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Campaign Finance Curiosities

State Senator Tim Kennedy’s brush with obsolescence in last September’s Democratic primary cost him a pretty penny: On January 7, Kennedy’s campaign committee paid $34,335 to the law firm Colucci & Gallaher for services rendered in the post-primary recount that eventually gave Kennedy a narrow victory over challenger Betty Jean Grant. This on top of a $25,000 payment to the law firm Connors & Vilardo on October 16, for a total of nearly $50,000. Grant’s attorney’s were volunteers, though reportedly her supporters enjoyed the fulsome cooperation of the Erie County Board of Elections during the re-canvassing of votes. In all, Kennedy spent $662,704.78 last year retaining his seat. Grant spent $33,273.75.

• Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has $1,128,539.38 on hand in his campaign account. In the last six months, Brown’s committee raised $202,826.58 and spent $102,864.55, the biggest expenditure having been $25,000 in December to Global Strategy Group, the firm Brown uses for polling and consulting. As for donors, well, it’s hard to know who’s buying what: Brown got a nice $5,000 check from Joel Giambra, the former Erie County executive, now a lobbyist who dabbles in city real estate; Henry Littles, who enjoyed a brief patronage career as manager of the Marine Drive Apartments, gave Brown $1,100, so he may be seeking consideration for some new job; Nick Stracick, a principal in the group pursuing a domed stadium complex on the Outer Harbor, gave $2,500; Hannah Demolition, located off William Street on the East Side, kicked in $5,000, which, given the administration’s pursuit of demolitions, should help that company as it seeks municipal work. Hannah has given $12,000 to Brown for Buffalo, all told, as well as $1,000 to Brown’s ally on the Common Council, Demone Smith, and $5,500 to Kennedy, Brown’s ally on the State Senate.

The regular donors are all there, too: city employees and their relatives, lawyers and law firms, engineering and architectural firms, elected officials and Democratic Party insiders, plumbing and electrical contractors.

In addition to his donations to Brown, Nick Stracick of Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex gave $25,000 to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the company bought Assemblyman Mickey Kearns a $2,500 ticket to an event honoring Cuomo earlier this month.

Bernie Tolbert, the former FBI field office director who has been courted as a potential Democratic opponent to Brown this year, has not yet created a campaign committee. At least not one that has filed papers with the New York State Board of Elections.

• State Senator Mark Grisanti enjoyed enormous financial support in his successful bid for re-election last fall, thanks in large part to his vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, which brought him hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

He spent it all, too: His account has diminished to just $15,112.55.

Grisanti spent a whopping $1,351,436.42 last year to retain his seat; Democrat Mike Amodeo spent $134,066.63; Conservative Chuck Swanick spent $115,276.41. Fold in a handful of other candidates, and total expenditures in the district total $1,682,814.19.

• Much is made of the fact that Giambra and former Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello both left office with their campaign accounts bulging with cash, thus preserving their political influence and abetting their new careers as lobbyists. But the real elephant coming down the jungle path is State Senator George Maziarz, a prolific fundraiser who rarely faces any serious opposition and can bank his money for a rainy day. As of this week, he’s got $796,566.35 on hand. This despite Maziarz spending $361,467.95 last year—a lot, considering the that his Democratic opponent in the general election, Amy Witryol, spent $40,410.47, while his Republican primary opponent, Johnny Destino, spent $16,183.51.

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