About that Peace and Progress

stinkfaceSaturday is the big Erie County Democratic Reorganization meeting, where Jeremy Zellner will battle it out with Mark Manna for the 2-year chairmanship of the party.  I’m on the committee in Clarence, which easily has at least a dozen Democrats. 

I’ve received mail and calls from Zellner’s effort, but nothing from Manna’s. This is interesting to me, because the anti-Zellner bloc purport to want to fight “Republicans again instead of Democrats” and bring “peace and progress” to the party. 

The reasons I reckon this is utter bullshit include: 

1. If they wanted to bring peace, they’d reach out to people like me in some meaningful way.  Not only am I a committeeman, but for years, I’ve been writing about the stupid unproductivity of Democratic infighting. I have not received a call or a piece of mail or a Facebook message or an email. Nothing.  UPDATE: I received a Facebook message (I thought it was just a generic announcement) and Manna called me to chat this afternoon. We aired our various issues as between Zellner and the people backing Manna, and I continue to like and respect Mark even if I am not supporting this effort of his.

2. The people backing Manna are not people known for bringing “peace and progress” to the Democratic committee.  On the contrary, Byron Brown, Steve Pigeon, and Tim Kennedy have spent most of their time sabotaging first Lenihan and then Zellner. When Zellner actually made an effort to bring peace by endorsing Byron Brown, he did so with Brown’s agreement to reciprocate. Byron Brown is reneging on that agreement, and it’s simply dishonorable. Tim Kennedy is supremely butthurt that ECDC endorsed Betty Jean Grant over him, but what did he think? That you could hand over a Democratic legislature into Chris Collins’ hands and just get away with it? Give almost $100k to a PAC working to sabotage ECDC candidates and be forgiven the next day? And convicted felon Pedro Espada’s patronage hire – neither peace nor progress is not on the agenda, ever. 

3. Former TV personality Kristy Mazurek is aligned with the anti-Zellner effort. Kristy Mazurek called WEDG on primary day to try and intimidate the station into keeping me off the air, telling them that a “team of lawyers” was “monitoring” me, threatening Shredd & Ragan with a subpoena. Perhaps “peace and progress” is this crowd’s way of saying, “retribution and intimidation”. They’re being quite transparent about the kind of operation they intend to run. They also don’t scare me or Shredd & Ragan. 

4. Mike Deely, the local head of the teacher’s union, is viciously against Zellner. No one really knows what this guy’s deal is, but he parachuted into his position in 2011, marshals hundreds of thousands in union dollars, and now wants to dictate who the chair should be? I wonder whether Deely thinks that, e.g., Tim Kennedy handing over the legislature to Chris Collins was good for public education or teachers. Wynnie Fisher ran for the legislature last year. Deely donated to her campaign. What does Deely think about the vicious attack that his new allies launched against Fisher last November? Furthermore, Deely swore under oath that John Rivera and Assemblyman Sean Ryan saw Dennis Ward destroy Deely’s committee petitions. Rivera and Ryan say they saw no such thing

5. They don’t want to fight Republicans, they want to control jobs and settle scores. It’s evident from their words and deeds. If they win, I’ll probably switch to unenrolled. I won’t ever play their game and sabotage Democrats or their party apparatus. But I certainly won’t help them, either. I don’t reward bullying, trolling, and bad behavior. 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana

Political Shorts and a Hot Dog Stand

1. Schneiderman Kickoff

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman kicked off the WNY leg of his 2014 re-election campaign in Niagara Square on Tuesday, flanked by a wide variety of politicians, activists, and union leaders from throughout the area, some of whom don’t always get along (more on that later). Throughout his first term, the former State Senator from New York’s Upper West Side has brought a new energy to the Attorney General’s office, with his most significant focus being the protection of the average consumer from predatory, unfair, and deceptive business practices.

After glowing speeches from former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Mayor Byron Brown, Schneiderman was introduced by Avi Israel, an average guy from North Buffalo. Israel’s son, Michael, tragically committed suicide a few years ago in part  because he was taking several prescription medications that different doctors had prescribed.  Because there was no mechanism in place for the physicians to see what others had prescribed, and at the time of his suicide, Michael was taking about 20 different medications

With Schneiderman’s help and lobbying, New York passed the I-STOP prescription monitoring program last year. The program requires providers to review a patient’s medical history before prescribing any opioid pain medication. It also requires any such medications to be e-prescribed, and the filling of any prescription by a New York pharmacy updates the database in real time. This has decreased doctor-shopping in New York by an incredible 75%

Just this week, the AG’s office cut a deal with Wal*Mart over a fraudulent “sugar tax” it was levying on sales of soda

Schneiderman’s opponent is hitting the incumbent on his silence over the Moreland Commission debacle. But consider this

I think you may have heard that that is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and I don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” Schneiderman told reporters in Schenectady, where he announced $20 million for a land bank initiative. “My office is cooperating with the United States Attorney and we’ll leave it at that.”

Schneiderman has said little about the Moreland Commission’s demise or whether he knew about claims that Cuomo’s administration was interfering in the panel’s work and steering them away from Cuomo’s allies.

Schneiderman’s office deputized the members of the commission, and has been cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in connection with its ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, Schneiderman’s opponent touts his work with George Pataki, a governor who didn’t need to shut down his own investigation into public corruption because it never made its way to his agenda. 

For his part, Schneiderman noted that his office had prosecuted over 50 cases of public employees and electeds stealing taxpayer money and abuse of power. 

2. Scratch that!

State Sellout Tim Kennedy is not challenging Jeremy Zellner for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee at this Saturday’s re-organization meeting. Instead, it will be Amherst Town Councilman Mark Manna. Manna reportedly has the backing of Mike Deely from NYSUT, State Sellout Tim Kennedy, and Mayor Byron Brown. 

This is all very interesting mostly because Zellner and ECDC endorsed Brown’s re-election campaign last year on the express condition and guarantee that the Mayor would back Zellner’s re-election as chairman. That’s honor for you. I’m not 100% sure what it is about Steve Pigeon’s track record of running the party in the late 90s is so desirable to people, so it must come down to who doles out the jobs, and possibly something to do with the judicial nominations. There’s no other objectively rational explanation. 

I like Mark, so I’m not going to bash him, but I will say this: Zellner’s opposition is running on a “peace and progress” platform. It seems to me that Erie County Democrats could easily have had peace and progress over the course of the last decade if there wasn’t a conspiratorial opposition working feverishly to sabotage the county committee every so often. A group of malcontents (Deely, for example, was for Teachout/Wu and now he’s aligned with people who sell out to the GOP regularly?) conspiring in Steve Pigeon’s house to overthrow the guy they’ve been working feverishly to weaken over the last few years is hardly the picture of party unity anyone needs. This time, at least, they don’t have Governor Cuomo’s blessing or support. 

Let it be clear: if you hand over the reins of the party committee to Steve Pigeon, the last things you’ll get are peace or progress. 

3. Grisanti Staying In The Race

State Senator Mark Grisanti remains on the Independence Fusion Party’s ballot, and dammit he’s got bank, and he’s gonna spend it. Right now, it would be a 4-way race involving Grisanti, Marc Panepinto on the (D) line, Kevin Stocker on the (R) line, and Timothy Gallagher (who?) on the Conservative Fusion Party line. Stocker and Gallagher split the gun-fetish vote, so look for Stocker to somehow wrangle the Conservative Fusion line in the next few weeks. With Stocker picking up the anti-Cuomo vote, Grisanti and Panepinto duke it out for the general electorate, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, but not especially liberal. 

126,000 people voted in 2012, and turnout might be about that high, given the gubernatorial race. But when Paladino ran in 2010, only 65,000 people voted overall, and Grisanti narrowly beat incumbent Antoine Thompson. 2012 gave voters a chance to express their outrage at Grisanti’s same sex marriage vote, and 2014 gives the NY SAFE Act opponents a similar opportunity. But Grisanti can tout the fact that both major parties have rejected him and posit himself as the centrist alternative to ultra-left-wing Panepinto and extreme right-wing Stocker. Don’t count Grisanti out just yet. In November,  the tea party’s influence is significantly more diluted than it was in September. 

4. How hard is it to operate a bridge,

for God’s sake? The Peace Bridge is the steel emblem of western New York. It is our physical connection to a huge, wealthy Canadian marketplace, and stands as a symbol of political gridlock, secrecy, inaction, failure, and idiocy. 

5. Reverse Cowdog Taken?

The contrived use of shipping containers – whatever. But I quite literally hate everything else about this “Dog e Style” from the name, to the font, to the sign, to the mascot. Get it? The hot dog is wearing a tux, so is “é” “is” in Portuguese? But the double entendre is “doggy style”, which will make parents of pre-adolescents cringe the hell away from that place because, really. The day my kid asks to get a “gourmet” hot dog at a place pronounced “doggy style” is not a day that will ever happen. 

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter

 

Erie County 2013: Ds, Rs, Is, Cs, Blanks, and EmoDems

Who’s who, what’s what, and what to think about it all. The background is as follows: Jeremy Zellner defeated Frank Max last year in a hotly contested race for chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee – a win that was ultimately challenged in court, where Zellner’s win was upheld. Since then, Max – more often than not aligned with former chairman Steve Pigeon and his small but vocal team of Republicans nominally Democratic contrarians has been cultivating alliances with Republicans and Conservatives, and at times creating chaos for its own sake

The Republican committee is run ably by Nick Langworthy, who has a lot of big-ticket names and hard-fought races under his belt. More importantly, the outnumbered Republicans have aligned themselves in most races with both the Erie County Conservative Party, run by Ralph Lorigo, and the New York State Independence Party, which does not let any local IP organization decide on endorsements. Having three lines, including two cleverly named minor fusion parties, is the only way Republicans can win races countywide, and in certain parts of the county. 

But the most dangerous person for Democrats in western New York is Stefan Mychajliw. The eye-chart name, the boyish good looks and charm, for years you let him into your homes via the teevee, where he donned a red coat and asked “tough questions” because he was on your side. He has parlayed that nightly visit into elected office, where he is relentlessly “reasonably sounding the alarm” on county spending, waste, fraud, and abuse. He knows full well that he has wide and deep appeal to voters, no matter what party affiliation. The comptroller gig is just part of a longer-term goal to attain executive office – Mayor or County Executive – and people know him and like him, regardless of how he’s doing his job. 

COUNTYWIDE

Erie County Comptroller (Stefan Mychajliw, incumbent)

Democratic Regionalism and downsizing activist Kevin Gaughan has taken the place of Lynn Szalkowski, who dropped out of the race shortly after petitioning ended. Gaughan will compete on the Democratic and Working Families lines. Mychajliw will have the Conservative line, but he is being challenged on the Independence Party line by Anthony Dorazio, Jr. 

The venom directed by the chaotic Frank Max EmoDems against Zellner’s recruitment of Szalkowski should be of particular concern. Szalkowski was, on paper, the dream candidate; she is an attractive, youthful female with an ethnic name from the suburbs, whose CPA made her remarkably more qualified for the position than the incumbent. It’s not her fault she dropped out of the race – by all accounts, she is smart, bright, and knew what she was getting into, but personal stresses got in the way of an effective campaign and she had to drop out. It’s frankly none of anybody’s business what those stresses were, but there was a great deal of hatred spewn at her and at Zellner when she departed the race – and it was done by people who are either named “Mychajliw” or so close to his campaign that Zellner could have recruited Jesus Christ, CPA and they still would have backed Stef. “Disingenuous” isn’t strong enough for their wailing. 

But more importantly, Szalkowski is exactly the sort of person any political party should want to attract to public office. Smart people who enter politics know they’re in for a tough go, but she was unfairly and viciously attacked. Suggesting that the party perpetrated some sort of petition fraud is laughable. They really wanted her.

Now, we have Kevin Gaughan – a person who, unlike Mychajliw, has a genuine record of accomplishing the unthinkable – shrinking of the size of government in western New York. A lawyer, Gaughan has devoted years to make the region and city run smarter and more efficiently. Would Gaughan run his office by press release, and send auditors to trick custodians into unlocking rooms to grab DSS records from a secure subbasement location in the Rath Building to score political points? Doubtful. 

Dorazio is a local IP member who is sick of the downstate people selecting Republicans (almost exclusively) to run on that line. 

Erie County Sheriff (Tim Howard, incumbent)

Richard Dobson is a former deputy, and is backed by the Max/Pigeon EmoDems faction. Bert Dunn is scion to the Bert’s Bikes empire, formerly the Dunn Tire empire, and is a current Sheriff’s Deputy. It’s been alleged that the EmoDems have teamed up with incumbent Tim Howard to use Dobson as a pawn. Dobson is similar in almost every way to the last two Democrats who challenged Howard and lost.

By contrast, Dunn is young, he’s currently on the force, knows the issues that exist on the force as it stands now, and is a centrist Democrat who has crossover appeal. Republican Tim Howard, who is running for his third term as county sheriff, has endured a string of high-profile embarrassments and scandals from the Department of Justice review of the holding centers, the Ralph “Bucky” Phillips escape from a county jail, the botched search for Joan Diver, etc. Howard will have the Conservative and Independence line, and Dunn will have the Working Families Line. 

COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one. That one seat doesn’t necessarily mean a Republican pickup, by the way – there are at least four nominal “Democrats” vying for a seat, any one or all of whom would gladly strike a deal to share power with the Republicans, just like under Barbara Miller-Williams period of dysfunction and collaboration

District 1 (Timothy Hogues, incumbent)

Hogues will have the Working Families line, but he is being challenged on the Democratic line by… 

…wait for it…

Barbara Miller-Williams. No joke. No one has the Republican or Conservative nod. Miller-Williams has backing from people close to City Hall, and the chaotic Max/Pigeon EmoDems. Hogues defeated Miller-Williams last time around because she used her position to align herself with Chris Collins and the Republicans on the legislature, effecting a Republican coup of that body. The result was devastating for her constituents, as Collins defunded clinics and other resources on which the community depended. Hogues is chairman of the public safety committee and has helped to restore all the Collins cuts to libraries, rodent control, and a soon to open clinic on Broadway. Hogues is a rising star in the party and someone to watch. 

District 2 (Betty Jean Grant, incumbent)

Democrat Grant came extremely close to upsetting Democratic State Senator Tim Kennedy during last year’s primary, mostly thanks to an aggressive write-in campaign. It shows that Grant has a very strong and motivated base of support. Joyce Wilson Nixon is challenging Grant for the Democratic line in September. Betty Jean will have the Working Families line.  No one has the Republican or Conservative nod. Nixon’s husband works in City Hall, and she runs the National Inner Cities Youth Opportunities nonprofit, which receives public money to help at-risk youth. 

District 3 (Lynn Marinelli, incumbent)

Attorney Jennifer Stergion is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Marinelli has the Democratic and Working Families lines. The two will square off in September in an Independence Party primary. Marinelli is one of the hardest working people in county government, and is an effective, likeable, relentless candidate. 

District 4 (Kevin Hardwick, incumbent)

Hardwick will run on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines. A Democrat named Bill Conrad is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. Conrad is a relative unknown outside of Kenmore and Tonawanda, but he is a teacher at Ken West, an unenrolled voter, and is very active in extracurricular sports in the town. He is very smart and will need to work extremely hard to unseat the well-known and popular Canisius professor. 

District 5 (Tom Loughran, incumbent)

Loughran has staked out a bit of a reputation for independence during his legislative tenure, and will be challenged in November by Republican Amherst Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson. Anderson and Loughran both submitted petitions for the Independence Party line. Anderson will have the Republican line, while Loughran has the Democratic line. Someone submitted “opportunity to ballot” petitions for the Working Families line, and a Christopher Fellows is challenging Loughran in a primary for the Conservative line.  Loughran will have to run hard, as it is a tough district, but his independent streak and no-nonsense demeanor should do well for him. 

District 6 (Ed Rath, incumbent)

Rath will have the Republican, Conservative, and Independence nods while Clarence resident Alan Getter submitted Democratic petitions. Getter is unenrolled and needs a Wilson-Pakula to run on the (D) line. A Clarence resident, Getter is a CPA and small business owner who is active in the community. Ed Rath is Ed Rath. 

The Frank Max Faction MascotDistrict 7 (Tom Mazur, incumbent)

Mazur is not seeking re-election, and he has endorsed Democrat Lynn Dearmyer to replace him. Dearmyer primaried Mazur in 2009 and lost. Former Cheektowaga town councilman Rick Zydel is challenging Dearmyer for the Democratic nod.

Zydel has the backing of the Max/Pigeon chaos faction. In fact, Zydel announced that he would run a primary campaign against the incumbent Mazur, the legislative majority leader. Obviously, that’s not going to go over well at Democratic HQ. So, when Mazur decided not to run – mere days before petitioning was to begin – HQ wasn’t inclined to call an endorsement meeting, and an open primary ensued. Zellner says, “not one committeeman” has called him to “express outrage at this.” Incidentally, as to Zydel’s alleged popularity in Cheektowaga, he most recently lost re-election to the town council to (of all things) a Republican. 

Pat Burke, a South Buffalo native who recently ran for a seat on the common council – and lost  – is also running as a Democrat, leaving a 3-way primary in September.  Elias Farah, who appears to be a tea party type, is running on the Republican and Independence lines. Zydel has the Conservative nod, and also submitted petitions for the Working Families line.  

District 8 (Terry McCracken, incumbent)

McCracken is not seeking re-election. Democrat Wes Moore is backed by the Frank Max / Steve Pigeon Democratic faction. Ted Morton is running on the Republican line. Wynnie Fisher is a teacher who is also running as a Democrat, and Morton has the Conservative line.  As in the case of Zydel, Moore announced before McCracken decided he was out. Moore never contacted Democratic Headquarters or Jeremy Zellner directly, except to send an email to a generic “info@” email address asking when his endorsement meeting would be held. None was held. It should be noted that WGRZ 2-Sides cohost Kristy Mazurek is Moore’s and Zydel’s campaign manager. Query why Mychajliw would have felt the need to abandon the show when he ran for public office, yet the Democrat on the show feels no similar ethical obligation to do so, going so far as to attempt to ridicule an opponent on Facebook who wasn’t interested in going on the show. 

Like Zydel, Miller-Williams – and to a lesser degree Nixon – are potential candidates to flip the legislature to one that is friendly to the Republican minority, resulting in a de facto Republican majority. Anyone who remembers the Barbara Miller-Williams legislature knows what that would look like. The only difference now is that Chris Collins is nowhere to be seen. 

District 9 (Lynne Dixon, incumbent)

Former WGRZ journalist Dixon is a member of the Independence Party who caucuses with the Republicans in the legislature. She is being challenged by Democrat Mike Schraft, who also has the Working Families line. Dixon has the Conservative line, and is being challenged by Brian Burke for the Independence Party nomination. Schraft is a military guy with a background at the State Department, specifically dealing with development and budget issues in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Washington. Burke is related to Pat Burke, as seen above in the 7th District Race. 

District 10 (Joe Lorigo, incumbent)

Lorigo is a member of the Conservative Party, led locally by his father, who caucuses with the Republicans in the legislature. Lauren M. Gray is a young law school graduate awaiting her bar exam results, has the Working Families line, and is challenging Lorigo for the Independence nod. Democratic Headquarters is proud to have five female candidates, three of whom have never before run for office. Lorigo is seen as vulnerable and a possible (D) pickup, due to the fact that he doesn’t enjoy a wide base of support and has done little. 

District 11 (John Mills, incumbent)

Mills is running unopposed. Can you believe that? 

Questions/comments & hate mail: buffalopundit[at]gmail.com

Follow along on Twitter

Max v. Ward, et al.: Transcript of Judge Chimes’ Decision

Judge Chimes’ Decision on Max v. Ward, et al. by

http://www.scribd.com/embeds/122208945/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll

Erie County Democrats, Politics, and Governing

The Democratic Party in Erie County needs to change, and it needs to do so fast. 

In just a short period of time – less than 10 years – the Erie County Republican Party has gotten its act together while the Democrats have foundered. The fault for this lies not with Len Lenihan or Jeremy Zellner. It doesn’t lie with Erie County Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo or with the state Independence Party chair Frank MacKay. It doesn’t lie with Steve Pigeon. It lies with everyone. 

Frank Max partisans will go out of their way to blame Jeremy Zellner. What good does that do? From a micro standpoint, it might make you feel better – even though we are without any evidence that any electoral outcomes would have been different had he been the party’s chairman. But from a macro standpoint – for the overall good of Democratic politics in Erie County, it is a further descent down a rabbit hole of recriminations and unnecessary shaming and blaming, which is wholly counterproductive. 

Want to blame someone? Look in the mirror. 

I’m writing this because I want Democrats in Erie County to succeed. 

Republicans don’t even have to do battle with Democrats. Democrats are perfectly fine battling amongst themselves. It’s dumb, it’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop

On Election Night, the Erie County Democratic Party lost key high-profile races, Kirsten Gillbrand, Barack Obama, and Brian Higgins will serve new terms. Mike Amodeo lost, Kathy Hochul lost, and David Shenk lost. While some factions will gloat about this, and declare that it proves some intramural point, it reflects poorly on everybody in every faction

In the last ten years the Republicans in Erie County have gone from being an elitist club of enduring failure (excepting some safe suburban zones), and completely reinvented themselves into a party with young candidates, brash candidates, new and controversial ideas, and – most importantly – a large pot of money.

Let’s look at the Comptroller’s race. After two Poloncarz victories – countywide milestones for Democrats – we lost this time. Millionaires and developers like the Collinses, the Corwins, Paladino and his collection of companies have used their deep pockets to expand their political influence. That new reality allowed races like Stefan Mychajliw’s to be exceedingly well funded against an awkward Democratic unknown from a small exurb whose selection was almost cynical in its electoral tone-deafness. After 2010, Democrats lost Paladino’s money for good – he was sometimes a reliable Democratic donor in certain, key races. Mychajliw has no personal fortune from which to draw – indeed, he made much of his thrift during the campaign – beater car, cracked-screen smartphone. Whereas just 6 or 7 years ago, a Republican candidate like Stefan would have been expected to self-fund and expect little help from the party, there is now a vat of reliable fundraising from within and without the region. This is in large part thanks to the rise of suburban new-money political activism, but also the unchallenged leadership of its party committee, led by all-around nice guy/hardnosed warrior Nick Langworthy. 

Republicans also suffer from infighting; they just don’t turn it into World War III. 

Shenk was poorly funded, unlike his opponent. Shenk was an unknown, unlike his opponent. Shenk seemed out-of-place, awkward, unlike his polished opponent. What Shenk had was a large Democratic enrollment advantage. His job performance as interim comptroller? He literally sent out a release critical of Poloncarz’s proposed property tax hikes the day before election day – too little, far too late, and completely overshadowed by other news.  His first advertisement was introductory; in a 30-second spot, he wasted 5 seconds telling you he commuted to work every morning. His script had him emphasize that he was “your” county comptroller, as if that was somehow persuasive to viewers who probably don’t know what the comptroller does. Hell, the comptroller-elect ran on an  “I’ll stop patronage” platform – well outside a comptroller’s job description.  Shenk the unknown battling against Stefan Mychajliw – a person who came into your living rooms every night for years as “red coat” asking the “tough questions” of politicians – had to go directly on offense. He had to knock down Mychajliw’s favorables immediately to have a fighting chance. It wouldn’t have been hard – Mychajliw is uniquely unqualified to be comptroller; after the Republicans spent so much effort explaining that Phil Kadet (2009) or John Canavan (2005) were CPAs, now we had a Republican who had no finance background whatsoever. Instead, we learned about Shenk’s commute. 

Shenk’s second ad was much better, but it was too late. In the end, it was a closer race than I expected it to be, but it was a failure nonetheless. Mychajliw had already wrapped up the Conservative and Independence fusion party lines, theoretically giving Democrats a way to vote for him without using the (R) line. Advantage: Stefan. 

The Amodeo race was even more shambolic; he was never given a fair shot. Like Shenk, he was underfunded. Like Shenk, he didn’t set out to contrast himself against his opponent’s weakness. Like Shenk, he was the victim of the anti-Lenihan/Zellner faction, which used Steve Pigeon’s ties with Ralph Lorigo’s Conservative Party to run Chuck Swanick, first in a Democratic primary, and later in the general election, gleaning the 12% homophobe vote. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Swanick’s sole reason for being in that State Senate race was to punish Grisanti for his vote in favor of same-sex marriage. He was funded almost exclusively by “loans” and money from the gay-hating “National Organization for Marriage”. When he failed to get the Democratic endorsement, Swanick continued with his campaign, appearing in exactly one TV spot, paid for by the Conservative Party. In it, he looked like Ralph Lorigo’s kidnap victim.

There was nothing whatsoever wrong with Amodeo as a Democrat, by the way – the whole thing had to do with the fact that Lenihan wouldn’t endorse Swanick. And why should he have? Swanick was most recently a failed party-switcher; reeking still from the stench of the recent Erie County budget meltdown and tax hikes. Why would Lenihan have endorsed someone so virulently anti-marriage-equality and anti-gay that he accepted money from a PAC totally opposed to the type of progressive policies the Democratic Party should be promoting? Grisanti had buckets of money and support from bipartisan sources. He outspent Amodeo by a ridiculous amount, even going negative against him for no apparent reason. It was a uniquely vicious and relentless campaign from someone who really had the race sewn up tight. $20,000 per day in advertising, the Democrats were caught looking like beggars. 

Yet Democrats I spoke with in the waning days of the campaign brought up Amodeo within their first breath. It was their big hope – he could still pull it off!  But Amodeo wasn’t just underfunded – he was the direct victim of an epic battle for control of the party, and had only one party line against a guy with the (C) and (I) endorsements lined up.

Some of the recriminations are hilarious. For instance, when Shenk personally asked Buffalo’s Mayor for help with his campaign, the Mayor flatly refused. When others in the party tried to intervene for help from the Mayor’s faction with the Hochul, Shenk, and Amodeo races, they were met with the mayor explaining that none of those people concerned him. Pigeon’s faction went one step further – they actively opposed the Democratic candidates for Comptroller and State Senate. When Democrats are in the trenches, all Democrats should pull together to help out; to do their part. Primary season is one thing, but when they’re over, that’s no time to go AWOL because your guy lost. 

Here is the most important lessons the Democrats in Erie County should take from the whole thing: you need to recruit new blood to what’s become a shallow bench of candidates. Too often we see the same names over and over again, and most of them do absolutely nothing, except ensure their own longevity. You need to locate and cultivate new sources of campaign funding. You need to come to the realization that an enrollment advantage means nothing in the face of a Republican candidate who can credibly appeal to Democrats.

One of my biggest criticisms of Mayor Byron Brown is that he is too concentrated on the politics and interoffice management of the city’s government, and offers up no broad, aspirational goals, nor any plan to achieve them. Democrats in Erie County need to maintain existing relationships with labor, and continue the hard work to reverse years’ worth of right-wing demagoguery against worker rights, but start coming up with some new ideas and better plans for the future that can appeal across party lines. 

Finally, Kathy Hochul’s loss to Chris Collins was particularly devastating. The blame for that loss cannot be affixed to the party apparatus, or to any sort of factionalism. Instead, she was out-spent in a district that became even more red than the one she won in 2011. She had her own funding and her own excellent campaign infrastructure at her disposal, and she lost because she lost. She ran an aggressive campaign and did as well as any Democrat could be expected to do. 

On the other hand, Justin Rooney from Newstead mounted a credible challenge to Mike Ranzenhofer in SD-61, which has recently expanded to the Rochester area – new territory for them both. We need more Justin Rooneys, and Justin Rooneys need more support and more money. 

So, what can we do immediately to stop this? First of all, the best way to maintain weakness through factional squabbles is to start laying blame for it on anyone, or any side. Whether you’re in with the Mayor, with Pigeon, or with Zellner: you’re a Democrat. Start acting like one. That means the governing should be more important than the politics should be more important than the power. The factionalism exists because it’s a battle over control – a battle over patronage and the money and political loyalty that comes from it. (The Republicans are not immune here – their cozy relationships with the (I) and (C) fusion parties has to do with overcoming their enrollment disadvantage in exchange for patronage and favors. This is why electoral fusion is a horror that anyone with any interest in good government should strongly oppose). I don’t care how the factions decide to make peace and unify, but without it, the party will continue to fail or underperform. Things Democrats stand for will lose in the battle of ideas to things Republicans do  – fiscal meltdowns, “trickle down” fantasies, union-busting, homophobia, corporate welfare, punishing the poor and working class, playing budgetary games to hide fiscal time bombs. 

We need to not only stop associating with the likes of Ralph Lorigo, we should be openly challenging his party’s entire platform (such as it is), and electoral fusion itself. 

We need to not only stop associating with the so-called “Independence Party” and add “abolition of electoral fusion” as a platform plank. 

We need to stop playing factions off each other and get back to the work of electing good-quality Democrats to office. 

We need to overhaul our messaging and become more transparent and inclusive. 

We need to start better appealing to suburban voters who self-identify as small-c conservatives. 

We need to come up with a specific vision for this county, and propose ways to get us there. 

We need to improve outreach to people who sit on the sidelines because the system is so sordid, and solicit ideas, advice, assistance, and counsel. 

We need to grow our bench, and encourage more people to come in from the private sector to make government work better. 

We need to locate and cultivate new and more reliable sources of funding of campaigns. 

We need to especially target elected officials who have spent more than 20 years in office and have little achievement to show for it – regardless of party. 

We need to start thinking outside the traditional Democratic box and realize that western New York’s unique position within a unique statewide power structure leaves us as a political, economic afterthought, but with that comes flexibility and freedom. 

We need to identify structural and infrastructural problems that cost us money due to years’ worth of bad planning, bad politics, and bad government. 

We need to outperform the Republicans on the battleground of ideas. 

We need to change how we perceive ourselves before we can change how others perceive us. 

We need to consider abandoning the practice of endorsing candidates in a Democratic primary. 

When the primaries are over, Democrats should back Democrats, period. 

We need to create and implement policy-based criteria for endorsements.  Why, at the reorganization, did the party not consider adopting marriage equality, anti-fracking, or minimum wage platforms? Then use them as criteria for endorsements.

You know who cares about trivial gossip fed to the Gramignas and other Illuzzi heirs about this faction and that faction? No one, that’s who. 

We need to come to the stark realization that the infighting and toxic recriminations are repelling good people from becoming (or staying) involved in the system. What you’ll have left is people with their hands out, looking for their cush jobs, and the region will be stuck in neutral, if not reverse. 

We need to stop fighting Democrats and start fighting Republicans and Conservatives and the Independence Party. 

By the same token, we should welcome, support, and encourage good ideas, regardless of their source. 

At the very least, we should be having open, honest, vibrant debate about these ideas in a transparent process. 

I’ve been writing about this stuff for almost ten years. I’m still hopeful about this region’s future, despite how acutely screwed up everything is. I see a lot of good things happening on the fringes – things happening not because of government or politics, but in spite of them. There is so much love for this area, and so much energy out there just waiting to be unleashed if someone would just take the lead. If someone would come out and say, this is what we should be doing,  and here’s how we can get there together. Democrats in Erie County should be at the forefront, helping to lead that discussion and helping to formulate that plan. 

But the longer we continue down the same, generations-long path of 50s era thinking, pandering to fusion opportunists, and reluctance to change, plan, and expand, the longer we’ll keep seeing results like Tuesday’s. Let’s stop being Pigeonistas and Headquarters guys and Byron’s people and start being Democrats. 

 

Maxed Out

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul

They brought in allies and operatives – many of them festooned with red armbands, without a hint of irony or historical perspective. They demanded that the vote be overseen by an outside observer – Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. They enlisted the assistance of Governor Cuomo, who used surrogates to cajole and persuade the members of the Erie County Democratic Committee to replace outgoing chairman Len Lenihan with Frank Max of Cheektowaga. 

Max’s support came not just from the governor’s arm-twisting, but from two breakaway party factions. City Hall told the governor that it could work with Max, but not with Lenihan #2, Jeremy Zellner. The Steve Pigeon faction has a reasonably consistent alliance with city hall, because they share an anti-Lenihan sentiment. 

How did it work? When a committeeman arrived at Saturday’s reorganization meeting at the Hearthstone Manor, she was handed a ballot upon check-in. The ballot was turned over after the committeeperson had shown an entrance card and ID, and then signed a receipt acknowledging its receipt. 

Before you hop on the “Democrats are hypocrites” with respect to voter ID, voting for the chairman of your regulated private club isn’t the same as voting for an elected official. The latter invokes constitutional rights, the former does not. 

Each ballot contained the committeeperson’s name at the top, and weighted vote at the bottom. The list of candidates was printed in the center. The attendees ripped the top off, removing their name from the ballot, ticked the desired box, and dropped the ballot in a container. Each container was being watched by Max and Zellner representatives to ensure that there was no ballot-box stuffing. 

The weighted vote is more complicated. It was all calculated based on the number of people within a given election district. Some suburban voters had weighted votes of under 200, while some city voters had weighted votes in excess of 900. 

 Max claims he won more ballots cast, that isn’t how the winner is calculated – Max and his faction knew this full well. One insider who was in the room tells me they didn’t even tally who received how many ballots cast in the counting room. Not only that, but they knew how the weighted votes were allocated and could have – but didn’t – file an objection of some sort in advance of the reorganization. The court case that’s being filed seems to center around the redistricting and reapportionment of the weighted vote in the Town of Amherst. Amherst’s town committee is led by Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward, who is a Lenihan/Zellner partisan. But it’s not clear whether the allegation is that Ward did something wrong. Even Max attorney Peter Reese acknowledged to the Buffalo News that, “[Ward] used an arcane provision of election law to redistrict in Amherst to his advantage.” Election Law section 2-104 is “arcane“? 

Even arcane statutory provisions are valid, though, aren’t they?

Ward rightly argues that the redistricting was done well in advance of the reorganization, and Max’s people had an equal opportunity to run people for new committee seats earlier this year, but didn’t.

The charges of ballot-stuffing are vague and don’t name names – the police were not called, no one is being haled into court over it, and in this smartphone age, no one took so much as a snapshot. By failing to pre-emptively challenge the Amherst redistricting, and by calling in the state party committee to don a blue helmet and oversee the process, the complaints from the losing side seem to be nothing more than soreness and sour grapes. 

In fact, Miner – whom Frank Max asked to attend and oversee the process – was in charge of the counting room. If she did not raise an objection (and there’s no report that she did), the count was fair on its face. If part of their strategy was to challenge the procedural legitimacy, it flew in the Max camp’s face. That explains why the allegations of counting improprieties are relegated to rumor and won’t be part of the litigation. 

It would be great if the Democratic party in Erie County could be unified, but any such unity is a three-way street. Conspicuous in their absence were any mouth-noises from the Pigeon or Brown camps about pledging to work with the ultimate winner. (Zellner and Max pledged to work with anyone, to their credit). To Pigeon and Brown, this is part of a decade-long effort to wrest control of the party apparatus back even though Lenihan found it in debt and utter disarray. Over ten years, almost always fighting a war on two fronts – against Republicans and breakaway Democratic factions, Lenihan navigated the party ship to a scandal-free path of successes that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. 

It would be great if the party could now unify behind Zellner, but no one’s holding their breath. Zellner is more pitbull to Lenihan’s likeable teddy bear, and has alienated many party stalwarts. The likelihood of these people shrugging off their personal bias in favor of party unity is slight. The Cuomo camp will have to reassess how wise it was to attempt to cajole and bully party loyalists to do something they couldn’t do in good conscience. The governor is alleged to have held up big civic issues such as the Bills lease over this idiotic party battle. If accurate, holding the entire community hostage over a party squabble is rank governmental malpractice. 

Party politics is by its very nature a massive battlefield of competing egos, and Erie County Democrats have proven time and again that these egos are most often unreconcilable. Maybe that conflicted status quo is better than the alternative. 

 

This Will All Be Over Tomorrow, Right?

In the Max-Panepinto-Zellner three-way battle to become chief cat-herder of the Erie County Democratic Committee, Max and Panepinto seem to be splitting the “not Zellner” vote, to the latter’s benefit. Part of the Max camp’s aim is to push Dennis Ward out of the Board of Elections. The pretext is some remote and perceived slight or another, and the real reason is who gets to control BOE jobs. So, Max sent this out yesterday:

Honorable Chairs:

It has come to our attention and is our belief that Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward, who also serves as Secretary of the Erie County Democratic Committee, has unfairly and intentionally manipulated the redistricting process in order to gain an unfair proportional vote that he controls at the upcoming Erie County Democratic Committee Reorganizational meeting.

As Party Secretary, he believes he will be running the reorganizational meeting September 29, 2012. The sole purpose of his running the meeting will be to secure another 4-year term as Erie County’s Election Commissioner.

The only hope of unifying the Erie County Democratic Party going forward is if all sides have faith in a fair and free election. Therefore, we ask the New York State Democratic Committee to intervene and dispatch either Chairman Miner or Chairman Wright to oversee the meeting. Only through such oversight will the integrity of this meeting be insured.

Your immediate response is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Frank C. Max Jr.
Erie County Democratic Chair – Candidate

The emphases are mine. It’s basically “do it my way, or else”. Yesterday, City of Tonawanda committee chair and county committee treasurer Gayle Syposs wrote on her Facebook page,

read and believe if you can from the guy whose strategy meeting last night was with Pigeon, Casey, Garner, Maybe we could call in the state police too and see if he can win that way. I guess threatening peoples jobs didn’t do it huh?

That’s Steve Pigeon, Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Grassroots chair Maurice Garner. Threatening people’s jobs? Gayle continued,

What has been going on in Erie County the last few weeks and days will go down in history as the worst example of campaigning that could be in what is a Democratic Process. People who apparently feel that they can’t win this chairman race straight up now resort to threats to peoples employment, threats to families and political careers.

It is disgusting and shows me how proud I am to have been part of the administration of Len Lenihan, the most decent honest man that ever could have led us.

We will have our vote Saturday in a secret ballot and that is that. Majority rules and hopefully decency too. This ain’t Russia or China. This is Erie County New York and we will pick a Chairman because the bylaws say so.

Sounds like nothing else is working, so one candidate is resorting to threatening committeepeople. Andrew is right – maybe we shouldn’t judge the chair candidates on their pasts – sordid or clean as they may be – but on their present behavior.

Meanwhile, outgoing ECDC Chairman Len Lenihan wrote a farewell letter:

All good things must come to an end. On Friday when I leave Democratic Headquarters for the last time it will bring to an end an amazing ten year ride that has resulted in the reestablishment of the Erie County Democratic Committee as the dominant political force in Western New York.

This would not have been possible without your support, dedication and commitment. Regardless of what role you played as a candidate, contributor, party leader, volunteer, or just a great booster, we could not have done it without you. There are no words that can adequately express my appreciation to you for being there for us.

The numerous victories are hard to fathom. All three area congressional members are now Democrats, two of them being women. The restoration of the County Executive and the County Legislature to Democratic control. 11 of the last 13 Supreme Court Justices were elected on the Democratic line. The list goes on and on.

We had the best staff, using the most advanced techniques and strategies. Never once in our ten year run was there even a scent of scandal or impropriety. Our debt was greatly reduced, and the number of our volunteers were greatly increased.

In the end, what it all boils down to, are the values, principles, and ideals that bind us together as Democrats. Those principles have always been worth fighting for, and fight we did for ten years. I ask only that you give my successor the same level of support and dedication that you gave to me.

It has been a great honor to lead this great party, and an even greater honor working with you to achieve our goals. If ever I can be of help to you, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to seeing and working with you again in the future.

Sincerely,

 

Len Lenihan Chairman,

Erie County Democratic Committee 2002-2012

And this was, in part, the topic of Wednesday’s “One Thing” podcast with Brad Riter from Trending Buffalo.

TBOneThing09-26-12.mp3

Maybe Tuesday Will Be Better, AMIRITE?

Liberty Building in Downtown Buffalo, NY

1. Jeremy Zellner vs. Frank Max. If you care about this in any way, chances are you rely on a government job, are an elected official, or you’re a candidate. The average western New Yorker is completely unaffected by it, and couldn’t care less. I happen to think that Lenihan did a great job as party chairman, and if his successor is half as successful as he, everybody should be pleased. The fact that certain people and factions held grudges over slights – real and perceived – and couldn’t suck it up and be big boys and girls and follow what the majority of the party committee wanted is par for the course. I wish Jeremy and Frank good luck and best wishes.  Everyone should just relax and concentrate on what a party committee is supposed to do – elect Democrats. 

2. “While Kathy Hochul distorts the truth, what do people who work for Chris Collins say?” That’s the actual opening line of an ad for Collins for Congress.  That bitch is such a liar, OMG. Here’s what people whose very livelihood is dependent on me have to say about me. That’s not an ad – that’s an out of control ego. Embarrassing. 

3. Coming back to the “everyone’s horrible” theme – the NFTA Surface Transportation Committee is made up of very wealthy and influential people, none of whom are likely to actually use NFTA surface transportation on any sort of regular basis. Jim Eagan – Democratic money guy who was until recently running to run ECDC, big firm lawyer Adam Perry, and restaurateur Mark Croce are all quoted in this story, all identified as committee members. Meanwhile, the people who use the LaSalle Metro station every day have dealt with a broken escalator for four months with no fix in sight. The NFTA committee members started yelling at each other like children over whether the work should be done by the regular maintenance contractor or sent out to bid. Just fix the escalator, and it’s high time the NFTA was run by people who actually use the service.  

4. The reason Mitt Romney is doing poorly? He’s exactly what the tea party, evangelicals, and very rich Republican benefactors always wanted in a candidate. 

5. Third time’s the charm. Since August, food trucks the Cheesy Chick, the Knight Slider have been chased away from the town of Amherst in the middle of service. Last year, a battle was waged to implement a law allowing and regulating food trucks to work the streets of the city of Buffalo. In reputedly business-friendly Amherst, however, no such regulation has been implemented. Yesterday, the Lloyd Taco Truck boys Tweeted this: 

That’s odd, because the truck was operating with permission on private property. The town has no food truck legislation or regulation, so no one is quite sure what Lloyd is alleged to have violated. The town’s code enforcement officers have been chasing the trucks away, and the town leadership was caught completely unaware.  

The only current regulation that could feasibly apply to food trucks is a transient vendor permit that is costly, only good for 90 days at a time, and specific to a location. If Lloyd wants to operate its north Amherst and Ridge Lea private property regular locations, it would need two licenses, each renewable every 3 months for $100

Just a few weeks ago, the Amherst town board passed a resolution to address and change the local law to specifically update the transient business permitting process to better reflect the current reality including food trucks. 

6. You aren’t a “pet parent”. Please. 

Independence Week: Roundup

Obamacare Roundup

1. Here’s a story from those leftist pinkos at Forbes, explaining that Obamacare is not a huge tax on the middle class, at all. In fact, it goes as far as to call that narrative a “lie”. 

2. In the wake of the Supreme Court holding that Obamacare is constitutional, support for the law has jumped.  Significantly, support among independents went up from 27% to 38% in just the past week. It was just a week ago that Mitt Romney was explaining that Romneycare (the conservative Heritage Foundation’s health insurance scheme on which Obamacare is largely based) was great for Massachusetts, but that its expansion to all 50 states was an improper usurpation of federal power. However, the Supreme Court just held otherwise. Oopsy. By the same token, people who dislike the law are somewhat energized now. 

3. It wasn’t too long ago – at least as far back as the debate over HillaryCare in the early 90s – that universal health care coverage was a bipartisan goal, we just disagreed on how to get there. Now that we have a constitutional statute that gets us about as close to universality as we’re likely to get, the Republicans are signaling that they no longer consider universal coverage as a policy aim. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says, in essence, that the 30 million people whom Obamacare would cover, and who would not be covered were the law to be repealed, can go to hell.  

4. Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans all pledge to repeal Obamacare. Did you know that 30 votes have been held in Congress since 2010 to repeal Obamacare? What’s one more going to accomplish? How many jobs will that create? And pay close attention to what Republicans say when asked, “with what would you replace Obamacare?” The answer is – nothing. They’d just maintain the pre-2010 status quo, with 40 million uninsured, skyrocketing costs, substandard care, and an untenable hodgepodge of private for-profit bureaucracies keeping people from their doctors and needed treatment, and separating them from their money – oftentimes rendering them insolvent. 

5. Paul Ryan, Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee shat the following from his mouth

“I think this at the end of the day is a big philosophy difference. We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence – a huge difference in philosophy.”

The right to have access to health care is, at its core, a pro-life notion, isn’t it? Any politician who turns to Jesus or God, (and uses the Declaration of Independence, a document that has no legal effect in 2012), as justification to essentially leave millions of Americans with a choice between death or bankruptcy, shouldn’t pontificate about what God would and wouldn’t do. 

Carl Emails, WNY Yawns

6. Did you get emails from Carl Paladino threatening to “expose” former Senator Al D’Amato for being a “predator” because he’s aligned with people like Mark Grisanti and Joel Giambra, and because he supposedly helped Cuomo pass same sex marriage? So did I. I deleted them. Seriously, who cares what that person says? 

Fast & Furious: NRA Flip & Hochul Votes for Contempt

7. Last week, Congress held a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Of course, about 88% of Americans hold Congress in contempt, but that’s beside the point.  Many Democrats walked out during the vote, charging that it was just a witch hunt. Among the few Democrats who not only stayed, but voted in favor of the contempt order was Kathy Hochul (NY-26). I think the Fast & Furious inquiry is a load of nonsense, and a purely political stunt designed to harm the administration; politics as usual. What follows in blockquote below is what Hochul released to explain her vote, but answer me this: a lot of gun enthusiasts link Fast and Furious to 2nd Amendment rights. I don’t really get why, and since I’m not a gun fetishist I don’t particularly care. But the first thing an NRA type will tell someone who is in favor of gun control is that, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yet, the entire focus of the Fast & Furious inquiry is about the guns that ended up in the possession of Mexican drug cartel members who then used one to murder a Border Patrol Agent in Arizona. A horrible crime, to be sure – but it was committed by a criminal. Is the NRA now standing “guns don’t kill people” on its head because it suits their political aim of attacking Obama? Shall we add an asterisk, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people* [*except in cases where the gun was purchased by the Justice Department in furtherance of an investigation into where Mexican drug cartels get their weapons, and one of those weapons disappears and is used in a particularly horrible crime, in which case the gun killed the agent, not the narco-killer].”

 “We can all agree that the Fast and Furious operation was ill-conceived and the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was an avoidable tragedy. Now, our objective must be to evaluate the facts and work to prevent such an event from ever happening again,” said Hochul. 

“At a time when our country is facing significant economic challenges, it’s disappointing that both parties have, yet again, become distracted by Washington politics.  The people of Western New York deserve a transparent government, regardless of which party is in control.  Congress has a constitutional responsibility to exercise appropriate oversight, and I believe Attorney General Eric Holder should fully disclose the documents requested and allow this issue to be resolved.”

What I see is a conservative Democrat staving off any accusation that she’s weak on the 2nd Amendment – an issue about which her opponent in November has proven himself to be somewhat weak. I also see a Republican congress that continues its singular mission of harming the President at all costs, even if it collaterally does harm to average Americans or the country in general. 

ECDC: GOOD PR, BAD PR

8. On Friday, the Erie County Democratic Committee sent out two press releases. One likened the execrable Chuck Swanick, who is incredibly running to return to elected office, to Mitt Romney, calling the two “peas in a pod”. Swanick’s a lot of things – most of them negative – but he’s nothing like Romney, even remotely. The second release was much, much better. Remember how Chris Collins ran for County Executive re-election by touting how, under his “leadership”, he’d extricated the county from the hospital business? Yeah, about that – 

In 2011, Collins campaigned on the promise that Erie County was out of the hospital business, but clearly he was mistaken. The troubling news that Erie County Medical Center will cost nearly $39 million this year alone, more than double the “fixed” cost that Chris Collins promised taxpayers in 2009, raises serious questions about Collins’ ability as a manager and executive.Erie County deserves a full explanation from Chris Collins over the creation of a deal that has come back to bite taxpayers to the tune of more than $38 million over three years.

That’s 39 million reasons why the county isn’t out of the hospital business, no thanks to the guy now running against Kathy Hochul to essentially gain what passes for a noble title in America, and also to obtain subsidized federal health benefits while denying them to his constituents, and to supplement his already ample income with taxpayer dollars in the form of salary, fringe benefits, and other legacy costs. Conservative!