The Clumsy Swift-Boating of David Bellavia

Apropos of very little indeed, the Buffalo News yesterday painted a damning picture of David Bellavia’s results in setting up organizations to “return dignity to military service” by promoting military service to students, and also by setting up a summer camp for returning veterans’ kids, among other things. Unfortunately, sometimes our best-laid plans don’t quite work out the way we want.  I don’t want to fall back on the “he tried” excuse that we so often lean on here in WNY, but Bellavia has proven – in politics as in veterans’ services – that fundraising isn’t as easy as it seems, or as easy as it is for others. 

What this is, is a swift-boating; taking Bellavia’s big strength – proud veteran who has worked to help veterans since returning to civilian life – and attacking just that. It’s what they did to Jon Powers in 2008, it’s what I predicted many months ago they’d do to David Bellavia. This failure of Bellavia’s doesn’t reflect poorly on his character or his ability to lead. It doesn’t reflect poorly on anything but his ability to raise money for a charity, which may be a skill he needs to run for office, but has nothing to do with his qualifications or platform for Congress. 

It’s more likely than not a story that someone close to the Collins campaign shopped to the News, which interviewed some people and ran with the story, despite the fact that it’s somewhat irrelevant.  The “they” in 2008 were Jack Davis and Bob McCarthy – money, influence, and the printing press. The “they” in 2012 are Chris Collins and Jerry Zremski. 

I’m surprised that Jerry Zremski wrote it, and not Bob McCarthy. However, the Buffalo News’ website shows that McCarthy’s most recent article was published on May 27th. He must be on vacation from taking calls. Doing campaigns’ dirty work is Bob’s job. Back in 2009, I gave campaigns this advice, calling it Powers’ Law

If you’re a political candidate, and you get a call from the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy, and he informs you that he’s going to run a story the next day that accuses you of horrible moral turpitude (e.g., you stole money from Iraqi orphans or you’re a racist), you absolutely cannot issue a limp rebuttal and pretend like it will all just blow over.

You have to address the allegation head on, strongly, to take control of the narrative as soon as possible, otherwise your silence/tepid response will be interpreted as a concession of the accusation’s truth.

Not that it was necessarily going to change the outcome, but Michele Iannello broke this law with the WFP/racism charges of [2009].  Yes, it may have hurt her chances last night, but more importantly it probably put an end to her career in politics, full stop.

On the other hand, little dumb stuff like, e.g.,  property taxes paid late is ok to ignore until it blows over.

Powers’ Law came about after Clarence millionaire Jack Davis (who is, incidentally, now supporting Bellavia) went to “Sleepy Bob” McCarthy with a story that Jon Powers’ “War Kids” charity had paid him a salary. (The figures that were being thrown around were completely false). War Kids was Powers’ most significant accomplishment as a veteran, and it was part of his appeal, so when his opponents characterized it as a money grab, it was devastating. 

It was devastating because Powers’ campaign didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough, and it left the Netroots without material for rebuttal. When those facts came along, it was too little, too late. The meme had been set, and the damage had been done. And the reason why it was happening? Because Jack Davis wasn’t happy that Powers was gaining traction in the Democratic primary race, and had to destroy him. He spent tons of money to do so, as is his wont. They both ultimately lost to the late Alice Kryzan, who lost her battle with cancer earlier this week, and Chris Lee went on to embarrass himself in Washington. 

The district ended up losing. 

But Davis’ behavior is something Collins is more than willing and able to emulate. Like Davis, Collins is also a hyperwealthy Clarence resident who feels that he’s entitled to a Congressional seat by right and entail, rather than on merit and fair play. So, while Bellavia gains traction in the newly constituted NY-27, and Collins finds that the only friendly places he can find are ones who are somehow dependent – directly or indirectly – on his largesse, Collins’ people are turning to the Buffalo News to do their dirty work for them. 

As a blogger, I am a commentator – I wear my opinions and biases on my sleeve and make no excuses for them.

What was the newsworthiness of this story about Bellavia, yet the News has completely ignored the story about Collins using his publicly owned office to conduct sleazy private business?

I’m a liberal blogger. What’s the News’ excuse? 



  • “I’m a liberal blogger. What’s the News’ excuse.” You don’t need an excuse. Given that both candidates are conservative, your column just looks like integrity, and a healthy disgust for the Buffalo News.

  • It was so shameful, I even posted something on the twitter about it. I’m glad you noticed it, Alan.

    Collins is just such a joke.

  • “Swift-Boating,” implies that the article is unfair and untrue.  Let’s think about that.

      SSG Bellavia has been out of the military for approx 6 years.   He entered the military when he was 24 after attending Franklin Pierce College and U.B. (No completion of any degrees noted). He returned to civilian life sometime in 2005.

    Since then he has written a book, worked a brief stretch with Steuben foods, is on his second congressional campaign and worked on 2 charitable endeavors.

    As no one should/could  question his service and/or heroics there is not much to go on for voters aside from that (and the book is his story during that time) .  So it is only fair to take a look at those charities, his education, and his job history.

    The Warrior Legacy Foundation worked from 2008-2010 with the  Marcus Luttrell Warrior Legacy Ranch Program with no success. Marcus Luttrell in 2010 then split off forming the Lone Survivor Foundation bringing in over 670k in revenue in the first year alone . To be fair, Bellavia published his book in 2007 so I am sure he was busy doing the standard book circuit during that time (Glen Beck, Laura Ingraham and the like) and in 2008 he made his first run for Congress. Perhaps he simply spread himself too thin. But the fact remains the Lone Survivor Foundation was successful only after splitting with the WLF.

    Steuben foods hired SSG Bellavia as Director of Communications. Once again, there are no degrees listed in Bellavia’s bio so I don’t know what the basis of his hire was. I do know that Steuben Foods along with CEO Henry Schwartz have accounted for approximately 40% of all the Bellavia campaign’s contributions to date.

    Having made these points I would suggest that the one who is being “swift-boated” is Jerry Zremski. There was nothing unfair nor untrue. (Perhaps incomplete)

    One other note, this discussion reminds me of the Presidential campaign and Fox news. They whine incessantly that the “Left-Wing” media is only going after Romney and not Obama. The rub is, Obama, like Collins is a known entity. Romney, like SSG Bellavia is not.

    Oh, and Collins is a dick.

    • Patrick_Thomas (if that is your real name) if you live to be 100, you won’t be half the man David Bellavia is today. But that’s okay – neither will I. Still, you should dial back your criticism a bit. Especially since you clearly don’t know all that much about WLF, Marcus Luttrell, and his Lone Survivor Foundation.

      And you are incorrect: there are untrue statements in the Zremski article. He got even the most simple facts wrong. Veterans for Freedom raised $175,750? No, that’s less than 2% of what the group raised – more than $10 million. A simple Google search reveals that, but maybe the Buffalo News DC Bureau firewall blocks Google.

      The Buffalo News article disrespected the important work WLF does, was spun up by a candidate who refused to serve his country, and was written by a reporter who never did, either. ‘Nuff said.

      • Patrick_Thomas

        ” He later served as a key figure behind Vets for Freedom, a political group that raised $175,750 to back Republican candidates in 2008″ -Jerry Zremski.

        This is completely accurate as a count of direct campaign donations.

          Your approximation of 10 million in donations is also accurate. (The vast majority of which was spent on televison ad buys for the McCain ’08 campaign when it ran out of money.)  Thing is, and I should have clarified this in my comment above., Vets for Freedom is essentially a PAC not a charity. Donations have dropped precipitously as it was mainly a device for the Presidential election. (I am sure donations are pouring in this year though) VFF claims to be bi-partisan but has only contributed to one Democratic candidate in its history that I can find (Jim Marshall-GA). The fact is, not only is Vets for Freedom a 527 for Republican candidates it is a 527 for the far right wing of the Republican Party. One of it’s Sugar Daddies is none other than Newt Gingrich’s Sugar Daddy and Likud media man,Shelden Adelson.

        The only veterans served by this PAC were a handful of Republican candidates and the “founders,” Peter  Hegseth (100k) and Bellavia (75k).

        Hell, when all was said and done in 2008 they needed a 20k cash infusion to make ends meet.

        One needs simply go to to see whether WLF should be taken seriously or not.

        So the scorecard still shows no bias or factual errors by Zremski

        • MichaelRCaputo

           Look DWI. I have to teach you on Twitter and here, too? I wish you would just talk about things of which you have knowledge – it would save me some time. But I like you, so I’ll take the time to school you in any classroom you choose.

          1) Of COURSE Zremski is technically correct in what he says about money Bellavia raised that went directly to candidates. If this was a story about money he raised for candidates, that would be all he needs to write. But this story is purportedly about Bellavia and his colleagues having trouble raising money for veterans causes. In fact, VFF is not a charity as the story lede introduces, it is a PAC and therefore not a promise of anything benefitting veterans. But if Zremski brings up the $175K+ of candidate donations raised, the other $11.5 million Bellavia raised for VFF is completely relevant and MUST be a part of this story. Zremski knew this figure because he covered VFF back in 2008. So Zremski was either forgetful, lazy or looking to dirty up Bellavia. Any other interpretation is either stupid, naive or just plain partisan.

          2) I’m glad to see our lessons on Twitter were helpful and now you see the difference between a charity and a PAC. Warrior Legacy Foundation is a charity; VFF is a 527 PAC. (Gold star for you!) If you don’t like the candidates a PAC is donating to, go start your own PAC and do your own thing. Right wing, left wing, chicken wing – who cares? Bellavia is a devout conservative and backs conservative candidates. If that is news to you somebody needs to gin up their news reader. And don’t vote for him if you don’t agree with him. It’s a beautiful country.

          3) Bellavia and Hegseth made industry-standard salaries for 80-hour weeks managing a world-class 527 in a hyper-partisan election year. They weren’t paid as vets or candidates; they were paid as management and some would argue nowhere near enough considering the vast amount of work they had to do to pull it off. Insinuating anything else just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. But nice try.

          4) There was no $20K cash infusion at VFF at the end of the year. The “loan” was credit card charges incurred by a VFF operative and he was paid off in the first quarter of the following year. If you think this is unusual activity for a $12M+ political organization, you are very new to this.

          When you are new, you should sit back and learn rather than stand up and blather on about something you don’t quite get yet. It’s the old adage: keep quiet and let everyone think you don’t understand rather than speaking up and confirming the same.

          Jerry Zremski is no dummy. Indeed, he’s a pretty smart guy. So any reasonable person has to come to the conclusion I have reached along with Alan and many others of diverse political stripes. I can tell you as a Bellavia advocate that this story was mysteriously marketed to many reporters. They all called me; two told me they got the package from the Collins camp. Zremski was the only one who regurgitated the spin. SO IT’S A FACT: Collins placed this story with Zremski and Zremski did the bidding of the former County Executive who never deigned to serve is country.

          SwiftBoating. A breach of journalistic ethics. Simple. As. That.

          • Patrick_Thomas

            #2) “Bellavia is a devout conservative and backs conservative candidates”

             Then why all the claims of  VFF being “non partisan” ? Isn’t “integrity” one of the 3 points Bellavia is running on?

            #3)  “Bellavia and Hegseth made industry-standard salaries for 80-hour weeks managing a world-class 527 in a hyper-partisan election year”

            Industry standard? What’s the Industry standard for experience to obtain those types of positions? I’ll stick with VFF being an RNC front.

            #4)  Stories are often marketed, sometimes for reasons we all might find unpleasant. I know. Shocking. Sometimes though,you hit pay dirt. If I was on Collins’ team and wanted to get a story out there no matter how ancillary or dubious I would have started with The Sons Of Confederate veterans.

          • MichaelRCaputo

            I wrote that David is a conservative – outside New York there is no Conservative Party. Webster notes that “non-partisan” still means not supporting one party. VFF backed a conservative Dem; sorry that doesn’t live up to your expectations but it lives up to the definition.

            And the lack of credibility of your “RNC front” comment aside, I’m sure the GOP voters in NY27 will be really pissed that David supported the RNC. This is a primary, DWI.

            I notice you never mention that Bellavia hasn’t taken a donation from VFF. Does that not fit your narrative?

            It’s been real. See you on Twitter feed, brother.

          • Patrick_Thomas

            Peace… long as they are thinking we have both done our job. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid.

          • Patrick_Thomas

             However, before I put the cans on and chill; How many links to VFF claiming BI-partisanship in video audio and text should I put up?

  • Future story in Buffalo News:

    “American Cancer Society: 100 Years of Broken Promises for a Cure”
    By Jerry Zremski.

    In 1913, fifteen doctors vowed that a charity they co-founded and led would find a cure for cancer in their lifetimes. But as the American Cancer Society approaches it’s centennial, there’s no such cure.
    Instead, the doctors are long dead and the group they founded wallows in a series of unfulfilled promises.

  • Patrick_Thomas

    And to bring it full circle as they say….Vets For Freedom used the Donatelli Group for its fundraising.

    From SourceWatch: (link below)

    The Donatelli Group,produced the RNC website and also created the SWIFTBOATVETSFORTRUTH.ORG website with Connell Donatelli Inc.(a.k.a. The Donatelli Group) as Registrant. Connell Donatelli Inc. was also listed as both Administrator and the Tech Organization for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth website.

    What’s good for the goose Alan?

    • MichaelRCaputo

      You are so cute when you stand on your tippy toes like that.  Dontatelli Group raises money for about 35-40% of GOP and Libertarian candidates and political organizations in the US. They also do online marketing for most of the orthopedic shoes, commemorative plates and gold coin sellers in business in this country.

      “Patrick Thomas” shops at Wegmans. Mahmoud Ahmedinajad shops at Wegmans.

      What’s good for the goose Patrick?

      Having Google doesn’t make you smart. Knowing what the information means and how to use it doesn’t make you smart either – but it helps you not look stupid.

  • Collins must truly be scared that Bellavia just might gain traction.   The only bad thing is that crazy Jack
    Davis is supporting Bellavia now.   That and George Marziarz won’t near and endear him to me.  Still after
    being flung out of one job, Collins now moves on to higher office?  The last guy who did that was Rick

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.