How The Preetsmas Gang is Spending its Summer Vacation


Note: The Attorney for the Brown Campaign spoke with me after this piece was published, and that update can be found here

We’re still waiting for the inevitable Preetsmas fallout. The statute of limitations for all of the alleged misdemeanors expires in the next month, so everyone expects something to happen shortly.

Although somewhat hobbled by a federal and state investigation into alleged campaign finance fraud and illegality, Steve Pigeon’s crew is still active in the Michele Brown for Family Court race. The endorsed Democratic candidate is Kelly Brinkworth.

The Buffalo News and Geoff Kelly in the Public have recounted the political oddballs helping Brown out, and the curious inflow and outflow of money regarding that campaign. Most notable was the $10,000 to Steve Casey’s LSA Strategies – a business carefully set up using a proxy Brooklyn address, perhaps to thwart or slow scrutiny into its ownership. It remains an open question whether this is the rumored company that Casey co-owns with Chris Collins’ Congressional Chief of Staff, Chris Grant.

Local political veteran Ken Kruly runs an excellent blog, and he looked into the Brown campaign’s campaign disclosures, noting this:

  • As of July 15th, Ms. Brown had $125,205 in her campaign account, more than the amount that Freedman ($64,791) and Brinkworth ($38,048) had combined.
  • Brown has raised nothing from individuals, corporations, other candidates, etc.
  • Brown loaned herself a total of $60,000 in three different loans.
  • Brown has also received a $100,000 loan from her husband, Eugene Cunningham.
  • The Brown campaign paid $10,000 to LSA Strategies LLC, the consulting firm operated by Steve Casey.  (Just wondering, is Chris Grant a partner in that firm?)
  • The Brown campaign paid $4,000 to political consultant Maurice Garner.
  • Grassroots of Buffalo was paid $750.
  • The Brown campaign paid $2,000 for petition circulation to Louis Turchiarelli, who has previously petitioned for at least one Pigeon-supported candidate in Niagara Falls, an effort that stirred some controversy.
  • The Brown campaign paid $5,568 to the committee of David Hartzell, Clarence Town Supervisor, for petition work.  Why is the campaign of the Republican town supervisor in the business or circulating petitions for other candidates?  Looking at the dollar amounts that were paid to “consultants” to the Hartzell committee, it looks like they turned a nice profit.  There are contribution limits that apply to various offices and it may be that $5,568 exceeds the legal limit that the Brown for Family Court committee may give to Hartzell’s committee.
  • The Brown campaign gave $1,500 to the committee supporting Christine Bove, a candidate for West Seneca supervisor in the upcoming Democratic primary.  Bove allies also circulated Brown petitions.  This one has an interesting twist.  Steve Casey is working on the redevelopment of the former Seneca Mall site in West Seneca and it would certainly be nice to have some connection to the town supervisor.  But the incumbent supervisor is Sheila Meegan, the daughter of Chris Walsh, and Walsh is Steve Pigeon’s mentor.  So the question is, why would Casey be working with an opponent of the Meegan-Walsh-Pigeon alliance?
  • Casey and Kristy Mazurek, of Pigeon’s WNY Progressive Caucus fame, carried petitions for Brown.
  • Pigeon ally Joe Makowski, who resigned his State Supreme Court seat in 2009 , is assisting in the management of the campaign, operating out of his law office.

The “payments” made by the Michele Brown campaign are indeed wrong on a number of levels:

1. You can’t “hire” a political committee to do work for you, since the very nature of a political committee under the IRS code exception is to keep the money going in and out  “tax free”. As soon as a political committee gets into the business of making money by being paid for circulating someone’s petitions, they have become a profit-making entity subject to state and federal taxation.  What Clarence Supervisor Hartzell is doing is “earning” money payable to his political committee without paying taxes on it. This is pretty basic, and not an obscure rule, so the Michelle Brown campaign is participating in a tax avoidance scheme. Since she has now stated that she paid the money for petitioning services, will she be sending the Hartzell political committee (and the Christina Bove committee in West Seneca) an IRS 1099 form, as a vendor? And will his committee start filing tax returns and pay income taxes on the money received? If not, that’s illegal.

2. The legal limit for “contributions” to the Hartzell campaign is about $1,000 for the primary race against Town Councilman Pat Casilio, and $1,000 if Hartzell makes it to November.  Brown’s campaign “contributed” – and he “accepted a contribution” – of over $6,000.  Seems like a pretty big faux pas on the part of such a business savvy town supervisor. The limits in West Seneca for the Bove “contributions” may be higher.

3. The Brown campaign has another problem. If she has listed these payments, under the sworn signature of her treasurer, as “contributions” made to two candidates’ political committees, judicial ethics rules prohibit such “contributions” generally, but makes an exception for the attendance at political parties as a part of “campaigning”.  The committee for a judicial candidate may purchase up to 2 tickets (@ $250/each) for attendance at such political events. Paying another political committee for petition labor doesn’t count, and any such contribution is illegal.

So, we have the same old crew running the same old racket, with Pigeon as boss and Casey as underboss. As always, the promise of money and patronage help them marshal a crew of soldiers, (who are, at best, ignorant), to break laws and ethical rules in order to funnel campaign cash into friends’ vendor businesses and buy an elected office. In this case, it’s comparatively small potatoes, since the Family Court judgeship doesn’t control a significant number of jobs. This amounts to an attempt to stay relevant even when under investigation.

But as set forth above, they seem to have an almost innate inability or unwillingness to follow the law and rules, prefering instead behavior so brazen, one could coin a new phrase, “political racketeering”. They’re taking a big risk, because there is an Attorney General and US Attorney who are aggressively pursuing violations of laws that had previously been subject to lackadaisical enforcement.

Unfortunately for western New York, our Erie County District Attorney is completely absent when it comes to prosecuting blatant, repeated violations of election law.

Let’s Talk about “Mistakes Were Made” in Campaign Finance

Dream deeply - Google Chrome 2015-07-13 15.08.57

Everyone makes mistakes. The more charitable among us ask people to learn from them, lest they be repeated.

When it comes to issues relating to New York’s already comically lax and porous campaign finance regulations, mistakes can certainly be tolerated, but only up to a point.

After a while, “mistakes were made” becomes a convenient excuse uttered to avoid criminal liability.

One of the first things a student of criminal law learns is to define “mens rea” and “actus reus”. The latter is the commission of an illegal act – anything from stealing a piece of candy to murder. The former involves the trickier question of intent. The penalty for the illegal act of homicide is different for intentional murder as opposed to accidental manslaughter. It can even be excused altogether in the case of, say, self-defense. Therefore, it behooves someone caught doing something wrong to simply say it was an accident – a mistake or clerical error.

That might make a prosecutor’s job more difficult, but intent is usually proven through circumstantial evidence.

The Buffalo News published a story on Sunday written by Bob McCarthy, but the information therein was clearly supplied by Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr. McCarthy and Mohr explain that the Buffalo Republican Committee is out of money, and that its prior chairman stands accused of draining its treasury by making donations to political committees controlled by rogue nominal Democrat G. Stephen Pigeon.

Pigeon is believed to be a target of the state and federal investigations into campaign finance illegalities we’ve come to know as “Preetsmas“. At least since his ouster as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee, Pigeon has made a career of of attracting and funnelling big money to thwart the Democratic Party and help transactional malefactors like Pedro Espada, or the Republican Party, as happened in Erie County in 2009 and 2013. He stands accused of doing this through careful manipulation and exploitation of the outer edges of campaign finance legality. When he or his lieutenants push through the regulatory envelope, they can just say it was a clerical error; a mistake; inadvertent.

But they’ve been doing this for years. They’re professionals. This is what they do. Nothing is a mistake – all of it is calculated, based on the presumption of regulatory and prosecutorial distraction and inaction.

The Buffalo Republican Committee contributed a jaw-dropping $9,200 in October 2014 alone, and none of the recipients of that money accounted for it in mandatory reporting to the state Board of Elections. $4,700 of that was donated to yet another, hitherto unpaid-attention-to Steve Pigeon ratfcking PAC called “WNY Freedom”.

Pigeon set up “WNY Freedom” in late 2013, around the same time that the Preetsmas target WNY Progressive Caucus (a/k/a “AwfulPAC“) was winding its activities down. Its first donations, as the News reported, came from Carl Paladino.

Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino, who also is not suspected of any wrongdoing, said Pigeon asked him to donate $1,000 in October 2013 – immediately after the WNY Progressive Caucus raised $267,000 for opponents of candidates backed by Pigeon adversaries in Democratic headquarters.

For some reason, Carl didn’t just send a check for $1,000, but instead broke it down into five separate $200 donations made by five separate Carl-controlled LLCs, making good use of New York’s execrable LLC loophole.

“WNY Freedom” filed “no activity” statements in every 2014 financial disclosure report to the State BOE, which leads me to believe that Pigeon was planning to use it for whatever Pigeoning sabotage he was planning to undertake against Democrats during the 2015 election cycle – a sabotage that has been thwarted thanks to a distraction courtesy of state and federal investigators. And that’s the problem, because the city Republicans gave WNY Freedom $4,700.

Paladino told the News that he gave the money to Pigeon’s PAC because

He said he viewed the city GOP and Pfaff as helpful toward building a new majority on the School Board, but never knew how his donation would be used.

We still don’t, as WNY Freedom has never disclosed any expenditures whatsoever. It is true, however, that Pfaff helped Paladino by assisting in gathering petitions for Patty Pierce, Paladino’s majority ally on the school board. It should be noted that Pfaff lives in Kenmore.

Pigeon earlier this year blamed “clerical errors” for discrepancies in figures reported to the Board of Elections for purchases of television advertising by the WNY Progressive Caucus and the actual amounts spent at local stations.

Pfaff, meanwhile, acknowledged mistakes in keeping WNY Progressive Caucus records, especially in reporting that Pigeon received $25,000 from the committee for consulting services. Though Pfaff acknowledged listing the $25,000 as an expenditure, he called it a mistake. He and Pigeon said the money was never received, with Pigeon blaming “sloppy” record-eeping for the entry in the campaign reports.

Pfaff now claims more mistakes and problems communicating with the state board for the failure to record any donations to WNY Freedom.

Pfaff went on to claim that the state board didn’t recognize that he had replaced someone else as treasurer of WNY Freedom. It’s true that the state BOE lists a Franklin Street address for WNY Freedom, not Pfaff’s Kenmore address. But it would have been incumbent on Pfaff to take affirmative steps to make the necessary changes and disclosures – not wait until July 2015 when Bob McCarthy starts calling. The Buffalo Republicans went from $20,000 to $450 in one reporting cycle.

“Two guys came in and gave me their card. We had a pleasant chat,” he said. “I did not knowingly or willingly break election law. I just don’t do that.

“There was poor record-keeping and poor filing,” he added. “I don’t do this for a living, I do it to help out people. And people make mistakes.”

They sure do, but how long have David Pfaff and Steve Pigeon been doing stuff? Over a decade? How do you not know to accomplish one of the most basic things – disclosing contributions made to the political committee for which you’re supposedly treasurer. And if Pfaff wasn’t the treasurer, then it was the treasurer’s duty to do it correctly. This is neither rocket science nor some obscure trap for the unwary.

Former Buffalo Republican Treasurer Joseph J. Surdyk Jr. last September initially made out his committee’s check to People for Accountable Government, another Pigeon-connected independent committee that was active in the 2008 campaign. According to a copy of the check obtained by The News, Surdyk then crossed out People for Accountable Government as payee and substituted WNY Freedom.

Although things are somewhat quiet on the Preetsmas front, don’t for a second think that Kristy Mazurek and Steve Casey have been taking the summer off. They both carried petitions for Michele Brown, a Family Court candidate, and for Mike Drmacich, who is running for Tonawanda City Court. I’m still trying to figure out why Drmacich has a picture with Conservative fusion Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo on his website.

As for Pfaff, who is now on staff with Senator Marc Panepinto, his name has come up repeatedly throughout this Preetsmas holiday season; (here, here, here, here, here, and here). He has been politically involved for years, most of that time as one of Pigeon’s worker bee.

There’s no way “mistakes were made” here, just like no mistakes were made in any of this. Everything that is happening was undertaken deliberately, with the expectation that nothing would come of it; that even if the authorities got wise to it, there’d be a slap on the wrist.

The only “mistake” that was made was overplaying their hand in 2013 and catching the attention of the county and state Boards of Election, and the office of the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney.

Preetsmas: Cuomo’s Pay to Play Illustrated


Now you know that the whole anti-corruption thing was just an act. Now you know that the Moreland Commission was a joke. In July of last year, I called it “Cuomo’s Betrayal”.

On the Fourth day of Preetsmas, I wrote this about Gene Caccamise, the Rochester-based former head of the Bricklayer’s Local 3:

I used an image for a post that Steve Pigeon had Tweeted in 2013 to rebut an article of mine where I recounted two sources’ recollections that they had heard Governor Cuomo admonish Pigeon to stay out of the Hamister deal in Niagara Falls. Indeed, in all my years of writing about Pigeon, this was the one and only instance where he ever directly addressed one of my posts. He went on to write,

Gene Caccamise.

Pigeon’s Tweets are dated September 12th, and the primary election had been held on September 10th. The image was taken, and the exchange with the Governor was held on the Sunday before the primary. Pigeon’s AwfulPAC (WNYPC) effectively ceased all activity after September 10th. A singular donation of $25,000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 was quite puzzling, and no one reported on it until I brought it up in July 2014.

Pigeon’s friend Gene Caccamise was the regional head of that Bricklayer’s Union local until his resignation in March 2015. As to that donation, no one understood why it was made, and it’s glaringly odd because a $25,000 donation would have practically emptied the union’s PAC’s account. The image above is taken from Pigeon’s WNYPC 2013 11-day pre-primary filing. By contrast, this is what the Bricklayer’s union’s disclosure shows on its corresponding 11-day pre-primary filing:

Now, take a look at this incredible story from WGRZ and Steve Brown.

We now know that the union’s PAC didn’t make the contribution – the $25,000 came from the union’s treasury, and Caccamise told WGRZ’s Steve Brown that it was the “best money [he] ever spent, because it bought him an audience with the Governor and work for his union members.

But in the clip below, Caccamise explains that his Local also donated $30,000 directly to Cuomo. So, $30,000 alone doesn’t buy you access? You also have to separately contribute to a Steve Pigeon ratfcking PAC and get Pigeon to intervene with the Governor on your behalf? Why that PAC? Why not, say, hire Pigeon’s PAPI Consulting to lobby the Governor? That “AwfulPAC” was active for only a few short weeks – how did Caccamise know to contribute to it? How did he even know it existed?

My theory is that Caccamise is fumfering about that question when Steve Brown asks it for a reason – it was probably solicited.

I don’t understand why a union would find it necessary to contribute to a campaign committee that was set up to support a weak Sheriff candidate and to help flip the legislature over to the Republicans; typical Pigeon ratfcking.

But at least we now know why the contribution was never reported by the Local’s PAC – it was a direct contribution from the union’s own coffers. It bears repeating that the Buffalo rep for the union local was puzzled by the contribution and had no knowledge of it, or why it was made. From the WGRZ story,

Caccamise says, “I found out Steve Pigeon was consulting with the Governor and one of his go-to people for Buffalo and I says, ‘What can I do to help? I need jobs,’ ” said Caccamise.

The union’s own political warchest was low. A reduction of hours for members meant union dues were down. But, Caccamise was ready to dip into the local’s treasury, and he did, cutting the check for 25-grand to WNYPC.

“There’s no law against giving money away,” Caccamise said.

And afterwards, things started happening.

“That 25-thousand dollars was probably the best money I’ve ever spent, because I got to talk to the Governor. I got to sit with him telling him our problem and he listened.”

Then, work began flowing to BAC#3. Secretary/treasurer Richard Williams listed some of three big construction jobs members have worked, all on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: the new Oishei Childrens Hospital, UB’s bio-sciences center and Roswell’s new building for genetic and pharmacology research.

The union needed work. The union donated to a PAC to get close to Pigeon. A meeting with the Governor followed…and there was work.

If it sounds like pay-to-play politics to you, Caccamise disagrees.

“I’m not a politician. I’m a guy who represents 1,800 working men and their families and that’s basically what it was all about . It nothing to do with politics. It had nothing to do with anything.”

Right. I’m not a politician, I just hang around with them and buy access for my union through shady go-betweens by contributing to obscure political committees that exist for about 3 weeks. He spends almost 5 minutes explaining in minute detail how he had to pay-to-play, but when asked, “was this pay-to-play”, he gives the weakest denial, ever.

Caccamise says the union lost a ton of money through Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, but:

The Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union Local 3, based in Pittsford, outside Rochester, and with regional offices and membership in Buffalo, also has told members that some pension money invested through a “feeder fund” into Madoff Securities was lost. The fund had a value of $31 million at the end of 2006, the latest data available.

The union was not among the accounts listed in the court filing.

Caccamise makes it sound as if his union’s intervention made Cuomo pay attention not only to his union, but to Buffalo specifically. It almost sounds as if he’s taking credit for the Buffalo Billion or Canalside or the Medical Campus.

“If I can get my people to work so they don’t lose their pensions, they don’t lose their houses, they don’t lose their cars, they don’t lose everything and be able to take care of their family; that’s what it was all about.”

So, the plan, as explained by Caccamise, was to appeal to Governor Andrew Cuomo for more state investment in construction which meant the possibility of work for BAC#3.

The Buffalo Billion was conceived in 2012; Gene Caccamise didn’t put Buffalo on Cuomo’s radar in 2013. LIkewise, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus updated its master plan in 2010 – Caccamise wasn’t the impetus behind its continuted expansion or his members getting work, the work was already in the pipeline. If Caccamise is arguing that his payment to Pigeon (above and beyond the $30,000 to the Governor directly) brought about the work that saved the union, perhaps some specifics would be in order? Which projects? In what way did his payment(s) bring about more work that wasn’t already there?

Federal investigators talked to Caccamise about this contribution to Pigeon’s AwfulPAC, and there’s no evidence at this point of any criminality.

But there is, however, ample evidence of how fundamentally broken New York State politics and government are if a bricklayer’s union has to pay a nominal Democratic gadfly’s PAC $25,000 in order to get the Governor’s ear.

Cuomo’s betrayal, indeed.


The Preetsmas Mysteries



New York State Election Law §14-120 forbids people from making any payment – directly or indirectly – to any candidate or committee in any name other than their own. Furthermore, no candidate or committee is allowed to knowingly accept a payment in the name of any person other than the one who is actually contributing. Election Law §14-126 establishes that a deliberate attempt to evade contribution maximums is a crime.

In mid-August 2013, someone bought three money orders in the name of Matt Connors, and gave them to the WNY Progressive Caucus (“AwfulPAC”). Connors insists that he is an innocent victim, and there is no evidence to the contrary. But sources close to the investigation repeat that someone intentionally wrote Connors’ name on the money orders, and the address shown on them is a building that is allegedly owned by one of Nick Sinatra’s companies.

What we don’t know is whether Connors actually lived at the address someone wrote on the money orders, or if he lived where he was registered to vote. The lingering question is why would someone just pick Connors’ name out of the clear blue sky? Why were these money orders bought? Who bought them? Why were they delivered to AwfulPAC? Who solicited those contributions? Why were they made?

They money orders were allegedly hidden in a $4,000 contribution that AwfulPAC reported from Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats. Remember: AwfulPAC reported that $4,000 as one lump sum, but for some reason Max’s group didn’t. AwfulPAC also says that it received money long before Max’s group says it contributed it. It’s much easier to disguise a conduit contribution via money order than a check. But why didn’t they just give cash? The maximum amount of a postal money order is $1,000, and if you buy $3,000 or more in one transaction, you have to show ID.

The three money orders ($1,000, $1,000 and $500) were delivered to someone who deposited them – presumably M&T Bank has the surveillance tapes to show who that was; someone knows something.  But AwfulPAC made the decision that they wouldn’t disclose “Matt Connors” – or the actual purchaser of the money orders – as the contributor, but instead just lump it in with the other check being deposited that same day – from Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats. That was a deliberate decision to hide that money, and against the law.

The Buffalo News reports that Pigeon’s contributions even to Governor Cuomo are now under scrutiny, and Bob McCarthy writes that the authorities are questioning Pigeon’s financial ability to make the contributions he claims, given his tax liabilities. Was Pigeon a conduit for others’ money?

New interest is focused on at least two significant contributions or loans that Pigeon made in late 2013 – including donations of almost $100,000 to the caucus and $54,000 to Cuomo, especially a $50,000 contribution in connection with the governor’s 2012 birthday bash at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Investigators have not suggested any wrongdoing on the part of the governor.

While Pigeon insisted in February that he maintained the financial ability to give almost $100,000 to a fund such as the WNY Progressive Caucus, questions still surround his donations. The fund was said not to concentrate on assisting major candidates for statewide offices, but for county legislator and Erie County sheriff.

“That’s a lot of money for a sheriff race nobody cared about,” said another source familiar with the investigation.

In February, Pigeon revealed his tax returns to The Buffalo News to indicate a more than healthy income in the mid-six figures. But the contention that he was financially capable of such hefty contributions occurred 11 months after he negotiated a tax repayment plan with the Internal Revenue Service as he was incurring even more tax problems with the federal government.

Investigators are now curious about his ability to finance such significant contributions to Cuomo and the caucus, according to several sources.

The source familiar with the investigation said Pigeon’s connection to the Cuomo campaign also interests investigators.

As for Pigeon’s alleged “loans”, Election Law §14-102(1) states that any “statement reporting a loan shall have attached to it a copy of the evidence of indebtedness.” Was that filed with the State Board of Elections?  Has AwfulPAC paid the loan back? Election Law §14-116(6)(a) states that a

…loan made to a candidate or political committee, other than a constituted committee, by any person, firm, association or corporation other than in the regular course of the lender’s business shall be deemed, to the extent not repaid by the date of the primary, general or special election, as the case may be, a contribution by such person, firm, association or corporation.

So, it’s been two years and nothing has been paid back, so these are likely to be treated as contributions. Assuming the legality and applicability of AwfulPAC’s clumsy attempt between September 2013 – February 2014 to retroactively transform itself from a PAC into a multicandidate authorized expenditure committee, Pigeon’s contributions must be apportioned among the various candidates the committee supported, and the pro rata amount of his total contribution must be calculated as to each of the candidates.  He would clearly go way over the contribution limits himself for each of the candidates supported. (See Election Law §14-114(4).

Pursuant to that section, any authorized committee supporting more than one candidate is supposed to have a “formula based upon reasonable standards” to determine how to allocate a contribution to it among the various candidates that it supports.  The reason is to (supposedly) prevent a contributor (who has already maxed out to a given candidate, individually) to simply give more money to a multi-candidate committee, which in, in turn, gives money to the same candidate. That section only applies to party committees and to authorized political committees – it says nothing about “unauthorized” committees.  Which, of course, makes sense, since the unauthorized “independent expenditure” committee is not making “contributions” and is not limited for any amount.

Was AwfulPAC an independent expenditure committee, or an authorized committee? If the latter, this would have personal consequences for Pigeon, as well as Senator Tim Kennedy’s committee. Pigeon’s “loans” total $90,000, plus $25,000 from his “Landen Associates”, and Kennedy contributed $85,000. These were for legislative races, and those contribution limits are low indeed.

A few additional things we’re hearing:

1. People can’t seem to agree what affect the impending statute of limitations on the alleged misdemeanors is having on state investigators. As far as AwfulPAC is concerned, its period of highest activity came in late August and early September 2013. Some sources are telling me that this looming deadline will hasten the filing of all relevant charges, while others are telling me that the authorities may be willing to let the statute lapse for the minor charges while they chase down the bigger fish. Time, I suppose, will tell.

2. There’s a lot of chatter about Niagara County. So far, only the Sam Fruscione campaign and AwfulPAC’s involvement in it has been mentioned, but people are steering me in the direction of the 2012 effort by Steve Pigeon, Gary Parenti (both of “PAPI Consulting“), and members and leadership of Laborer’s Local 91 to take over the Niagara County Democratic Committee. At that time, the county board of elections suddenly received a spate of angry phone calls from people saying that petitions for election to the county committee were being circulated with their names on them, and they never knew a thing about it. The calls were coming mainly from members of Local 91, and a few days later people suddenly called back to say, in effect, “never mind.” A scan of contemporaneous media accounts provides the outline of that failed effort.

3. The names of Steve Pigeon and several of his hangers-on keep re-appearing in documents and sites dealing with the alleged NXIVM “cult” in Albany. For instance,

In this civil complaint alleging conspiracy, civil rights violations, and other torts:

Defendant [John] Bartolomei was retained by the Bronfman sisters in order to encourage various governmental entities to bring criminal charges against, inter alia, the Plaintiff, Frank Parlato, Jr., Yuri Plyam, and Rick Ross. In conjunction with his work for the Bronfman sisters, Bartolomei, upon information and belief, oversaw the activities of, inter alia, Steve Pigeon and Byron Georgjou — and worked with Defendant Savino on a variety of NXTVM/ESP-related matters…

…NXIVM/ESP and some of the other Defendants have employed, directly and indirectly, a variety of political consultants and lobbyists in conjunction with their efforts to cause harm to the Plaintiff and other third parties. Also based upon information and belief, these political consultants and lobbyists have included, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: John P. Bartolomei/Bartolomei & Associates PC; Steven M. Boggess/Featherstonehaugh, Wiley & Clyne LLP; Alphonse D’Amato, Chris D’Amato and Joel Giambra/Park Strategies; Byron Georgiou/Georgiou Enterprises; Richard Mays/Maybeck, Inc.; Robert McLarty and Paul Neville/The Markham Group; Steve Pigeon/Underberg & Kessler LLP; and Roger J. Stone/

NXIVM/ESP and/or other Defendants hired Frank Parlato, Jr. (“Parlato”) to develop a “negative publicity campaign” in order to malign the Plaintiffs reputation in the Albany, NY area (This “negative publicity campaign” included billboard advertisements – and a “story” concerning the Plaintiff that was to be distributed to all of the homes in the Albany, NY area ).

NXIVM allegedly files harassing lawsuits against critics. A cultwatching website has this long compendium of information available about Mr. Pigeon’s litigious and deep-pocketed clients. In connection with the 2009 Pigeon-engineered / “Responsible New York” – Espada senate coup, LittleSis wrote this “Cult behind the Coup?” piece.

If Pigeon is a conduit for campaign contributions, it will be interesting to find out who’s behind the money.

Preetsmas Day. All the kids are waiting, and the cookies & milk are out.

A Preetsmas Recap and Update


It’s been just over two weeks since we first celebrated Preetsmas, and here are the posts we’ve done so far:

The First day of Preetsmas (5/28/15): State and Federal investigators raid the homes of political circusmaster Steve Pigeon, former Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Chief of Staff to Chris Collins (NY-27), Chris Grant. We examine the likely connections between these three individuals, a brief history of the WNY Progressive Caucus (AwfulPAC), and we celebrate the first day of Preetsmas by concluding that there was likely a plan to move a casino to West Seneca.  There were more questions than answers, especially: why wasn’t AwfulPAC treasurer Kristy Mazurek raided, and what does Chris Grant have to do with anything? Could this reach as far as the Governor?

The Second day of Preetsmas (6/4/15): An in-depth look at the history and activities of the WNY Progressive Caucus, or AwfulPAC. I reported on this Pigeonista conflagration extensively as it happened, so I pulled it into an overall narrative.

The Third Day of Preetsmas (6/2/15): Seneca cigarette bootlegger Aaron Pierce and his various and sundry LLCs are brought up quite often, and we examine his connections to AwfulPAC and other politicians, including Assemblyman Mickey Kearns.

The Fourth Day of Preetsmas (6/3/15): More on the Kearns/Pierce connection; Chris Grant’s Herd Solutions is now based out of North Carolina? Steve Pigeon’s connections to Bricklayer’s Union boss Gene Caccamise; Mazurek is reported to be cooperating with authorities; the Senecas fire Pigeon’s PAPI Consulting as their Albany lobbyist.

The Fifth Day of Preetsmas (6/3/15): We discovered Steve Pigeon’s tax liens, the total of which approach $300,000. This directly contradicted the detailed and scholarly analysis that Bob McCarthy, amateur Esther Gulyas tax sleuth, conducted of Pigeon’s “tax records”.

The Sixth Day of Preetsmas  (6/4/15): Bob McCarthy’s reporting on Pigeon has been sloppy, overly deferential, and approached TMZ quality at times. Especial disgust is reserved for the Buffalo News’ repeated tactic of allowing a public figure to prove some point or another by showing his tax returns to reporters who, in turn, report on them as if they know what the hell they’re talking about. Carl Paladino, Chris Collins, and Steve Pigeon have all been able to avoid any real scrutiny or transparency by letting an untrained, non-expert reporter summarize what was contained in some papers that may or may not have been legitimate tax returns. We also published certain key documents from a pending lawsuit brought by the estate of the late Conservative fusion Party guru Billy Delmont against an LLC controlled by people including Pigeon and longtime acolyte Jack O’Donnell. Apparently, they spent over $300,000 on a newspaper group and building without having done a stitch of due diligence. We learn of a possible grant of immunity to someone inside City Hall, Ed Betz’s name comes up a few times, and Terry Connors denies that he’s representing Tim Kennedy, despite Kennedy’s campaign having paid Connors over $60,000 in late 2014.

The Seventh Day of Preetsmas (6/5/15): Frank Max and his PAC gave way more than the maximum allowed to two AwfulPAC candidates in 2013; we examined some very odd financial “disclosures” involving “Responsible New York”, GDSP, LLC, “Citizens for Fiscal Integrity”, and “People for Accountable Government. Roger Stone’s name comes up, and we take a brief look at current aide to State Senator Marc Panepinto, David Pfaff. We wonder about coordination, given that Wes Moore gave $300 to the PAC then supporting him, we examine that weird AwfulPAC loan to Pigeon’s Landen Associates, and some other financial oddities regarding the Dick Dobson for Sheriff campaign. AJ Pierce lost a big court battle, and we look at whether State Senator Tim Kennedy and some other entities should have been filing as having participated in the 2013 primary races.

The Eighth Day of Preetsmas (6/7/15): There was a Buffalo News story about money orders that had allegedly been bought and donated to AwfulPAC in contravention of several laws, and we reported that someone had put Matt Connors’ name on those money orders, without his knowledge. Connors works for local developer Nick Sinatra. We write some more about Jack O’Donnell, Kristy Mazurek, Marketing Tech and its connection with Steve Casey, and we break the story about how AwfulPAC changed its status in mid-stream.

The Ninth Day of Preetsmas (6/9/15): Examining Pigeon’s claimed addresses, including Sandi Schmidt’s Cheektowaga address, his apparent residency in a condo owned by ganjapreneur Dan Humiston, the fee liens filed against that condo, his use of attorney John Bartolomei’s address, and we look at the lobbying activity of PAPI Consulting, LLC and GDSP, LLC.

The Tenth day of Preetsmas (6/11/15): We define the term “Pigeoning” or “to Pigeon”, and look back at prior efforts to Pigeon races in 2004 and 2008 using various campaign entities, including Tom Golisano’s “Responsible New York”. We compare this to the activities of AwfulPAC in 2013 – especially the Sam Fruscione race – and we examine Chris Grant’s only available financial disclosure to the House of Representatives, dated March 2013.

The Eleventh Day of Preetsmas (6/12/15): We’ve obtained the CF-02 and revisions, as well as the very very late CF-03 for AwfulPAC and examine what it all means, including the absence of some key names from that document. Also, Channel 2’s Steve Brown reported on interesting interactions he had with the owner of Marketing Technologies, and with a spokesman for Nick Sinatra .

Preetsmas: In their Own Words (6/14/15): Using quotes taken directly from the Buffalo News, we take a little trip down memory lane, revisiting prior electoral issues surrounding Steve Pigeon, and we see the progression in the AwfulPAC investigation from total denial to attorneys making statements.

No one’s been accused, indicted, or convicted of any crime in connection with any of this. The purpose of these various Preetsmas posts is to push out what’s there, to establish patterns of conduct among groups, individuals, and campaigns, and to try and figure out what may ultimately come from all of this. We just don’t know yet, but rumors are now swirling that indictments should come within the next several weeks. We don’t know against whom or for what.

Preetsmas Update

The Buffalo News published an interesting article on Sunday focusing on direct mail. Specifically, it’s alleged that Steve Casey and Chris Grant were deeply involved with direct mail for AwfulPAC, which accounted for a huge chunk of that group’s expenditures in 2013. Casey would reportedly come up with the general concept, and Grant would turn that into an actual mail piece, and the files were sent to Marketing Tech and Gallagher Printing for production and mailing. However, if you look at the financial disclosures, only the payments to the printing shops show up – these shops would allegedly, in turn, pay Casey and Grant directly, (or through Casey’s “LSA Solutions” and Grant’s “HERD Solutions”, respectively).

From the News’ article:

The WNY Progressive Caucus paid the printer for the design and printing costs, and then the printer paid Grant and Casey, the sources said. The total cost therefore showed up on campaign filings as an expense paid to the printer.

A similar billing process was used for work Grant and Casey also did together for Brown’s 2013 re-election campaign, according to a source who has knowledge of their relationship.

State election law requires that second-party payments be itemized if they are over $5,000. The News could not find evidence of any political campaign in New York State filing such reports.

9 NYCRR §6200.8 says,

Whenever a person or entity, such as a consultant acting on behalf of a political committee which supports or opposes candidates for any public office or party position or which supports or opposes any proposition, subcontracts for finished goods or services, the treasurer of the committee shall, in addition to reporting the expenditure made to such consultant or agent, report the name, address and amount expended to each person or entity providing such goods or services the cost of which exceeds … $5,000. The treasurer of any committee which makes such expenditures may, in lieu of providing such information on the statement which lists the expenditure, include the information on a separate schedule to be filed with the committee’s 27-day post general election statement or if it relates to a primary election, with the 10-day post primary statement. In such case the schedule entry shall reference the statement in which the expenditure is listed.

Any lawyer will tell you that the regulatory or legislative use of the word “shall” denotes mandatory – not discretionary – conduct. The question isn’t whether anyone – or no one – actually does what the law says, but whether the law requires it to be done. No one goes 65 on the New York State Thruway, but that’s not a defense to getting a ticket for going 80.

From the Buffalo News,

… the billing process used to pay Casey and Grant for work done for the WNY Progressive Caucus raised a red flag for investigators. Their probe includes following the money trail to learn where Pigeon’s political committee raised money, and where the money went.

And several elected officials contacted by The Buffalo News, who did not want to be identified because they didn’t want to be drawn into the controversy, said that while it was legal, the billing process WNY Progressive Caucus used seems unusual. Casey was placing the orders with the printer who paid him and Grant, which resulted in the printer being identified on campaign records but not them. That gives the impression that the two didn’t want their role with Pigeon’s organization publicly known, these sources said.

Was it “legal”? Perhaps not, according to the letter of the law – more specifically the regulation shown above as it relates to any fees to consultants in excess of $5,000. It also violates the spirit of the law, which exists to provide the public with transparency and information as to who is paying whom for campaign and election work. AwfulPAC contracted with Byron Brown’s Deputy Mayor and a Republican Congressional aide to design the campaign literature for candidates from whom AwfulPAC was allegedly independent.

Is there enough here to prove illegal coordination? It’s nice to have confirmation that the Republicans are actively involved in conspiring with the Pigeon faction to sabotage the Erie County Democratic Committee and its candidates. We can take Mickey Kearns’ word for it – “Chris Grant does work for all Republicans”. More specifically, could AwfulPAC have simply been a joint effort by the Pigeonists and the Republicans to embarrass ECDC and its Chairman, Jeremy Zellner, and to ensure that a Republican majority would take over the County Legislature? The entire Pigeoning M.O. relies on stealth – it was wholly by accident that we learned of AwfulPAC when we did, so it should come as no surprise that it would dance around the edges of legality in order to hide the identities of its consultants, vendors, and supporters to whatever degree possible.

Turning back to AwfulPAC’s disclosure – even today, we have no idea who produced the Dick Dobson TV commercials that AwfulPAC paid for. Someone was paid to produce them – did that person interact with the candidate? How did they obtain the photographs of Dobson that were used in the ads? Did AwfulPAC use a middleman or consultant to place TV ads with Buying Time, LLC from Washington, D.C.? Mayor Byron Brown and Governor Andrew Cuomo also use that firm, and it was the subpoena to Buying Time that reportedly caused Governor Cuomo to interfere with the Moreland Commission’s investigation. This all seems like a pretty major league operation just to screw around with a handful of small-potatoes county legislative races.

Hell, if we really want to get into the question of coordination, here’s a question – AwfulPAC paid “Start to Finish” $500 for “photography” on August 26, 2013. Whom or what did they pay to photograph? The gentleman whom I called refused to answer.

D’Amato & Park Strategies

The Daily News published an article about former Senator Al D’Amato’s power in Albany, and this passage caught quite a few eyes:

But the recent D’Amato scandal connections don’t all revolve around Albany. The FBI and state investigators hit the headlines in Buffalo recently when they raided the homes of three major political operatives, including Steve Pigeon and Steve Casey, both of whom work for one of D’Amato’s biggest upstate clients, the Congel family, father-and-son mall developers.

Their companies paid D’Amato $2.7 million in federal and state lobbying fees. Not only did D’Amato represent the Congel company on a troubled Rochester project, he represented the Monroe County government that backed it.

Pigeon ally and donor Joel Giambra heads up the local office of D’Amato’s Park Strategies.

Kennedy hires Ed Betz

Ed Betz is a young lawyer whose name has come up quite a bit in connection with recent Pigeonings. He has represented Aaron Pierce, and he represents Jack O’Donnell and Steve Pigeon in connection with the lawsuit brought by the Billy Delmont estate.

In May, Betz became an employee of the state Senate as counsel to AwfulPAC donor State Senator Tim Kennedy. He is a former employee of the City of Buffalo and the Erie County Water Authority.

The Sinatra – Pigeon Connection?

Ever since local developer Nick Sinatra’s name came up within the context of the mysteriously purchased money orders, no one has quite understood the connection between them. Perhaps a few articles from faraway San Diego might clear that up? In May 2014, the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote about the real estate situation in that area, and this is notable:

“This business is not for the faint of heart,” said Anthony Nanula, the group’s San Diego manager. Last month, American Coastal sold a home at 1330 Eighth Ave. in downtown that was built in 1920. The Irvine-based group bought the property for $720,000, restored it and closed a deal for about $1.825 million, a sale price they consider a success.

American Coastal Properties has about 12 projects in San Diego County and 30 in Southern California. Those add to the 50 homes already revamped and sold. The group also recently secured $50 million from Colony Capital and the Pritzker/Vlock Family Office to buy and redevelop single-family properties throughout coastal Southern California. That continues a big change from what founding partner Nick Sinatra originally did in 2009: buy homes at auction to fix and flip in the Inland Empire.

“We were purchasing properties at the trustee sales, buying from banks, fixing them up and reselling them,” Sinatra said. “That business sort of was getting squeezed out by some of the institutional people, so we started to look at adding more value through construction.”

So, Pigeon assocate Anthony Nanula is the San Diego manager of a company founded by Nick Sinatra. The Nanulas also work with Sinatra on at least one local project. For his part, in 2013 Pigeon donated $1,000 to San Diego’s GOP Mayor, Nathan Fletcher, raising some Californian eyebrows.

The Nanulas’ Clarence office was the address for the AwfulPAC-backed Wes Moore campaign. The Sinatra projects are funded, at least in part, by an investment from the Pritzker/Vlock Family Office.

Feel free to send tips, info, hints, and bags of cash to buffalopundit[at]

Preetsmas: In Their Own Words


In their own words:

Matt Spina, Discrepancies found in reports from PACs controlled by Pigeon – Buffalo News: June 28, 2009:

Bank records subpoenaed by the Erie County Board of Elections revealed that two political committees controlled by G. Steven Pigeon failed to report several donations and expenses. Here are a few that the Erie County Board of Elections says it found during an investigation:

*Citizens for Fiscal Integrity, supporting Pigeon-friend Gary Parenti in his race for Assembly in 2006, received $5,000 on Aug. 31 of that year from then-County Executive Joel A. Giambra’s committee, the Friends of Joel Giambra; $1,500 from Pigeon’s personal checking account; and $2,500 indirectly from Watermark Financial, an investment company the Securities and Exchange Commission would later allege operated a Ponzi scheme.

The Watermark check was made out to Pigeon for “legal consulting — August.”

While a total of $9,000 was deposited, the transaction was initially recorded as only a $4,000 deposit from Pigeon, the commissioners said. Giambra’s $5,000 deposit was missed, although the Friends of Joel Giambra reported making the payment.

A week after the $9,000 was collected, the Citizens for Fiscal Integrity was able to cover a $9,000 invoice from a direct-mail company that Parenti had been using.

*In mid-July of 2008, Citizens for Fiscal Integrity filed a statement saying it had no activity to report for the first half of the year. But after the county Board of Elections issued its subpoena for bank records, the committee instead filed a report saying it had received $5,000 and spent $4,000 in the first six months.

It had directly spread $3,000 to the campaigns of State Senate candidate Joe Mesi, a Democrat; Frank A. Sedita III, a Democrat running for district attorney; and Democrat Barbra Kavanaugh, running in an Assembly primary against incumbent Sam Hoyt of Buffalo.

*During the second week of June 2008, the People for Accountable Government had too little money on deposit at M&T Bank to write a $1,000 check, the county elections commissioners learned during their investigation. But the committee on June 12 deposited a $1,000 check from the Friends of Joel Giambra and then wrote a $1,000 check to the Friends of Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles mayor who was holding a fundraiser in New York City.

At the same time, the Friends of Joel Giambra wrote another $1,000 check for the Villaraigosa fund when $1,000 is the maximum that can be donated to a Los Angeles mayoral candidate.

Said Giambra: “I was not aware the money I gave to Mr. Pigeon’s PAC [political action committee] was going to any specific candidates.”

*The Erie County elections commissioners cite the Villaraigosa transaction as an example of one that exceeded contribution limits, in this case California’s. Another example involves Citizens for Fiscal Integrity and the Responsible New York fund formed by billionaire B. Thomas Golisano.

The commissioners found that Responsible New York last year gave $4,000 to Citizens for Fiscal Integrity. Noted on the check was that it was to go toward the party primary expenses for Mesi in his Senate campaign.

CFI, however, had already donated some $3,000 to Mesi’s campaign. Assuming that the $4,000 was spent on CFI’s Mesi-related expenses, commissioners reason that CFI exceeded contribution limits for the primary.

From Mark Sacha: September 27, 2009:

These matters involve the district attorney’s sworn responsibility to enforce the law and do justice in the public interest,” Sacha said. “These matters include instances where the power of the district attorney has been used improperly to protect political interests and to retaliate against me for pursuing an ongoing investigation.

“Prosecuting the powerless is easy,” he added. “The real test is when you are asked to investigate the powerful. District Attorney Sedita so far has failed the test.”

“Pigeon also helped elect Sedita as district attorney by helping him obtain the Conservative Party endorsement, one that Sedita used to get the Democratic endorsement despite Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan’s earlier support for another candidate.” – Buffalo News: September 29, 2009

“Frank Clark told [Pigeon] that if he was a cooperating witness, he would not be prosecuted. Everything that I’ve understood is, that was the arrangement.” – D.A. Frank Sedita: October 6, 2009

“Pigeon was a witness, period. He was never given immunity or asked for it. That is absolutely, positively incorrect.” – Former D.A. Frank Clark: October 6, 2009

From that same Buffalo News article,

He also asked why his office sent investigators to interview Lewis “Babe” Rotella of Niagara Falls, whose exploratory run for mayor of Niagara Falls was said by Pigeon to be the ultimate beneficiary of money he says he independently spent.

The source of that money was the focus of Sacha’s probe.

“It would have been a waste of time,” Sacha said. “And why would I be going through what I’m going through now?”

Frank Clark, meanwhile, characterized the term “cooperating witness” as a “term of art.”

“It normally means somebody gets something in return for something,” the former district attorney explained. “But whether he was a target or not a target has nothing to do with being a witness,” he said. “He was simply a witness.”

According to Clark, “[Pigeon] was never given immunity. There was no understanding — spoken or unspoken — that he be given a quid pro quo.”

“It never happened. Why would we give immunity to someone who was not cooperating and perhaps was the ultimate target?” – Sacha, on Pigeon September 30, 2009


One of those allegations surrounded a $10,000 political contribution from former County Executive Joel A. Giambra to a Pigeon consulting company called Landen Associates LLC. Pigeon said it was for consulting work helping Giambra publicize his accomplishments before easing into private life.

But Giambra listed it on his campaign expense report as a political contribution — not for consulting.

Pigeon said Tuesday that report notation was a mistake.

From there, Sacha said, the money went to a company called Media Co., owned by Timothy Clark. And then, Timothy Clark made a $9,000 loan to his brother’s campaign.

Giambra’s contribution traveled the circuitous route to Paul Clark, Sacha said, without any connection to the politically toxic former county executive.

Pigeon said he paid Timothy Clark’s company for consulting work on a possible mayoral run in Niagara Falls by Lewis “Babe” Rotella.

Rotella never declared any campaign expenses or contributions from Pigeon or Timothy Clark, according to campaign reports.

And Sacha said he questioned Rotella and obtained a statement that he had never met Timothy Clark and done anything on his campaign.

Mark Sacha created a story because he was demoted for his own reasons and had his own problems.” – Steve Pigeon: June 13, 2010

“We concluded the existence of a pattern of violations of election law, some of which may involve money laundering or deliberate evasion of requirements of the election law…We thought that needed to be addressed by someone.” – Peter Kiernan, in a referral to U.S. Attorney for the SDNY Preet Bharara in 2010 (Kiernan was counsel to then-Governor David Paterson).

“They’re reckless and false, and I think he’s engaged in prosecutorial misconduct” – Steve Pigeon, discussing Mark Sacha: December 12, 2011

“I followed the election law to the letter…I was shown no favoritism because I broke no laws.” – Steve Pigeon: December 12, 2012

“This PAC is made up of a group of like-minded individuals who share the same thought processes and who are not happy with the leadership of the party” – Kristy Mazurek: September 4, 2013

“I’m not doing the dirty work of some behind-the-scenes individuals. I know every single one of the donors who has contributed to me. Whether it’s Frank Max, Steve Pigeon or Ronald McDonald, what does it matter?” – Kristy Mazurek: September 4, 2013

“I can show up as a volunteer or for lit drops or fundraisers, but I have been hands off because I know the rules and regulations. And I don’t understand these continuing, vicious attacks on Steve Pigeon. I’ve never heard such a bunch of crybabies before.” – Kristy Mazurek: September 7, 2013

“Everything was done not only to the letter but the spirit of the law,” – State Sen. Tim Kennedy: September 21, 2013

Steve Pigeon: September 21, 2013:

Pigeon labeled the Grant-Hogues letter a “frivolous action” and questioned whether Cuomo’s Moreland Commission is even charged with probing political campaigns.

“The charge is to investigate corruption of public officers,” Pigeon said, “not to be a campaign watchdog. That power still lies with the Board of Elections.

“They’re all a bunch of bellyachers, crybabies and sore losers.” – Steve Pigeon: October 30, 2013

“I have been in compliance the entire time.” – Kristy Mazurek: October 30, 2013

“Why am I the only person in Western New York they investigate? And why is their standard for me any different than for anybody else?” – Steve Pigeon: November 3, 2013

“Every dollar brought in by donors has been documented,” she said, adding that any technical errors were corrected by amendment and “duly noted.” – Kristy Mazurek: March 11, 2014

“…frivolous, political witch hunt” … any discrepancies lying at the heart of the local complaint are “technical and clerical” in nature – Steve Pigeon: March 11, 2014

“This is about an elections official destroying a document. There is no doubt it violates the law in several areas besides election law, including abuse of power. This is exceptionally serious.” – Steve Pigeon, commenting on an allegation that former Election Commissioner Dennis Ward destroyed nominating petitions: July 22, 2014

“I’ve never seen a petition with Mike Deely’s name on it – ever. I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Dennis Ward: July 22, 2014

“These allegations are very serious. I will press this to the fullest extent of a criminal investigation and charges.” – Kristy Mazurek: July 22, 2014

“They love making accusations, but they’re the ones breaking the law.” – Steve Pigeon: July 22, 2014

Never happened. Never, ever.” – Dennis Ward: September 4, 2014

“In the presence of all, including, of note, Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Ward ripped the petitions of Deely and Walsh into pieces and tossed the shreds in the air stating that Mr. Deely would never be elected as committeeman.” – Local NYSUT chief Mike Deely Affidavit: September 4, 2014

I didn’t see any of these things happen. It’s news to me.” – Assemblyman Sean Ryan: September 4, 2014

“The issue of conflict of interest is the reason why nothing gets done. In our area, it is especially an issue because of the connection of Pigeon to Cuomo and Sedita.” – Mark Sacha: January 31, 2015

“All these years, these half-truths and innuendoes only involve me donating or spending my own money or raising money. It’s ironic that I’m now grouped with people who have been enriching themselves….In today’s atmosphere of what’s happening in New York State, I’m fine with the fact they’re finding out I followed the law.” – Steve Pigeon: February 21, 2015

“I have not done anything wrong during my role in this, and I’ve had to endure years of this. There is no direct allegation of me coordinating with a candidate or offering any quid pro quo in any way. All you’ve got to do is look at my tax return.” – Steve Pigeon: February 21, 2015

“In politics, a lot of people and reporters say a lot things. They should either show something or shut up.” – Tom Golisano: February 21, 2015

“It sounds odd, but when you look at how I live and how much I make, it really isn’t.” – Steve Pigeon: February 21, 2015

[Pigeon] blames “clerical errors” and “sloppy” record keeping on the many questions posed about the fund. “People make mistakes, but it wasn’t me,” he said. “And the reports were amended. There was nothing criminal.” – Steve Pigeon: February 21, 2015

“I don’t know what their perception of coordination is. It’s what you might perceive versus what is actually fact.” – Kristy Mazurek: February 21, 2015

“It’s probably not worth taking these yearly hits. But I will always be a player, one way or another.” – Steve Pigeon: February 21, 2015

“Frankly, I don’t see any violations of the law. There’s nothing to hide.” – Paul Cambria on his client Steve Pigeon: May 29, 2015

“He cooperated completely to the agents who came to his door on Thursday, and I am sure the results of the investigation will show that he has done nothing wrong.” Tom Eoannou, on his client Chris Grant: May 29, 2015

“Having someone conduct a search warrant on your property is a big difference from someone having a criminal charge filed against them. Obtaining a search warrant is just a fancy way of getting evidence for law enforcement. No charges have been filed against anyone in this case.” – Rod Personius on his client Steve Casey: May 29, 2015

The Western New York Progressive Caucus (“AwfulPAC”) “…currently has minimal money, or no money in it, and is dormant.” – Joel Daniels on his client Kristy Mazurek: May 29, 2015 (Ed. note: AwfulPAC claims to have over $26,000 on hand right now.)

“When The News questioned him about the discrepancy in February, longtime associate David B. Pfaff called to accept responsibility for what he also called a clerical error.” – Buffalo News: June 2, 2015

“She has cooperated … she has answered questions,” said a person who knows Mazurek and is sympathetic to her situation. “Kristy is in a very tough spot right now. Steve Pigeon is her friend, but she doesn’t want to become a target” of law enforcement. “She’s walking on a very thin line.” – Buffalo News: June 6, 2015

“I feel much more sorry for anyone who was unfairly targeted by the [AwfulPAC]. They ran vicious campaigns. They put some candidates and their families through a lot of heartache.” – Betty Jean Grant: June 6, 2015

“In the business, it’s a classic case of hiding a true contributor.” – Buffalo News: June 6, 2015

On the Ninth Day of Preetsmas



On the Seventh Day of Preetsmas, we reported that Pigeon had used an address of 101 Reo Street in Cheektowaga for some of his personal political contributions, as well as the address of record for at least one of his LLCs and two of his PACs. 101 Reo is the home of Sandi Schmidt, Pigeon’s long-time personal assistant and bookkeeper. Pigeon used Schmidt’s address to contribute $50,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign in 2013. It’s believed that Schmidt helped Pigeon handle his money and pay his bills. She would be a critical person for investigators to question, as she would have knowledge about Pigeon’s activities since day one


Who lives where? In some filings, Pigeon says he lives at 101 Reo. In some, he uses 703 or 704 Admiral’s Walk. In others, he uses 1003 Admiral’s Walk. That’s odd, right?

Steve Pigeon bought 703 Admiral’s Walk in 1997, and sold it in May 2009, but not before taking out a $58,000 mortgage through GSDP, LLC at 1900 Main Place, (but has also used 101 Reoremember this disclosure?) which was then the location of Pigeon’s law firm.

Pigeon bought 704 Admiral’s Walk on October 5, 2007, and still owns it.

1003 Admiral’s Walk is owned by Tanning Bed founder and current ganjapreneur Dan Humiston, who is applying to transform the Tyson chicken plant into a medical marijuana growing facility. Back in 2012, Humiston was running for Assembly (Pigeon donated), primarying David DiPietro on the Republican line and Christina Abt on the Independence fusion line. A lawsuit alleged that Humiston didn’t live in the district, and DiPietro’s campaign sent out literature alleging that Pigeon and Humiston were living together.

and the doorbell:

As it turns out, Humiston had claimed that his residence was out in the district, but that he also had a second home at 1003 Admiral’s Walk, which has recently been on the market. Or was it 703?

But more significantly, there are currently two condominium liens against 1003 Admiral’s Walk on file with the Erie County Clerk’s Office for unpaid common fees and assessments; one for $1,122 from October 2013, and one for $9,264 from August 2014. This is separate and distinct from the federal tax liens filed against Pigeon.


Why is Pigeon not living in 704, and instead occupying a 10th floor apartment owned by Dan Humiston?  We know this to be true because look at this image from the Buffalo News regarding the raid of Pigeon’s home on May 28th. See the floor number on the elevator?

Is Pigeon paying for someone to live there? Why aren’t the condo fees being paid? We know that Humiston owes the duty to pay the condo fees, but who is really responsible for the arrearage—the guy who just put down over $200,000 to grow medical marijuana or the guy who has over $200,000 in pending tax liens going back to 2008?


Another oft-used Pigeon address is that of lawyer John Bartolomei in Niagara Falls. Bartolomei’s associate Bill Berard represented Aaron Pierce’s AJ’s Wholesale in this lawsuit, and his office has been known to represent people in connection with inquiries from boards of election. For instance, Berard represented Kristy Mazurek when the Erie County Board of Elections subpoenaed the records of the WNY Progressive Caucus (AwfulPAC) and she resisted turning them over. That matter was litigated before Judge Troutman. Bartolomei is also representing some of the plaintiffs (including Mazurek) in the sexual harassment suit that led to Dennis Gabryszak’s resignation in disgrace, and paved the way for Mazurek’s brother to first defeat Camille Brandon in the Democratic Primary before losing in the general election to Conservative fusion Party member Angela Wozniak for A-143.


When the state Attorney General’s office took over the Erie County BOE’s investigation into AwfulPAC, it took every file and directed the board to cease all activities. That’s why this Buffalo News article about Pigeon attorney Dennis Vacco serving a FOIL on the Erie County BOE for AwfulPAC records is so funny. There likely are not any substantive files at the BOE.


Way back on the first day of Preetsmas, we speculated as to why a bigshot Syracuse developer like Scott Congel would need to associate himself with every political malcontent in Western New York just to build a glorified shopping center in West Seneca. Our conclusion was that this may have been an effort to move the Seneca Creek Casino from Buffalo to a more prominent location off the Thruway in West Seneca. It bears mentioning, then, that the NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics lists Steve Pigeon’s PAPI Consulting, LLC as an approved lobbyist for S&R Company of West Seneca, LLC., which is the owner of the Seneca Mall location of Congel’s project in The JCOPE record is here. Also note this:

and this:

Interesting, then, that the Senecas also retained PAPI Consulting, including Pigeon, Gary Parenti, and Grassroots’ Maurice Garner to lobby the state. The Senecas have since fired Pigeon’s group. Pigeon’s GSDP, LLC also engaged in lobbying, based on this document, but there appears to be nothing else on file with JCOPE right now.

That’s because GSDP was the subject of a JCOPE enforcement action, settling for a fine of $500.

GSDP Settlement by Alan Bedenko


Back in January 2014, Bob McCarthy and Pigeon’s other stenographer, Frank Parlato, reported on how Buffalo’s own G. Steven helped sponsor a big-ticket Hollywood fundraiser for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Where’s the donation? Who made it? Pigeon is shown to have paid $50,000 in January 2013 and Landen paid $5,000 in December 2013. But where was this supposed $25,000 ticket for the LA fundraiser in January? It doesn’t show up under PAPI or GSDP or Landen, either. Very odd.

On the Seventh Day of Preetsmas



In case you missed them, here are the Preetsmas posts so far:

It’s more likely than not that the investigation into the Western New York Progressive Caucus – or “AwfulPAC” has spread into other areas, and the feds are following their own investigation and not just helping out state and local investigators.

‘Sup Frank Max?

New York’s election law is an overcomplicated morass designed to guarantee full employment for anyone with the herculean patience to figure it out. For instance, the maximum allowable campaign contribution in the 2013 Democratic primary election must be calculated based on the number of Democrats enrolled in the district under NYS Election Law 14-114(1)(b).  When calculated, the Board of Election posts it to its website. For instance, the maximum anyone could contribute to the (AwfulPAC-backed) Rick Zydel and Wes Moore 2013 Democratic primary election campaigns was somewhere around $1,100 – 1,200, for a single contributor.

Back during the 2013 primary season, Cheektowaga’s Frank Max was closely aligned with AwfulPAC – in fact, it was commonly referred to at the time as his & Mazurek’s. The name of his longstanding operation is the “Progressive Democrats of WNY” (all [sic]). If you take a look at that group, it gave the following to Zydel’s campaign:

  • 5/9/13     $2,500
  • 6/10/13   $150
  • 6/11/13   $600

Total: $3,250:  Nearly triple the maximum allowed.

There’s even $100 to the “Real Conservatives”, which we discussed briefly here. You always expect a “progressive” group to contribute to the “Real Conservatives” and The “Hamburg Conservative Club

In the same document, three checks to the Wes Moore campaign from Max’s group are revealed:

  • 5/9/13    $2,500
  • 6/10/13  $150
  • 6/13/13  $350

Total: $3,000.  Over double the maximum allowed.

Frank Max should know better than that. He was until recently town chair of the Cheektowaga Committee, hoped to be the county chair – can he claim that his personal political organization didn’t knowingly and willfully violate the law?  Assuming the authorities have flagged this, it could be a useful way to encourage him to provide information on the entire AwfulPAC scheme.

Max is the treasurer for the Progressive Dems. Kristy Mazurek is (or was – the address is likely out-of-date) the treasurer for “Friends of Frank Max”.  It’s believed that Max was deeply involved with the goings on of AwfulPAC in 2013, but we haven’t heard much from Frank since the heat was turned up on the investigation.

Some History

Way back in 2009, Tom Golisano and Steve Pigeon’s absurdly named “Responsible New York (RNY)” PAC or “independent expenditure” committee had some interesting filings.

Note in its 2009 filings – the year after it attempted to bring democracy back to the NYS Legislature – on May 15, 2009, it received back as a repayment a “refunded expenditure” the sum of $120,000.  Such “expenditure” was supposedly made in August, 2008 by RNY.  And who “refunded” that $120,000 – why some entity known as “GSDP, LLC”.  A review of the Department of State website reveals that this LLC, which features Pigeon’s initials, has a registered address at Pigeon’s former law firm, Underberg & Kessler.

Good for GSDP to refund that huge sum of money to Responsible NY. There’s a problem, though – no such expenditure exists; Responsible NY never gave any money to GSDP. Maybe more interesting would be for the Tax Man to look at how GSDP “earned” that $120,000 (which is taxable) but then tried to write off a “refund” of an obligation that wasn’t GSDP’s. You can’t pay someone else’s debt and then deduct it as a business expense.

Oddly enough, the Board of Elections’ wonky website shows only two expenditures made to GSDP – from the Niagara County Republican Committee. It bears mentioning that the Cheektowaga address that GSDP lists in those disclosures matches that of “Citizens for Fiscal Integrity“, which gave money to Joel Giambra and Responsible New York. It also contributed to “People for Accountable Government“, whose treasurer appears to have been Pigeon associate David Pfaff. That group received $1000 from GSDP. In 2007, it reported $100 from Steve Pigeon and $2000 from Joel Giambra’s committee. In 2008, Pigeon supposedly contributed $20,000. That was the year of the Mesi campaign. CItizens for Fiscal Integrity was formed in 2005, and took in $13,500 from GSDP that year. It also took in $8000 from Roger Stone and his wife. It’s not clear from the disclosures whom that group was intended to help or harm.

What was this refund to Golisano’s committee all about? Golisano was drawing out a lot of the money by repaying his initial loan, so it could have been a refund not to GSDP but to Golisano himself, possibly in connection with the Joe Mesi race.

David Pfaff

Pfaff is a longtime Pigeon associate, and is currently employed in the office of State Senator Marc Panepinto. In 2013, Pfaff was living off the “consulting fees” of $800/bi-weekly, being paid by Frank Max’s “Progressive” Democrats while he was working for the Dick Dobson for Sheriff campaign and AwfulPAC – all at one time. In his 2015 bankruptcy filing, Pfaff claims not to have earned enough money to file tax returns for 2013 and 2014. But he had the cash to contribute $25 to Dobson?

Sources report that Pfaff petitioned in 2013 for candidates supported by the AwfulPAC, and assisted Dobson in Board of Elections proceedings.

Wes Moore

Moore was the beneficiary of thousands of dollars’ worth of expenditures by AwfulPAC against his primary opponent Wynnie Fisher, and on his behalf. It bears repeating that the smear campaign that Moore helped engineer with Kristy Mazurek against Fisher on the eve of the November election was thanks to information sent to Moore c/o Mazurek’s address, despite the fact that his Treasurer was shown at the BOE as being first in Buffalo and later in Clarence. The stench of illegal coordination is overpowering.

It, therefore, bears mentioning that Moore is reported to have contributed $300 on August 21, 2013 to the AwfulPAC making supposedly “independent” expenditures on his behalf. That is bizarre; practically unprecedented for a candidate who is the beneficiary of an independent expenditure to actually contribute to that very committee.  Was there a fundraiser for AwfulPAC that he attended? Did he speak with anyone there?

Amendments and Oddities

It appears as if AwfulPAC has amended its filings to eliminate what had originally been reported as a $25,000 fee to Landen, LLC – you can see it referenced in former Assistant District Attorney Mark Sacha’s complaint to the Moreland Commission. It appears here as an outstanding loan, but the original “loan” itself is nowhere to be found. Note that Landen, LLC is now listed at the same 101 Reo Ave address as GDSP and “Citizens for Fiscal Integrity”, as shown above.

Pigeon also used that Reo Ave address for many of his own contributions. For instance,

If you look at this article I wrote at the time, I reported that Landen had given Dick Dobson $200, but now the link shows an additional $400. I don’t know that financial disclosures were allowed to be so … fluid. Likewise, in Dobson’s first post-primary report, “Democratic Action” donated $9,000. That’s fine – that’s what a PAC is legally empowered to do. Except Democratic Action hadn’t filed a single disclosure during that cycle, its last being a “no activity” report in July 2013. Its last reported fund balance? $2,400. If you’re going to BS people, at least do so credibly.

A.J. Pierce Again

Aaron Pierce filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against three trucking companies that supposedly lost or converted $785,000 of untaxed cigarettes that Pierce was trying to transport from WNY to another Native American on Long Island. Pierce accused the trucking companies of stealing the cigarettes, and Justice Marshall dismissed the complaint because you can’t enforce an illegal contract.

Order Dismissing Complaint

It looks like Mr. Pierce and AJ’s Wholesale, LLC is out $785,000, and if the state Department of Taxation requires that state taxes be paid and stamps affixed to the cigarettes when they were placed on trucks for shipment through New York State to a different Nation, then he may also owe state taxes. Remember that one of Pierce’s companies was already in big trouble, with a big civil forfeiture for what amounts to a conviction for bootlegging cigarettes.  Did he really wire that $20,000 to Buying Time, as the AwfulPAC claims?

AwfulPAC’s Money

Here’s a handy chart of all the money that went into and came out of the WNYPC “AwfulPAC”. There is the aforementioned “loan” of $25,000 from Landen, LLC which is completely unaccounted-for. Also not the discrepancies in terms of the dates of money coming into AwfulPAC from Frank Max and Tim Kennedy. How was AwfulPAC able to account for $4000 in donations from the Progressive Democrats that didn’t come in until days – or weeks – later? Friends of Frank Max supposedly gave $1750 on 9/3/13, but it only had $100 on hand in the most recent previous filing, and there appears to be no entry for that sort of outflow.


As for Tim Kennedy, he contributed $85,000 to AwfulPAC and $10,000 to Democratic Action – which promptly turned around and donated it back to the favored candidates of the AwfulPAC – Dobson, Miller-Williams.  So Kennedy gave a total of $95,000 to the two committees, which he had to know were backing candidates in the September 2013 Democratic primary election. Under Election Law 14-102 (1), Kennedy for Senate (as did Democratic Action) “participated” in the primary election and had a duty to file pre-primary and post-primary campaign finance reports with the New York State Board of Elections.  However, neither did.

Under no circumstances is it legal or proper for a campaign or committee to participate in a primary election,  but make people wait until the following January to find out what they did. This may be a crime pursuant to Election law 14-126 (3). 

As to Democratic Action, all of a sudden in mid-2013, it received $10,000 from Kennedy and another $2,000 from Nancy Krzyzanowski, an employee of Collucci & Gallagher. That seems like an odd donation from to an obscure and largely inactive PAC. Then again, she’s also given $500 to Chris Collins, $1000 over time to the Tonawanda Democratic Committee, and – oddly enough – $3000 to the New York State Republican Committee in 2004

More to come as the Preetsmas gifts get hung on the chimney with care.

On the Sixth Day of Preetsmas


Courtesy Chris Van Patten

Courtesy Chris Van Patten

As a consumer of information, you should be appalled.

As recently as May 24th, the Buffalo News’ political columnist, Bob McCarthy, dutifully did Steve Pigeon’s bidding, producing an opinion piece that amounted to faithful stenography of a longtime source’s spin. In this case, it was Pigeon spinning about why he had ended what had until recently been a likely mutually beneficial relationship with a Rochester-based law firm. Pigeon told McCarthy it had nothing to do with any investigation – but the state and federal raids came literally four days later.

At the conclusion of the piece, McCarthy took a story that should have been about Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner being one of only about 250 party leaders nationwide to meet with Hillary Clinton at her New York City HQ, but instead became one that disrespected Zellner as just another Lenihan henchman.

But it’s worse than that. A simple search of the Buffalo News’ website reveals ample droppings of Pigeon-sourced or Pigeon-puffing material. Some of it was so empty – consider Pigeon releasing to the press ( also had it) that new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had joined some local pols – including a couple who are now under investigation – at Pigeon’s house to watch a boxing match. Releasing it is one thing – McCarthy including it in his Sunday column is straight-up TMZ garbage.

Here, McCarthy gives equal time to the investigation into the WNY Progressive Caucus and a totally bogus claim that former Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward ripped up someone’s nominating petitions in a fury. One resulted in a federal and state probe; the other one doesn’t exist.  Or how about quoting Pigeon in connection with a completely unrelated obituary note, thusly:

Few travelers along the campaign trail have made more friends than Tom Fricano, the former UAW leader and 1996 congressional candidate who died Feb. 14. Former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon, a longtime associate, recalled him like this: “He was a gentle person who was a true believer and did not demonize his enemies.”

Oh, how heartfelt, coming from WNY’s king ratfckr.

Here, we have McCarthy treating Zellner like a guy who somehow didn’t deserve the 69% of votes cast for his re-election as party chair. Note the headline and theme – it’s not about Zellner’s victory, it’s about Zellner’s foes and what they might do. Say what you want, but for a guy who the Mayor, the Governor, labor, and a bunch of Pigeonista malcontents apparently wanted out of the party chairmanship, Zellner crushed it.

Here, we find out that Pigeon opposed cross-endorsements by Zellner of Republican judges.

Pigeon will run his own slate of judicial nominating delegates – and will appeal for support from the seven smaller counties of the Eighth Judicial District.

A close political adviser to the governor, Pigeon’s efforts will encourage as strong a Democratic turnout as possible for Cuomo and his effort to sweep the western counties he lost to Republican Carl Paladino in 2010.

That’s nice. Pigeon’s slate failed miserably, and what does Pigeon’s efforts as a “close political adviser to the governor” – which is likely taken verbatim from Pigeon’s gob – have to do with anything? Where is the article about how Pigeon and his crowd backed Republican Deana Tripi over Democrats Carney and Crapsi in 2013? Where is the article about how Maurice Garner and Mike Darby were put in charge of the Pigeon effort to promote Tripi and defeat the Democratic slate? I hear Grassroots has since been embarrassed by its support of Tripi, and am waiting for confirmation of a story about something that happened in connection with a protest over the Eric Garner case. Where is the article about how this year, Pigeon’s people are helping Republican family court candidate Brenda Freedman?

In addition to this, we have this new phenomenon of candidates or political figures attempting to prove something to journalists by showing them documents purporting to be tax records. In 2015 it was “political heavyweight” Steve Pigeon showing something to Bob McCarthy, and in 2012, it was Chris Collins (R-Clarence) showing a portion of the records from three tax years to Jerry Zremski.

With respect to Pigeon, McCarthy wrote,

Pigeon opened his tax returns from the past several years to inspection at The News’ request in an effort to quell speculation that his contributions to the Progressive Caucus stemmed from anywhere but his own bank account. His records over the past three years indicate a mid-six-figure income, which he says proves his ability to spare $100,000 even for a fund supporting relatively low-level candidates.

He can afford big donations to a political cause the same way others could contribute to a church, he said, especially because he has no wife or children to support, takes few vacations, has no real hobbies and lives a non-extravagant lifestyle.

“It sounds odd, but when you look at how I live and how much I make, it really isn’t,” he said.

The questions were mild and hardly probative. Mostly because, upon information and belief, Bob McCarthy isn’t a CPA or a tax attorney and is no more or less knowledgeable than you or me when it comes to assessing someone’s purported tax returns .

But Collins was even more blunt with Jerry Zremski,

“My federal return is probably 25 pages long,” Collins added. “It’s too much for the public to absorb.”

It is journalistic malpractice to report on the alleged tax returns that some politician shows to a reporter. Jerry Zremski, like Bob McCarthy, likely has no more or less experience vetting and examining someone’s tax records than any other layperson. For the Buffalo News to arrange for a political figure to simply bring in and show off some paper purporting to be tax returns, and not having a CPA or a tax attorney on hand to provide analysis and guidance is simply shocking. For the News to do this repeatedly and report on it as if they had actually obtained some sort of information is incredible. Anyone can waltz into anywhere with a 1040 and some schedules and make-believe that it represents a tax return. It’s no wonder that McCarthy’s reporting on Pigeon has turned someone sharper since he realized that his longtime source didn’t disclose almost $250,000 in federal tax liens, which would have certainly been relevant within the context of Pigeon’s ability or willingness to fund a PAC in 2013 to the tune of $100,000.

I’m sure the feds are pleased that Pigeon reportedly has $100,000 to blow on obscure legislative primaries, but can’t pay his own taxes.

And what of that – the 2011 arrearage is pretty small – $14,000, but Pigeon’s tax debt for 2013 – the year of the Western NY Progressive Caucus – is over $112,000. How did this come to the IRS’s attention? An audit? Was it part of the forensic accounting that’s likely taking place behind the scenes in conjunction with this investigation? Let’s say Pigeon was right about reporting about $400 – 500k in income on the returns he showed McCarthy – did he underpay? Under-report? His effective tax rate is probably between 10 – 20% after deductions, so that’s a significant under-payment, to say the least. Was there “income” that came to – or through – Pigeon’s accounts that he didn’t report as income, but should have been? Questions abound.

In the meantime, it’s come to light that in 2010 Pigeon and his associate and fellow lobbyist Jack O’Donnell bought the “Front Page” group of newspapers, including Lackawanna’s Front Page and the South Buffalo News from former Conservative Party guru William Delmont. The entity that bought the paper is “South Park Ave Properties, LLC“, which shares an address with the Arab-American Society of WNY in a UPS Store in Blasdell. Delmont has since died, but his estate has filed suit against O’Donnell, South Park Ave Properties, Pigeon, and Sadeq Ahmed for an alleged debt of over $125,000, plus accrued interest. It’s alleged that O’Donnell, Pigeon, and Ahmed were all members of the LLC, and each of them executed a document personally guaranteeing all payments under the promissory note, and by January 2014 were accused of being in default.

Demand Note by Alan Bedenko

The action was brought as a motion for summary judgment, and Pigeon opposed it, claiming that Delmont had vastly overstate the papers’ viability and circulation.

Affidavit of Steve Pigeon by Alan Bedenko

Supreme Court Justice Walker denied the motion for summary judgment, and the case is proceeding in the usual course. Perhaps significantly, Pigeon and O’Donnell are represented by Ed Betz, who was until recently an attorney for the Erie County Water Authority, and before that for the City of Buffalo. Philips Lytle is representing Mr. Ahmed.

The papers themselves feature columns by SCOPE’s Budd Schroeder and articles by Tony Farina. As of January 2014, the papers have a new publisher – Frank Parlato of the Niagara Falls Reporter. Parlato announced that his acquisition is, “in joint venture with its current owners”, O’Donnell and Pigeon.

Next, we are hearing rumors that prosecutors have granted immunity to someone who is – or was – reasonably high up in Byron Brown’s City Hall. If true, it further speaks to the growing breadth and depth of this investigation.

Finally, Channel 2 interviewed Tim Kennedy on Thursday, who denied having lawyered up in connection with the Preetsmas probe. But here’s the thing:

1. Tim Kennedy filed an order to show cause relating to primary day vote counting on September 9th, but the attorney wasn’t Terry Connors – it was the aforementioned Ed Betz, who is also representing Pigeon and O’Donnell.

2. Although Kennedy claims that no one has spoken with him about the WNY Progressive Caucus or any investigation surrounding it, that defies credulity.  We already know that investigators interviewed everyone who gave or received any money from that PAC, and that its victims – like Wynnie Fisher and Lynn Dearmyer – were also questioned. We also know that Kennedy gave $85,000 to that PAC, so he had to have been paid a visit by state investigators.

3. Kennedy’s campaign finance disclosures show over $60,000 paid to Terry Connors’ law firm between August and November 2014. It wasn’t for election law stuff, since Betz was handling that. So, why so much and why then? What for? $60,000 is 200 hours’ worth of work at $300/hr, and that’s pretty much what it would cost to get a case tried. By contrast, in 2012 when Kennedy was in the fight of his political life against a Betty Jean Grant write-in insurgency, Kennedy paid Connors just $25,000.

Speaking of Terry Connors, his law partner’s bid to become a federal judge is moving right along. The Senate Judiciary Committee just this week approved Lawrence Vilardo’s nomination to be the newest federal judge in WNY. Yet, consider,

There is concern in the local legal community, however, over the prospects for approval of Denise E. O’Donnell, Schumer’s recommendation for Buffalo’s other vacant district judgeship. Even though Schumer submitted O’Donnell’s name to Obama in June of last year, seven weeks before he recommended Vilardo, the White House has not yet nominated her.

Why do you think that the White House hasn’t nominated Denise O’Donnell – Jack O’Donnell’s mother – to the federal bench, despite Chuck Schumer’s recommendation? I don’t know, either. Seems very odd.

A Preetsmas Story


It bears repeating that the WNY Progressive Caucus was merely the latest iteration of a common Steve Pigeon modus operandi. He had been Pigeoning Democratic candidates for years while manipulating or cutting deals with whomever was convenient. Part of my antipathy for electoral fusion stems from Pigeon’s deft manipulation and marshalling of minor party lines.  He has conspired with Ralph Lorigo to steer the Conservative fusion Party line to his various candidates, and enjoys a close relationship with Tom Golisano, the founder of New York’s especially corrupt Independence fusion Party.

That’s why, for instance, Pigeon associate David Pfaff shows up as a vendor for the “Real Conservatives” PAC, which is controlled by Lorigo and based out of a funeral home in Hamburg which has contributed to Lorigo’s committee and also to Mickey Kearns.  That’s why a flush pro-Byron Brown PAC controlled by Steve Casey and based out of Casey’s home contributed to only one candidate – Conservative fusion Party candidate Joe Lorigo – in 2014 and 2013. So query why it took in $6,000 from Byron Brown’s campaign fund in the 11-day pre-General 2013 and another $6,000 from Brown in October 2013, while it only supported one Conservative fusion Party candidate.

None of this was new in 2013, but there was one major difference that tripped up Pigeon’s usual M.O. It was late August and early September that anonynous, no-attribution literature blasting then-incumbent county legislators Betty Jean Grant and Tim Hogues hit mailboxes throughout Buffalo. The mailers risibly accused Grant and Hogues of being right-wing Republicans, and praised their challengers, Joyce Wilson Nixon and Barbara Miller-Williams. I wrote at the time, “so long as people aligned with the breakaway Steve Pigeon faction of disgruntled nominal Democrats exist, there will be nonsense. It is ever thus.”

Under New York’s weak and usually unenforced election law, there is no requirement that the groups sending these sorts of mailers out reveal their identity or funding. “Paid for by” isn’t a requirement, and it protects shenanigans, instead of informing the voting public.

Generally, a PAC like the “WNY Progressive Caucus” would need to disclose to the Board of Elections where its money was coming from. But when these mailers hit in late August 2013, it hadn’t yet filed anything. The reason we found out about it was a FOIL request:

[Betty Jean] Grant on Friday charged that a rival wing of the local Democratic party is behind the anonymous ads. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act to the Postal Service has identified the permit holder on the mailings as the Western New York Progressive Caucus, headquartered on Doris Avenue in Lancaster.

That was Kristy Mazurek’s home, and she was listed as the group’s treasurer. Mazurek, at the time, had been a co-host of WGRZ’s “2Sides”, had helped direct the campaign of failed Comptroller candidate David Shenk, and then turned against Jeremy Zellner’s Democratic Committee and began running the campaigns of Pigeon-backed rogue Democrats Wes Moore and Rick Zydel in 2013. In August 2013, I called them the “emoDems”,

It should be noted that WGRZ 2Sides co-host Kristy Mazurek is [Wes] Moore’s and [Rick] Zydel’s campaign manager. Query why [her former co-host Stefan] 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.

Mazurek had taken to Facebook to ridicule Moore’s opponent Wynnie Fisher for refusing to appear on 2Sides. Yet why on Earth would a candidate appear on a show to be interrogated by her opponent’s campaign manager? It’s an insane proposition. Furthermore, Mazurek did leave 2Sides just days later. (There’s David Pfaff again, BTW):

And so, Mazurek Palinistically took to Facebook to issue a non-denial denial about the WNY Progressive Caucus’ literature:

Translation: After Shenk lost, Zellner didn’t hire/get me hired for something-or-other, and so I’m going to align myself with the people who are working to undermine and unseat him. Note that Mazurek doesn’t deny that she or her PAC sent out the anti-Hogues and anti-Grant mailings. She simply says the complaints “don’t have merit”. So, I replied:

Reply, (right under one from Erick Mullen, who did all of Jack Davis’ ads that relentlessly went after endorsed Democrat Jon Powers in ’08):

I have no idea what that means. So,

There was no reply, natch; I don’t think Ms. Mazurek knows what “meritless” means. Ditto her apparently erstwhile ally Pigeon, who said that the charges against him related to Mazurek’s PAC were “frivolous“.

These types of anonymous mailers come out all the time, and when anonymous, you can bet that the people behind it want to keep you in the dark. You should be insulted by them – they figure you’re an idiot; an ignoramus. Yet there’s no law that says they have to disclose who they are. So, if you’re outraged when your candidate gets anonymously and unfairly slammed by anonyms, you’re going to have to lobby Albany to demand that the Election Law be amended to (a) require that all campaign advertisements and literature clearly disclose who paid for them; and (b) institute a hefty penalty for any violations – penalties that are confiscatory deterrents.

Nasty people with unclean hands legally get to make electoral politics dirtier than it has to be. If Mazurek and the people behind the group for which she is treasurer think that Tim Hogues is a closet Clarence Republican and that Barbara Miller-Williams is the reincarnation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then they should disclose who they are.

The disgruntled nominal Democrats in league with Steve Pigeon might consider this, for instance: instead of working with Republicans and the fusion parties actively to undermine endorsed Democrats, why not convince the various and sundry committee members why they should vote for Frank Max or Mark Manna over Jeremy Zellner for party chair next time around? If you’re in league with the Conservative Party, why even pretend to be a Democrat?

But this time – in 2013 – the Pigeoning was discovered far earlier than Pigeon and Mazurek had expected, on August 30th. Because they were outed via FOIL request, they were forced to file disclosures just 11 days before the primary, and the disclosure was, at best, packed with fiction. Think about it – they clearly didn’t want to disclose who they were on the reams of literature they produced, and so long as people didn’t know who was behind it, they could defame opponents with impunity. This time, however, they were outed and came under a media microscope. Hogues and Grant filed complaints with the Board of Election, bolstered by former Assistant District Attorney Mark Sacha, and that complaint was referred to the state, which then referred it to state investigators, and it came before the Moreland Commission and into the hands of Preet Bharara.

And that’s the story of Preetsmas.

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