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Board of Elections Pushes Probe Into Two Pigeon PACs

At deadline, the controversial WNY Progressive PAC, captained by former Erie County Democratic party chairman Steve Pigeon and political operative/TV talk show host Kristy Mazurek, had not filed its 11-day pre-general election campaign finance disclosure reports. At it last accounting, a month ago, it was $18,381.39 in the hole.

The PAC has been accused, as Pigeon’s political committees often are, of concealing the sources of donations and illegally coordinating campaign activities with the candidates it supported. Mark Sacha—the former deputy district attorney who was fired after he publicly accused his boss, Erie County DA Frank Sedita III, of protecting Pigeon from Sacha’s investigation into possible election law violations—filed a complaint with the Erie County Board of Elections about WNY Progressive PAC and another independent campaign committee called Democratic Action, which is run by a Pigeon associate, Jack O’Donnell. Democratic Action has filed no campaign finance disclosure forms since July, though two candidates indicated in their filings that they received contributions from the entity: Dick Dobson, the Democratic candidate for Erie County Sheriff, reports having received $9,000 from Democratic Action, and Barbara Miller-Williams, Democratic candidate for the 1st District seat on the Erie County Legislature, reports having received $1,000 from the committee.

A similar complaint was filed with the BOE by Miller-Williams’s primary opponent, Erie County Legislator Tim Hogues, and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, both of whom were targeted with attack ads paid for by WNY Progressive Caucus. In their complaint, Jerome Schad, an attorney for Hogues and Grant, identified $35,000 in TV commercial expenditures that appear to be unaccounted for in the PAC’s disclosure filings.

On Wednesday morning, the BOE’s commissioners voted to ask Erie County Attorney Jeremy Toth to seek a court order requiring the PACs to provide complete and accurate disclosure reports of all incoming and outgoing money. They did this in lieu of referring the complaint to Sedita, who has indicated time and again that he has no interest in pursuing election law cases.

The commissioners also voted to launch an investigation into allegations that the PACs have been operating in violation of the law.

Specifically, a PAC exists to raise money for candidates, and to donate money to those candidates’ campaigns. It does not exist to spend money on behalf of campaigns—that is what a committee does, authorized or not—and it is required to file a sworn statement indicating the identity of the candidates the committee is backing.

Read the full text of the complaints filed with the BOE here, on AV Daily.

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