On the Fourth Day of Preetsmas

preetsmas

 

Mickey Kearns and Aaron Pierce

To what extent might Assemblyman Mickey Kearns be implicated in the Great Preetsmas Massacre of ’15? On Tuesday, I ran through the fact that Kearns had been a recipient of generous campaign contributions from a Seneca businessman named Aaron Pierce.  Pierce and his companies have recently run afoul of the law and been prosecuted, and he was named as having been a prominent donor to Steve Pigeon’s Western New York Progressive Caucus (“AwfulPAC”).

What are Mickey Kearns’ connections to Pierce?

1) The new turf football field at Mulroy Park was renamed Pierce Field “to recognize the extraordinary commitment and leadership of Aaron Pierce and the Pierce Family in making the project a reality.” (Common Council Proceedings of 9/20/11.) 

2) On May 15, 2013, Assemblyman Kearns nominates Pierce for a state award: “honoring the contributions of 142 everyday people who are working to make our District a better place, through volunteering, teaching, coaching and anyone who should be recognized for their contribution to the greater good.”

3) The political consulting firm which the media has recently reported as belonging to Steve Casey and Chris Grant, Herd Solutions, is shown in NYS BOE filings as a vendor to the Kearns campaign, though there is not enough expenditure to account for the volume of television and mailings utilized by that campaign:

Amount Date Report
$15,000 3/20/12 2012 27 day Post-Special
$8,500 3/08/12 2012 27 day Post-Special
$2,000 5/10/12 2012 July Periodic
$1,000 5/10/12 2012 July Periodic

It bears mentioning that Herd Solutions has several listed addresses throughout the New York State Board of Elections filings, and the most recent one is in Asheville, North Carolina. The website for “Herd Marketing Solutions” is down, but cached versions promote SEO management, online reputation management, and other public relations-type services. Herd Solutions shows past addresses that include Chris Grant’s home in Akron, an office rental facility at Delaware & North, and a Williamsville residence where a company called “Empowered Stables, LLC” was just registered in February 2015 to a Stephen L. Grant, likely related to Chris, since donations to Collins from Chris Grant appear from that same address in July 2008 reports, (also here to the GOP Committee).

4) Contributions from what are thought to be Aaron Pierce-controlled companies to Mr. Kearns in the 2012 campaign:

2012 Pierce to Kearns
Contributor Amount Date Report
ABCZ Holdings LLC Gowanda, NY $5000 2/28/12 2012 11 Day Pre-Special
AJ Cigar LLC Gowanda, NY $5000 2/03/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
Hurricane Mgmt Gowanda, NY $5000 2/13/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
James Bros Wholesale Irving, NY $5000 2/28/12 2012 11 day Pre-Special
Jays Candy & Tobacco LLC Gowanda $5000 2/03/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
Med Assign LLC Irving NY $5000 2/13/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
Pierce Munitions Gowanda, NY $5000 2/13/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
Pierce Nat’l Enterprises Irving, NY $5000 2/28/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special
Red Jacket Mgmt LLC $5000 2/28/12 2012 11 day Pre-Special
Seneca Smoke Shop Gowanda, NY $5000 2/03/12 2012 32 day Pre-Special

That’s $50,000 from one likely contributor exploiting the LLC loophole. The Buffalo News reported that Mr. Kearns acknowledged that these contributions exceeded the allowable limit set forth in the law and pledged to return the excessive amounts.  Nine of these corporations received $900 refunds as reflected in the 11 day pre special report. It also bears mentioning that, for some reason, Kearns’ payments to Herd Solutions don’t show up in a search of the state BOE’s expense database – only by examining the specific disclosures that Kearns made. Something is wrong with the system, and it isn’t properly cross-referencing data.

Steve Pigeon, Gene Caccamise & Bricklayers’ Local 3

On another note, yesterday I used an image for a post that Steve Pigeon had Tweeted in 2013 to rebut an article of mine where I recounted two sources’ recollections that they had heard Governor Cuomo admonish Pigeon to stay out of the Hamister deal in Niagara Falls. Indeed, in all my years of writing about Pigeon, this was the one and only instance where he ever directly addressed one of my posts. He went on to write,

Gene Caccamise

Pigeon’s Tweets are dated September 12th, and the primary election had been held on September 10th. The image was taken, and the exchange with the Governor was held on the Sunday before the primary. Pigeon’s AwfulPAC (WNYPC) effectively ceased all activity after September 10th. It was July 2014 when I first began floating the theory that the financial shenanigans surrounding AwfulPAC were much more serious than just your typical run-of-the-mill Pigeoning of local races. In August 2013, the West Seneca town board approved up to $30,000 be spent to undertake an environmental review of the Seneca Mall site, but no one would say why. From the West Seneca Bee,

 

“It seems very cryptic when you read it,” said Hart. “People will wonder what’s going on.”

Meegan said she realized that, but they can’t “spill the beans.”

Hart also told the public that it is the intent of the board to rezone the former Seneca Mall site from industrial to commercial, as per the owner’s request. He said he could not offer much information but did say the proposed development would be a “game-changer” for the town.

 

Game-changer: football stadium? Casino?

AwfulPAC benefited from a huge cash injection from nominal Democrat and pro-life-oh-wait-pro-choice Tim Kennedy. But at the time, a singular donation of $25,000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 was quite puzzling, and no one reported on it until I brought it up in July 2014. 

Pigeon’s friend Gene Caccamise was the regional head of that Bricklayer’s Union local until his resignation in March 2015. As to that donation, no one understood why it was made, and it’s glaringly odd because a $25,000 donation would have practically emptied the union’s account. The image above is taken from Pigeon’s WNYPC 2013 11-day pre-primary filing. By contrast, this is what the Bricklayer’s union’s disclosure shows on its corresponding 11-day pre-primary filing

We’re meant to believe that a union with only $28,000 on hand is emptying its account to fund the WNYPC? Indeed, a scan of this union local’s intake and outflow shows modest amounts – a few thousand coming in, a few hundred going out. It reports $5,000 to current Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in its 11-day pre-General. It gave Sean Ryan $500 bucks. Its July 2013 report shows a little over $1,000 to Tim Kennedybut at no time did the BAC Local 3 report $25,000 to the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, and such an outflow appears on no disclosure report whatsoever.

Could the investigation into where the WNYPC’s money came from – and this apparently falsified contribution from the bricklayer’s union help explain Caccamise’s recent departure? Caccamise remains the “ethics officer” and a member of the board of COMIDA, the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency. Sources say that the Buffalo representative from the Bricklayer’s Local 3 was as surprised as anyone when the contribution to the WNYPC was revealed, and claimed to have no idea why it was made. The theory is that Caccamise was close with developer Scott Congel and with Pigeon, and wanted jobs for the proposed West Seneca development, the renderings for which contained a lot of brick

Kristy “Turncoat” Mazurek

Michael Caputo’s PoliticsNY.net broke the story on its “rumors and innuendo” page that former WNYPC treasurer Kristy Mazurek had been granted immunity from prosecution in the ongoing Preetsmas criminal probe, likely in exchange for her cooperation. 

This is all just packed with schadenfreude. In September 2014, Mazurek tried to threaten Shredd and Ragan to not have me on air, adding that a “team of lawyers” was “monitoring” me. I went on air anyway. Fast-forward 9 months, Mazurek is represented by criminal superlawyer Joel Daniels, and has reportedly turned state’s evidence in connection with the ongoing state & fed criminal probe into the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, for which she was treasurer. In just 9 mos, Mazurek has gone from issuing threats to ratting out Pigeon & associates in exchange for immunity.

This confirms what Geoff Kelly and I thought in last week’s podcast, regarding why it was that Mazurek’s home hadn’t been raided. 

Senecas fire Pigeon

Two Tweets Tuesday afternoon from Liz Benjamin

 

The Seneca Nation is caught up in a criminal investigation thanks to the guys it hired as lobbyists. Investigators now have whatever records they recovered in last week’s raids on top of subpoenaed bank records likely being analyzed by forensic accountants, and the WNYPC’s own treasurer singing like a canary.

On top of all of this, rumors are swirling about who the real targets are. Clearly, Mazurek was a small fish worth flipping to get to the people who were really in charge. There are rumors that one prominent Republican developer contributed money to the WNYPC by illegally using or reimbursing a conduit, possibly involving a big-name attorney.

Some have suggested that calling this “Preetsmas” is wrong because his office is perhaps not necessarily involved in these investigations. We’re not 100% sure that it’s not, and certainly the US Attorney for the Southern District of NY has, at least, provided the proper environment for this probe to take place.  Bharara’s office took possession of control of the entire Moreland Commission records, which included complaints made against the WNYPC. This is Preetsmas, and on the 4th Day of Preetsmas, my true love gave to me, four rats a-ratting.

No way this is the end of this story. This is only the beginning.

“Are You a Christian?”

Monday afternoon outside of Old County Hall, after an Eric Schneiderman anti-corruption rally had concluded, a well-dressed, baby-faced man who looked vaguely familiar approached me.

He came up to me and asked, “Are you a Christian?” I replied, “No.” He said, “I didn’t think so.”

Perplexed by this bizarre introductory exchange, I listened as this man began to harangue me over my allegedly unfair, horrible, and “bully[ing]” treatment of “Airborne” Eddy Dobosiewicz. He said I hadn’t been “very nice to Eddy Dobosiewicz” and that I had treated him horribly.

You may remember several weeks ago, I confronted Dobosiewicz about a racist Tweet he posted. That and his subsequent arguing lost Dobosiewicz a few jobs and led to him issuing an unqualified and sincere apology.

At this point, I made an embarrassing mistake. I would have sworn up and down that the man confronting me was Dobosiewicz’s former partner and friend, Marty Biniasz. I took to Twitter and Facebook about it before receiving a call from him informing me that he had been in Hamburg all day. I was shocked—frankly in disbelief—but apologized profusely to him, deleted everything from Facebook and Twitter, and apologized publicly. I would have picked Biniasz out of a line-up; I was 100 percent sure it was him, and told him he had an identical twin running around town who has a lot of concern about Eddy Dobosiewicz. I take this opportunity to apologize to Marty again.

As this mystery man who wasn’t Marty Biniasz continued his intemperate and confrontational defense of Airborne Eddy, I interrupted him and said, “What would my religion have to do with anything? If I was Jewish it would make sense to you that I might be deliberately unfair to ‘Airborne Eddy’?”  He said I threw Eddy under the bus, and I interrupted again and reminded him that Eddy threw himself under the bus, and that all of his wounds were completely self-inflicted. At this point he began to retreat and walk away, but not before calling me a “bully” and otherwise mean and horrific person for having the audacity to be critical of racist speech.

I called after him as he skulked away, saying, “You go around being critical of other people’s religion but I’m the bully?”

Marty Biniasz does indeed have a religious, Eddy-loving doppelganger named Mark Peszko. In the end, I figured out who it was. I sent an email to Peszko to confirm and, naturally, did not hear back. His resemblance to Marty Biniasz is uncanny. 

UPDATE: I spoke with Mr. Peszko this morning, and he acknowledged that it was he and I who had words yesterday. He was contrite and explained that he has a soft spot for the underdog, and when he saw me he confronted me out of a sense that I had been unfair to Dobosiewicz when I posted this piece on May 1st. Although Mr. Peszko’s recollection was that I had posted the piece about Polish riots after Eddy’s apology was released, the timing wasn’t exactly thus: I published my piece at 6:00 am, and the Dobosiewicz apology was released at 1pm. None of that, however, matters except insofar as it informs Mr. Peszko’s decision to confront me.

Mr. Peszko felt that I had been unfair to Eddy and approached me because he feels strongly about defending underdogs, especially when – as he did here – that he thinks that they’re being kicked when they’re down. We had a cordial conversation where we learned a lot about each other’s work, faith, and history, and I harbor no ill will towards him. I am sure he is an excellent attorney who zealously represents people of all races and faiths. 

But no. Whether or not I’m a Christian has no bearing whatsoever on how I deal with racism. Not identifying myself as “Christian” doesn’t explain how I treated Eddy Dobosiewicz,—quite fairly, I thought, as I confronted him directly on Twitter and gave him an opportunity to explain or retract. Were I Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist, it wouldn’t have any bearing on how I deal with anything that I consider to be bad or wrong.

Consider that this person not only has some sort of antipathy towards non-Christians but was upset not by Dobosiewicz’s behavior (for which he profusely apologized) but by the fact that I wrote about it.

Invoking God or Jesus Christ to justify or excuse racism seems to me to perhaps not understand the entire concept of faith or religion. Being accosted on the street by a stranger with such a profoundly absurd message was unsettling.

Ranzenhofer and the LLC Loophole

IMG_3120

Last week, in my story about Attorney General Schneiderman’s push for an ethics reform bill in Albany, alluded to local state Senator Mike Ranzenhofer’s involvement, but it bears its own post.

One of Schneiderman’s proposed reforms would close what’s called the “LLC loophole”. This legal quirk enables politicians to raise massive sums of campaign cash that is difficult, if not impossible, to trace. For donors, it’s an easy way to (a) donate cash without leaving easily identifiable fingerprints; and/or (b) completely bypass and ignore the mandatory maximum donation. It costs just $200 to file and create an LLC, and each LLC can donate as a separate individual. One New York City developer has used the LLC loophole to pour over $13 million into campaign coffers since 2000.

Fixing this loophole is simple—in fact, Brooklyn Democrat Dan Squadron proposed a bill to do just that, but it was upstate Republicans in the Senate who effectively killed the effort, including the chair of the Corporations Committee Mike Ranzenhofer (R-East Amherst).

On Monday, the Buffalo News’ Denise Jewell Gee wrote that there are only 17 days to call your legislators to get the LLC loophole closed, but she omitted the local connection.

Not only did Ranzenhofer shut down Squadron’s bill to close the LLC loophole, but Ranzenhofer got $94,000 from Glenwood, the company whose various and sundry LLCs, led by Leonard Litwin, have contributed $1,000,000 to Governor Cuomo using 19 individual LLCs. Litwin and Glenwood are linked to the Sheldon Silver criminal probe, as well. It was reported yesterday that the Cuomo Administration cited an ongoing federal probe into the state’s housing finance agency relating to loans made to Litwin’s company. It is as if all of Albany is under investigation, or cooperating with an ongoing one.

Rural and suburban Democrats, naturally, have a difficult time recruiting candidates to run against Ranzenhofer to begin with, but who would want to bother when Ranzenhofer can pull in that much money from just one allegedly corrupt company, and shuts down any effort to close the LLC loophole as part of his official duties? Why is Ranzenhofer getting a pass from local media on his connection to Litwin and Glenwood, and his blatant blocking of Squadron’s effort to eliminate the corrupt/ing LLC loophole? Here it is:

It becomes more and more obvious that public financing of elections is the only way to clean up this state.

Albany corruption is a bipartisan problem with easy solutions that are being blocked in an equally bipartisan manner. Ranzenhofer has been moistening legislative seats for 20+ years, accumulating state benefits and pensions without accomplishing much of anything. The fact that he’s actively blocking even the most basic and uncontroversial Albany reforms should lead to his removal from elected office. Reform or get out of the way.

Preetsmas: Tentacles Spreading

pigeonThe Buffalo News reports that one of the top donors to Steve Pigeon’s and Kristy Mazurek’s “WNY Progressive Caucus” has been in big trouble lately.

Aaron J. Pierce, a Seneca owner of an online cigarette business and a munitions factory,

• In August 2013, a Pierce company called AJ’s Candy & Tobacco was charged – with 17 other defendants – with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking. Federal prosecutors said AJ’s Candy was one of several Native American tobacco companies from Western New York that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by illegally buying and reselling “unstamped” cigarettes.

AJ’s Candy and other companies saved themselves $4.35 a pack by illegally buying cigarettes from a Missouri company that had not paid New York state excise taxes, prosecutors charged.

Court papers show that, last August, AJ’s Candy & Tobacco was sentenced after taking a corporate guilty plea, admitting to felony charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking. The company agreed to pay just over $1 million in fines, judgments and restitution. The company was put on probation for two years. Pierce – who signed the plea agreement on the company’s behalf – agreed that the company would not sell any cigarettes except those made by his own companies for two years.

The charges against AJ’s Candy & Tobacco and 17 other defendants followed a lengthy undercover investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. The defendants in the case purchased a total of $17 million in illegally untaxed cigarettes during the undercover probe, said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickenson, in Kansas City, Mo.

• In April of this year, Pierce and another of his companies – AJ’s Wholesale LLC of Irving – agreed to pay $400,000 to federal prosecutors in Buffalo to settle a non-criminal forfeiture case.

Federal prosecutors filed the forfeiture action against Pierce and AJ’s Wholesale in February, after ATF agents determined that AJ’s unlawfully bought and resold more than 403,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes between September 2012 and January 2013, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard D. Kaufman said in court papers.

A court order directing Pierce and AJ’s Wholesale to pay $400,000 to the federal government was signed by District Judge Richard J. Arcara on April 19. Another document, called a “stipulation for settlement and forfeiture,” was signed by Pierce and Pigeon – acting as an attorney for Pierce – on March 24.

AJ’s Wholesale, the company involved in the $400,000 forfeiture action, is the same Pierce company that donated $30,000 to Pigeon’s PAC in September 2013, government documents show.

Pierce is also a big donor to Assemblyman Mickey Kearns – so much so that Kearns had a ballpark named after Pierce.

When this all gets written up and we know all the ins and outs, remember that the question is where the money came from to fund the WNYPC. It was rumored to be Seneca money, and the evidence is mounting that this is true. Pierce’s quoted lawyer – Ed Betz – is a close associate of Pigeon protege Jack O’Donnell, and was hired as counsel for the Erie County Water Authority when O’Donnell was a commissioner.

Also, in case you missed it, Ken Kruly’s blog has a list of the lawyers all the targets of the Preetsmas probe have retained,

  • Steve Pigeon – represented by Dennis Vacco and Paul Cambria
  • Steve Casey – represented by Rod Personius
  • Chris Grant – represented by Thomas Eoannou
  • Tim Kennedy – represented by Terry Connors
  • Kristi Mazurek – represented by Joel Daniels

That reads like a who’s who of local lawyers you hire when you’re accused of really, really serious stuff. Also – Tim Kennedy?!

So far, the only thing missing is how the Albany-based accused cult NXIVM fits into all of this. Because I’m convinced that this investigation’s scope and timeframe is much wider than is being reported.

Schneiderman Tackles Corruption

schneiderman (1)

Earlier this week Attorney General Eric Schneiderman proposed a sweeping set of reforms to New York’s byzantine and minimally ethical election and campaign finance regulations. What you should pay attention to is this detail: every year, your candidates for state legislature promise to clean up that city’s political cesspool. They punctuate this all of this with caricatures of indicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and indicted former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. They call Skelos a “RINO”, or they promise to free the Assembly from Silver’s corrupt fingers.

When they actually get there, however, none of this happens. A couple of exceptions include current Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder and Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, both of whom refused to back Silver as speaker. When Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed milquetoast pseudoreforms in 2014 and 2015, the few that mattered he negotiated away with the other men in the budget negotiation room. In fact, he went so far as to simply shut down the Moreland Commission he created to examine corruption and make recommendations to end it.

There exists no political will or serious push to undertake the sorts of reforms that Albany needs to become a little less like a dictatorial junta and a little more like a deliberative representative legislative entity.

When your state capital has to rely on the U.S. Attorney who handles a completely different geographical jurisdiction – the Southern District of New York – to prosecute corrupt politicians, you know your problem is more than just trivial.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s proposal, therefore, provides Albany with a way to fix itself before it’s too late. But there’s a weak link here – all of those Albany pols who promised you they’d clean up the state house if you elected them to – what, their 20th term of office – are the ones who would need to propose, debate, and pass any such legislation. It’s not a sexy law that results in any ribbon-cuttings back home, so don’t hold your breath.

Schneiderman outlined his proposal in an op-ed published on May 26th. Noting that 30 state officials and legislators have left office due to criminal or ethical breaches since 2000, he notes that the indictments of Silver and Skelos should serve as an acute wake-up call. Schneiderman notes that he and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli have prosecuted 60 electeds and their “cronies” in just the past four years – an untenable and frankly outrageous figure. His proposed law, the…

End New York Corruption Now Act — dramatically lowers contribution limits, sharply restricts contributions by lobbyists, closes donation loopholes so big you can drive a Mack truck through them, and provides matching funds for small contributions to offset the power of mega-donors.

It expands the tools available to state prosecutors to investigate and prosecute public corruption.

It ends a system that allows outside employment income for legislators, who should have no “clients” other than the people of New York. In turn, they would be paid like the full-time professionals they are and get a salary increase. I have also proposed a constitutional amendment to change the period between legislative elections from two to four years, to create at least some time for members of the Assembly and Senate to focus on governing first, and politics second.

These are reforms worth considering. Why this, and why now?

“Every year, more or less, for the past five or six years there have been ethics reform packages introduced and passed in Albany,” he said. “And every year or so there’s a press conference and they say, ‘We have made fundamental reforms; we have cleaned this up.’ And then there are more scandals and there’s more outrage, and it’s clear that they didn’t work.”

“I’m done with advocating for incremental reforms — it’s time for us to be bold,” he said.

If you need any more proof, consider that the new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan recently said that his conference wasn’t going to bother looking into ethics reforms. Shrug.

One of the Schneiderman’s proposed reforms would close what’s called the “LLC loophole”. This legal defect enables politicians to raise massive sums of campaign cash that is difficult, if not impossible, to trace. For donors, it’s an easy way to (a) donate cash without leaving easily identifiable fingerprints; and/or (b) completely bypass and ignore the mandatory maximum donation. It costs just $200 to file and create an LLC, and each LLC can donate as a separate individual. One New York City developer has used the LLC loophole to pour over $13 million into campaign coffers since 2000. Fixing this loophole is simple – in fact, Brooklyn Democrat Dan Squadron proposed a bill to do just that, but it was upstate Republicans in the Senate who effectively killed the effort, including the chair of the Corporations Committee Mike Ranzenhofer (R-East Amherst).

So much for the tired upstate memes about corrupt downstate legislators, right?

Squadron’s bill would

…treat LLCs like corporations or other joint-stock entities, which have $5,000 annual donation limits. Under a current state Board of Elections ruling, each of a developer’s LLCs can give up to $150,000 each annually, the same as a single individual.

The Assembly passed a bill similar to Squadron’s earlier this May, and you can watch Ranzenhofer’s committee stall the Senate version on YouTube.

Schneiderman’s proposal revives Squadron’s effort, and bans legislators from earning outside income, turning them into full-time professional legislators. The current salary approaches $90,000, plus per diems, and as much as we in New York hear from short-sighted tea partiers about how veteran teachers who earn similar amounts are dramatically overpaid, I’m sure we can dispense with any potential complaints about legislators’ earnings. Issues surrounding putside income helped put handcuffs on Sheldon Silver. The Attorney General’s proposed law would go further still, making it a felony to use one’s public power for personal gain. He would abolish “housekeeping accounts” that are ostensibly used for campaign overhead, but have no contribution limits and are ripe for abuse. It would also tighten rules on campaign consultants’ ability to then lobby the people they helped elect.

The glaring thing missing from Schneiderman’s proposals is something that New York needs to very carefully consider – abolition of our corrupt and needless system of “electoral fusion”. New York is one of only eight states that still allow multiple parties to cross-endorse the same candidate for office. It just shouldn’t be – whether we’re talking about the so-called “Independence” fusion Party, whose raison d’etre is patronage, and also to trick unawary voters who intended to register as what New York calls “unenrolled”; the “Conservative” fusion Party, whose platform planks are as set in stone as the party’s options for patronage and advancement, or the “Working Families” Party, which largely promotes the interests of organized labor.

While each fusion party claims that it serves some legitimate electoral purpose, the Independence fusion Party is almost laughably corrupt. It bears repeating that electoral fusion is awful. It is the root of very many evils. It allows candidates and other connected individuals to manipulate elections in order to maximize political power and monetary return through patronage for hangers-on. There are just over 13,000 Erie County voters registered in the Conservative Party – there is no rational way that party’s Erie County committee chairman Ralph Lorigo should wield the power he does. There was no way a barber from Springville – Tony Orsini – should have been a kingmaker. The statewide Independence Party was so angry about being manipulated by Democrats who were using it to trick low-information voters who thought they were voting for a small-i “independent” that they decided to become a wholly owned subsidiary of the state Republican Committee.

Electoral fusion is constantly being manipulated by bad people for bad reasons. It is used as a shield against some fantastical electoral rigor whereby a (R) will never color in the box for a (D) and vice-versa. It is used as a sword against people who don’t play ball with very petty people. Schneiderman’s proposed bill is worth advocating for and supporting. Even piecemeal reform is an improvement over our untenable status quo.

Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican in Albany – that’s not remotely what matters. The only thing that matters is money, power, and control. Who owns or owes whom is the name of the game, whether it’s big donors with multiple LLCs or some microscopically small party line that lends the words “independent” or “conservative” to a candidate’s effort.

We know what the problems are, and we even know how to fix them. It’s time that our Albany pols become a bit more self-aware and actually – for once – think of the greater good.

schneiderman (1)

Merry Preetsmas

Steve-PigeonOn the first day of Preetmas, my true love gave to me: a search warrant for Pigeon and Casey.

Thursday, May 28 at midday, state police and FBI agents executed search warrants at the homes of three prominent political figures: lobbyist Steve Pigeon, former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Representative Chris Collins’s chief of staff, Chris Grant.

All of this raises more questions than answers.

These raids seem to be the culmination of a two-year-long series of inquiries into the activities of Western New York Progressive Caucus, a campaign committee directed by Pigeon that was active in 2013 Erie County races. People in the know believe that the point of prosecutorial entry for all of this—in addition to the likelihood WNYPC bank records betray some skullduggery—has to do with improper PAC coordination with campaigns, and with possible phantom billings to campaigns. For instance, if you’re a politician and you have a huge warchest, you can’t spend that money for any non-political purpose. But what if you contracted with a printing shop to do palmcards or mailers, and money changes hands for work that’s never done? You send me a bill, I’ll pay the bill. The non-printing printer gets a kickback, the cash goes off into the ether, having been essentially laundered.

What other connections are there? Back in 2014, before the state took over the investigation, the county Board of Elections had subpoenaed several businesses that supplied the WNYPC, and some were less forthcoming than others. One in particular—Marketing Technologies—did not respond to a subpoena and the board had to move in Supreme Court to enforce it. At a hearing with Judge Troutman, a representative from Marketing Technologies claimed that he could not obey the subpoena for email records because they had been destroyed, but did provide invoices. In open court, he testified that his point of contact for the WNYPC mailers that his shop produced was Deputy Mayor Steve Casey. This was during a supposed “truce” between City Hall and Democratic HQ. Sources close to the county investigation reveal that David Pfaff’s name kept coming up in connection with mailers and the WNYPC’s BOE filings. Pfaff is now a staffer for Senator Panepinto, and one observer calls the effort to land Pfaff a job—any job—as “frantic”, raising questions about whether that frenzy had to do with placating a potential witness.

Go read this article about the Seneca Mall project, which seems to be at least part of the unifying thread with all of this WNYPC business. Now, why would the Syracuse-based developer of that West Seneca project, Scott Congel, need to engage the assistance and services of all of these politically connected people simply to build some sort of lifestyle center/shopping mall on a piece of derelict West Seneca property? Congel hired Steve Casey to run the project, Pigeon is a consultant, Golisano’s name was brought up when the site was suggested as a Bills stadium site—it doesn’t make any sense. One longtime political observer posits this explanation: Congel retaining Seneca Nation lobbyist Pigeon, and putting Casey on the payroll; getting Tim Kennedy re-elected as he battled Betty Jean Grant—why would that be necessary?

Moving the Buffalo Creek Casino to the I-90 mainline corridor.

In order to move the Buffalo Creek Casino to a more prominent spot along in West Seneca, you would need approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and you would ultimately need sign-off from the Mayor of Buffalo and the Governor of the State of New York. That’s where Casey and Pigeon come in; both have influence where it counts. If you wanted to move the casino, you need buy-in, obviously, from the Senecas themselves. Pigeon now lobbies for the Seneca Nation, and don’t forget that the Senecas invested heavily in Kennedy’s own re-election campaign. From 2011—2013, Tim Kennedy’s campaign has been the seventh largest recipient of Seneca Nation money: ($73,850), and the proposed Congel project is what was until very recently Kennedy’s district. Kennedy wrote a letter opposing the idea of a non-Indian Finger Lakes casino. Although the West Seneca site is no longer in Kennedy’s district, he does maintain a rather active political profile in that town, and is close to the supervisor, Sheila Meegan. Meegan is the daughter of Christopher Walsh, a former chair of the West Seneca Democratic Committee, and considered to be a political father figure to Steve Pigeon.

The financial bonanza of a project of this scope and size would be huge for everyone involved. This doesn’t, however, explain why Chris Grant’s house was also searched.

This should be somewhat contextualized, so here’s just a small taste of the history at play.

In 2008, Steve Pigeon set up a PAC as part of an effort to oust political foe Sam Hoyt from the state Assembly. The PAC spent tons of money mailing horrible things about Hoyt to voters—the material was so inflammatory that it ultimately backfired, causing voters to sympathize with Hoyt rather than revile him.

In 2009, Pigeon and his benefactor/client Tom Golisano set up the hilariously misnamed “Responsible New York”, which brought about a coup in the State Senate and elevated convicted criminals Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserratte’s to its leadership. In 2010, a similar coup was executed in the Erie County Legislature, handing a majority Democratic body over to Republican then-County Executive Chris Collins on a silver platter. It was that coup that helped propel Tim Kennedy to the state Senate.

In 2013, Pigeon and erstwhile political commentator Kristy Mazurek set up the WNY Progressive Caucus.  It was set up as a PAC—the election law doesn’t use that term, but as an unauthorized committee, the WNYPC could raise and spend money to donate to specific campaigns, but was not allowed to coordinate with them, or spend money on their behalf. I called it “AwfulPAC”. In early September 2013, just weeks before primary day, the WNYPC paid for thousands of pieces of literature to be mailed to voters, slamming legislative candidates backed by party headquarters—most notably Tim Hogues, Betty Jean Grant, Wynnie Fisher, and Lynn Dearmyer. For example, one piece of WNYPC lit slammed Hogues for being a “Republican” and promoted the candidacy of his challenger, Barbara Miller-Williams—a woman who quite literally conspired with Republicans to execute the aforementioned 2010 coup.

WNYPC’s disclosures were not complete.  WNYPC’s financial recordkeeping was so sloppy that it seemed to be hiding potential illegality. The bricklayer’s union barely had the $25,000 the WNYPC reported to have received from them, and did not itself report any such donation. The WNYPC reported that State Senator Tim Kennedy had donated $40,000 from a long-defunct campaign account. The head of that bricklayer’s union retired just a few months ago For a time, it showed the PAC to be in the red—a big no-no. Disclosures came in late, were inaccurate or misleading, in one instance showing a donation from a different, long-dormant Pigeon-associated PAC, Democratic Action. What was odd about that purported $9,000 donation from Democratic Action was that it did not disclose any outflow of money during the same 2013 cycle, and had most recently showed a fund balance of $2,400 and a concomitant “no activity” report with the Board of Elections.

In the Erie County Sheriff’s race, the WNYPC candidate Dick Dobson embarrassed Bert Dunn on primary night. Dunn decided to waste his money and run on a tailor-made third party line, unsuccessfully. WNYPC abandoned Dobson, however, during the general election. There was an unaccounted-for $20,000 that was paid to “Buying Time, LLC” for Dick Dobson ads, which was later claimed to have been a payment reportedly made by AJ Wholesalers directly to Buying Time on the WNYPC’s behalf.  

Buying Time is associated with Governor Andrew Cuomo. So associated, in fact, that the New York Times reported that it was sniffing around Buying Time that prompted Cuomo’s office to begin interfering with the work of the shortly-thereafter-disbanded Moreland Commission on Public Corruption

Aside from Barbara Miller-Williams, none of Pigeon’s and Mazurek’s legislative candidates won in September 2013, so she used Michael Caputo’s PoliticsWNY.com to smear Wynnie Fisher, who had defeated Mazurek’s candidate, Wes Moore.  Apparently, Fisher and her neighbors don’t get along, so a story was planted accusing Fisher of being crazy.

The problem was that the letter from Fisher’s neighbors that was the purported source of the story was sent to Wes Moore at an address in Lancaster. But Moore’s campaign committee was based in the Nanulas’ offices in Clarence. The Lancaster address was a house on Doris Avenue where Mazurek was living, and which also served as the mailing address for WNYPC. There was, on its face, a smoking gun of coordination. How and why would Wynnie Fisher’s neighbors decide to send a letter to an address for Wes Moore that didn’t exist in nature?

In late September 2013, Tim Hogues and Betty Jean Grant, with an assist from anti-Pigeon transparency advocate Mark Sacha, filed a formal complaint with the New York State Board of Elections, accusing Pigeon, Mazurek, and WNYPC of various illegalities and violations of campaign finance law. After the Erie County Board of Elections resolved to investigate the complaint, it was turned over to the state BOE, which in turn appears to have turned it over to the Attorney General’s office and State Police. Once an investigation such as this is put into the hands of people outside of Buffalo, you know that the threat of shenanigans is decreased exponentially. Police interviewed several people at the county legislature, as well as at least a couple of the headquarters-backed 2013 Democratic candidates for county legislature. Subpoenas. Search warrants. Forensic accountants. If even a small percentage of the rumors you’ve likely heard are true, the banking records should tell all.

Make no mistake: The news of these search warrants being executed measures a 10.0 on the political Richter scale. It also raises more questions than answers:

1. How far back does this go? Could it go as far back as the 2010 Pigeon-engineered Chris Collins coup of the county legislature? The 2008 effort against Hoyt?

2. How far out does this go? Does it implicate the bricklayer’s union? Tim Kennedy? This property abuts Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo’s—could he be targeted? Was it Seneca money that Pigeon marshaled to fund the PAC? There’s a reason the Buffalo News’ article about this project was penned by Bob McCarthy and not someone on the business or development beat. Could this reach the Governor? The other two men in that room are already under arrest.

3. Chris Grant? Maybe has to do with the 2010 coup? The Buffalo News reports that Grant and Steve Casey operated a printing shop together, but my sources tell me Grant and Steve Casey started a consultancy business that had more to do with voter data gathering and analysis. It had also been rumored that Grant worked on the mayor’s campaign in 2013, which would have put him in constant contact with Casey. Indeed, Collins and Grant attended a Brown fundraiser in 2009. Did you catch Collins’ dismissal of Pigeon in the Buffalo News?

“Anyone in Western New York knows that Steve Pigeon has never been a financial supporter of my congressional campaigns,” the congressman said. “Steve is a political operative who has been active in Western New York politics for decades. I was certainly aware there has been an investigation of him ongoing for some time.”

I mean, Pigeon only helped engineer the coup that handed you the county legislature in 2010, but let’s pretend you never heard of the guy. Also: note the limitation to “congressional campaigns” and the glaring omission of state office campaigns.

4. Kristy Mazurek, who acted as the WNYPC’s treasurer: Was her home searched? If so, why wasn’t it reported? If not, why not? She’s reportedly retained Joel Daniels to represent her, and one doesn’t do that lightly. Certainly if there are questions about financial improprieties and improper collusion, she would be a prime target. Is she cooperating with law enforcement? Has she already turned everything over?

5. Who else is implicated, directly or indirectly? NYSUT’s Mike Deely? Senator Marc Panepinto? Mayor Byron Brown? Amherst Councilman Mark Manna? What other candidates with ties to Pigeon and the WNYPC are being targeted? What about Tom Golisano and Pyramid’s Scott Congel? When BAK USA took Golisano’s money, and the owners were photographed with Pigeon and Mazurek, I had flashbacks to this Soprano’s storyline, it seemed that seedy to me.

6. Just last weekend, the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy dutifully transcribed Steve Pigeon’s purported rationale for leaving his job with a local law firm, noting that he is now the chief lobbyist for the Seneca Nation of Indians. Remember the West Seneca parcel Steve Casey now manages for Scott Congel was once floated as a site for a new Bills stadium before renderings went out showing off an entire mixed-use community? For his part, Congel was in talks with Pigeon’s clients, the Senecas, about bringing a casino to one of his Rochester properties in mid-2013, during the WNYPC’s heyday.

No one’s been arrested, but three simultaneous raids of the homes of prominent political actors underscores the seriousness and wide scope of this investigation. For the first time, motivated, disinterested, and aggressive action is being taken on serious allegations surrounding campaign finance in western New York. The limited Erie County BOE investigation has morphed into something that calls for the intervention of state and federal law enforcement, and one has to imagine prosecutorial ducks are already in a row long before this sort of action is taken.

Could this be the beginning of a deep clean of Erie County politics? Hope and change never seemed so close.

One Lancaster

The controversy over Lancaster High School’s anachronistic, racist “Redskins” mascot was resolved by unanimous vote of that district’s school board. There was some outcry and protestation, and two of the most vocal opponents of the change were elected to the school board last week. The students, for their part, are in the process of selecting a new mascot via plebiscite.

It’s sort of how the world is supposed to work – controversy arises, a decision is made, the decision has consequences, the community moves forward, end of story.

One might say, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”.

Indeed, someone did, in the Lancaster High School’s yearbook, and that page enabled race-baiting radio station, the voice of threatened white Buffalo WBEN to gain just a few precious extra minutes of a controversy that ended long ago.

A yearbook is generally assembled and written by students, who are overseen by faculty advisors. It’s their project, and is intended to, among other things, memorialize big events that happened during the preceding school year. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the mascot flap was a big deal and deserved some sort of mention in the yearbook. As long as a yearbook entry isn’t palpably obscene, profane, or otherwise objectionable, there would be no reason for something the students picked to be omitted.

The page has offended some of the more delicate residents of Lancaster because its heading is, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”.  This breach of political correctness has Lancaster residents threatening violence.

One caller to WBEN’s Tom Bauerle called it a joke. “If my kid brought that book home, I’d take it up to (that school) and bash it over the adviser’s head. That’s what every parent should do,” says that caller.

Another caller says whoever wrote the headline wanted to divide the community again.

“The taxpayers and the students are owed an explanation, and should get the name of the person responsible for this,” says Debbie. “I don’t know what’s on the backside of the page, but if it’s something owners of the yearbook can live without, take that page, rip and out and leave it in the superintendent’s office.”

I mean, that seems reasonable. You’re so incensed by the abandonment of a racist team mascot that being reminded of it causes you to threaten violence – and the radio station re-publishes your threat on its website.

If you read the text of the offending yearbook page (seriously – re-read that – adults are whining to a radio station about a yearbook page) it’s promoting the Lancaster Educational and Alumni Fund (LEAF) and its efforts to combat the notion that Lancaster is a town divided over a mascot. Hopefully because of how childish and ridululous the preceding sentence sounds. As to the offending “cookie” crumble, one woman commenting on Facebook noted that,

School board had nothing to do with the “One Lancaster” shirt. It was created by a few well-meaning teachers (actually in favor of keeping the Redskins name) in an attempt to preserve the enthusiastic spirit and camaraderie for which their school had always been known. The “cookie crumbling,” while perhaps a poor choice of wording given the emotions surrounding this issue, was part of an overall yearbook “menu” theme. Not well thought out? Perhaps. “Slap in the face” intentions? Very doubtful. A little digging into the back story may have prevented another round of getting people on both sides riled up.

Tom Bauerle said it was a big “f u” to the “taxpayers” of Lancaster. Not so fast, I guess, since “taxpayers” aren’t the intended audience for a yearbook, and because it was simply a tongue-in-cheek continuation of the publication’s “menu” meme.

The bottom line is this. The people in Lancaster who supported keeping the racist mascot name denounced their opponents for being overly sensitive, politically correct, or worse. Yet they have a full-blown local media hissy fit over the use of the phrase, “that’s how the cookie crumbles”? You can’t have it both ways and denounce what you consider to be others’ hypersensitivity while being hypersensitive yourself. But as one of Lancaster’s new school board members says,

Some nominal adults in Lancaster – and at the local “newsradio” station – have some growing up to do.

Tale of Two Buffalos

Photo by Joe Cascio via www.canalsidebuffalo.com

Photo by Joe Cascio via www.canalsidebuffalo.com

Things are happening in Buffalo. Good things. Renaissance-y things.

The county’s public art partnership with the Albright Knox has brought us the wonderful Shark Girl, Silent Poets, and You Are Beautiful.

Out of every 150 murders in Buffalo, there are no arrests.

The notion of “beer-related development” is a real thing, as we see from Big Ditch, Resurgence, and Community Beer Works.

Buffalo teachers have been without a new contract for 11 years, and picketed in front of Carl Paladino’s home. To his credit, Mr. Paladino bought the teachers pizza and took it all in uncharacteristically good humor.

Canalside is hopping, and giving people from all over the region an excuse to come downtown.  That waterfront area had been a dilapidated parking lot sitting in the shadow of a long-abandoned hockey arena.

The tower formerly known as HSBC boasted a 90%+ occupancy rate in 2005. Now, it’s 5%, and the building is in foreclosure – Buffalo’s most prominent distressed property.

Gondola over the Skyway! #Buffalove! Restaurants! Bike ferry! Buffalo leads the nation in nanogolf, foot golf, and “Bubble Soccer“!

A majority of Buffalo’s children live in poverty.

The state’s education department got around to replacing the feckless John King with MaryEllen Elia, a western New York native who was fired from her most recent job in Florida and may be a more test-obsessed “reformer” than her predecessor.

A great many residential rental and hotel projects have popped up downtown in recent years, thanks to historic tax credits. They have been credited with revitalizing long-dormant neighborhoods and reversing squalor.

The school district is in disarray, preoccupied with personal and political acrimony rather than education.

Anecdotally, we’re told that millennials hate cars and suburbs, and are choosing to move into the city, fueling its revival.

Since 2010, the City of Buffalo has lost 2,700 residents. The county, by contrast, has gained 3,800 residents in that time. Amherst alone has seen a gain of 2,400 people. This population growth in Erie County represents a reversal of 40+ years of decline, fueled at least in part by new immigrants to our area.

If you want real evidence of a regional renaissance – not the edifice of faux revival, or twee things to distract the well-to-do – but the actual, quantifiable and sustainable indicia of revival, look at the jobs data. Buffalo-Niagara has seen strong growth in private sector employment, and the upstate unemployment rate is lower than the national average at 5.1%. In just the last calendar year, 8,100 new jobs were created in our region.

We have a lot of work to do in terms of crime, education, and ensuring that our economic good times are widely applicable. We have schools to fix, neighborhoods to rebuild, and kids to educate. Blue bikes and paddle boats won’t lift families out of poverty – but jobs will.

Former Clarence Councilman Weiss Issues Threat Outside Elementary School Event

Joe Weiss is a ThugHanding out palmcards outside of a polling place is one of the less controversial things one can do within the context of a campaign. Unless you’re in Clarence.

On several occasions, a pro-school group was given a stern talking-to because people were leaving palmcards around inside the polling place. Well, that’s nice, dear, but that’s not the problem of the people handing out the palm cards – it’s a problem for the people running the vote and they should be on top of that sort of thing.

Handing out palmcards is pretty much standard operating procedure outside of any polling place in any competitive race, and is explicitly permitted by law outside the 100′ exclusion area. It is incumbent on the people receiving the cards to follow the rules inside the polling place, but no one was electioneering inside or within 100′ of the polling place. Perhaps it’s time for the legislature or the Board of Elections to clarify the rule affecting a clearly protected 1st Amendment activity.

But the highlight of my day came as I was passing out palmcards as families were making their way from an elementary school track meet next to the polling place. I was chatting with two 15 year-old student volunteers when a taller man dressed like a fake lumberjack ambled his way right up to me. I asked him if he was on his way in to vote and he said that he wasn’t, and asked me what my name was.

I told him, and he came even closer – his body touching mine, ever so tenderly, and got right in my face. He declared that I had once told him to “go fuck [him]self” in an email a few years ago. I responded, “Did I?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you [former Clarence town councilmember] Joe Weiss?”  He replied, “Yeah. and I want to tell you to go fuck yourself”. I thanked him, never backing down from where I stood, and as he skulked away I added, “nice language around the kids.”

He stopped, turned, and said, “You know, I really should kick the shit out of you right now”.

I replied, arms outstretched, “Really? Go for it. Because I can’t wait to own everything you own.” His best reply was, “Yeah, it’s a lot more than you own.” and I replied by calling him a true treasure for the community.

This morning, I went through all of my email accounts. Not only have I never emailed Joe Weiss, I never sent an email about Joe Weiss telling him to “go fuck” himself. I never wrote anything – ever – to or about Joe Weiss suggesting that he “go fuck” himself. Here is a link to the only blog posts naming Joe Weiss that I have ever written. Here’s one more. None of them tell Joe Weiss to do anything to himself. I did call him “sinister” and that he was behaving in one instance like a “wanna-be mafioso”. Sort of like how he comported himself outside the elementary school track meet.

Clarence is lucky to have disinfected itself of this horrifically noxious juvenile – a despicable weasel who believes the rules don’t apply to him.

Pursuant to the Clarence Central School District’s code of conduct,

All persons on school property or attending a school function, including athletic events, shall conduct themselves in a respectful and orderly manner.

No person, either alone or with others, shall:

1. Intentionally injure any person or threaten to do so.

…All visitors are expected to abide by the rules for public conduct on school property contained in this Code of Conduct

It’s amazing that a grown man attending an elementary school event at a high school track would – like some street thug – threaten another adult with physical violence. Joe Weiss once famously said that the “masses are asses”, but I guess he was really just projecting all that time.

Perhaps as a perfect coda, the Clarence Republican Committee voted last night to endorse councilmember Pat Casilio for supervisor over incumbent David Hartzell, whom Weiss helped defeat Supervisor Scott Bylewski in 2011. I mean, that was quick. It also endorsed newcomer Chris Greene over incumbent Bernie Kolber. Evidently this is because Kolber, who had a Kathy Weppner sign in front of his office and has peppered his truck with all manner of anti-Obama bumper stickers (including, but not limited to, “Got a Birth Certificate?”) isn’t Republican enough.

As for Weiss, I will refer the matter to the authorities and the school, in the hope that Weiss is held accountable for his unreasonable and puerile conduct.

Suburban School Voters: Vote Smart Today!

IMG_2912 - Windows Photo Viewer 2015-05-19 11.08.04There’s a light at the end of the tunnel as nervous parents, kids, and teachers cross their fingers and hope that school budgets are passed and that good people are elected to school boards throughout western New York’s rural and suburban districts.

Today is Tuesday, and the polls are open.

In my own town of Clarence, a dedicated and selfless group of parents have banded together since the bleakness of 2012 and formed a reasonable well-oiled campaign machine that we hope delivers us victory tonight. I don’t know what it is about Clarence that makes it so susceptible to last-throe gurgles from the tea party, but alas, here we are again. In my town we have four candidates for two open school board seats, and I always harken back to the blissful time before I had to pay attention, and recall that I always voted in favor of the school budget, but seldom knew whom to select for the board. This year, it was even more important because the differences between the pro-school and anti-school candidates is so stark.

Our group endorses and supports Michael Fuchs and Dennis Priore. Michael Fuchs is an incumbent and has served the district and its students and faculty well. He is against unsustainable cuts to educational opportunity for our kids, and wants to restore the district to its former excellence. He has worked for Rich Products for well over a decade, handling the finances of a huge local corporation. He has the skills, education, experience, and integrity to continue serving us well for the next 3 years. Dennis Priore is a longtime resident of Clarence and a former principal and school administrator. As a recent retiree, he has time, knowledge, experience, education, and skills to marshal in order to serve our district. He knows how budgets and union negotiations are made, and he has pledged to balance the needs of the students with the expectations of taxpayers.  They’re also the only candidates running for school board who are homeowners and school taxpayers. With a stake in the district and an investment in the community, they won’t let the students be further harmed by financial shenanigans or disastrous tea party austerity.

We’re hopeful.

But if that wasn’t enough, take a look at one of their opponent’s closing argument. (The other opponent is fundamentally unelectable). It perfectly distills all of the reasons why he is an unacceptable and noxious candidate for a school board. Uneducated, inexperienced, with absolutely no credentials or resume, this person is all bluster and no substance.

Let’s examine. (All [sic]).

Here are your CTA Endorsed Candidates for this election. The teachers union likes to say that they are “supporting our students” or “fighting for the children”. It’s just as absurd to say the Iron Workers fight for steel, the UAW fights for cars and the Operating Engineers fight for heavy equipment. The unions exist solely for the benefit of their members and their own interest. The school board exists to represent the people of this town. The CTA does not need representation on the school board. They have things like the Triborough Amendment in place to stack the deck against students and taxpayers. If you think that the endorsement of these candidates by the CTA shows that these candidates put students and taxpayers first, you are sadly mistaken.

It takes a special brand of malevolent cynicism to conclude that the teachers are full of shit when they say they’re fighting for the children whom they teach. It takes an even more special type of ignorant, noxious attitude to assume that teachers are just in it for greed – the same attitude as the Buffalo News’ editorial page or its union-member, married-to-a-teacher resident hypocrite columnist Donn “throw you under the bus” Esmonde.

Here’s the thing that Joe Lombardo doesn’t understand – mostly because he evidently never so much as received an associate’s degree after high school (his resume is a closely guarded secret he won’t reveal) – teachers didn’t attend 4 years of college and then an additional few years of postgraduate study to obtain their M.S. and teaching certificate in order to get rich.

If they wanted to get rich, they could have gotten an MBA and traded commodities, or become entrepreneurs. Instead, they joined a noble profession for which Joe Lombardo has no respect.

None.

Some 20-something punk kid who lives with mommy and daddy decides he doesn’t like unions or teachers, (or teachers’ unions), so he just accuses them all of being greedy pigs at the public trough, driving around in their Bentleys on their $60,000 median salaries, right? They couldn’t possibly be in it for the love of teaching or the thrill of educating and molding young minds, because that sort of notion is not one that Lombardo has any concept of.

An ironworker may be proud of the work that he or she does – constructing the skeletons of large buildings, and their union helps to ensure that they’re paid a fair wage and receive decent benefits for their labor. A UAW member is proud of the product that he or she helps to manufacture, and wants to make sure that they’re paid a fair wage and receive fair benefits for their labor.

A teacher is proud of the work that he or she does – educating the next generation of Americans. Educating the kids who will heal Joe Lombardo when he’s sick; who will represent him in court; who will manage or create the company he patronizes; who will entertain him on stage or screen; who will score a touchdown or hit a home run. You denigrate teachers, you denigrate the very foundation of our society.

The veracity of unions in our schools is really taking its toll on student opportunities and taxpayer’s wallets.

That is not a sentence that has any reasonable meaning in the English language. Which taxpayer’s wallet? “Veracity” means truthfulness.

It’s such a blatant and rampant problem that even polar opposites such as Governor Cuomo and myself, recognize what’s going on. http://www.nydailynews.com/…/andrew-cuomo-rips-teacher-unio… Don’t be mislead by two candidates and a group of people who have established that they stand with an industry that collects $220 million annually to perpetuate and expand a gluttonous and overly generous contract in the name of education.

Here’s the question they’ll never, ever answer: How much do you think is a fair salary for a teacher? What do you think are fair benefits for a teacher? How would you – as a school board member – make changes to the state laws governing teacher pensions? How would you work around the Triborough Amendment and beat the teachers into submitting to your austerity wage cuts and slashing of benefits?

85% of Clarence teachers are ranked as “highly effective” by the state.  On what insane lunatic planet does someone institute punitive wage and salary cuts against a workforce that regularly exceeds expectations? Shall we have an army of the worst teachers who can’t get a job anywhere else come and educate our kids for $10/hour and no benefits?

It’s been shown time in and time out, that they put themselves ahead of everyone else, while sacrificing opportunities for students.

I’ll say it this way: Joe Lombardo must not have ever talked to a teacher and actually asked them what their job entails. He assumes they show up at 8, leave at 3, take summers off on the Cote d’Azure, and spend the rest of their time making sure their BMWs gleam in the sunlight. I’ll say it this way, too: Joe Lombardo doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

School districts have lost all bargaining power because entrenched politicians are paid off to write laws where the union will always come out the winner.

And as a school board member in a small suburban district, you’ll do what about that, precisely? Start a coup?

As a taxpayer, a resident, a parent or a student, you only have two choices in this election tomorrow.

That’s right. Michael Fuchs and Dennis Priore, if you’re in Clarence. They’re the only two candidates who are campaigning on a platform of stronger schools, rather than demonizing the very teachers who help make our district what it is today; they’re the only candidates who don’t refer to teachers as “gluttonous,” or use the pronoun “they” to describe these educators who repeatedly and consistently go above and beyond for our kids; They’re the only candidates who aren’t pitting “us” against “them”.  Literally – read Joe’s thing again. It’s all resentment, class warfare, and visceral hatred of teachers, and the notion that they be remunerated fairly. They’re the only ones who aren’t afraid to put their resumes out there for the public to review and assess.

I don’t know how much more a ragtag grassroots team of fed-up parents can do to mobilize for a school vote, and we’ve done everything we can think of. We can only hope our district gets out of this unscathed, and that similarly situated districts have equally positive outcomes.

Fingers crossed. Knock on wood.

1 2 3 106