Donovan and Arnold: Out-Weppnering Weppner?

You guys, I think I might have found a current right-wing candidate even more unintentionally hilarious than Kathy Weppner. I know, Kathy “infected poors” Weppner has been highlighting the dramatic threat to our Republic by a bunch of brown-skinned teenaged economic refugees, and she’s even tried to fundraise over the bodies of dead Americans, BUT SHE NEVER SALUTED WITH A COFFEE CUP IN HER HAND IMPEACH!!1!

I’m not a huge fan of Senator Tim Kennedy’s, mostly because of his hard work sabotaging the county’s Democratic Committee and by executing a Republican coup of the Erie County Legislature in 2010

With that said, the tea party has a doozy in this Donovan character

Donovan is a registered member of the Independence Fusion Party, and lost his own party’s primary to Tim Kennedy! How hilarious is that – his own corrupt little political club voted for the money and the bennies that an actual electable candidate offers. He is, however, running on the Conservative Fusion Party line and the Republican line.  Check this out, too: 

Take a closer look at the letter that Donovan shared: 

Dude lives in Kentucky. 

How, exactly, did Governor Cuomo and Senator Kennedy or, I’m guessing, the NY SAFE Act do anything to cause a problem that a guy in Kentucky has with a Federal agency? Does this ostensibly serious candidate not understand the federal system set up by the Constitution he purports to love? Does Rick Donovan think that NY SAFE applies to federal agencies or the Commonwealth of Kentucky? 

Including, I guess, the right to enslave and be enslaved. 

UPDATE: tea partier Ricky Donovan is an employee of the great State of New York as a corrections officer at the Albion Correctional Facility – a medium security female prison. Socialism is, evidently, ok if your name rhymes with “Nicky Flonovan”. 

On another note, check out what our favorite vacillator Gia Arnold is up to up in Niagara County. She apparently didn’t have enough valid signatures to be on the Libertarian Party line in November in the race to replace George Maziarz in SD-62. She lost the Republican primary to North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt in a downright blowout, and she was taken to court over the validity of her Libertarian petitions. Specifically, signatures came from outside the district. Our ballot access laws may be too cumbersome, but as Weppner says, if we don’t enforce the laws, we become a lawless society. 

As Arnold announced that she’d not appear on any party line in November, Ortt was professional and on-point: 

While I am glad the integrity of the process was upheld, my focus remains where it has been since day one — speaking directly to voters, sharing my vision for how to create more good paying jobs for Western New Yorkers and fighting for our shared values in Albany as their next State Senator.

But Arnold? Not so much. 

If you happen to have a Rob Ortt for State Senate sign in your yard this election cycle, you are a fool to support the elite establishment that counts on your ignorance and apathy in order to continue to control our elections, state and national governments. VOTE ANTI – ESTABLISHMENT this year. Do your research.

Carl’s and Rus’ inexperienced, unqualified, naive one-issue candidate embarrassed herself throughout this process (see here, and here, and here), and lost dramatically to the established Republican elected official who is a serious person. Voting anti-establishment is great and all, but wildly aggressive fits of pique because you torpedoed your own campaign are bad form. She seems to be really bad at this whole “politics” thing, because what she’s doing is great if you want to be elected to chief rabble-rouser, bad if you want to be elected to any sort of elected statewide office. 

Gia Arnold: Never Mind

A few Wednesdays ago, Orleans County state senate candidate Gia Arnold ended her campaign because her marriage was falling apart. I wrote about it – and the odd pointlessness of her withdrawal – here

But last Friday – the day commonly reserved for politicians to release bad news – Ms. Arnold told the Buffalo News that she was back in the race. 

“When I made my announcement last week, I never fathomed the hundreds of texts, calls and emails that I received, almost all of which called for me to stay in this race and fight for truth, honesty and what is right for our Senate district. For me, telling the truth and being honest with my supporters and the citizens is the most important aspect of running for and representing the people, even if it means losing some support and not helping myself”

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt is also running in the Republican primary to replace retiring George Maziarz, and there’s no word yet on what Ortt thinks about “truth, honesty and what is right” for SD-62. 

There are about 3 weeks left in this primary season, and it boils down to: 

 

Gia Arnold’s Bizarre Wednesday

Gia Arnold is a 24 year-old wife and mother who decided in February to run for State Senate against George Maziarz. Introducing herself in her first Facebook post, she explained, 

That’s a nice introduction. She’s got a young family and a hard-working husband. Certainly, Ms. Arnold’s statements regarding high business taxes and “insurance” rates resonate with a lot of people, especially in the more economically depressed parts of the state.  Is this self-proclaimed libertarian suggesting that government intervene to affect private companies’ insurance rates, or is this about tort reform? Who knows? 

In her second post, she self-identifies as “working class” and laments the fact that the incumbent has been in office for 19 years, yet the burden on families and businesses continues to worsen. But it didn’t take long for this kind of crap to become the overarching – almost sole – focus of her campaign: guns

By March, she received the clown endorsement: 

And a few weeks ago, she showed up at an event wearing jewelry I haven’t seen at Reeds-Jenss. 

You get the idea. She knows her audience and she’s become expert at the fine art of pandering.

Maziarz’s Moreland Commission problems put SD-62 into play, and she suddenly found herself with a decent shot in a primary race against the mayor of North Tonawanda, Robert Ortt. She came out of nowhere, and her grassroots effort seemed to be paying dividends. 

Then, suddenly, she issued a bizarre statement in the middle of the night. She revealed that she had an extramarital affair that began less than two weeks ago, and made no apologies for it. She declared that she was quitting the race and gave out her personal cell phone number so that “constituents” could talk to her directly. (Ms. Arnold had never been elected to any public office and has no constituents). She was admitting to the affair out of sense of “integrity” and “honesty”. Laudable, but an answer to a question no one asked. Perhaps she was being blackmailed? Pressured? Or maybe she was just trying to wrest control of the narrative before anyone else got a hold of it. 

But quit the race? Who told her to do that? This isn’t a “people make mistakes” scenario – this is a “failed marriage ending”, and she doesn’t owe anyone any explanation about her personal affairs. If she wanted to control the message, then issue a press release at 4:59 on a Friday and let the news sink in over the weekend. Gauge the reaction and see whether you need to pivot on Monday. Instead, she threw the baby out with the bathwater, walking away from the campaign even though no one demanded that she do so. Her erstwhile supporter Rus Thompson’s reaction was to essentially say, “good riddance”

Albany, however, is a notoriously fetid cesspool. Gia Arnold – failed marriage and all – is small potatoes compared to what goes on there. She’s downright saintly compared to a lot of what goes on there. 

I don’t question her judgment viz. her extramarital affair because who cares; however, I think the hasty amateur-hour way in which she released the news and abruptly quit is evidence that her judgment is poor, and she’s not ready for prime-time. (As for the substance of her poorly articulated platform, let’s not even go there.) 

The news hit Wednesday morning. By mid-afternoon, she was on WBEN telling Tom Bauerle that she might reconsider dropping out, and, in an effort to further justify her new relationship and its affect on her campaign, spent extraordinary time and breath smearing her estranged husband. It went from odd to bizarre, as she explained how she started her affair on August 1st and decided to end her marriage by the 5th. 

A few weeks ago, when the Maziarz news hit, I paid some attention to her and found some ugly stuff on her Facebook page that she hadn’t called out; namely, one guy going ballistic because she appeared somewhere where they had gold fringe on the flag (there is a wackadoodle conspiracy theory that fringe means we’re under martial law or some bullshit), and this on her campaign page, in a discussion about a White House announcement regarding disappearing bees: 

To her credit, she addressed it and deleted the nonsense. So, I don’t think she’s malevolent – just very wrong on the issues and very, very inexperienced. 

She didn’t have to quit the race, and she should have been more diplomatic about her husband Wednesday on the air. I think those two things call her judgment into question and disqualify her from public office, at least for now. The flip-flop on “I’m quitting the race!” to “Never mind!” was simply comical. 

I think back to when I was 24 – I was in law school – and I hand it to her for having the courage to run and put herself out there. But it’s just too early, I think. Go run for town board or county legislature. Gain some experience. Build a support base that’s deeper than “guns”. Learn. Teach. Build up your resume. Don’t rely just on ideology, but also on accomplishments. 

We need more people like Gia Arnold getting involved in politics – on the left and right. But please, recruit some professionals to help you with strategy, messaging, and policy and don’t just wing it.

Maziarz Out, SD-62 Up For Grabs

Here is the statement that soon-to-be-former State Senator George Maziarz issued in order to explain his very sudden and unexpected decision to resign*: 

It is no secret to my family and close friends that I have been considering retirement from the State Legislature for the last five years. And as I geared up for another long campaign season, I realized I just did not have the passion and commitment that I have had in the past to see it through.

People will ask me why now and the simple answer is there is never the perfect time to step away. I had the honor of following the late John Daly into the State Senate. I remember him telling me when he left the Senate it was simply time for the next generation of leaders in the Legislature. After nearly two decades in office, I fully understand what he meant and feel that way today.

My second daughter gets married this summer and that is a much bigger priority for me than another grueling campaign. My family has sacrificed enough for my public service through the years and I cannot ask for any more.

To the people of Niagara, Orleans and Monroe counties who I have had the pleasure to represent since 1995, I extend my heart felt appreciation for your continued support. I always told people that being your Senator was the greatest job in the world, one I dedicated myself to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We accomplished great things and I did my best to help my constituents with any problem…big or small. Thank you for giving a kid from North Tonawanda the chance to fulfill his dream of serving in the State Senate.

Gee shucks, that’s swell. 

But not so fast. 

People just finished collecting petition signatures to get Maziarz’s name on the ballot. He could have easily announced a planned resignation earlier this year. You don’t just drop out of your career politicianship because you’re bored and you need more time for your kids. You don’t simply bow out from the “greatest job in the world” suddenly on a Sunday night. 

Mike Caputo’s PoliticsNY broke the story this weekend, and noted that the resignation comes quickly on the heels of the abrupt resignations of two of Maziarz’s top staffers. On July 11th, the Niagara County Democratic Committee issued a press release demanding a state investigation of Maziarz’s campaign spending

This week we learned Maziarz’s Chief of Staff Alisa Colatarci and Office Manager Marcus Hall both resigned. Given the U.S. Justice Department’s increased focus on public corruption in Albany, if there are reports of senior staff members resigning it should raise some eyebrows.

Eyebrows have indeed been raised ever since City & State revealed in May that two WNY Republican senators – Maziarz and Pat Gallivan – were coming under scrutiny for campaign spending

State Sen. George Maziarz shelled out more than $140,000 in campaign funds over a six-year period without identifying what exactly he purchased, according to an investigation by the now defunct Moreland Commission on Public Corruption—by far the most of any state lawmaker. State Sen. Patrick Gallivan was found to have about $80,000 in unreported campaign credit card expenses, including hundreds of dollars spent on cigars, tanning, and at salons and casinos. State Sen. Greg Ball laid out around $23,000 at retail stores, including Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic and Amore Clothing.

This must be why the Republicans haven’t been making much noise about the disbanding of the Moreland Commission as part of the overall budget deal earlier this year. Keep stumm and don’t kill the job. 

But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said, in effect,  “not so fast”. 

To date, there has been considerable speculation about what exactly the Moreland Commission’s investigations team probed over the months it was in operation, but few specifics have been disclosed to the public. Several legislators and critics have openly dismissed the Commission’s work as a “witch hunt.” Conversely, Moreland Commissioner Makau Mutua said earlier this month that the Commission had unearthed potential criminality by 10 to 12 state lawmakers.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was interested enough in finding out what the Commission had discovered that he has launched an inquiry, in part, to get to the bottom of whether “investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away as part of the negotiated arrangement between legislative and executive leaders,” as he wrote in a letter to the Commission’s members on April 3—a reference to the ethics deal struck between the governor and the Legislature as part of their budget agreement at the end of March, which coincided with Cuomo’s announcement that he was shutting down the Commission.

How does this all play into Maziarz’s resignation? Well, take a look at Binghamton-area Republican state senator Tom Libous – the second-highest ranking GOPer in the Senate- who was just indicted for lying to the FBI about getting his kid a job, and promising to direct work to that firm as a quid-pro-quo. The son was indicted for tax evasion and embezzlement. Libous was also out in front to try and block an extension on the fracking ban, mostly because his wife and a big campaign donor stand to benefit financially from a lifting of the ban

Is Bharara poised to indict Maziarz for corruption that the Moreland Commission uncovered and then simply stopped doing anything about to placate Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos? Consider what City & State uncovered

The legislator with the most number of entries about him is state Sen. George Maziarz, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership. According to the documents, Maziarz amassed more than $140,000 in unitemized campaign expenses in filings reported between 2008 and 2013—which averages out to more than $23,000 a year, or nearly $2,000 a month. The senator’s campaign also had “over $67,000 of charges and expenditures to Chase and Chase Card Services,” identified broadly as “office” expenses. The total sum, which exceeded by tens of thousands of dollars the amount of unspecified expenditures by each of the other lawmakers flagged, is broken down in depth within the documents and includes details not included in the senator’s public campaign filings.

The Commission found that the Maziarz campaign doled out more than $125,000 at retailers such as Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club, including $56,250 in expenditures that investigators concluded had not been reported. Another $10,000 from the senator’s re-election funds went to specialty chocolatiers, a florist and wineries and wine stores. The campaign committee also paid for $7,850 worth of reading materials at Borders, Readers Digest and Barnes & Noble, with $2,000 labeled as “unreported” by the Commission.

The Commission also tabulated the Maziarz campaign spending $12,000 at arts and crafts stores like Michaels and Oriental Trading; $7,000 at the now-defunct online gift boutique Southern Living at HOME and its successor, Willow House; and $4,000 on purchases related to children, including from Toys ”R” Us and Mud Pie, and payments to Do-do, the clown.

A company called MEM Enterprises also received a cumulative $39,000 from the Maziarz campaign. A Commission document notes that the company has only one employee, brings in $54,000 a year and is based at a residence owned by a person who appears to be the senator’s relative. Efforts to reach MEM Enterprises were unsuccessful, however, based upon inquiries made by City & State, it appears that the company’s address is the same as that of the senator’s brother, Marvin Maziarz, a retired Niagara County Community College professor.

As for Pat Gallivan, 

The next highest total was run up by Gallivan, who had about $80,000 in “unreported credit card expenses.” In Gallivan’s case, records for a Capital One card revealed $1,200 spent at casinos, $1,000 on cigars and $300 on “tanning beds and at salons.” The senator also had approximately $4,000 in unreported charges to AT&T, $3,500 in unreported charges to Verizon Wireless, $4,000 in charges to the DeLacy Ford dealership in Elma, N.Y., and almost $3,000 in unreported loan payments to M&T Bank. The Commission was apparently unable to obtain records for an American Express card that had $47,000 in unreported campaign charges.

Generally speaking, lawmakers are forbidden from converting campaign finances to personal use. This sort of analysis of campaign spending is unprecedented, and for decades, no one has bothered to look into any of this. 

It’s quite clear that Maziarz’s unforeseen and hurried exit has to do with something much more grave than a general feeling of political ennui and a sudden desire to focus on his daughter’s nuptials. 

Another corrupt lawmaker in a hypercorrupt Albany? Big surprise, and the way in which this unfolded reveals the degree to which no person or party in Albany has a desire to clean up that city’s act for the good of the people in this state. Thankfully, the people working on the Moreland Commission’s investigations were disgusted enough to forward their investigations to law enforcement. 

About two years ago, Carl Paladino and his cult following tried to unseat Maziarz by spreading rumors that he was gay. It was an especially disgusting campaign – just as you might expect from Carl, Rus Thompson, and any other right-wing homophobe you might encounter. 

It was so ugly and hateful, that I endorsed Maziarz because of it, and also because Paladino was openly backing Maziarz’s primary opponent, Johnny Destino (who is now a Democrat and running for Maziarz’s now-vacant seat).  Consider, then, that Paladino and Rus Thompson could have – but didn’t – pushed instead an argument that Maziarz was corrupt. That would have been a tougher argument to make, and by no means as much fun to a couple of gay-bashers, but at least it would have smacked of factual accuracy. 

But most importantly, recall Governor Cuomo’s agreement with the Working Families Party to start backing the idea of a Democratic Senate in exchange for its fusion endorsement. With Libous’ indictment and Maziarz’s departure, that’s two Republican seats up for grabs. (Libous and Maziarz, incidentally, were not backbenchers – they were quite powerful). The Republicans have a de facto majority in the Senate thanks to a small group of breakaway Democrats led by Jeffery Klein, the “Independent Democratic Conference”.

Right now, the Senate is made up of 29 Republicans, 24 Democrats (2 formerly Democratic seats are vacant), 1 Democrat caucusing with the Republicans, and the 4 members of the IDC. If the IDC decides to abandon its Republican ties the Democrats get a majority.  

The NYS Board of Elections reveals that Democratic enrollment in the 62nd District is almost 63,000 Democrats and just under 60,000 Republicans. 4,000 are enrolled Conservative, 1,200 are enrolled in the WFP, and 8,200 are in the Independence Party. The Greens have fewer than 400 enrollees. With a slight Democratic enrollment advantage, this seat is wholly up for grabs. 

* I use the word “resign” not to denote an immediate Maziarz withdrawal from public office, but merely to connote the fact that he’s choosing to not seek re-election to his Senatorship-for-life. As of right now, Maziarz is expected to complete his term of office.