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?