Paladino Defends Predator Priests


If you haven’t yet read the blockbuster reporting from Channel 7’s Charlie Specht regarding the ongoing cover-up and coddling of predator pedophile priests in the Buffalo Diocese, you should do so here and here. Specht’s evidence shows that Bishop Richard Malone knowingly placed priests who had been accused of predatory sexual harassment of adults and children in situations where their crimes could simply be repeated against a fresh batch of victims. 

Given the choice between siding with abused parishioners or predatory pedophile priests, alt-right frotteur Carl Paladino sides with the pedophile priests and is very upset that their crimes—and the diocesan cover-up—are being exposed.

In this idiotic Paladino e-mail missive, he pays lip-service to the “pain” of the victims of pedophile priests whose crimes were systemically covered up by the Church heirarchy for decades in Pennsylvania and Buffalo. But then he launches into a non-sequitur tirade against his biggest enemy: the free press that reports on him and his racist, dumb antics. What do the roster of Buffalo News writers and editors he name-calls have to do with anything? Paladino implies that they have some sort of unnamed secrets in something called an “anxiety closet”, and are presumably unworthy to comment on the topic of priests raping children. 

I think pretty much anyone has the right to be outraged by priests raping children. Even, e.g., moral giants like guys who tell their wives about their secret love child the week of their son’s death

Paladino is furious—furious—that the media have forced the diocese to release the names of a fraction of its clergy against whom credible accusations of predatory sexual behavior had been made. The diocese has the names because it investigated the allegations, and then covered them all up. The media aren’t the villains here, Carl. It’s your beloved Church: the one that presumably still welcomes you despite your adultery and hateful racism. 

But Carl comes to the rescue for priests who “invested their lives in the pain of the poor, sick and downtrodden” and have earned the right to due process. He rhetorically asks whether his media and political enemies ever considered the right of an accused to confront their accuser and be tried by a jury?

Sure, they have. 

The problem is that when a priest —a holy person of authority within a hierarchy that demands obedience to that authority—molests a child, that is a massive and deeply traumatic event for that child. In the few instances when people made a complaint, the Church covered it up or simply moved the perpetrator to a new parish. Consider,

Researchers, advocates for abuse victims and the victims themselves say it can take years, even decades, for victims to come to terms with what happened to them as children, and speak out about it or go to court. That’s why proponents of the Child Victims Act insist it contain a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits over abuses that happened long ago.

The Buffalo Diocese has paid out at least $1.2 million to victims of predatory clergy over the past two decades. (Not counting this $1.5 million in 2016.) More often than not, the child is too afraid to make a formal complaint. The statute of limitations, as Carl—a lawyer very concerned about the Constitution—would know, is effectively age 23 for a child victim. The Child Victim’s Act found bipartisan support and passage 139 to 7 in the New York State Assembly, but the Republican State Senate blocked it. The bill would allow for a one-year window for victims to bring claims even if the statute of limitations had expired

Does Carl, the pedophile defender, know which group is lobbying hard against the pending Child Victim’s Act? New York’s Catholic Conference has spent $1.8 million over six years in a lobbying effort to prevent victims of pedophile priests to seek justice. Justice in court. Where victim and accused alike are entitled to due process. Where the accused priest and diocese would get to confront their accusers. Carl’s Republicans have blocked that opportunity. How convenient for him to take to his email list to demand justice and due process, while his party blocks exactly that in the legislature. 

Carl goes on to whine about Chris Collins and his felony indictment, and all of it can be boiled down to one salient point: 

Given the choice between supporting the victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, Republican avatar and alt-right frotteur Carl Paladino sides with the predatory pedophile priests. 

The Politics of Disgrace: Canalside and Collins in the Crosshairs


Canalside Development and State Authorities

Hey, Buffalo, did you see the news about Nick Sinatra’s deal with the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation to build two buildings at Canalside?

Can someone explain to me how this bullshit RFP process to select a designated developer is a proper utilization of government power? Because what really should be happening is that the government builds out the streets, ensures that the necessary utilities are in place, does whatever environmental remediation is needed, and codifies whatever zoning and design restrictions to which it wants the prospective buyers to adhere. That. ls. It.

The state should have simply made the parcels “shovel-ready” and then auctioned off or sold the individual properties. Let Sinatra compete in the open market against Paladino and Savarino and the Montantes and Pegulas and whomever else is interested.

What’s happened here is that uniquely “New York” way of doing business, which—if it isn’t expressly and directly corrupt—is nevertheless covered in a sheen of Albany sleaze. This award by the ECHDC board allows for subjective opinion and corruption to flourish. I’m not accusing this award to Sinatra of being corrupt, per se; but it’s that same opaque Albany process that leaves Utica factories empty, and leads to convictions of people close to the governor.

The South Aud Block is now done, and the North Aud Block is going to be under consideration next, and the developer designation there will also be awarded in a process that has the appearance of transparency, but isn’t based on objective criteria. Think about it: Canalside is now a decade old, and as great as it is, it’s still just a lawn with summertime temporary tents for concerts, and morning yoga programming. The whole thing was hijacked by a farcical “placemaking” process to hinder development of long-extant master plans, and instead “lighter, quicker, cheaper” quickly revealed itself to be “grass, tents, and no toilets.” Until now, the most significant structure has been the snack shack. How has it taken a decade to get to the point where an actual proper building—the Children’s Museum—is finally going up? 

That’s easy: Planning by committee is a slow enough process in the private sector, but grinds to a snail’s pace when it’s done by a public benefit corporation run by a state authority—it’s why the only Roy Rogerses in Christendom are on property run by the Thruway Authority. It’s shit food for a captive audience—no one with any sense or choice would voluntarily eat poor food served in an apathetic atmosphere. 

Every big developer in Buffalo is politically connected, and a massive donor to all and sundry. In the wake of what happened with Ciminelli, you’d think these people would be reticent about even setting up an opportunity for bid-rigging. I look forward to the North Aud block project being awarded to another predictable company. 

The NY-27 Fraud

There’s a well-documented fraud being perpetrated upon the voters of the will-be-gone-by-2022 27th Congressional District. As a preliminary matter, it is by no means a guarantee that the Republicans will be able to remove Chris Collins from the November ballot and replace him with someone else. They may be stuck with him, and they very rightly should be. Collins can’t simply move out of state, and his mere indictment isn’t enough to disqualify him.

The only way the eight Republican county chairs touching NY-27 can arguably replace Collins is to devise some fraudulent scheme to do so. That’s why we are left with rumors that Collins may be shunted into some picayune campaign for town clerk in Amherst or Elma, or some town position in Clarence. What self-respecting town committee would sacrifice itself for this (alleged) crook? 

In the meantime, there are now 11 GOP candidates coming to Batavia to kiss the rings of the bosses of the eight families, and looking to curry especial favor with the boss of bosses in the Erie County GOP. They’re making no bones about it: They want someone with name recognition and an ability to raise a million bucks. That’s a tall order—most have one, but not the other.

What this is can be simply described: It’s a ruse and a plot and a scheme—a fake, phony fraud to jettison Collins, a guy they were telling us was fantastic just two short weeks ago but is now the embodiment of poison itself. The amazing part of all of this is that they knew Collins was, at best, ethically challenged with his puffery of Innate stock, and using his official post to help Innate in its private business dealings in the US. Yet, they dutifully endorsed him anyway, all the while insisting that the accusations were false. They could have had a come-to-Jesus talk with Collins a year ago. Maybe Collins could have, I dunno, let someone know about the target letter he certainly received from the Feds. You don’t spend a quarter-million dollars on DC attorneys if you’re not in serious legal peril

But no.

Instead, the Republicans in NY-27 left the vetting of their candidate to the Democrats and the Department of Justice. And this is what they get—a fraudulent scramble to circumvent the rules and crown some Albany seat-moistener (or similar) to Congress, and trick their own constituency. 

Who Will Replace Collins?


Who Will Replace Collins?

It doesn’t matter—the campaign script is already written: Just insert alt-right Trump avatar

It’s downright irresponsible for Representative Chris Collins—currently under arrest and out on bail due to federal felony indictments arising out of insider trading—not to resign his office. To the extent he was really representing his constituents in New York’s 27th Congressional District at all, it’s become quite clear that his priorities have shifted from “public service,” such as it was, to self-preservation. 

At least he (finally) had the self-awareness to drop out of the race. Now, everyone is talking about the process to replace him on the ballot—an exercise that will be far more difficult than anyone realizes, given the late date. The consensus seems to be that Collins can’t simply move out of state, so there are talks underway for Collins to be either appointed to some other elected position, or to run for some minor position such as Clarence town council or town justice. 

Generally speaking, it’s easy to boot a lawyer off a ballot because they can be shunted off to literally any judicial race anywhere in the state. A non-lawyer can serve as a town judge, so it is possible that Collins gets moved into a town judgeship race in Clarence. The town’s Republican committee is a pretty strong monolith, which can probably take the hit of acting as a safe haven for an accused felon. Ed Rath’s Erie County Legislature seat has also been floated as an example, as well as the possibility that a town councilman sacrifices his office so that Collins can run for it, for the good of the party. 

That would then, ostensibly, allow the Republican chairs in the eight western New York counties to select Collins’ replacement—a wholly undemocratic and opaque process. Chances are the chairs are looking for someone with name recognition in the district who can quickly and easily attract the financing needed for the run. 

There are close to 20 names floating out there for Collins’ replacement. Some of them you know, some you probably don’t. But over the weekend, shortly after Collins announced he’d drop out (I predicted it’d be Friday), a slew of thirsty GOPers were tweeting and posting “I’m all in for #NY27.” Notables from Buffalo include the aforementioned Ed Rath, Assemblyman Ray Walter, State Senators Rob Ortt and Mike Ranzenhofer, disgraced racist developer Carl Paladino, and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. 

I don’t care whom the Republicans pick, because it doesn’t at all matter. The campaign strategy has already been polled and formulated. All they have to do is plug in an avatar for the carefully crafted pro-Trump/anti-Pelosi messaging that attacks family man and in-house corporate lawyer—Democrat Nate McMurray—as some sort of antifa radical. Mychajliw, especially, is trying to paint McMurray as some sort of Marxist guerrilla rebel leader slightly to the left of Che Guevara who will feed you a Venezuelan existence. Imagine: a supporter of Donald Trump’s robotically parroting someone else’s talking point about McMurray’s demeanor. To call it insane would be an grave insult to insane people. 

With his oddly aggressive table reads of this season’s script, Mychajliw pivots awkwardly from his putative 2019 Erie County Executive race by simply replacing “Poloncarz” with “McMurray.” Mychajliw tells you absolutely nothing about what he’s for, except one thing: Donald Trump. They love to invoke Nancy Pelosi, who has as much influence on the average Western New Yorker’s day-to-day life as, say, the Ancient Aliens guy, but these people need to play to the WBEN-listener rubes who hate Democratic women from the coasts, for whom they have choice one-word nicknames. 

Many of these guys are going to flirt with the racist alt-right, if, like Paladino, they aren’t full-blown members already

It’s curious to watch the guy who’s been a household name in Buffalo for about 20 years punch down so hard and so falsely against McMurray, who was an unknown until last Wednesday morning. The Republicans know they’re at risk, and if Trump is as popular in the district as they say, it makes little sense for them to go so laughably negative so fast. Maybe McMurray’s doing better than even he realizes. 

So, whom will the Republicans pick? It doesn’t matter. By all rights, the default Republican candidacy should belong to WBEN commentator David Bellavia, who has been patiently waiting through Chris Lee, Jane Corwin, and Chris Collins. But money talks and decorated soldiers walk, so it’s likely to be someone from the Buffalo area. 

There will be litigation, and the Republicans have only Chris Collins and their trust in him to blame for this mess he’s handed to them. 

Chris Collins: Indicted


If you had told me Wednesday morning that Representative Chris Collins would be arrested, indicted, and arraigned for federal crimes, I’d have thought you were crazy. 

If you told me that he’d be arrested, indicted, and arraigned for federal crimes and not resign, and instead continue to mount a re-election campaign, I’d have thought I was crazy. 

Yet, here we are. 

On Wednesday morning, a grand jury indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing Chris Collins, his son, Cameron, and his son’s fiancee’s father, Stephen Zarsky, of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and lying to the FBI. The indictment is quite detailed and very damning. 

A bit of background about Chris Collins. He rose to power through a “run government like a business” ethos that bought him one tumultuous term as Erie County Executive. After losing re-election in 2011, he narrowly won himself a House seat in a newly re-drawn district that seemed custom-made for him. He elevated himself out of backbencherdom through his full-throated support and defense of Donald Trump. He was the first Congressman to endorse Trump, sticking his neck out quite a bit at the time. At the time, Collins said he was endorsing Trump for an “end to business as usual” in Washington. Arguably, one way to end business-as-usual is to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit security fraud, and lying to the FBI. 

Before we go on, I have this to say directly to my Congressman: Resign. Now. We deserved better than you; we deserve better than you. You are in it only for yourself and your cronies, and that has palpably been true since day one of your benighted tenures in public “service”. I have written about you—almost always critically—since 2007. Here is the compendium of posts from, here are the Artvoice-era posts, and here are the ones from the Public. This is a post I did after Collins lost re-election as County Executive in 2011; it is a pretty good run-down of his tenure, even if the links are mostly broken.

In November 2017, I mockingly likened Collins’ pimping of Innate Immunotherapeutics stock to “Mad Money”. Now, as the excrement hits the fan, it goes without saying that a day where your official Congressional website contains a rote exculpatory statement from your lawyers is a bad one. 

The Indictment

So, let’s look at the indictment itself

Chris Collins was a member of the board of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics. He was also its largest shareholder. As a member of the board, he was among the first people to learn that a key Innate drug trial had been a failure. The law requires him literally to shut up about that; he is duty-bound to not pass the information along—the law demands that insiders not use their status and information to gain an advantage in the market.

This is not an obscure law that Collins wouldn’t have been aware of. He was quite obviously cognizant of it, given that he didn’t sell his own shares. Instead, Collins called his son, Cameron, who was also heavily invested in Innate. At the time Collins received the news about Innate’s drug trial failure, Collins was attending the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House, and pictures emerged of him at the event, on the phone at the exact time he is accused of calling his son. 

Almost immediately, Cameron began dumping his shares, seemingly in a panic. And, like the old shampoo commercial goes, he told two friends, and so on. As a result, Collins’ family and cronies avoided over $750,000 in losses they otherwise would have incurred had they waited for the information to be made public. Classic case. 

Collins himself was already under federal scrutiny for his dealings with Innate, and knew better than to try and sell his shares. 

Cameron, however, sold 1.4 million shares, and realized over $550k in savings by doing so based on his inside information from his dad. 

Cameron’s fiancee sold her Innate shares based on Chris Collins’ insider information, avoiding $19,440 in losses. Cameron’s fiancee’s mom did the same, avoiding $22,000 in losses. The fiancee’s dad saved $144k in losses through insider trades. This will undoubtedly put a damper on the wedding, and one has to imagine Cameron’s shock and horror as he saw his future father-in-law’s new Innate-fueled nest egg become worthless. 

When the news broke, and the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski made inquiries, Collins and his crew lied about it. 

Collins made a name for himself by promoting “lean Six Sigma” and implementing it—with no measurable effect—in county government. The point is to streamline corporate processes and make them as efficient as possible. Well, the most efficient way to buy yourself a federal penitentiary stay is to lie to the FBI. 

The government also demands that the indictees surrender and forfeit all money and property derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of the accused offenses.

SEC Lawsuit

These are just the criminal allegations. There is also a simultaneously filed civil action brought against these three defendants—including my Congressman—by the Securities & Exchange Commission. This civil suit contains a nice, handy graph of the tipping conspiracy: 

The SEC demands that the defendants, if found liable, “disgorge” themselves of their ill-gotten gains, and further demands that Collins be forever barred from ever again serving as a director or officer of any SEC-regulated corporation. 


Now, imagine you’re a father of a 25 year-old and you buy your kid a federal indictment and SEC lawsuit.

The Complaint goes on to allege that Chris Collins breached a duty he owed as a member of Innate’s board to protect material non-public corporate information. The moment Chris Collins learned of the failure of Innate’s drug trial, he set off a “tipping chain” with material, nonpublic corporate information.

The SEC alleges that Cameron was careful in selling his Innate shares so as to minimize his impact on the share price for other tippees; he knew exactly what he was doing.

The SEC includes some more detail about Collins’ lies to the News’ Jerry Zremski regarding the Collins family’s sale of Innate shares.

The Balls on this Guy

Before you give me the “innocent until proven guilty” shtick, save it for court. That’s the only place that matters – within the justice system. The judge and jury need to be impartial, and will be required to operate under that presumption of innocence. The prosecution doesn’t have to presume his innocence; it would be unethical for them not to zealously represent their client, the people of the United States. Commentators don’t have to presume that Collins is innocent – I read the indictment, and so far I haven’t heard Collins utter even one syllable about how that indictment is factually or legally incorrect. All he’s said is that he didn’t sell his shares. We know; you couldn’t have anyway, and you don’t get a booby prize for accidentally doing one thing right. 

Given all of this very well-documented evidence of criminal activity, one would assume that the targeted, arrested Congressman would resign. How can an indicted lawmaker currently in federal custody (out on $500,000 bail) credibly represent his constituents, much less run for re-election? Right now, his number one job is to stay out of jail and defend these charges and the SEC lawsuit. He’s trying to buy some time, perhaps, but the writing is on the wall here. He held a position of public trust and blew it to pieces so his kid and cronies could save a few bucks before shares in Innate plummeted. How did he advance the interests of his constituents here? 

More to the point, Collins held a “press conference” at the Avant Wednesday night. He kept the media waiting 90 minutes past the scheduled start time. He and his wife came out to the podium, and Collins engaged in languorous autofellatio about what a great businessman he is, and how he wants to abolish multiple sclerosis. He insisted that he’s innocent, will defend himself vigorously, but will not take any questions at this “press conference”. Instead, he’s going to stay in Congress, run for re-election, and not respond to one question about these charges outside of court, ever. 

How are you going to run for office while under arrest for crimes you won’t address? The only way that happens is if you don’t leave the house. He can’t debate his opponent, plucky Grand Island Democrat Nate McMurray. He can’t show up to your chicken BBQ or lawn fete. He can campaign and get asked incessant questions about his supposed crime, or he can stay home and do nothing. Given that he won’t resign or drop out, I have to assume that Collins believes that the (R) after his name is all he needs. Maybe he can self-fund some TV ads and direct mail, and coast to re-election. 

There’s no way Nick Langworthy and the other Republican county chairs are supportive of Collins’ decision to stay in this race, and incredibly their hands are tried until and unless Collins decides to drop out. Collins isn’t just pre-occupied with criminal and civil fraud charges, but effectively holding the seat hostage and preventing his party from properly assessing its options. 

For McMurray’s part, he held a respectful news conference where he didn’t gloat, but reminded the people of NY-27 that they deserve better than this.

They deserve better than insider trading and corruption. They deserve better than Collins’ trademark specialty—condescending, self-righteous hubris. “Because my focus is to defeat the charges in court, after today, I will not address any issue related to Innate … outside of the courtroom,” Collins said. 

I have to hope that the people of NY-27 won’t stand for that. I have to believe that Collins will reconsider and exit the race by the end of the week, because anything less than that is sheer insanity. His Avant statement was all me-me-me and nothing about the actual crimes being alleged. I can’t imagine that Nick Langworthy or any other local Republican is happy with this catastrophe of a candidacy. Make no mistake: given the choice of stepping aside so the Republicans can more safely hang on to that seat or staying in despite a federal indictment, Collins chose his own power and prestige; not his party and not his constituents. 

Nate McMurray is the Democrat running against Collins. He needs your help and support

Nate had a very slim chance in this R+11 district on Tuesday, but Wednesday changed everything. Clearly, Collins could continue to run and he could even win. That (R) means a lot in this bespoke conservative district. 

As of April, the district had a moderate GOP enrollment edge with 183,641 active Republicans, 142,703 active Democrats and 97,801 independents.

But the district has voted heavily for Republicans since the most-recent round of redistricting in 2012, when a court redrew it to include all or part of eight western New York counties, including portions of Erie and Monroe.

Trump won the district by a 24-point margin in 2016, making it by far his best congressional district in the heavily Democratic state, according to The Cook Political Report.

Collins himself won big in 2014 and 2016, taking home 71 percent and 67 percent of the vote, respectively, against little-known opponents after narrowly defeating then-incumbent Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-Buffalo, in 2012.

Collins also has another distinct advantage: $1.3 million in his campaign account compared to McMurray’s $81,772.

Bad news, right? But this one change means a lot: 

With this may come the two things McMurray’s plucky grassroots campaign desperately needs: organization and money. If the left-of-center PACs and SuperPACs smell enough blood in the water, look for a ton of money and ads to come into the district. Look for young and experienced campaign workers to come into the district and do a re-run of the Hochul races. This is a big deal, and a big influx of money is the shot in the arm McMurray needs. Yesterday, McMurray earned himself an extra 1100 Twitter followers, and raised more money yesterday than during the entire previous campaign period. 

Look out, NY-27, now we have a race. 

Electoral Fusion is Corruption: Livingston County Edition


I believe that New York’s system of electoral fusion is a more pervasive scandal than the alliterative Buffalo Billion bid-rigging. Electoral fusion is worse for New York and the root of its corrupt political culture. 

In a nutshell, electoral fusion is the system whereby New York State—and only a small handful of other states—permits political parties to endorse and run non-members. It’s how Republican candidates show up on the “Conservative” and “Independent” and “Reform” party lines on a November ballot. It’s how Democratic candidates show up on the “Working Families” and “Womens Equality” party lines. Even more horrifically cynical is party raiding, most frequently seen by Republicans hijacking the Green Party line by running handpicked dummy candidates to split the left-of-center vote and weaken Democrats. 

A decade ago, the fusion game was played on political pamphleteer Joe Illuzzi’s page, where the “Independence” party endorsement was largely dependent on whether a candidate bought an ad. The payoff here is that these tiny parties, which would otherwise have zero clout whatsoever, get to wield ridiculous influence over our electoral process that is totally out of proportion to their actual numbers. Party stalwarts get jobs. If it sounds like racketeering, that’s because it is. The only innocent minor party is the Greens, who do not cross-endorse, and are victims of repeated Republican attempts at theft of their line

If New York abolished fusion, a massive amount of casual corruption would immediately cease. This wouldn’t mean minor parties couldn’t exist—it would just mean that they actually would have to run candidates, recruit members, and compete in elections. Given the sad state of New York politics, I’d bet a third party could gain quite a following and become influential because of its ideas, rather than its craven dealmaking. 

But today is not that day, as an Assembly race out in the Rochester area is so glaringly revealing. 

There is a nasty Republican primary race now for the 133rd Assembly race, and sparks are flying. This is the seat that was vacated by the late tea party/talk radio Assemblyman Bill Nojay, who took his own life on the morning he was to go to trial for federal criminal fraud charges. Joe Errigo, who had served in the Assembly for 10 years under previous lines that largely overlapped, agreed to come out of retirement to serve again. He managed to win in the Trump deluge, despite showing obvious signs of Paladino Syndrome, like having a racist meltdown on live radio, insisting Obama was telling blacks to murder whites. Supposedly, the understanding was that Errigo would just be a seat warmer until the GOP could get its act together for this year’s election, but he stunned everyone by announcing he was running for reelection. The man is not well: sheriff’s deputies had to bring him home after he got lost a few weeks ago.

Enter Marjorie Byrnes, who decided to primary Errigo. She is a former Democrat and former Rochester City judge, but now she lives in Caledonia with a man named John Pauers, who just happened to be a vice chair of the Livingston County Republican Committee. Pauers engineered the Livingston County Republican endorsement for Byrnes, after which (coincidentally, Pauers says, but maybe not) the long-time GOP chair resigned. This leaves Pauers as acting GOP chair in Livingston County.

Livingston was the only county that designated Byrnes. The Monroe and Steuben GOP committees stuck with Errigo.

The explosive news is that a Republican Assembly candidate paid Livingston County Conservative Party chair, the Reverend Jason McGuire, an outrageous $20,000 for “consulting” just before the Conservative County Committee gave Byrnes its designation as candidate in the race. McGuire—who has used his pulpit for anti-LGBTQ political purposes—has since returned the money, but you’re unlikely to find a more egregious or obvious example of the electoral fusion culture of bribery and scandal. This sort of payoff isn’t an unintended consequence of fusion, it’s become baked into the system itself. Here’s what a Rochester political consultant said about that amount of money

“The $20,000 fee is beyond comprehension for a race for the Assembly. We are talking about a primary not a hugely contested general election… and even then it is more than twice what it should be,” said Arnie Rothschild, a Rochester Political Consultant who previously worked on Mayor Lovely Warren’s Campaign. “I have been in 150 or so elections around the state and would never ask for that kind of money.”

So, that $20,000 “consulting” gig coincided with this: 

Marjorie Byrnes, who decided to primary Errigo the unwell, is a former Rochester City judge (she was a Democrat then). Byrnes received the endorsement of the state Conservative fusion party, and this happened

“I am so incredibly proud that the state committee party chose to endorse me as their candidate,” Byrnes said. “I am sad that some politicians want to work against the conservative party candidate and their principles for political motivation.”

Prior to the vote, McGuire had written a letter to the state Conservative Executive Party Committee, outlining the reasons why the Livingston County Conservative Party was supporting Byrnes. In the letter, McGuire also disclosed to state committee members that he had assumed campaign manager responsibilities for Byrnes.

“In full disclosure, you should know that I am assuming campaign manager responsibilities for the Byrnes campaign,” McGuire wrote in the letter.

But the letter did not disclose that he had accepted $20,000 from Byrnes to do the job. At the same time, Byrnes filed and disclosed her campaign expenditures with the state, as required by law. Her filing included full disclosure that she had paid $20,000 to McGuire for his services coordinating her campaign.

The obviousness of the pay-for-play was pretty glaring, even for right-wingers:

The [State Conservative fusion] committee ultimately decided to authorize Byrne as its candidate for the 133rd Assembly District, but some members did not realize McGuire was receiving compensation and felt misled. State Party Chairman Mike Long said in the aftermath he asked for the regional vice chair’s resignation.

So, McGuire returned the money, explaining

“I honestly felt that when I used the phrase ‘in full disclosure’ that my point was clear,” McGuire told The Livingston County News via email. The response was received after this week’s print edition had gone to press.

“The phrase ‘in full disclosure’ means that there is something that needs to be disclosed. There would be no need to disclose that I was voluntarily supporting a candidate. However, not everyone at the meeting understood my intention, and I now realize that my statement could have been more express,” McGuire said.

When the committee learned that McGuire was a paid member of the Byrnes campaign, McGuire returned the $20,000 payment to Byrnes and sent a letter on July 23 to Michael Long, chairperson of the state Conservative Party, notifying him that he had returned the money to Byrnes and offering to resign his seat on the executive committee.

The Errigo campaign pounced, accusing McGuire and Byrnes of corruption

“This is the worst of what New York state politics is all about and it should not happen,” campaign spokesperson Arnie Rothschild said. “The fact that Mr. McGuire now says he has returned the money is an indication he recognizes this was wrong. However, if you rob a bank and return the money two days later, you’re still guilty of robbing a bank.”

Rothschild questioned why McGuire did not recuse himself from the state committee’s conversation about the race. He also said $20,000 is an unusually large amount to pay for an Assembly race and, to his knowledge, McGuire has not served as a campaign consultant before this year.

The Livingston County chair said he has in fact been involved in numerous campaigns although he typically works for free. The Errigo Campaign said it is reviewing the incident with attorneys and has not filed any formal complaints, although they believe it is potentially a felony.

It’s not just the “worst” of what New York politics is about; it is emblematic of the fundamental corruption of our fusion system. Fusion and these sorts of commonplace payoffs—usually done more subtly than this McGuire/Byrnes scenario—is at the heart of our system and the root of New York’s culture of corruption. It is pervasive and constant. It happens here in Erie County every election cycle. It is everywhere. After all, what good is it running a minor fusion party with a handful of members if you’re not getting paid?