“Free The Press Canada” Could Have Called

Sweet mother of God, it’s not every day I get accused of being a defender of that certain website, or that I’m somehow in league with Roger Stone, but there’s a first time for everything.

If you have a solid hour to spare, go read this blog post that purports to link – in excruciating detail – a local purveyor of fake news with Roger Stone, and name-checks me as somehow nefariously involved. Amy MacPherson of “Free the Press Canada” did quite a thorough job, except for the part where she didn’t reach out to me to ask me about certain details about which she writes.

In the absence of Ms. MacPherson’s message, I’ll address her “reporting” and conclusions here.

Although Alan Bedenko plays a bit part in this saga, it is an important role because he appeared on CBC News to represent Matthew Ricchiazzi and the Buffalo Chronicle.

I did not appear on the CBC to “represent” them; I appeared to indict them – to offer a WNY perspective into a matter of apparent Canadian media urgency.

Bendenko portrayed himself as an enemy of Ricchiazzi, backed by a blog entry he posted about Parlato’s apprentice. In it he embedded the full segment by Adrienne Arsenault, even though it’s not readily available for Canadians to find on the CBC website (original with video / archive without video).

(All is [sic], by the way). I’m not an “enemy” of his, per se – I am an enemy of lies and harassment and fake scandal.

In the short interview he did not disclose that he had been a lawyer for Erie County and known Ricchiazzi for several years in the course of municipal and state politics. He didn’t disclose that he engaged with Ricchiazzi at Parlato’s sister website ArtVoice, where the latter two regularly published along with Roger Stone (original / archive). He didn’t allude to knowing anything about Matthew Ricchiazzi’s agenda, or that his attack on the Canadian election was a concerted effort as opposed to a one-off fake news specimen.

The interview took almost an hour, but a very small portion of it was aired. To say I was a “lawyer for Erie County” is somewhat misleading – until June 2018, I worked for a firm that represented the county, defending it in lawsuits; I was not a county employee.

Here’s where this goes off the rails, though.

I left Artvoice on November 10, 2014. At that time, it was still owned by Jamie Moses. At no time during my tenure at Artvoice did I “engage with Ricchiazzi”, nor did I ever write for Artvoice after Parlato bought it. I never published – not once, nor “regularly” with Roger Stone at Artvoice or anywhere else.

As for that website’s motive for inserting itself into – or creating – controversies in Canadian politics, I have absolutely no knowledge of that. Anything I suggest would be speculative.

Alan Bedenko has been involved with Matthew Ricchiazzi since at least 2012, when he participated in the uproar about the Seneca casino for a Buzzfeed article and the subsequent banter about it on Twitter (original / archive). Bedenko’s handle is @BuffaloPundit and he curiously tagged two bystanders into the conversation. One of those accounts belongs to a Russian who doesn’t follow or interact with anyone. It’s a suspicious account to say the least (original / archive). As Bedenko didn’t provide his full disclosure for the CBC News broadcast, it leaves much to the imagination why a strange Russian account was deemed important to the exchange about Ricchiazzi.

Actually, I have been “involved” with him since I first became aware of him during his failed mayoral run in 2009. As for that 2012 set of Tweets relating to that person’s use of a still from a gay porn movie, I “tagged two bystanders” because it was Paul Dub who originally asked about it on Twitter.

At that time, in 2012, @ChrisSmithAV (which is now a Russian account) was run by Chris Smith. At the time, Chris was a colleague at Artvoice, and before 2011 at WNYMedia.net.

I’m not sure why a Twitter exchange with Chris Smith in 2012, together with the fact that Chris’ then-account is now hijacked by some Russian, should have been disclosed in the 2019 CBC report.

Furthermore, Alan Bedenko, as a qualified lawyer, suggested that Ricchiazzi may have a relationship with the Maggadinos, Todaros, and “Butchie Bifocals”. Free The Press Canada is aware the first two are part of the Buffalo Italian Mafia and that includes the Musitano crime bosses who were murdered in Hamilton, Ontario due to the ongoing turf wars. They are all part of the same organized crime family network.

I didn’t suggest it; the other guy did. He specifically set forth in his “contract” of demands to the CBC that questions about the mob would be off-limits. I found this curious and worthy of mention.

The suggestion of mafia is especially unsettling, given that Frank Parlato defended a biker gang accused of making pipe bombs and in the process he cited Angelo Musitano, who was the top boss until he was murdered in Waterdown, Ontario. These hotspots are all around the area where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was required to wear a bulletproof vest to be able to give campaign speeches. This disturbing reference was made by Parlato on Ricchiazzi’s Buffalo Chronicle (original / archive).

Again: I never worked with or published alongside Parlato or Ricchiazzi. Indeed, a quick Google search would reveal that I have been massively critical of Parlato in the past. A similar Google search (or a phone call, email, or Tweet) would reveal years’ worth of Tweets and posts critical of that other guy.

As a side note, I will add that the article in question borrows heavily from matters written about this topic that are found at the “BuffaloRecord” WordPress site. What the author doesn’t realize – because she didn’t ask – is that “BuffaloRecord” is the archive of Chris Smith’s and my articles from WNYMedia.net and Artvoice from about 2007 until November 2014, when we left Artvoice. So in one instance, Ms. MacPherson cites my work, and in the next she accuses me of being in cahoots with Ricchiazzi, Parlato, and Roger Stone.

Chris Collins’ Coda

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This is the second – and hopefully the last – epitaph I need to write on the political career of Christopher Collins. The first is here. His governmental record is, on balance, replete with abject failure. He was a disastrous County Executive who spent wildly to implement dubious corporate hocus-pocus, with little effect. He raised taxes and cut critical services on which citizens relied. He was openly hostile to Erie County’s cultural institutions and used his public office for private gain. 

Yet after a humiliating defeat in 2010, he re-emerged in 2012 to narrowly win a seat representing the most conservative district in New York. 

It is fitting that the resignation of former Representative Chris Collins (R-Club Fed) should come within a week after the House of Representatives formally commenced its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s various, sundry, and myriad misdeeds. After all, Collins was the first Congressman to formally and publicly support Trump’s candidacy, and remained one of Trump’s most steadfast Congressional supporters right up until last week. 

Birds of a felonious feather flock together. 

It was last summer that Collins was first indicted for securities fraud and insider trading. I wrote then: [b]efore 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”. 

Despite efforts to challenge the government’s evidence based on the Speech or Debate Clause‘s immunity shield, the government simply put forth a superseding indictment that avoided that pitfall. After a year of constantly gaslighting his beleaguered constituents by falsely proclaiming his innocence, Collins is at long last about to come clean, and receive the reckoning he deserves. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Collins gave an interview to Channel 4 where he confidently predicted his exoneration on these insider trading charges. As recently as July 30th, Collins held a press conference and declared, 

“I am innocent of the charges,” Collins said. “Why would I ever even enter a plea deal? I’m innocent.”

He called it a “circumstantial case” that prosecutors through “some tunnel vision decided to take.”

“I’m quite comfortable where I’ll be at the end of all this, which is not guilty,” Collins said.

It looks more likely that Collins clung to his Congressional office as leverage in his corruption prosecution. 

Rather than recount the misdeeds of Chris Collins, the Congressman (try this and this), or rejoice in his self-immolation, let us take a moment to seethe. 

After all, Chris Collins is a crook and a liar. 

He used his public office for personal gain. He leveraged his influence in Congress to advance the interests of at least one business in which he owned a massive stake. He wasn’t looking out for his constituents – he was looking out for himself and his friends and family. Assuming a guilty plea, I hope he gets some time in prison and then moves to Florida and never darkens WNY again. 

Guys like Collins (and there are many around here) think this is all a big joke – “public service”. They should be using their office to protect and lift up the weakest and most vulnerable in our community, but repeatedly and chronically use power to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict harm on the already afflicted. It would come as no surprise that the first and loudest Trump supporter goes down a convicted felon. The criminality and egotism was perverse and pervasive. 

If he’s pleading guilty, then he’s known of his guilt all this time. He strung us all along – his supporters and detractors alike – proclaiming a non-existent innocence, predicting an exoneration that will never come. He stole from us our right to be represented in Congress by someone who had our back, who was looking out for our best interests. He stole that from us just as surely as he stole from the investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics to whom he did not provide that juicy inside scoop. He is a crook. He is a thief. He is a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel and a criminal. 

A dozen years ago, he promised to lift Erie County out of the ashes of another, dramatic Republican financial disaster with promises of “running government like a business.” Did his Six Sigma black belt inform his decision to cut a plea now? Was it for the sake of efficiency? Did he finally confront his likelihood of success at trial and decide to streamline the inevitable process? 

Last November, we could have elected a representative who actually cared about representing this constituency. We could have elected a representative who would look out for the little guy, rather than his millionaire buddies and his own wallet. And we came so close. But Collins convinced his Trump-supporting base that it was all lies, all a big smear, and that they would be better off with an indicted Congressman stripped of all committee posts rather than a Democrat. More lies. There was nothing so consistent as Chris Collins’ cynicism, and his reliance that his voters would always pick a party label over a candidate’s merits. 

When his journey through the criminal justice system is over, Christopher Collins will always be a convict and a disgrace. He is now just another corrupt Republican politician representing the reddest district in the state to leave office in ignominy. The third in a row, actually. 

The parade of Republican millionaires and clowns salivating over this vacancy will keep us entertained for weeks – especially given the massive cloud of corruption that is the Trump Administration. Every one of these power-hungry clones will trip over each other to pledge undying fealty to the Maximum Leader. As that party keeps sinking, looking for that elusive bottom, those of us who knew what Collins was this whole time will drink a toast to being right. We will also lament all of the lost opportunities we had to be properly represented. 

We didn’t have to agree all the time, Mr. Collins. We didn’t have to have a perfect Congressman. But I think we deserved a Congressman who cared about more than scoring cheap political points.

You’re resigning? However will we know the difference?

Good riddance. 

(Updated 10/4 to replace deleted Tweet with screen capture)

Local GOP Silence Reveals Loud Support for Nativism

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The concentration camps and the White House’s daily parade of insults and embarrassments are quite difficult for people to wrap their heads around. It is unimaginable that this is what our government has become, and it is amazing how far and how fast we fell. Things that were once whispers are now amplified with bullhorns. But whereas guys like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater had taught Republicans how to use racism to their advantage without being, well, so blatant about it, the President now is cool with all of it – the perception and the reality. 

The Tweets shown above are official statements of the President of the United States. Think on that for a moment. 

There is no bottom with Donald Trump and his followers – it sinks deeper and deeper with each passing day.

The thing about authoritarian wannabe dictators is that they energize and re-energize the base of their support by casting themselves as victims. Accusing some “other” of being the cause of some great societal misfortune, the demagogue rhetorically shifts the conversation from one about national priorities into something accusatory and sinister. It’s not 50 years’ worth of slow, systemic changes and obsolescence that shrunk the number and quality of once-abundant manufacturing jobs – it’s immigrants. It’s not de-unionization over the last 40 years that left the middle class weaker, poorer, and less secure, it’s the “open” border. Misdirection. 

In August 2015, a couple of Trump supporters picked a random Hispanic person, beat him up, and pissed on him. They did it because Trump has gone out of his way since the beginning of his campaign to single out and demonize Spanish-speaking immigrants. Around that same time, Republican Presidential front-runners were tripping over themselves to demand an end of jus soli birthright citizenship.

It’s not just about undocumented or documented immigrants – the anti-immigrant Republicans go so far as to hurl epithets at Americans whose only crime was to have been born American on American soil – anchor baby

If you want to understand this anti-immigrant logic, take a listen to “Why Do We Build The Wall” from Tony-Award winning musical Hadestown. I saw it last weekend. This song destroyed me. Anais Mitchell wrote it in 2006; it’s not about Trump. 

Destroyed me.

The Republicans, who have been world champion nihilists ever since Barack Obama was sworn in, now say that if you don’t like it, you can leave.

Weird, because I don’t remember them all pissing off back to wherever they came from when they hated Obama and his policies. 

The whole notion of “go back where you came from” is dictatorial. It is hateful white Nationalism. The people against whom Trump first directed it are all women of color, two of them of the Muslim faith. All but one of them was born in the United States. Do you remember Obama telling Jim Jordan or Tom Cotton or Darrell Issa to go back where he came from if they didn’t like what he was doing? Of course not. He also knew how to spell “al Qaeda“.  

2017 – year zero of the Cultural Revolution – saw the ascendance of a remarkably ignorant and basically ideology-free type of neo-fascism in America. Fascism for dummies, but literally. The cruelty is the point. The cruelty – to opponents, to immigrants, to asylum seekers, to our allies, to minorities – is the unifying and foundational ethos and dogma of Trumpist fascism. The people who vocally and tacitly support Trump also support this fundamental cruelty; the hatred, the epithets, the dismissiveness, turning our backs on the Western world; the demonization and dehumanization of immigrants

During his rallies in 2016, Trump used to ask the crowd to raise their arms and pledge allegiance to him. People called it fascist. Trump said people “love it.” 

Trump tells people who don’t like him to “go back” where they came from. People say to him that this is racist. Trump says, “many people agree with me.” 

The translation is that he doesn’t mind being a white Nationalist neo-fascist cult leader because people like him and the cruelty for which he stands. 

Donald Trump’s racism and wish for a pure, white America is no secret – especially not anymore. Just ask Kellyanne Conway’s husband

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. They’re silent not because they agree with Trump. Surely they know better. They’re silent because, knowing that he’s incorrigible, they have inured themselves to his wild statements; because, knowing that he’s a fool, they don’t really take his words seriously and pretend that others shouldn’t, either; because, knowing how damaging Trump’s words are, the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.

So far, among western New York’s elected and prominent Republicans, there has been nary a peep about any of this. The only one with the courage to denounce Trump’s Tweets? Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo (C-West Seneca). 

What about you, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state committee? New York is one of the most wonderfully diverse states in the nation, and you say nothing. 

What about you, Stefan Mychajliw? You use your status as a first-generation American with each exhale, but here the President – whom you embrace – tells people who disagree with him to leave the country and go back where they came. Should you have gone back to where you came when you disagreed with Barack Obama? Where is your supposed moral and ethical leadership on an issue that hits home for you, more than it does for most people. 

What about you, Lynne Dixon? For weeks you jumped on the Green Light Bill and demanded that Mark Poloncarz say what he thinks of it. OK., he took that bait. You support this President. There’s a picture of him with you from that fundraiser at Salvatore’s floating around. Where do you stand on this notion that people with political disagreements should re-emigrate to where they came from?

And where are the media stenographers and useful idiots for the local Republicans? Why aren’t they hounding Dixon over this particular issue like they hounded Poloncarz over driver’s licenses? 

What about you, Ed Rath? Mickey Kearns (you’re a Republican now, don’t let’s pretend otherwise)? Puppetmasters Chris Grant and Michael Caputo? Chris Collins? Chris Jacobs? David DiPietro? Tim Howard? Pat Gallivan? Mike Ranzenhofer? Mike Norris? Angelo Morinello? John Mills

A lot of you come up and shake my hand at parades and stuff. You know how I think. You know I disagree. You know I think the President is a complete and utter disaster, and that his policies are making America weaker and poorer. This is your time to take a stand and to show some courage. 

After all, I’m one of those “anchor babies.” My parents came here on a tourist visa in 1966. They quickly transformed it into a Green Card and sold back their return ticket; foreign-born physicians were in demand. They settled in Queens. In 1969, my dad was drafted into the US Army. He was sworn in as a citizen within days as a Major. We were sent to live in Columbia, South Carolina for two years. 

When my dad came to the US, he spoke almost perfect, accent-free English. My mom, not so much. She had a strong accent. She couldn’t pronounce a “w” and everything was a “v”. She learned English with me – watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. When she drove around South Carolina, she was frequently called a “Commie”. They had New York plates on their car, so they were “Yankees,” to boot. My mom – until her dying day – hated South Carolina and her experience there because of how cruel people had been to her especially. She was admonished by strangers on more than one occasion to go back where she came from. I don’t think she ever set foot in that state again after 1971. I guess it’s no surprise that Trump approvingly quotes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the Tweets reproduced above. 

And my parents were white. Had they been recent immigrants who also looked differently, the abuse would likely have been exponentially worse. 

When Trump tells anyone to “go back where they came from” this is a direct attack on every immigrant, regardless of visa status. 

Our local Republicans have sold out their souls and their morals and their ethics for Donald Trump. They’ll smile and shake my hand when they see me, but they don’t have the courage to stand up for people like my mom against nativist hatred from the likes of a failed casino owner and TV huckster.

Seriously, don’t bother next time. 

Don’t come looking for me at the next parade. Or if you see me at County Hall. Or at the store. Don’t greet me. Don’t come up and tell me that you don’t think like this, or that you’re disappointed in Trump’s rhetoric. Your private tsk-tsk is meaningless; your public silence is assent. Your refusal to do what you (might) know to be right is disgusting. 

You know who loves America? People who leave behind every thing they own and every person they know to come to this country for a new start; for opportunity in a new world created by immigrants from all over the world. My mom loved this country and what it offered her, and she didn’t deserve to be harassed and bullied by South Carolina rednecks just for talking differently or being from an Eastern European country. She came here with nothing – they came here with nothing except an education. She went to work at Ciba Geigy, the American Health Foundation, and Pepsico as a chemist. My dad helped people as a physician at various hospitals and clinics, including the V.A. They are my heroes and I viscerally miss them each day. They loved this country as much if not more than some spoiled rich kid who is American by accident of birth. They chose this place.

You know who hates America? People who tolerate the separation of asylum seeking families at the border. People who tolerate inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. 

You know who hates America? People who think that someone who disagrees with them should leave the country if they “don’t like it.”  

And their enablers. 

No Answers to Stupid Questions

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“No Answers to Stupid Questions” is basically the gist – the “tl;dr” of this Buffalo News article by Sandra Tan. It does little except to parrot Republican concern-trolling over what, if anything, Mark Poloncarz thinks about the “Green Light” statute the legislature in Albany passed, and which Governor Cuomo signed into law. Who has been asking? Nick Langworthy. Chris Grant. Lynne Dixon. All three of them tall pillars, it seems, of non-partisan concern. 

In honor of Mad Magazine and Al Jaffee, here are some, shall we say, snappier answers to stupid questions. 

1. Before 2001, undocumented aliens were free to qualify for and obtain a New York State Driver’s license. 

2. What authority does a County Executive (or a party boss or a political shit-stirrer) have over federal immigration law? 

3. What authority does a County Executive have over driver’s licenses? 

4. In what race is Poloncarz running that renders his opinion on the Green Light bill relevant to the duties of his job? 

5. Why is the County Comptroller – whose portfolio is strictly limited to finances and cash flow – opposed to an influx of money to the County coffers? 

6. What authority does a County Executive have over the border? 

When Nick Langworthy tells you that “‘people are not just against this; they’re violently against this…[o]ur phones have been ringing off the hook,'” have him prove it. If people are “violently” against something, why would he accommodate or encourage violence? If the Republicans are already strongly against brown people with uncertain visa status getting licenses, why would they be receiving calls about it?

The only literally legitimate “concern” about undocumented immigrants receiving licenses has to do with the motor voter law. Obviously, properly documented immigrants fill out the same driver’s license application form as citizens, and they have to simply skip the “register to vote” part. Are the Republicans demanding that the motor voter law be repealed? (Probably. Of course. Having lots of eligible people voting is anathema to them.) Yet somehow the Mychajliws and Kearnses of the world have determined that while documented immigrants would skip the voting registration part of the application, undocumented immigrants would all fill it out because, according to them, they’re already criminals

This plays well with the neo-Confederate crowd, the people who need to blame an “other” for their own failures, and, naturally, garden-variety racists. You know, the people who leave angry comments over the casting of a mermaid. In an economically depressed region such as ours, having a county clerk, a county comptroller, and a county executive candidate sit there and preen to the media about who hates immigrants more is definitely going to win some votes from guys who hang around diners playing with their Trump Barbie dolls. Regular people? It depends. 

I guess the larger question is, why are Republican propagandists allowed to spout absolute bullshit to the Buffalo News and have it regurgitated, verbatim, without someone bothering to check? 

1. Dixon and Grant told Bob McCarthy that the Dixon campaign raised over $200,000 since March. McCarthy published it, apparently without verifying the accuracy of what he was told. It was, alas, inaccurate. McCarthy had (wittingly? unwittingly?) allowed himself and the News to become propagandists for the Dixon campaign. 

2. Dixon and Grant tell McCarthy about some bullshit poll from some bullshit pollster no one ever heard of. McCarthy publishes it all. But the poll had to be filed with the state Board of Elections, and savvy observers who were polled noted that all of the “push poll” language – the anti-Poloncarz propaganda parts of the poll – were not there. I called bullshit. So did Geoff Kelly at the Investigative Post. 

3. Now, McCarthy says Kelly is wrong and he is vindicated! The “Politics Column Had it Right” the headline exclaims. Dude, that’s your job – to get it right. If true, do you want a medal or a monument? The surgeon who doesn’t kill a patient doesn’t get a self-congratulatory news story about it. You’re supposed to get it right. But all of this is like political insider trading – McCarthy is given a tip, and he makes a couple of calls to get reaction, and then runs it. Did the “Politics Column [have] it right”? Let’s examine what Kelly wrote

Whatever the mood of the electorate, that poll wasn’t designed to measure it. It was, rather, a “push poll,” which is a marketing technique intended to disseminate information, negative or positive, to a target audience.

In this case, the poll was meant to spread some unflattering— and not entirely accurate — talking points about Poloncarz and his administration to prospective voters in November’s general election.

Here’s what happened:

Earlier this month, Dixon’s campaign commissioned a poll by a Kansas City, Mo., firm called Co/Efficient. The company’s website does not list previous clients, nor did the company respond immediately to an inquiry from Investigative Post.

The Dixon campaign then shared the poll with The Buffalo News. The paper’s political reporter, Bob McCarthy, made the poll the subject of an article published in the Sunday, June 16 paper.

Under state election law, when a political campaign makes public reference to a poll it has conducted or commissioned, it is obligated to make public the details of the poll within 48 hours of that reference. (Otherwise, campaigns could use specious or even nonexistent polls to promote their candidates or attack their opponents. Think of Donald Trump prefacing a claim with “Lots of people say…”) Among the information that must be filed: What questions were asked — their precise wording — and in what order? Was the poll conducted by phone or by other means? Who conducted it? Who paid for it?

The Dixon campaign filed the poll with the New York State Board of Elections in a letter dated Monday, June 17. The campaign also sent a summary of the poll to Investigative Post, at our request, on Tuesday afternoon. 

But what the Dixon campaign filed with the state and shared with Investigative Post does not comport with what some who took the poll describe.

What does McCarthy print in the newspaper of record to vindicate that he “got it right?” 

Dixon campaign consultant Chris Grant confirmed that some potential voters were asked a question about rapists. But it and other leading questions stemmed from a second poll for internal use, not the one the campaign released publicly and filed with the Board of Elections.

Oh, really? Prove it. May I see that poll? May I see its results? Its crosstabs? That it exists? Or was it really just all one push poll and you – a dirty trickster and your never-heard-of-him bullshit midwest pollster – just excised the propaganda questions to sanitize the poll before publishing it? Why should anyone be believed about anything? ‘It was two polls, actually’ is utter garbage without proof of the existence of a second poll – without an audio recording of two distinct and separate polls purporting to gauge voter sentiment. 

“We did one poll to release publicly and then did a separate survey for internal campaign use that we did not release,” he said.

Or maybe you did one poll and selected what you wanted to release publicly and just kept the push poll questions out of what you filed. Again – I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m saying there’s literally no proof that it didn’t, and no one – not Bob McCarthy, not anyone – should just take these people at their word. 

Indeed, The News reported its story on the straight questions it reviewed, and not on the leading questions upon which Investigative Post claimed the story was based.

“When the region’s leading daily newspaper presents the poll without closely analyzing its legitimacy and calling it what it is,” Investigative Post wrote, and then depicted a Dixon campaign tweet touting The News story about the poll.

The News “reported” what Chris Grant gave it to publish. The News did not inquire further. It did not question the accuracy or completeness of what it was being told by a paid advocate for a political candidate. 

Kelly said that he stands by his story.

“I look forward to reading this second poll when it’s filed with the state board of elections, within 48 hours of its reference in your column,” Kelly responded, referring to his interpretation of requirements for filing of polls released to the public.

Translation: Chris Grant and Lynne Dixon are using the News for propaganda, and the News is just engaging in lazy, facile “he said, she said” “reporting” rather than actually drilling down and finding out through long-cultivated sources whether it is being told the truth. 

Chris Grant says, Bob McCarthy writes. Chris Grant says, Sandra Tan writes. It doesn’t matter if the information is false, or that Mark Poloncarz’s opinion about a state law is irrelevant.

Free media for Republican candidates is a phone call away. 

Chronicling Harassment

RIcchiazzi

A local purveyor of fake news has taken to Twitter, Facebook, and probably your email inbox—and the email inboxes of my current and former colleagues—to label me a “serial harasser” and to solicit people’s stories about my supposed penchant for “harassment” for his risible publication. 

Obviously, I am not a serial harasser or anything of the sort, and it is heartening the outpouring of support and condolences from people regarding this person. So, I want to talk a little bit here about harassment. Harassment is a crime in the state of New York, with various definitions depending on the severity of the charge. I have not harassed anyone; I do not threaten people with violence or repeatedly communicate with them without any legitimate purpose. I do not harass anyone—sexually or otherwise—and any suggestion to the contrary is a damnable lie. This individual has now had his temper tantrum online, and sent myriad emails to insult me and my reputation. What has transpired over the past several days is this: 

1. A few weeks ago, the local publication produced by this individual posted an article that was replete with inaccuracies and typos, attacking me for legal work I had done on behalf of Erie County at my former job, and drawing a conclusion that this “patronage” was the explanation for why I support Mark Poloncarz. I dealt with that in this article, away from The Public, because seriously, how idiotic. He stole the picture of me from my law firm’s website to accompany his piece, without permission, payment, or attribution. 

2. Last week, I was informed that he had published actual paper copies of his rag, and that the article about me—typos and inaccuracies still present—was included therein. He used this time a different picture—a selfie I took several years ago in the rain in Cooperstown, which doubles as my YouTube profile image—to accompany his article, again violating my copyright without payment, attribution, or permission. 

I commented about it on Twitter. 

3. Coincidentally, on Monday the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a story about fake news sites proliferating throughout Canada, and their stories being shared widely through social media. The CBC singled out that local Buffalo publication as the source of a lot of fake news, and frankly wasn’t the first to do so. I drew attention to this article on Twitter, and received some I guess not at all harassing replies. 

So that was all fun for a Monday. 

4. On Monday night, the CBC’s The National aired its story about how fake news from that Buffalo site and others gets spread online. I linked to it on Twitter without tagging either the publication or its author. 

The interesting part to me has to do with the “contract” that this person attempted to get the CBC to execute as a prerequisite to him appearing on what amounts to Canada’s 60 Minutes. If I ran a website that was continually and chronically accused of spreading false and malicious lies about Buffalo and Canadian politics, you’d be damn sure I’d want to defend myself and clear the air about that. Because ultimately what do you have if not your honesty or integrity? For instance, when we published Paladino’s emails, we at WNYMedia made ourselves available to anyone who wanted to interview us. No strings attached. When I did my Preetsmas series, only once was there someone who challenged something, and it was a detail about how—i.e., the route—through which money got siphoned from Nick Sinatra to the AwfulPAC.

So, you’d expect that if this local publication were on the level, its author would be willing to go anywhere at any time, if for no other reason than to defend his honesty, accuracy, and integrity. But that’s not what happened. Snippets from that contract were aired, and it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Firstly, he demands that this interview, to take place in Toronto, be subject to New York State venue and choice of law. 

Then, he demands that the interview be broadcast “live and unedited.” 

Here, the Buffalo-based publisher demands a makeup artist, supplies, and that lighting be set 20% softer to suit him. The CBC can only use his name for “seven days” because that’s a thing that news organizations agree to.

But this is the best part. He tried to impose a ban on words and topics like whoa. He demands that he be identified as a “political consultant and publisher” but not as a “journalist, writer, blogger, or content producer.” I’m bummed because I want to learn more about his putative relationship to the Maggadinos and Todaros and “Butchie Bifocals”.

Naturally, the whole thing has a $250,000 liquidated damages clause

The moral of the story is that if you want to be a political commentator of sorts, or to run a publishing concern, it helps to proofread, it helps to not make things up, it helps to be thorough, and it helps to do some basic research. Furthermore, when accused of malfeasance, and you’re innocent, then proudly declare it with no preconditions or lighting and make-up requirements. It is only through tactics like phony addresses, make-believe “contributors”, theft of copyrighted material, and convoluted avoidance of accountability for your alleged malfeasance that it becomes evident that every charge and every accusation is true and unable to be defended.

Here are some of the perfectly reasonably responses I received from this person:

Nothing says “serious journalist” like fat jokes. (After this person claimed he was employed, I looked into that. He lists “Enkindle Strategies, LLC” out of San Francisco on LinkedIn as his employer. There is no such entity—nothing online for that company in the US, and no LLC registered under that name in California, Nevada, New York, or Delaware. Make of that what you will.)  

UPDATE: He appears to have deleted several of his Tweets. Here is a screencap. Click it to enlarge.

All of this resulted in him posting to Twitter and Facebook that I am a “serial harasser” and soliciting stories about my harassment from anonyms.

He posted it numerous times to Twitter. To Facebook. To his email list. To the lawyers in my office. I received dozens of email forwards from concerned and amused friends in town. I mean, this isn’t at all a creepy escalation, right? 

If the author of this website tells you it’s sunny, be sure to look out the window first. He whines about harassment while harassing me. I didn’t email his putative colleagues. I didn’t blast an email about him to all and sundry. I didn’t spam Twitter and Facebook with an image of me from my personal account. I didn’t even use his name in this post (except in embeds, where it is unavoidable).

This is all ominous lunacy, and everyone in Buffalo, Canada, and beyond, should be forewarned about him, his publication, and his practices. 

McCarthy Promotes Dixon Push Poll

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The task for the Lynne Dixon for County Executive team is a Herculean one – take a little-known, unremarkable county legislator and make her seem competitive against a perfectly reasonable two-term County Executive. After the utter fiasco of the Giambra financial meltdown, and the subsequent chaos and malice from the imperial Collins squad, Poloncarz’s calm competence is a welcome change for Erie County residents. A great deal of the dysfunction that plagued County Government during the preceding decade has been remedied and turned around.

We still have a control board. If it thought something wasn’t right, it would let us know.

So, Dixon – a person a few people may remember from TV, and who has been a quiet presence on the legislature – has a tough race. But she has retained a lot of the Collins overflow crew to help her create an aura of competitiveness that doesn’t exist in real life.

How? Easy. Use the Buffalo News’ sleepiest political columnist, Bob McCarthy, to manufacture an artificial competitive race.

The opening salvo was evident in this article McCarthy wrote, and the Buffalo News published, which turned out to be packed with lies. Based completely on hearsay – with no evidence that any proof was requested or produced – McCarthy transcribed the Dixon team’s utter BS and puffery to create a media narrative that Dixon’s “message” of ‘Mark bad’ is “resonating” with “West Seneca moms” because she raised over $200,000 since March. It was all garbage. She had raised less than $200,000 since January, and a lot of her money was from mega-donors or other campaign committees. The Buffalo News has not issued any sort of correction regarding McCarthy’s glaringly wrong reporting. The public deserves one. 

McCarthy cares about one type of political reporting: horserace.  McCarthy wrote it, the News published it, and Dixon got it out there in the press that she’s a player this cycle. You’d think that McCarthy would be pissed about Dixon’s team using him to push blatant falsehoods. 

You’d be wrong. 

This week’s Republican manipulation of McCarthy’s byline has to do with a poll that allegedly shows Dixon in a “statistical dead heat” with Poloncarz. The News did not publish the actual poll, or its raw data. The poll was based on a relatively small sample, and because it was a robocall could only be sent to landlines. The headline tells the whole tale – “Dixon does her own poll, and says it shows a tight race”. Hearsay. Dixon says. 

Incidentally, in 2018 I received almost weekly robocall polls using an ominous-sounding recorded voice to push-poll how Nate McMurray was the Irish-American equivalent of ISIS and Fidel Castro, combined. Never was the source of those calls revealed, and never were the results published. Based on the word on the street, the poll on which Dixon is relying seems extremely similar. Multiple people with whom I’ve spoken who received the call describe an ominous-sounding male recorded voice asking the series of questions, and the person answering the call is supposed to press a button on the phone to answer. It goes like this: ‘Nate McMurray is a philanderer who shoots puppies and eats kittens. Knowing that information, would you be more or less likely to vote for Nate McMurray or Chris Collins or don’t know. Press 1 for Nate McMurray…’ Here’s what it sounds like: 

When McCarthy’s story about this internal polling hit, he quoted the pollster and named the outfit that supposedly did the work. I Googled them both. There was no hit for a polling firm called “Co/Efficient” out of Kansas City. Then I Googled “Ryan Munce”, the putative owner of “Co/Efficient”. Apparently there’s a hockey player who goes by that name, so I added, “poll”, and only a few hits came up, none of them referencing “Co/Efficient.”  Munce worked for an outfit called “My College Options” until September 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was quoted in 2016 after having supposedly run a poll finding that 17 year olds preferred Trump over Clinton. 

This is a garbage poll by a garbage pollster that was designed solely for purposes of propaganda. 

As with McCarthy’s unvetted, single-source hearsay story about fundraising, the absence of the poll from the News’ report is glaring. The law requires that the Dixon campaign file the complete poll data with the Board of Elections, but by the time anyone sees it, it will be too late. The “Dixon in a dead heat with Poloncarz” and “momentum” memes have been artificially set through the manipulation of Bob McCarthy and the Buffalo News. Dixon told McCarthy that the poll somehow magically validates “what [she’s] hearing on the campaign trail” – the one where she skips the Pride Parade and the Juneteenth Parade and anywhere else not popular with the hundreds of thousands of WNYers who don’t tune in to hear what Sandy Beach thinks about a thing. “My anecdotes jibe with my propaganda” is hardly persuasive. 

As for the poll itself, it under-samples likely voters under 44 years of age at only 8%. The actual number is expected to be closer than 25%. The over-65 vote will be about 38% of the electorate, and the poll over-samples them at 55%. This poll under-samples Democratic voters at 46% when they are expected to be 51% of the electorate. The Buffalo News barely reported this by quoting a Poloncarz campaign spokesman, rather than doing its own vetting of the data. 

I found Co/Efficient, by the way. It has one employee – Ryan Munce. It’s not listed at FiveThirtyEight. It’s not listed at RealClearPolitics. I saw the alleged questions the poll asked. One was “do you support or oppose Mark Poloncarz’s plan to charge 5 cents for the use of plastic bags?” This is not an accurate reflection of what is being proposed. 

Omitted from the poll’s report is the question about whether a person would vote for a County Executive who hired a commissioner who raped an employee. Omitted from the poll’s report is the question alluding to Poloncarz not investing in roads. Why would Co/Efficient ask those questions and then not report the results in its report? Why would Co/Efficient ask those questions and not disclose that it had done so? 

One word: fraud.

This is a fraud being perpetrated on the electorate by a desperate and dishonest campaign. Meanwhile, Dixon feigns concern from a hastily-organized Twitter video of her wondering from Chris Grant’s office why oh why won’t Poloncarz weigh in on the Green Light Bill. Well, one reason is that he has nothing to do with its passage or implementation. While Mickey Kearns is busy being the Antoine Thompson of Kim Davises, I get why Dixon needs to play to her base but it all comes across as pathetic. 

Dirty tricks in politics is nothing new and unsurprising. What is troubling and surprising is that the Buffalo News lets its career political reporter transcribe what partisans tell him, and then the result becomes this: 

Is the Buffalo News really going to allow itself to be used like this? Is it really satisfied being a propaganda outlet for whatever Chris Grant calls Bob McCarthy about? 

The Mychajliw/Kearns Report Gif Recap

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With deepest apologies to the Goose’s Roost, who perfected the art, I attempt to recap the risible, juvenile, unprobative Mychajliw/Kearns “report” on the proposed issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented New York residents. 

The Clerk’s office says it is overburdened by the fact that people who want to “participate in air travel” will need to show proof of citizenship to get a Real ID. So, maybe, staff up. Do your jobs better. Increase efficiency. Be best: 

This has got to be a joke. You don’t need a birth certificate to get a driver’s license. This seems to be a complaint about Real ID implementation, not giving undocumented immigrant residents licenses: 

I am unaware of any country where documents required to verify identity, place of origin, etc., and are in a foreign language do not first require certification or apostille, alongside a certified translation: 

Again, nonsense. The DMV – THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES – and the people who work there will not have to learn about Burmese or Yemeni birth certificates any more than they do now for, say, refugees and immigrants with legal status. Here’s the application. You don’t need a birth certificate to get a driver’s license. You need to pay the fee, pass the test, and establish that you live in the state: 

This one may be my favorite –  that undocumented immigrants won’t have bank accounts, so they’ll be paying cash for their licenses and that this will somehow pose a hardship on the offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Erie County Clerk. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during this “brainstorming” session: 

Morale may be diminished, they say, because clerks will not be able to drop a dime on undocumented immigrant applicants, who are, BTW, not committing a criminal offense simply by being present in the United States without proper visa: 

 

Here, they argue that this hampers law enforcement – cops, sheriffs – from enforcing federal immigration law. Well, interesting because that’s not in their remit. And if you are given a license, you can run a DMV check on it regardless of one’s visa status: 

Sorry, how is this within the job description of a DMV clerk or a comptroller?

I guess here they’re saying that human traffickers will go out of their way to take their victims to the DMV to get a license in order to evade detection?

Here, they argue that all these “illegals” will just register to vote. This isn’t a thing that happens, and the license can clearly state “not a US citizen” or “for driving purposes only” like they do for under-21s: 

 

“License tourism” – even though you need proof of residency, people will supposedly come to NY and pay (in cash) to DMVs to get a license. And this is ostensibly a real thing that will happen and is a negative somehow. For Erie County. This is a thing someone thought about and decided to put in an official-looking “report”-cum-press-release: 

Maybe firearm background checks should be more stringently done. Seriously, the lack of self-awareness for these two to suggest that expanded driver’s license issuance would lead to the wrong people getting a hold of guns is next-level hilarious:  

How many DACA kids are technically illegal but have a valid social security number? Also look at the snark. Being in the country without a proper visa is not a crime, and most undocumented immigrants now are due to visa overstays: 

This is all make-believe.

“I hope you enjoyed reading this report as much as we enjoyed writing it.” This report is a joke. It is make-believe. It is designed for fear and hatred, and not for any legitimate governmental purpose. Shame on these two: 

 

Health Insurance Propagandist: Stick to the Status Quo

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The Buffalo News, which has taken something of a sharp turn to the right, published an “Another Voice” column penned by a health insurance broker. The conflict negates the opinion, but it deserves a fisking because it is so fundamentally dishonest. 

Literally every industrialized democracy in the world has figured out the question of how to ensure that its populace is not bankrupted by medical bills. Some, like Switzerland, rely on a tightly regulated private market where every resident is mandated to purchase a basic level of comprehensive health insurance. Some, like Germany, offer hybrid systems of state-regulated and private insurance. Some, like Britain, offer a comprehensive national single-payer system with a separate private tier of care available to those who can afford it. Some countries have a system run by the central government while others rely on state, cantonal, or provincial management. 

There exist literally myriad ways to solve the problem of paying for everyone’s health care, but the United States has failed and refused to do so, to everyone’s harm. We spend more per capita on private health insurance and derive generally worse outcomes than most of our international peer nations. 

It doesn’t matter what you call it – socialism, democratic socialism, social democracy – the idea is that everyone contributes, and everyone benefits. 

Dan Judge, the president of the “Greater Niagara Frontier Chapter of the New York Association of Health Underwriters” is certain, however, that it would be foolish to kill his job, and he’s got the scare tactics to prove it. 

As an an independent insurance broker in the field of health and employee benefits, I, along with a vast number of my insurance industry colleagues, truly understand and empathize with many of the opinions voiced lately regarding the confusion and frustration in our U.S. health care system. But that doesn’t mean we should throw it out for a single-payer, government-run system.

It is not just “confusion and frustration”, not when even the slight gains won through the Affordable Care Act, like coverage for pre-existing conditions, remains at constant peril from Republican hard-liners. While Washington lobbyists and their paid-for Congresspeople fritter away people’s coverage and health security, we have insurance underwriters desperate to explain that this idiotic, Frankenstein system of ours is worth preserving. 

Single-payer, as proposed under the New York Health Act, would completely disrupt, if not dismantle, our health care system. Mandating that all New Yorkers would be forced to give up their current coverage and be lumped into one government-controlled system would not only be an administrative nightmare, it would also have a negative impact on access to care.

Disruption of a stupid, wasteful, redundant system of multiple private bureaucracies is exactly the point. Our health insurance system is broken. Single-payer is but one option available to remedy that. If insurance brokers are scared of that, then they should propose some other solution. Scaring us with PR-tested phrases like “administrative nightmare” won’t work because any American saddled with some garbage private health insurance has at least one horror story about what a waste of time, money, and effort it is. 

Single-payer is just that – one insurer. Of course, “single-payer” could take the form of a statewide contract through RFP for handling of every medical claim by one company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be administered by a state agency. But yes, instead of paying thousands of dollars to a private insurer of some sort, it would all go to one place, and that one place would pay the bills for doctors, hospitals, testing, therapy, etc. Doctors would have only one place to go to for billing issues, rather than a cafeteria list of various and disparate private entities and coverages, each one posing a bureaucratic nightmare for physicians and staff who just want to get on with the task of treating and helping patients. 

If we look to Canada (the closest single system we have to compare to) we see what life is really like under single-payer. The libertarian Fraser Institute of Canada publishes a “Waiting Your Turn” report every year, highlighting dramatic increases in wait times for specialists and procedures. Patients wait several months just to start cancer treatment. This has an increasing number of people choosing “medical tourism,” traveling to places like New York, rather than waiting in Canada for care.

You cannot stan for a system that prioritizes insurance claim bureaucracy over patient care and then complain, ‘but muh Saskatchewan wait times’. 

Generally, taking one’s cues from a “libertarian” institute is a fool’s errand. If you don’t like Canada’s system, here’s an idea: take what works, omit what doesn’t, and improve upon it. People from Canada do not, generally speaking, travel to the United States to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to receive treatment that comes free back home. For instance, if you navigate to Kaleida’s website, it has a page dedicated to Canadian patients, inviting them to “fast-track” their procedure in Buffalo. The highlighted services are cardiovascular, orthopedics, weight loss (bariatric), general surgery & oncological surgery, neuroscience, and diagnostic services. Although “oncological surgery” is in the pull-down menu, when you click through, it offers hernia repair, laparoscopic surgery, orthopedic surgery, weight loss, gynecological, and urological surgeries. Nothing specific there about cancer. 

Not that Canada’s system is perfect; it’s not. No system is perfect, and the quest for perfection is a red herring when even a modest improvement will do. The benefit, if there exists one, of waiting this long to figure this out, is that we have so many different models from which to choose that have been implemented abroad in real life for real care for real people. Pick what works and improve upon what doesn’t. Don’t stick to the status quo – do something better. 

The NHS, by contrast, has a two-week legislated maximum wait-time for urgent cancer referrals. The biggest problems facing government-run systems is cut-backs and austerity, not the system itself. 

Much of the savings proponents of the New York Health Act point to are dependent upon major cuts to hospitals and doctors. In Erie County, nine out of the 10 hospitals would see funding decline dramatically under single-payer. Your doctor may decide the lower pay and higher taxes aren’t worth practicing in New York anymore. This will also make it harder to recruit new doctors, leading to provider shortages.

On the other hand, doctors could lay off the staff they have on hand who exist solely to navigate the various and sundry insurance schemes that do or do not pay for care, as the case may be, thus keeping more money for themselves. It’s actually a quite cynical and disgusting charge to lay upon physicians, as if money was their motivator, rather than helping sick patients. Do you think a doctor would be happier if he would get paid regardless of whom he saw as a patient, and regardless of whether there was a proper referral, etc., or if he had to maintain the status quo and deal with referrals and co-pays and collections and insurance appeals? Imagine if a doctor would never again have to turn away a patient based on ability to pay. Imagine if a patient could get the care he needed regardless of ability to pay, and not bankrupt his family in the long run. 

And then there are the massive tax increases. Analysis conducted by the RAND Corp. last year estimated that taxes would need to increase by $139 billion in the first year alone under a single-payer system; including long-term care increases this amount by an additional $43 billion in taxes. The NYHA would create the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, ballooning to more than $250 billion a year when fully implemented.

How does that compare with the money New Yorkers now pay to their private health insurers, and in co-pays and deductibles? Every single private health insurance scheme goes to pay for each company’s massive payment-related and medical approval bureaucracy. Eliminate that redundancy.

That same RAND corporation study that Judge cites actually shows a net savings to New Yorkers if this scheme is implemented. If we kept the status quo, New Yorkers would pay $311 billion for health insurance. Taxes would increase and replace that. We would save 6.5% or $20.4 billion in reduced administrative costs, 5.2% or $16.3 billion in reduced physician and hospital administrative costs, $18.6 billion or 6% in reduced prices for drugs and medical devices, totalling a savings of $55.1 billion. The increases in cost would be $17.1 billion or 5.5% to insure everyone, improved fees for providers of $8.8 billion or 2.8%, and $18 billion or 5.8% for enhancements to long-term care coverage.  New Yorkers would save $11.4 billion. 

It is literally cheaper to cover everyone. 

The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office recently determined that a national single-payer system “would significantly increase government spending and require substantial additional government resources.” Just like the RAND Corp., they also noted the possibility of less access to care while facing an increased demand that could not be met.

Yes, because money you now pay in deductibles, co-pays, and health insurance would instead go to one other place, cost less, and provide more. Call it “taxes” to scare people, but I’d rather pay a smaller sum in taxes than I do for health insurance and annual deductibles in order to have complete, comprehensive medical, vision, dental, and long term care coverage. It is a no-brainer for anyone who has any experience with the American system. 

The majority of New Yorkers – 95% – are currently covered by health insurance. (In Western New York, that number rises to 96.8%.) The state should be looking at ways to help cover the remaining 5% instead of ways to create more frustration and confusion under a single-payer health care system.

tl;dr: it’s not so much important that people have adequate health insurance, so long as the health insurance brokers can pay for another Cadillac. 

If people want to have a debate on the merits as to what sort of medical coverage scheme best works for New York or the United States, that’s fine. The status quo, both pre- and post-Obamacare is inadequate and results in literal deaths from people without adequate coverage, money to pay deductibles, and avoidance of medical care due to financial anxiety. 

Americans deserve better. Want to make America great again? Cover every American. This is how it should be: 

and

Our individualistic, libertarian paradise, however, is very different.

A Chronicle Told By An Idiot

I have a general policy to not name the owner of the Buffalo Chronicle, to link to its stories, or otherwise to promote it in any meaningful way. This is, in part, why I am not even going to bother to publish this at the Daily Public.

About a week or so ago, the little-known local bullshit artist who runs the fake-news-before-it-was-a-thing rag published a half-true piece about legal work that I did for Erie County at my former job. The article itself seemed written by an illiterate, and had more than a few inaccuracies.

I debunked a bunch of the information in two tweets – here and here. His insinuation was that the average $75,000 per year of legal work my former firm billed to Erie County at bargain rates was the quid for the pro quo of me supporting County Executive Mark Poloncarz. That is, of course, idiotic. I had supported Poloncarz before I did work for the county, during, and after. I have not touched a county case in almost a year at my current employment, nor do I derive any benefit – monetary or otherwise – relating to the former work that I did.

Interestingly, a few years ago, just after Frank Parlato bought out ArtVoice, local shit-stirrer and former Democratic County Executive candidate Peter Reese sniffed around to try and write this story. Reese called me at the time and I referred him to my boss for comment. Nothing ever came of it.

But Reese has a new toy – the owner of the Buffalo Chronicle. How do we know this?

Looks like the owner of the Buffalo Chronicle went on Reese’s payroll on or about April 14, 2019. The “Better with Reese” BOE campaign filings show that Reese directly paid this individual $3,500 in the four weeks from mid-April to mid-May in order to fund attacks in his rag against me, Mark Poloncarz, Legislative candidates Lisa Chimera and Howard Johnson, Nate McMurray, Judge Burns (who presided over Reese’s BOE case and whom the Chronicle accused of corruption), and Judge Sue Maxwell Barnes, whom he accused of “bribery.” All of this is to fuel some sort of anti-Democratic HQ vendetta by Reese and other Pigeon stan accounts.

The whole thing is projection. The Chronicle accuses me of being on the take in exchange for biting commentary against dummies like Kathy alt-right Weppner and noted local convicted criminals Kristy Mazurek and Steve Pigeon, while a candidate is paying the Chronicle’s owner a handsome sum for “consulting” fees. And what happens? All of a sudden, the Chronicle miraculously finds itself slamming people with whom Reese has some beef. I was a vocal Poloncarz supporter before I did legal work for the county, during, and after. Nothing about what I did changed, except that when I wrote about county issues, I added a disclaimer about that work. If anything, during the time that I did legal work for the County, I regularly withheld comment about county government goings-on.

So the accusation that I was paid off for my commentary is stupid and preposterous. Here, we have Lorigo Democrat Peter Reese shoving $3,500 at this person who can barely scrape two coherent sentences together, and for what – “consulting”? Consulting? I’m at a loss to recall a candidate whom this person has consulted or advised – Egriu? Martin? Mascia? Giambra? Al Coppola? – who has made any significant electoral headway. I mean, that sort of consulting is what he does when he isn’t being outed in Canadian media for his fake stories. Or that time he claimed that Preet Bharara would indict Andrew Cuomo on a Saturday after a holiday.

Joe Illuzzi was savvier, more talented a huckster, and had a genuine knack for running that horrible site of his. Illuzzi was also a better writer, which isn’t saying much.

Stay tuned.

Dictaphone McCarthy and the Case of the Missing $200,000

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News reporting shouldn’t be a “choose your own adventure,” but the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy has a tendency to simply write down what people tell him and report that as fact, without checking. It is lazy horse-race reporting that purports to inform voters about inside-baseball fundraising, but offers zero substance and questionable facts. It’s candy for the Illuzzi-reader crowd. 

On May 22, the Buffalo News published a story claiming that the Republican-endorsed candidate for County Executive had “raised more than $200,000 since declaring her candidacy in March” and that this fundraising prowess lent her the “credibility to raise even more and prove competitive against Poloncarz.” 

The News report that Lynne Dixon, the Republicans’ candidate for County Executive, raised over $200,000 since declaring her candidacy in March is false. She has raised less than $200,000 since January, and of that less than $100,000 can be counted as actual contributions from regular people. 

“It says people are ready for change, and I will continue to work to raise the funds to get my message out,” she said. “I said all along I will raise the necessary money to get my message out, and I will.”

and, according to Republican direct-mail wunderkind Chris Grant, 

“I think she has showed an energy and a buzz around her campaign that has not been seen in a while,” he said. “There is a different element of folks who are attracted to her campaign, and she is tapping into something very different here.”

“While Mark is talking about the Paris climate accord and other esoteric issues to play to his base,” he said, “Lynne is talking about issues important to moms in West Seneca.”

This is just the latest example of Bob McCarthy transcribing whatever the last Republican apparatchik told him, and reporting it as fact. McCarthy’s animus towards Democrats and their party committee chairman Jeremy Zellner is thinly veiled, and all of this “reporting” isn’t so much about facts as it is about feelings.

My initial reaction was this: 

That tweet must have set Grant’s Spidey-sense tingling. 

and 

Well, the filing posted. The report was wholly inaccurate.

Let’s take a look at the filing against the backdrop of the claim to McCarthy of over $200,000 brought in since March. Dixon actually raised $191,358 since January. $168,683 came in via “contributions”, and $26,675 came in as “miscellaneous receipts”. A $9,000 discrepancy, which in WNY amounts to real money, or a single check from the likes of a steel magnate. 

I guess it helps to check what a source is saying. 

Of the $26,675 “miscellaneous receipts”, $25,000 of it was a straight-up transfer from the Erie County Republican Committee. The rest was from local committees. Republican committees throwing money at a Republican race is hardly indicative of some sort of groundswell of small-i independent grassroots support for “change.” 

Another $17,000 came from other campaign committees, LLCs, and PACs, and of that fully $10,000 came from one source – the “Friends of Nick Langworthy” campaign account. While Grant and Dixon declared that, thanks to fed-up West Seneca moms donating “more than” $200,000 since March because Dixon’s message was resonating, it turns out that less than $142,000 came from individual contributions & partnerships.

Breaking down the individual contributions, Pigeonista desperado and nominal “Democrat” James J. Eagan gave $20,000. Brian Lipke of Gibraltar Steel gave $10,000, and Pat Hotung of Main Place Liberty Group cut a check for $25,000. Take away those three mega-donations of $55,000, and regular people donated about $87,000 between January and May. Not too bad, but also not $200,000. 

The problem here is not so much about whether Lynne Dixon raised “more than $200,000” since “March” and whether that is indicative of grassroots demands for change – the issue is that by the time the actual numbers were released to the Board of Elections, the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy had already reported this unsubstantiated hearsay, which was framed as evidence of “people…ready for change.” The whole meme – the whole narrative – collapsed the moment the actual filing was made, and there is no correction or other indication in the News that Dictaphone Bob was duped again, caught transcribing whatever the last Republican told him and not checking the facts.  

“A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes,” goes the quip.

If we can agree that even $87,000 is a good take, I’m sure Dixon will continue to raise money well. So, I don’t understand (a) the need to exaggerate (i.e., lie) about the sum; and (b) why the Buffalo News just goes ahead and prints whatever Chris Grant says. Incidentally, if all of this was to show that West Seneca moms have concerns that don’t quite include the Paris Climate Accords, that is not reflected in Dixon’s financials and is, at best, puffery. Of 15 individual donations from West Seneca residents, 3 were female. The vast majority of the remaining donations were also from men. 

Grant says of Dixon, 

“She’s pitch-perfect for Cheektowaga, which is not a radical, progressive town,” Grant said. “When the Democrats get away and veer into this liberal nonsense, that’s when they get in trouble.”

In 2015, Poloncarz faced off against a folksy former county legislator. In Cheektowaga, Poloncarz received 8,523 votes. Ray Walter received 3,555. In 2011, Poloncarz earned 12,315 Cheektowagan votes vs. Chris Collins’ 9,863. In 2007, however, Chris Collins trounced Jim Keane, but it seems as if Cheektowagans are ok with Poloncarz, who is not a “radical, progressive” of any sort. 

Dictaphone McCarthy needs to check his facts, and the Buffalo News should not just publish what amounts to Dixonian propaganda without verifying the numbers. It’s all of it a disservice to the public. The coming months will see whether Dixon offers a genuine agenda beyond just throwing shade at Poloncarz and running on a platform in defense of one-use plastic bags.

What we do know is that Dixon and her partisans can freely urinate on Bob McCarthy’s leg, tell him it’s raining, and he’ll publish a few hundred words about the big rainstorm. 

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