Campaign Finance: Another Pigeon Committee Flouts the Law
by Geoff Kelly
We’ve lavished attention, in print and online, on the squirrelly practices of Steve Pigeon, as exemplified by his most recently created political action committee, WNY Progressive Caucus, whose treasurer is political consultant and erstwhile television pundit Kristy Mazurek.
But today we’ll lead off with an irregularity in the most recent filings—or, rather, lack of filing—of another campaign committee affiliated with Pigeon. Democratic Action is the campaign giving arm of Democratic Action for Western New York, an organization founded in 2010 and then headed by Pigeon’s protege, Jack O’Donnell. The committee’s treasurer was, and remains, Whitney Kemp, who was once close to O’Donnell and now works in the office of Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder. Among its biggest donors have been Mayor Byron Brown, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, State Senator Tim Kennedy, and businessman Anthony Nanula, whose long-ago political career was Pigeon’s pet project when he was chair of the Erie County Democratic Party.
Looking at Democratic Action’s filings with the state Board of Elections, one might conclude that it has been relatively quiet in the bast year or so. The committee did not file any pre- or post-primary disclosure reports this summer or fall, as required by law of a committee actively supports or opposes a candidate in a primary election.
However, according to the filings of two candidates who ran primary races this election season, Democratic Action did take part in the Seotember primary. Dick Dobson, who one the Democratic primary for Erie County Sheriff, reports having reveived $9,000 from Democratic Action. Barbara Miller-Williams, who won her primary against incumbent Tim Hogues for the 1st District seat on the Erie County Legislature, reports having received $1,000 from the committee.
This is small potatoes, compared to the $262,397.39 that WNY Progressive Caucus poured into local races, including those of Dobson and Miller-Williams, but it’s still illegal. And it’s vintage Pigeon, who continues to deny wrongdoing even as one committee he controls, Democratic Action, fails to file required disclosure reports, while another, the supposedly independent PAC WNY Progressive Caucus, was clearly guilty of coordinating with the campaigns of the candidates it supported, in violation of state election law. Mazurek as much as admitted coordination in a conversation with Artvoice when she said, “I don’t micromanage my campaign mangers,” explaining that she allowed the campaign managers to design their campaign material and then wrote a check to cover the production and distribution costs.
That’s coordination. It’s a felony. It may be difficult to prove in a court of law—that’s what our elected prosecutors keep telling us, anyway—but that doesn’t make it less true.
Further notes on WNY Progressive Caucus:
• In the end, State Senator Tim Kennedy’s campaign committees—one active, one inactive—donated $125,000 to WNY Progressive Caucus.
• The PAC paid $25,000 to something called Landon LLC, which we’ll go ahead and assume is Pigeon’s consulting firm, Landen Associates.
• The PAC lists $90,000 in loans from Pigeon, though there is no way of knowing short of a subpoena whether that was his money or someone else’s.
• The PAC paid $13,665 to Gia Marketing, the firm run by Donald Turchiarelli, who was the recipient of the famous “bags of cash” during Paul Clark’s 2007 campaign for Erie County Executive. Those bags of cash, delivered to Turchiarelli to pay for telephone polls, led to a criminal investigation by Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark. That inquiry was curtailed before it led to charges against Pigeon, according to Clark’s former deputy district attorney Mark Sacha, because both Clark and his successor, Frank A. Sedita III, are political allies of Pigeon.
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