles for political gain which, thankfully, was short-lived. The hypocrisy is thick as molasses. 

Do you think that these people need to reveal who they are on that literature? You’re wrong. In a state race, there is no requirement whatsoever that the sponsor of an advertisement reveal themselves. “Paid for by” isn’t a requirement. Typical New York, that – protecting shenanigans, instead of informing the voting public. 

Generally, a PAC like the “WNY Progressive Caucus” would need to disclose where its money is coming from. But here, it’s so new, it hasn’t filed anything. A woman named Kristi Mazurek is listed as the group’s treasurer. She is a commentator for WGRZ’s Sunday political show, 2Sides, and has been running the campaigns of a few Democratic legislature candidates who are challenging people endorsed by the county Democratic committee. As I wrote in August

It should be noted that WGRZ 2Sides co-host Kristy Mazurek is [Wes] Moore’s and [Rick] Zydel’s campaign manager. Query why [her former co-host Stefan] Mychajliw would have felt the need to abandon the show when he ran for public office, yet the Democrat on the show feels no similar ethical obligation to do so, going so far as to attempt to ridicule an opponent on Facebook who wasn’t interested in going on the show. 

Mazurek had taken to Facebook to ridicule Moore’s opponent Wynnie Fisher for refusing to appear on 2Sides. Yet why on Earth would a candidate appear on a show to be interrogated by her opponent’s campaign manager? It’s an insane proposition. (N.B., David Pfaff is a known Pigeon associate): 

And so, Mazurek has Palinistically taken to Facebook again to issue a non-denial denial about the WNY Progressive Caucus’ literature: 

Translation: Zellner didn’t hire / get me hired for something-or-other, and so I’m going to align myself with the people who are working to undermine and unseat him. Note that Mazurek doesn’t deny that she or her PAC sent out the anti-Hogues and anti-Grant mailings. She simply says the complaints “don’t have merit”. So, I replied: 

Reply, (right under one from Erick Mullen, who did all of Jack Davis’ ads that relentlessly went after endorsed Democrat Jon Powers in ’08): 

I have no idea what that means. So, 

There was no reply, natch.I don’t think Ms. Mazurek knows what “meritless” means.

These types of anonymous mailers come out all the time, and when anonymous, you can bet that the people behind it want to keep you in the dark. You should be insulted by them – they figure you’re an idiot; an ignoramus. Yet there’s no law that says they have to disclose who they are. 

So, if you’re outraged when your candidate gets anonymously and unfairly slammed by anonyms, you’re going to have to lobby Albany to demand that the Election Law be amended to (a) require that all campaign advertisements and literature clearly disclose who paid for them; and (b) institute a hefty penalty for any violations – penalties that are confiscatory deterrents. 

I’m sick and tired of nasty people with unclean hands making electoral politics dirtier than it has to be. If Mazurek and the people behind the group for which she is treasurer think that Tim Hogues is a closet Clarence Republican and that Barbara Miller-Williams is the reincarnation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then they should disclose who they are. 

By the way, if you’re a disgruntled Frank Max supporter or in league with Steve Pigeon, that’s swell – but instead of working with Republicans and the fusion parties actively to undermine endorsed Democrats, why not convince the various and sundry committee members why they should vote for Max over Zellner for party chair next time around? If you’re in league with the Conservative Party, why even pretend to be a Democrat? 

We’re a region with a lot of dummies running too many horrible governments, and at a bare minimum we should know who’s behind what. 


Fact-Checking McCarthy’s Story About Grisanti’s Money

Courtesy Tom Dolina at Tommunisms.com

Bob McCarthy reports in Thursday’s Buffalo News that State Senator Mark Grisanti (SD-60) reported receiving “nearly $247,000” and that, of the 85 reported donors, only one was from western New York.

The insinuation here is that Grisanti’s local support is slipping, and that he’s dependent on money from outside the region to mount next year’s re-election bid.  It’s an insinuation that is false, and McCarthy is deliberately ignoring or confused by the fact that Grisanti has chosen voluntarily to follow an unnecessarily stringent financial disclosure pattern for a State Senator in a non-election year.

1. All of the checks from outside the area arose from a fundraiser that New York Mayor Bloomberg held in October for Republican Senators who voted in favor of the same sex marriage bill last summer. At that fundraiser, most donors pledged money, and the pledges were fulfilled in early December, and reported in January.

2. When Grisanti files, he itemizes every single donation – even if it’s under the $100 threshold – in order to maximize transparency.  He files to make sure everything is out there, because he has nothing to hide.

3. Grisanti held several local fundraisers during previous reporting periods, but none during the time covered by the January periodic, which would have started in mid-December.

4. If you look at Grisanti’s disclosure (and compare it to that of Maziarz, Kennedy, and Ranzenhofer), he filed pursuant to the tighter election year schedule despite the fact that 2011 was not an election year for him.  In his unnecessary 32 day pre-primary filing, most of his individual donations came from within WNY.  All of the individual donations in the 11 day pre-primary disclosure were from WNY.  In the 32 day pre-general filing, only one individual donation came from outside WNY.

5. Had Grisanti, like his colleagues, opted not to follow that tighter election-year cycle during the last half of 2011, all of those pre-primary and pre- and post-general election disclosures would have been contained in the January filing that McCarthy wrote about.

6. The shorter version is, Grisanti’s January disclosure only covers December 2011. The other Senators’ disclosures covers July – December 2011.

So, McCarthy’s insinuation about Grisanti’s support coming almost exclusively from outside the area, and that this is somehow out of the ordinary for a State Senator, is not a fair representation of the facts in this particular instance.