Cuomo’s Betrayal

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

The biggest and worst problem plaguing Albany and New York State politics is corruption. Albany’s especial brand of dysfunction thrives in an opaque environment, and there is a complete and bipartisan absence of political or moral will to change it. It’s been well over a decade since people and organizations began to seriously address this culture of corruption, and NYU’s Brennan Center deserves kudos for pushing the issue with specificity

It was almost a decade ago that Suffolk County Executive Tom Suozzi barnstormed the state, seeking the Democractic nomination for governor under the banner of “Fix Albany”. We send Assemblypeople and Senators to Albany, and while we see occasional profiles in courage, like Mark Grisanti’s pivotal vote on same-sex marriage, these individuals do little legislating and a lot of grandstanding. Nothing ever changes, and there’s no one who’s all that interested in cleaning Albany up. 

Enter Andrew Cuomo, a former Attorney General who swept into Albany to get things done, but also to restore trust in state institutions. While he has infuriated the gun-hugging areas of the state outside the NYC media market, he has now successfully angered the left, most starkly by helping to maintain a Republican Senate majority. In order to secure the Working Families Party’s Wilson Pakula, Cuomo decided to actually back members of his own party to win Senate races. 

But his most promising act was to establish a “Moreland Commission” to investigate corruption in Albany – most importantly, the misuse and corruption surrounding campaign finance in the state. This dovetailed nicely with Cuomo’s now-erstwhile support for public financing of elections – a goal he all but abandoned in order to “get things done” with respect to a budget deal with the other two men in the room. (That hasn’t changed, either). 

This New York Times article is a blockbuster of investigative journalism, outlining the ways in which Governor Cuomo’s office micromanaged and hamstrung the work the Moreland Commission was doing before he unceremoniously and summarily killed it in order to “get things done” viz. budget deal with Silver and Skelos. Here is a brilliant timeline that the Times put together. Luckily, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, is picking up where the defunct commission left off, investigating and prosecuting obvious illegality. 

I frankly don’t get it. If Cuomo’s aim is to ascend to the White House, he’s just dealt himself a huge blow. It won’t do much to say, “I fixed Buffalo, the unfixable” when opponents and allies alike view him with distrust because when it came time to address the state’s most pressing problem, Cuomo whiffed. 

He didn’t just whiff – he threw the game. 

I’m not going to support Astorino, and Zephyr Teachout lost me by holding a “Cuomo resign” presser with Astorino. It’s high time we stopped demanding resignation and impeachment every time a politician does something stupid or with which we disagree. It’s stupid and childish.

I want someone to say that the NY SAFE Act is a distraction from the real problems we have, like unfunded mandates, the Gap Elimination Adjustment robbing schools blind, the completely unregulated and mismanaged state Authorities, our corrupt and corrupting Wilson Pakula/electoral fusion system whereby party endorsements are exchanged for money and jobs, and the toothless, ineffective board of elections that is unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute campaign finance fraud. These are all long-standing issues, and very well known. But New York has a dictatorship of the bureaucracy, and for some reason elected officials have no will to fight that tyranny of the careerists. Even, tragically, Andrew Cuomo. 

Getting things done is great, and it’s a welcome change from the feckless Pataki Adminstration. But New York Democrats have had almost 10 years to do something meaningful about not just the symptoms, but the root causes of why the state underperforms economically – especially outside of the New York City metro. 

Four years ago, a New York Observer article wrote that mine was the “Site that Saved Andrew Cuomo”. I don’t – for a second – doubt, question, or regret my 2010 support for Cuomo over Carl Paladino. But in 2014, the continued state gutting of public school budgets, tyranny of the Authorities, continued erosion of public trust through “electoral fusion” dealmaking,  and Albany’s unwillingness to heal itself make me wish for a true alternative – not just a Westchester County apparatchik or a leftist Manhattan protest candidate. 

New York isn’t broken because of the number of bullets you can put in a magazine is now restricted. But your focus on things like that help to distract you from genuine problems that affect us all. 

The Reagan Legacy

Here is 30 years’ worth of Reaganomics / Trickle-Down Economics / Supply-Side Economics / Voodoo Economics in one chart: 

And another, for good measure: 

 

The wealth. It didn’t trickle down. Let’s revive the middle class. End the experiment. 

Pigeon Promotes Pizazz, Prejudice

I wrote this linked-to post during Wednesday and Thursday, with the intention of posting it first thing Monday morning. When I learned that the Buffalo News’ political columnist Bob McCarthy would be covering similar points, I accelerated publishing my own thoughts to Friday so they wouldn’t be seen as reactive. I’ll be bumping it to the top on Monday morning anyway, but this morning we have McCarthy’s transcription services to fisk. (Fisk definition).  

President Obama took Erie County in a landslide Election Day, but you might not have recognized that victory by some of the long faces at Democratic Party headquarters in Ellicott Square Tuesday might.

That’s because Erie County Democrats suffered through a dismal Election Night, losing three major offices.

On the flip side, the frowns and disappointment at Mitt Romney’s Boston headquarters never made their way to Buffalo. In fact, the local GOP appeared downright giddy after picking off a congressional seat and county comptroller’s office, while staving off an attempt to dethrone State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti.

Their successes gave a sense of accomplishment to local GOP leaders in a county where registered Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans and Obama garnered 220,506 votes to Romney’s 160,337.

“We went with our traditional recipe of having great candidates, the right message, and the revenues to get out that message,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. “The taxpayers are buying what we are selling because our issues are right.”

I don’t know if I’d go as far as that. I don’t know what Mr. Mychajliw’s “issues” are, nor am I too familiar with what Mr. Grisanti’s “issues” are. A big issue, for instance, is hydrofracking. Mr. Grisanti has been silent or indecisive on that. UB 2020 didn’t pass – SUNY 2020 did.  Under UB 2020, UB would have $4 billion to play with to transform itself from a socialistically redistributive public university into a quasi-private business incubator. Under SUNY 2020, all SUNY schools need to compete for a $35 million pot for capital improvements, administered by the Empire State Development Corporation. Mr. Collins’ issues? Obamapelosi and a promise to do whatever Speaker Boehner tells him to do. 

But it’s a far different story this post-election weekend for Democrats, and the bickering that marks the local party leadership has been revived.

Yes, it has. I addressed it here in a plea for everyone to act like grownups and re-assess how the Erie County Democratic Committee conducts itself. Whose opinions, pray, does Mr. McCarthy transcribe? 

“The Democrats ought to take a close look at what happened,” said former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon. “We should have had three wins, and we had three losses.”

Specifically, he blamed former county chairman Leonard R. Lenihan and the new chairman Jeremy J. Zellner.

“They put in a lackey who got [Lenihan’s] coffee,” Pigeon said of Zellner. “You can’t unify the party as long as Len Jr. is in the chairman’s seat.

“It’s a joke,” he added. “To have this little, junior, mid-level staffer as chairman of Erie County is an embarrassment. Zellner ought to step down.”

It’s funny, at first. It’s funny at first to read the petulant venom from a loser calling someone else a loser. It’s funny to see someone who hasn’t played a constructive role in WNY Democratic politics in forever lecture Len Lenihan and Jeremy Zellner. When you demand that someone resign a post that they just won in an election because you hate them, you display a remarkably childish arrogance underscored by the fact that none of Pigeon‘s own picks won anything this round. 

I know a lot of people don’t like Zellner any more than they liked Lenihan, but to insult him as having been Lenihan’s coffee boy is so ignorant and blind. First of all, even if Zellner had done nothing more in the last decade than get Lenihan’s coffee, that task would have been infinitely more productive for Erie County Democrats than what Pigeon‘s been doing during that same period of time. After all, being a coffee boy doesn’t actively do harm to Democratic candidacies. But, of course, Zellner was the executive director, not the coffee boy. That might be how Pigeon treated his ED when he was chairman, but Zellner was quite active in every Democratic race – won or lost – for a decade. 

Party unity? You can’t unify the party where “unity” is defined by at least one faction as being “taking control” and “getting everything I want.” But more on the whole notion of party unity below. 

Zellner laughed heartily at Pigeon’s suggestion about stepping aside before addressing the criticism.

He said he inherited a treasury with just $700 but got to work raising money and spending it on the local candidates.

“I’ve raised $200,000 and spent at least half of that on the election,” Zellner said. “I won’t be criticized by people from the past who are irrelevant anyway.”

Pigeon’s criticism against party leaders centered on fielding poor candidates and failing to do enough for Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, who barely lost the 27th Congressional District to Republican Chris Collins.

Pigeon may have been most frustrated with the State Senate race.

He was instrumental in recruiting former County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick to run in the Democratic primary for State Senate and also securing Conservative Party backing for him in the general election. But Swanick lost the primary to Michael L. Amodeo, who had the backing of the local party leaders, and then Grisanti won easily Tuesday.

In addition to blaming Lenihan and Zellner, Pigeon also took aim at County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward.

A strong Democratic enrollment advantage should have been enough to defeat Grisanti, Pigeon said.

Pigeon remains incensed over the party’s rejection of the Swanick candidacy, maintaining that if Lenihan and Poloncarz had agreed, a united Democratic front backed by Albany could have knocked off Grisanti.

“We would have had the Democratic, Conservative and Working Families lines, and instead Poloncarz gets Amodeo the [Democratic] line,” Pigeon said. “He searched high and low for another candidate because he perceived that Swanick would be close to me.”

Amodeo was a weak candidate who had previously lost an Assembly primary, Pigeon said, while Swanick was a moderate Democrat from the suburbs with a long history of success. 

And he blamed Poloncarz for insisting David J. Shenk be the comptroller candidate, when he felt others would have proven stronger candidates.

Swanick is a conservative Democrat-in-enrollment-only (is he, even?) whose entire candidacy was predicated on an anti-same-sex-marriage position he sold to Ralph Lorigo and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Lorigo was eager to punish incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti, who Lorigo believed had deceived him with respect to allowing gay couples to marry. Practically all of Swanick’s funding came from NOM or from “loans” that this retired railroad engineer is supposed to have made to his own campaign in the amount of $35,000. Did Democrats flock to his candidacy during the primary? Nope. Despite Al Coppola’s perennial presence on the primary ballot to siphon off Italian votes from Amodeo, Swanick only managed 26% of the vote (Al Coppola actually outperformed Swanick in the City of Buffalo).  That number is the homophobe dead-ender vote. Swanick had no business running as a Democrat in a race, regardless of who’s behind you or who has endorsed you. 

Democrats in Erie County shouldn’t sell out their principles to Ralph Lorigo just to get a “W”. 

But being conclusively rejected by Democrats wasn’t enough. Swanick – whose record of failure in the County legislature remains relatively fresh in people’s minds – stayed in the race and fared poorly (12%) in the general election, too. 

What’s Pigeon’s track record? Consider, when Byron Brown fired Pigeon in 2004 in advance of his run for Mayor, he said of Pigeon

“Unfortunately, he has been unable to move beyond his attitudes toward those whom he believes have wronged him politically in the past…It was painfully obvious he just wasn’t a positive influence on my staff.”

Nor was he a positive influence as Democratic county chairman. His profligate spending drove the party into debt, and his heavy hand fomented internecine wars that made politics rather than policy the focus of local government for most of his tenure. That’s why Brown had to separate himself from Pigeon if he wanted to become mayor; major funders around here made it clear that Brown was welcome to the second floor of City Hall but Pigeon was not.

Now? That same Steve Pigeon whines that the Erie County Democratic Committee refused to back a candidate who ran on a homophobe platform and couldn’t secure more than 20% of the vote from anyone, anywhere. Chuck Swanick was the last great hope to defeat Mark Grisanti, who had enough money to spend $20,000 per day in the campaigns waning days and had broad bipartisan support based on equality and inclusion? Everyone, everywhere rejected Chuck Swanick, and Pigeon is having a tantrum because he didn’t get a chance to be more widely rejected? That’s astonishing. 

As for McCarthy, it’s irresponsible for him to transcribe these sneering accusations without challenge in his “opinion column”. 

Instead, Republican Stefan Mychajliw snared the post – considered a major coup in a Democratic county with strong turnout in a presidential year.

“He puts in a guy who is not prepared, has no resume or base, and with no pizazz as a candidate,” Pigeon said. “In a presidential year, we lose a countywide race because of the pettiness of Poloncarz, Lenihan and Ward.”

“This shows you Poloncarz’s leadership of the Democratic Party is abysmal,” Pigeon said.

Consider that for a moment. 

Poloncarz is the County Executive. Shenk was running for County Comptroller. The County Comptroller is supposed to be independent from the County Executive. If he isn’t, the post is meaningless and could lead to bad government.

Just ask Nancy Naples and Joel Giambra. 

If Poloncarz had become involved in the Comptroller race, a tremendous volume of feces would have sprayed all over him and Shenk, from having hit the fan. 

And whom would Pigeon have put in place as Comptroller? George Hasiotis, he who proposes now a $1.5 billion Dubai-like waterfront stadium for a failing team in a shrinking city? We’re entertaining a tantrum because Erie County voters lost out on Hasiotis’ “pizazz”? 

Hey, Bob, let’s ask the worst political person imaginable and a breakfast-hosting fusion pimp what he thinks!

Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo contended a united front behind Swanick would have worked.

“One candidate would have been extremely viable and probably be successful,” he said.

Translation: I backed this homophobe because he was as opposed to queer marriage as I was, and you Democrats screwed it up by nominating some queer-lover. 

“Looking back a year ago, there were stories about the death of the Republican Party in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “It’s fair to say the people spoke on Tuesday, and you have to respect that.”

Meanwhile, Langworthy and his GOP are experiencing none of the flak aimed at Democratic leaders. The Grisanti and Mychajliw victories rank as especially significant because they occurred in a presidential year with high Democratic turnout, he said.

I think Democrats locally have a lot of soul-searching to do. I’ve laid it out here. But I think part of it is to ignore the sour grapes from a set of tainted, malignant has-beens who promote prejudiced, failed, or “pizazz”-free candidacies. 

Being a Democrat means more than just winning elections. It also means standing on principle. Sometimes we win, sometimes we won’t; but winning while selling out critical parts of our fundamental party coalition isn’t really “winning.” Winning an election by selling out our principles isn’t winning. We may not have defeated Mark Grisanti, but we didn’t whore ourselves out, either. We may not have defeated Stefan Mychajliw, but it speaks to an undesirable job with an exceedingly shallow bench, and it underscores that selling out our principles for political expediency results in cynicism and people deciding not be active in the party. 

When that happens, all you’ll have left is a bunch of transactional hacks looking for jobs

The Committee to Save Matt Ricchiazzi

Matt Ricchiazzi. Will he ever learn that the path to electoral success and/or a hack job is paved with hard work, loyalty, and not behaving like a lunatic

He started out so promising – fresh face, self-identified bisexual Republican running for Mayor, offering up big ideas. Then he aligned himself with tea party people like conspiratorial truther Allen Coniglio. He alternately endorsed, then didn’t endorse, then endorsed again, Carl Paladino. He ran his sister for city council. He ran for school board but didn’t make the ballot. He ran for state senate, but was ineligible

I obtained a series of emails he sent in 2010, where he lectured western New York’s gay activists about what they were doing wrong, with little positive feedback. For example: 

On a serious note, as long as the gay community is bound to the hip of the Democrat Party WE WILL NEVER, EVER ACHIEVE MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Never. If you think any different, then you’re delusional and stupid. We have ABSOLUTELY NO POLITICAL LEVERAGE AS LONG AS DEMOCRATS THINK THAT GAYS DON’T VOTE REPUBLICAN. They have nothing to fear if they offend, betray, or insult us.

Further, the Democrats are making too much money off of the gay marriage issue, and they have no monetary interest in giving that up. They recieve donations, volunteers, etc because of this ban, and if we had marriage equality there would be no carrot left to keep the gay community on the Democrat band wagon.

As long as gays demonize ALL REPUBLICANS as being homophobic and racist, why are they going to go out of their way to be nice to people that propagate hate against them, because that’s what you’re doing. Especially considering that those pro-gay Republicans would incur political vulnerabilities within that their party that the other half of the Democrat Party is sure to exploit, it would make no sense for them to do that.

That must be why he’s developing and distributing homophobic political lit. 

Date: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 1:22 PM

Camile,

I’m hardly self-loathing. What do I care if I can’t get married to my partner, if he has to move out of state to find work?

I’m voting for Carl because he’s an awesome guy and he understands how the real economy works. Now, I realize that many of you work for the government or off of government contracts, so you’re not concerned with the real (private sector) economy. But for those of us who don’t want to content ourselves sucking on the government tit, we can’t afford to care about frivolous BS, like the word “marriage.”

Now, if you want to get all hysterical about nothing more than a word, then feel free to go waste all your time and energy being hysterical. But I’m far more worried about the economy and my generation’s economic opportunity and the debt burden with which the current generation of leadership is crushing us, than I am with semantics.

For that reason, Carl is far more in touch with the issues and needs that concern my generation

And, Carl has already said that he would not veto a marriage bill that passes the State Legislature. He would sign it into law, even though he personally does not support it, because that’s how he feels a democracy should work.

Paladino for the people!

-Matt

Over the last week or so, he has invented out of whole cloth a non-existent Republican “committee” (consisting of one member), which was ostensibly holding a lit design contest. Five pieces of fake lit were sent out to an undisclosed roster of politicos and press, all of which viciously attacked either Mark Grisanti or members of his staff.  It culminated on September 10th with this: 

It’s not persuasive, it’s not pithy, it’s not funny, it’s not anything except an opportunity for Ricchiazzi to inflame homophobia.  Now recall that all of this stems from the Grisanti camp’s refusal to give Ricchiazzi a job. 

Think about how pathetic this is: a kid who’s gay or bisexual is so  upset over not getting a job that he’s spent the better part of the last year spreading lies about Grisanti’s behavior during that bar fight in the Falls, he’s developing idiotic political literature attacking Grisanti and his aides, and he develops the homoerotic piece of literature shown above for the sole purpose of getting conservative-minded opponents of same-sex marriage angry. He is so self-loathing, so opportunistic that he chooses to inflame anti-homosexual passions. 

The guy Ricchiazzi is supposedly trying to help – Kevin Stocker – told Channel 4 that he finds the ad offensive. Ricchiazzi emailed Channel 4’s Lou Raguse to say that he “saw” the lit and that his “committee” thought it was brilliant. 

And that’s not all. Ricchiazzi’s efforts in this instance are so clumsy that it’s gotten tons of attention as the “most anti-gay” piece of literature never sent. HuffPo, BuzzFeed, Politico have all covered this piece of lit. But the best information comes from BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner, via Twitter: 

The pornographers who produced the images from which Ricchiazzi obtained the images for the mailer shown above posted this: 

While everyone at CorbinFisher is flattered the self-described “Committee to Save the Erie County Republican Party” would select two of our company’s images to represent all-things-gay, the persons/person considering the unauthorized use of our images, in violation of registered copyrights, should be aware we take the protection of our intellectual property seriously.

Whichever group or individual took a break from furiously manipulating themselves to the collection of CorbinFisher gay erotic images they apparently maintain on their computer should be aware use of the images without our prior written consent is a violation of our copyrights.

Certainly, having all heard of occasions in which self-professed family values advocates have vehemently opposed same-sex marriage rights while at the same time adopting “wide stances” in airport restrooms, employing male prostitutes as European vacation luggage carriers or mile-high methamphetamine-smoking partners, and shamelessly pursuing sexual favors from pages in the halls of Congress, it doesn’t quite surprise us those behind the “Committee to Save the Erie County Republican Party” would readily have access to a number of our sexually explicit, gay-oriented images.  Nonetheless, we’d politely ask they discontinue attempts to insert our copyrighted images in to their distributed political material, and instead stick to secretly pleasuring themselves and battling their internal struggles with guilt and shame over the sexual orientation they are unable to come to terms with, like so many other outspoken opponents of gay rights are so good at doing.

So, Ricchiazzi can’t get hired, he can’t properly get a YouTube hit piece up, he can’t get traction for his fairy tales about the Falls bar fight, the Senecas want nothing to do with him, Stocker has disavowed any involvement with him, he’s alienated and angered the gay community, and he’s burned just about every bridge he’s ever tenuously built. What a waste.