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Tea Party Protests Grisanti Fundraiser

An exclusive image of the massive tea party protest of Mark Grisanti’s fundraiser, courtesy of @HeyRaChaCha on Twitter


Ballot Access & Fusion: Keeping New York Corrupt

It’s petition day throughout New York State, and we’ll learn soon enough that Governor Cuomo will have a primary challenge from the left, and that locally, the Democratic race for the 63rd Senate District (Tim Kennedy, incumbent) is going to be especially fun, as will the Republican challenge to Mark Grisanti, as perennial party-switching candidate Rus Thompson clumsily attempts to manipulate the corrupt fusion system to try and oust the sane guy. 

But it’s not only electoral fusion that’s corrupt and awful, so is the petition process itself. It’s hypercomplicated and deliberately designed to be a minefield for the unwary. It’s not only time to abolish the electoral fusion system and shut down the Wilson Pakulas and backroom deals, but also to simplify the ballot access system to make it easier for candidates to run. The rules for petitioning should be simplified and written in plain English, and there should be an alternative whereby a candidate simply pays a fee (set on a sliding scale, depending on the scope of the office).  Hey, if the state needs another source of revenue, there you go. 

As it stands now, our petitioning process should rightly be named the Election Law Attorney Full Employment Act

As for SD-60, where Grisanti will possibly face off with Rus Thompson, here’s the entire campaign in a nutshell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the calm, professional man in the suit over the wildman in a sweatshirt. 


Mark Grisanti Campaigns in Downtown Tantrum

Photo by Jill Greenberg

In a few short years, State Senator Mark Grisanti has accomplished what few of his colleagues manage to do in a lifetime of “public service” – he has made a name for himself.  

Depending on whom you ask, he’s either a hero or an infamous traitor. In a way, that’s something for the senator to be proud of. After all, you don’t become an elected representative to blindly poll your constituents and see which way the wind is blowing.  On the contrary, while you should be responsive and available to constituents, you’re supposed to vote your conscience. It’s at the ballot box where your constituents get to tell you whether they agree. 

Grisanti’s change of heart on same-sex marriage is legendary. For supporters of civil rights, he is a hero for coming around on an issue of fairness and equality. For homophobes, he is a traitor because he had once promised not to support marriage. In the end, Grisanti got a boost, same sex marriage is no longer the huge controversy that it used to be, and he was on the right side of history. 

In the wake of the massacre of 20 first graders in Newtown, CT, Governor Cuomo decided to toughen New York’s laws regarding assault weapons and limiting the number of ammunition rounds that can be kept in a magazine. Some prominent recent shootings – Newtown included – saw gunmen carrying veritable arsenals around to do maximum harm in minimum time.  While Cuomo famously said you don’t need 15 bullets to kill a deer, you also don’t need 11 bullets to kill a 6 year-old

Opponents of the SAFE Act point to mental health treatment as the way to stem mass shootings. Gun control advocates likely believe that to be partly true, but expansion publicly funded mental health treatment and intervention don’t appear anywhere in any Republican manifesto of which I’m aware. So, while elected officials decide what they want to do about mental health services, it’s a good idea to make it as hard as possible for people who shouldn’t have weapons to get them. For this, Grisanti is now practically persona non grata

Before NY SAFE, New York already had among the most restrictive set of gun laws in the country. For instance, you’re not allowed to own a handgun unless you apply for – and receive – a permit to do so. New York still enforced the expired federal assault weapons ban, and NY SAFE strengthened it further.  Rifle magazines are never allowed to contain in excess of 7 rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns with certain features (e.g., pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug, etc.) are banned, but if you owned one prior to the law’s passage, you  get to keep yours. A person’s weapons may be seized if there is probable cause to believe that the person is about to commit a crime or is mentally unstable. In New York State, the government has discretion in issuing pistol permits or conceal carry permits. In New York City, the rules are more restrictive than that. 

What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? 

Well, the right of the people to bear arms is restricted, not infringed. It is up to the courts to determine whether a restriction is a 2nd Amendment infringement. Furthermore, each state’s laws differ on gun ownership and possession. Usually, conservatives cheer that sort of 10th Amendment state’s rights sort of thing, but perhaps that cheering is absent when the states choose policies with which the right does not agree. What came about? Right-wing freakout temper tantrums. 

It’s gotten so bad that it’s been rumored that Grisanti’s camp has had preliminary talks with the Erie County Democratic Committee about an endorsement. 

At last weekend’s Republican roundtable, tea party rabblerouser and former congressional candidate Mike Madigan apparently lit into Grisanti as “untrustworthy”. Grand Island Paladino shadow Rus Thompson (R-Tantrum) has threatened to primary Grisanti. Attorney and perennial candidate Kevin Stocker is already trying to reprise his 2012 loss.  At the GOP confab, Grisanti warned

…that the Republicans may lose their hold on the majority in the State Senate. Perhaps warning against a bruising GOP primary for his seat, he noted that four key Cuomo programs are targeted for early passage if the Dems gained control of the chamber: abortion of babies in the 9th month of pregnancy, taxpayer funded elections, fusion voting limitations, and the DREAM Act – free tuition for illegal aliens. Notably, the fusion changes Cuomo seeks could spell the end of the Conservative Party, the endorsement Grisanti has coveted and been denied. 

Oh, joy and rapture. An end to the perverse electoral fusion system that runs on graft, patronage, and confusion would be perhaps the best and most significant change that Governor Cuomo could ever bring about. The Conservative Party yanked its support from Grisanti over same-sex marriage, yet it has astonishingly continued to endorse other candidates who voted for it. Because “principles”. 

Given the hate and vitriol the small minority of ultra right-wing neofascists hurl at Grisanti, he’s not wrong to seek out a possible Democratic endorsement. These loons have labeled Grisanti a “RINO”, which is, to them, worse than being a Maoist, and they have set out to destroy him. They insist on conservative purity, which will go over great in a primary and lead to a catastrophic loss in the general election, because in November, people are generally in the middle. We’re not all gun-hugging omniphobes. 

Ask political choad Chuck Swanick how well he did running against Grisanti on an anti-gay platform in 2012. 

So it looks like it might fall to Canisius Professor and County Legislator Kevin Hardwick to primary Grisanti. Before he was a politician, my image of Hardwick was that he was not unlike Grisanti – an old-school, middle-of-the-road, northeastern Republican. Like a Bill Weld, conservative when it came to spending and taxes, and socially laissez-faire. But to challenge Grisanti, Hardwick is going to have to tack right, and I don’t know how that’s going to come across or how well it’ll do for him in November. 

Either way, chances are that Langworthy’s Republican committee isn’t going to be endorsing Grisanti, ever. They might endorse Hardwick if he runs. Time will tell if they get involved in a primary at all. Hardwick says he doesn’t like the NY SAFE Act, either, and that will be the centerpiece of any Republican challenge mounted against Grisanti. I think Grisanti has an opportunity to talk about the SAFE Act and why he voted the way he did. It could be as simple as pointing out just how much positive attention Governor Cuomo has given western New York since that vote. In an Albany run by Andrew Cuomo, Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skelos, you won’t be particularly effective by going against them. Just ask Mickey Kearns. (Changing the way Albany is run is a different matter, but no one in government makes a serious go of it for a variety of reasons.) Hardwick could end up in Albany, and then what? Is he going to get the SAFE Act repealed? Of course not. The whole thing is silliness. The entire landscape in that senate district is a massive fit of gun-hugging pique. 

The district that Mark Grisanti represents is a predominately Democratic one. 

So, to my mind, I wish Grisanti well. I want legislators like him in Albany and Washington – legislators who do what they think is right, even when it’s unpopular. I want legislators who take a controversial stand and then take the time and intellectual effort to back it up. We can do a lot worse than Mark Grisanti in Albany


Tea NY: Tantrum Advocacy

Some people have facts and rational factual, legal arguments on their side, while others have volume and little else. 

On Friday afternoon, a western New York tea party group nominally led by Paladino chauffeur Rus Thompson, brought a contingent of about a dozen people to hold a protest outside the local office of State Senator Mark Grisanti. 

Grisanti is already on the tea party enemies list thanks to his vote in favor of marriage equality a few years ago. Now, the target on his back is bigger still thanks to his vote in favor of the NY SAFE act – the recent gun control legislation that has sent a lot of gun enthusiasts and right wingers into a fury. 

Before NY SAFE, New York already had among the most restrictive set of gun laws in the country. For instance, you’re not allowed to own a handgun unless you apply for – and receive – a permit to do so. New York followed the prior federal assault weapons ban, and NY SAFE strengthened it further.  Rifle magazines are never allowed to contain in excess of 7 rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns with certain features (e.g., pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug, etc.) are banned, but if you owned one prior to the law’s passage, you  get to keep yours. A person’s weapons may be seized if there is probable cause to believe that the person is about to commit a crime or is mentally unstable. In New York State, the government has discretion in issuing pistol permits or conceal carry permits. In New York City, the rules are more restrictive than that. 

What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? 

Well, the right of the people to bear arms is restricted, not infringed. It is up to the courts to determine whether a restriction is a 2nd Amendment infringement. Furthermore, each state’s laws differ on gun ownership and possession. Usually, conservatives cheer that sort of 10th Amendment state’s rights sort of thing, but perhaps that cheering is absent when the states choose policies with which the right does not agree. 

When Rus Thompson and his band of a dozen SAFE Act opponents protested outside Senator Grisanti’s Buffalo office on Friday, the Senator did something that doesn’t happen that often – he went outside to speak with them. It is amazing to see what happens next. As Senator Grisanti begins discussing whether the SAFE Act will be repealed (it won’t), Mr. Thompson begins screaming at him, quite palpably for the benefit of the cameras. One supposes that Mr. Thompson thought he was scoring points here – that the general population would see this a brave exercise of 1st Amendment rights – getting right in the face of an elected official. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Thompson, that’s not at all how it came across. The Senator calmly hands out a statement and engages, occasionally, in debate with Mr. Thompson.  By contrast, Mr. Thompson is having what can best be described as a temper tantrum. He is screaming wildly at the Senator who reacts calmly but, at times, firmly. It is all a show that Mr. Thompson stage-managed for himself to make the news. Here it is, and the video speaks for itself. 

The animus that the tea party has for Grisanti is longstanding and pointless. Grisanti’s district is made up mostly of Democrats, and Grisanti is a moderate Republican. The likelihood of an ultra right-wing candidate winning that district is remote. In the video, Grisanti says he came outside specifically to confront Thompson on something he wrote online about Grisanti getting in another Senator’s “face” over gun control.

 So, Grisanti supposedly “yelled” at Senator Marchione to “back off”. Here’s what she has to say about it, 

So, that’s a lie.  

There’s a poignant irony at the end of the tape, when the assembled sweatshirt wearers are left taunting Grisanti – a two-time winner of a contentious state Senate election – with “loser”. Yet Grisanti is the only one seen in the video who seems dressed for work, and has someplace to go. Check out how a few other people (casino fight guy excluded) seemed interested in genuinely speaking with the Senator about the issue, but Mr. Thompson drowned out their conversation with screamed non-sequiturs. One man, Rick Donovan, claimed to be an Independence Party representative and yelled at Grisanti about petitions and betrayal. Donovan manages a Facebook Page for the “Independence Party of America” that has a whopping 17 likes. He ran last year – unsuccessfully – as Republican and IP candidate for Assembly 141 (Crystal Peoples-Stokes). On his Facebook page, he deftly identifies the largest issue facing the 141st Assembly district – the wholly and exclusively federal matter of immigration. 

Enlightening stuff. 

So, what is going on here? Looks like there’s a political club operating in New York State that is soliciting donations. In a reflection of their utter failure and decline, of the four political committees registered with the state Board of Elections containing the word “tea” in their name, only one is still active – Mr. Thompson’s “TEA NY PAC“. The other three, Elma’s “Tea Party Coalition PAC“, the redundant “Tea Party Conservative PAC“, and the “Tea Party Taxpayers for Liberty” – all formed in reaction to President Obama’s election – have been defunct for at least two years. 

The address for the “Taxed Enough Already NY PAC” is on Grand Island, where Mr. Thompson lives. Perhaps a reflection of what a political powerhouse and game-changer it is, it has $548 on hand, according to its January campaign disclosure report. In 2010, a Steve Garvin from Derby contributed $15,000 to Thompson’s group. $14,980 of that went to pay for radio spots during the 2010 general election.

Garvin gave to Lenny Roberto in his 2010 run against Brian Higgins. His only other contribution on record is $100 to a town-level candidate

In 2011, Thompson’s wife contributed $100 to offset bank fees from Citizen’s Bank and to pay a late filing fee fine to the Board of Elections. There were no other contributions in 2011. $100 was again deposited in 2012 to avoid bank fees. 

In the July 2012 periodical report, almost $1,370 in unitemized contribution were reported, as were $700 in expenses. Since then, Tea NY has been operating off the remaining $800 or so. It spent absolutely zero money on anyone or anything during the 2012 primary and general election campaigns. It spent $166 in late 2012 for an event.

Hardly the way to influence elections or policy. 

So, when Thompson emails his list claiming poverty and that it’s “impossible” to “wage a proper offense without the proper resources,” why didn’t he raise money – or spend any – to “wage an offense” (or defense, for that matter), in the 2012 election? 

Maybe Mr. Thompson can wage his offense simply by screaming intemperately at calm and knowledgeable elected officials. That’s free. 

 


Grisanti Frack Bills on the Move Next Week

Despite being criticized by the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club less than two weeks after their introduction, state senator Mark Grisanti’s five bills designed to regulate fracking in New York are on the agenda Tuesday (6/5).

Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation
Senator Mark J. Grisanti, Chair
9:00 AM, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Room 901 LOB

Printed No.    Sponsor    Title
851    Young     An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the prohibition on salt licks on land inhabited by deer or bear and prohibiting the hunting of deer or bear with the aid of a salt lick    
2975A    Nozzolio    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to allowing the use of rifles for hunting in certain portions of Ontario county    
4345B    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the collection of mercury-containing thermostats; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof    
4361    Young    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to selectively cutting timber    
4522A    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to exempting minimum risk pesticides from pesticide applicator certification requirements    
5126
Refer to Finance    Carlucci    An act enacting the “Rockland Bergen Bi-state watershed flood prevention and protection act” and creating the Rockland Bergen Bi-state River Commission    
5228A
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, the public service law, the general business law and the tax law, in relation to brownfield site cleanup; and to repeal section 31 of part H of chapter 1 of the laws of 2003 amending the tax law relating to brownfield redevelopment tax credits, relating thereto    
5418B    Grisanti    An act to amend the navigation law, in relation to responsible parties for petroleum contaminated sites and incentives to parties who are willing to remediate petroleum contaminated sites    
5424    Marcellino    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the sale of delinquent tax liens on brownfields property    
6431    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to prohibiting the possession, sale, offer for sale, trade or distribution of shark fins    
6747A    Gallivan    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to permitting hunting with crossbows in certain circumstances; and to amend chapter 483 of the laws of 2010, amending the environmental conservation law relating to hunting by crossbow, in relation to the effectiveness thereof    
6891
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to high volume hydraulic fracturing natural gas production discharge notifications    
6892
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to creating the “High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Tracking Program”    
6893
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act relating to wastewater treatment; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof    
6894
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the creation of a geographic information system-based display to provide high-volume hydraulic fracturing information    
6895
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to prohibiting the use of wastewater for road and land spreading    
6993    Gallivan    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to eliminating the requirement that hunters wear back tags during hunting season in the state    
7078A    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to wild and exotic animal protection    
7167
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the natural gas development habitat fragmentation protection    
7525
Refer to Finance    Grisanti    An act to amend the environmental conservation law and the state finance law, in relation to requiring retained deposits on unredeemed containers to be deposited into the environmental protection fund

Click here to read why the Sierra Club sees the bills as ineffectual and fraught with loopholes. The Sierra Club was not among the environmental groups that rubber-stamped approval of the bills when they were first rolled out on Good Friday.


Grisanti Receives Praise and Condemnation for Earth Day

After winning the 2012 William B. Hoyt Environmental Excellence Award from the Audubon Council of New York State (at Delaware North’s swank Gideon Putnam Hotel & Spa in Saratoga Springs) for his outstanding work on behalf of conservation and the environment, New York Senator Mark Grisanti delivers the keynote address for the Buffalo Environmental Law Society at the University of Buffalo Law School tonight at 6pm, in 106 O’Brian Hall on UB’s North Campus in Amherst. Adam Hayes, the society’s Earth Week coordinator, says, “We appreciate the bills he has sponsored and the subjects he has had hearings on.”

UB is also the home of the new Shale Resources and Society Institute, funded by the gas industry.

On Good Friday, Grisanti announced five bills aimed at regulating aspects of horizontal hydrofracking in the event an upcoming DEC report ultimately leads to lifting the ban on the process in New York. Grisanti pointed to the fact that his proposed legislation had been endorsed by four environmental groups: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Earthworks, Environmental Advocates of New York, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

When contacted for comment, representatives of those groups confirmed their support of Grisanti’s bills. They also admitted they were not supporting bill S 4220, which was introduced last spring by NYS Senator Tony Avella, and would prohibit hydraulic fracturing statewide.

Chip Northrup, a native Texan who has worked in the oil and gas industry for decades and is a staunch critic of the move to frack in New York state, has grave concerns over the loopholes he sees in Grisanti’s legislation. What concerns? For starters, the language of the bills would exempt any hydro frack jobs that use less than 300,000 gallons of water. Smaller jobs would be unaffected by the new guidelines. Also unaddressed is the particularly nasty practice of liquid propane fracking—which is being pushed by the industry in some areas of the state as a way to get around the temporary ban on using water mixed with chemicals.

“The bills, as presented, barely improve upon what the DEC has already proposed through the SGEIS. Which, in terms of actual regulations, are the worst in the US,” he writes.

Click here to read Northrup’s assessment.



Grisanti to Receive Endorsement of Other Horrible Transactional Fusion Party

At 1:30 pm today, a press conference will be held in Buffalo to announce that the Independence Party, which is neither independent nor really any sort of political party with any firm ideology or platform aside from the personal ambitions of its leadership, will endorse Mark Grisanti for re-election. 

This comes quickly on the heels of the recent announcement that the Conservative Party, which is hardly conservative nor really any sort of political party with a firm and consistent set of policy positions except for a generalized abhorrence of gays, modern society, and taxes, will attempt to throw WNY under a massive bendy bus by endorsing reprehensible homophobic retread Chuck Swanick – star of the mid-last-decade county financial meltdown – in a deal cut with former Pedro Espada patronage hire Steve Pigeon.  With Espada’s indictment, Pigeon finds himself needing something more to do than just ally himself with Albany-based cults.  

Also, Swanick received the endorsement of the reactionary homophobic bigots at the improperly named “National Organization for Marriage“. 

If you want to stop how pitifully transactional our local politics have become, and begin cleaning things up; if you want to promote good policy and less patronage-laden dealmaking, abolish electoral fusion in New York State. 


Screamy Grisanti Casino Fight: NOW A TALKIE

Courtesy of WNYMedia.net, here is the video – with audio – of the aftermath of the Grisanti fight at the Seneca Niagara Casino last weekend. 

 




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