Preetsmas: Tentacles Spreading

pigeonThe Buffalo News reports that one of the top donors to Steve Pigeon’s and Kristy Mazurek’s “WNY Progressive Caucus” has been in big trouble lately.

Aaron J. Pierce, a Seneca owner of an online cigarette business and a munitions factory,

• In August 2013, a Pierce company called AJ’s Candy & Tobacco was charged – with 17 other defendants – with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking. Federal prosecutors said AJ’s Candy was one of several Native American tobacco companies from Western New York that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by illegally buying and reselling “unstamped” cigarettes.

AJ’s Candy and other companies saved themselves $4.35 a pack by illegally buying cigarettes from a Missouri company that had not paid New York state excise taxes, prosecutors charged.

Court papers show that, last August, AJ’s Candy & Tobacco was sentenced after taking a corporate guilty plea, admitting to felony charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking. The company agreed to pay just over $1 million in fines, judgments and restitution. The company was put on probation for two years. Pierce – who signed the plea agreement on the company’s behalf – agreed that the company would not sell any cigarettes except those made by his own companies for two years.

The charges against AJ’s Candy & Tobacco and 17 other defendants followed a lengthy undercover investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. The defendants in the case purchased a total of $17 million in illegally untaxed cigarettes during the undercover probe, said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickenson, in Kansas City, Mo.

• In April of this year, Pierce and another of his companies – AJ’s Wholesale LLC of Irving – agreed to pay $400,000 to federal prosecutors in Buffalo to settle a non-criminal forfeiture case.

Federal prosecutors filed the forfeiture action against Pierce and AJ’s Wholesale in February, after ATF agents determined that AJ’s unlawfully bought and resold more than 403,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes between September 2012 and January 2013, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard D. Kaufman said in court papers.

A court order directing Pierce and AJ’s Wholesale to pay $400,000 to the federal government was signed by District Judge Richard J. Arcara on April 19. Another document, called a “stipulation for settlement and forfeiture,” was signed by Pierce and Pigeon – acting as an attorney for Pierce – on March 24.

AJ’s Wholesale, the company involved in the $400,000 forfeiture action, is the same Pierce company that donated $30,000 to Pigeon’s PAC in September 2013, government documents show.

Pierce is also a big donor to Assemblyman Mickey Kearns – so much so that Kearns had a ballpark named after Pierce.

When this all gets written up and we know all the ins and outs, remember that the question is where the money came from to fund the WNYPC. It was rumored to be Seneca money, and the evidence is mounting that this is true. Pierce’s quoted lawyer – Ed Betz – is a close associate of Pigeon protege Jack O’Donnell, and was hired as counsel for the Erie County Water Authority when O’Donnell was a commissioner.

Also, in case you missed it, Ken Kruly’s blog has a list of the lawyers all the targets of the Preetsmas probe have retained,

  • Steve Pigeon – represented by Dennis Vacco and Paul Cambria
  • Steve Casey – represented by Rod Personius
  • Chris Grant – represented by Thomas Eoannou
  • Tim Kennedy – represented by Terry Connors
  • Kristi Mazurek – represented by Joel Daniels

That reads like a who’s who of local lawyers you hire when you’re accused of really, really serious stuff. Also – Tim Kennedy?!

So far, the only thing missing is how the Albany-based accused cult NXIVM fits into all of this. Because I’m convinced that this investigation’s scope and timeframe is much wider than is being reported.

Donovan and Arnold: Out-Weppnering Weppner?

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

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

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

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

Take a closer look at the letter that Donovan shared: 

Dude lives in Kentucky. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Arnold? Not so much. 

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

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

Trolling Erie County Democrats

Word has it that Steve Pigeon’s biennial attempt to troll the Erie County Democratic Committee comes in the form of a new challenge to Jeremy Zellner’s chairmanship. Reportedly going around calling himself the most powerful Democrat in WNY, in comes State Senator Tim Kennedy, who is allegedly putting his name in contention as county chair. 

You might remember Tim Kennedy, who recently won re-election by wildly out-spending his opponent, orchestrated a coup in the Erie County Legislature in 2010. That coup took a Democratic majority and handed over a de facto Republican majority to Chris Collins. In exchange, Kennedy’s path to the state Senate was cleared. 

So, to be clear, Tim Kennedy sold out Democrats and his constituents in favor of Chris Collins and the Conservative Party to ease his path to the Senate. 

Because this isn’t remotely serious, they’re unlikely to show up. Being chair is actually difficult work. This crowd is content to play fast and loose with campaign finance rules, and to sabotage the committee and its candidates for the next couple of years. 

 

Kennedy-Grant Debate

Courtesy of WNYMedia.net’s “Buffalo Live”, here is the video of this week’s debate between Senator Tim Kennedy and Legislator Betty Jean Grant.  The debate was held at the Burchfield-Penney, and was sponsored by the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists. Kennedy and Grant are battling in a Democratic primary for State Senate District 63

Ballot Access & Fusion: Keeping New York Corrupt

It’s petition day throughout New York State, and we’ll learn soon enough that Governor Cuomo will have a primary challenge from the left, and that locally, the Democratic race for the 63rd Senate District (Tim Kennedy, incumbent) is going to be especially fun, as will the Republican challenge to Mark Grisanti, as perennial party-switching candidate Rus Thompson clumsily attempts to manipulate the corrupt fusion system to try and oust the sane guy. 

But it’s not only electoral fusion that’s corrupt and awful, so is the petition process itself. It’s hypercomplicated and deliberately designed to be a minefield for the unwary. It’s not only time to abolish the electoral fusion system and shut down the Wilson Pakulas and backroom deals, but also to simplify the ballot access system to make it easier for candidates to run. The rules for petitioning should be simplified and written in plain English, and there should be an alternative whereby a candidate simply pays a fee (set on a sliding scale, depending on the scope of the office).  Hey, if the state needs another source of revenue, there you go. 

As it stands now, our petitioning process should rightly be named the Election Law Attorney Full Employment Act

As for SD-60, where Grisanti will possibly face off with Rus Thompson, here’s the entire campaign in a nutshell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the calm, professional man in the suit over the wildman in a sweatshirt. 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Tim Kennedy’s Just Desserts

Tim Kennedy sold out his principles, his party, and his constituents when, in 2010, he executed a Steve Pigeon-brokered deal to align the majority Democratic county legislature with Republican County Executive Chris Collins. The figurehead leader of that coup was Barbara Miller-Williams, who has since returned to the legislature, and Kennedy was happy to let her take the brunt of criticism at the time. 

Through his actions, Kennedy handed a de facto legislature majority to the Republicans and to Collins, leading to devastating harm to the most vulnerable members of our society and a wide variety of policy decisions that were penny wise but pound foolish. The “reform coalition” reformed absolutely nothing, and merely served as a springboard for Kennedy to run for the state Senate against a guy who had been there forever and was just as toxic. 

When Kennedy last ran for re-election to the senate, County Legislator Betty Jean Grant – who had been among the most vocal and fearless critics of the “reform coalition” coup – launched what seemed a quixotic write-in campaign against him. In the end, she lost by only 139 votes, according to the Board of Elections. (Grant maintains that she won). 

Last cycle, Kennedy donated $85,000 in campaign funds to the Pigeon-Mazurek “AwfulPAC” or “WNY Progressive Caucus” (which was hardly “progressive”, and is now defunct). His obvious purpose was to punish Grant, and although she won re-election, Miller-Williams defeated Grant ally Tim Hogues. 

We now come full circle, as Kennedy flips and flops on abortion, and Grant’s effort against Kennedy becomes more organized. 

Last night, the county Democratic committee endorsed Grant over Kennedy. And of course it did – why reward someone who has worked tirelessly against the committee and its candidates with an endorsement? But as you read the press release shown below, note that county chair Jeremy Zellner’s last paragraph is Kennedy getting cockpunched. 

The Erie County Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee today overwhelmingly endorsed Legislator Betty Jean Grant for New York State Senate, District 63. 

The Executive Committee, which includes leaders from each town in the county and the City of Buffalo, credited Grant with her long history of standing up to powerful interest groups on behalf of the average citizen.  “Betty Jean Grant has shown unwavering support for the Democratic Party’s platform and philosophy,” said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner.  “There is no second guessing when it comes to her commitment on jobs, education, health care and social issues.  Legislator Grant has always consistently supported the issues that are the bedrock of the Democratic Party.”

Grant’s support on the committee extended far beyond her base in the City of Buffalo, “I am proud to note that I received endorsements and nominations from suburban towns and among leaders in the pro-choice community.  I look forward to campaigning throughout the district and talking with voters from all backgrounds and points of view. I vow to work closely with Governor Cuomo to continue the momentum that Western New York has achieved.”

Zellner dismissed criticism that the endorsement amounted to insider support from party bosses. “Our Executive Committee is designed to represent a cross section of our community. In addition to representatives from each town and city in the county, we have seats for labor, education, the private sector as well as the LGBT community and African American and Hispanic leaders.  Legislator Grant’s support comes from the grassroots up. The public has grown cynical of politicians who trot out substance free, feel-good initiatives at home, while running back to Albany to surround themselves with the worst elements of our political system.

This will absolutely be a race to watch. 

 

The 2014 Kennedy/Mazurek Slate

From everything I can gather, there’s never been a time in recorded history when Erie County Democrats were united and working together as a matter of routine. It happens from time to time when convenient (i.e., when there’s something (or nothing) in it for everyone), but every election cycle or two there’s a party establishment that is battling on two fronts; Republicans on one side, and the sabotage wing of the nominal Democratic party on the other. 

You know the drill – “Concerned Parents” bludgeoning Sam Hoyt within an inch of his political life with the double-edged sword of infidelity and interns, engineering a coup in the state Senate to depose Democratic leadership there with a small collection of criminals, and a copycat coup in the Erie County Legislature to prop up the person who has quickly emerged as the most transactional, least interesting local politician – Tim Kennedy. 

Kennedy and Betty Jean Grant never really got along well, but the whole thing fell apart when Kennedy and Barbara Miller-Williams sold the Democratic legislature majority out to then-County Executive Chris Collins in a Pigeon-engineered coup in 2010. That positioned Kennedy to challenge incumbent Bill Stachowski and hop over to the appropriately useless State Senate. Grant mounted a grassroots, barebones challenge against Kennedy as payback two years later, and lost by only 139 votes

This year sets up a rematch of the Kennedy-Grant battle. During the last political cycle, the political action committee that Pedro Espada’s patronage hire, Steve Pigeon, set up last year with toxic personality Kristy Mazurek, found itself the subject of a bipartisan Erie County Board of Elections campaign finance violation probe. Subpoenas revealed undeclared expenses and sloppy accounting. It was called “Progressive Caucus of WNY” and its sole purpose was to sabotage the Erie County Democratic Committee and its candidates during the last cycle. I called it “AwfulPAC“. At one point in late October, it was late on its filings and $19,000 in the red. (It’s since updated its filings, which the Board of Elections has basically said are a masterpiece of fiction.) But losing most of its primaries wasn’t enough, AwfulPAC’s Republicans-in-Democratic-clothes went so far as to defame the Democratic candidate on the eve of the election

Pigeon supposedly funded AwfulPAC to the tune of $120,000 of money that came from God knows where. Senator Tim Kennedy gave an additional $80,000 – and he got revenge on Betty Jean Grant when AwfulPAC candidate Barbara Miller-Williams unseated Tim Hogues in the September primary. 

In the end, it cost about $267,000 (that are accounted-for) for Steve Pigeon and his known associates to kneecap the county Democratic committee and destroy Tim Hogues and Betty Jean Grant.  This is all they can do, since they have failed and refused to successfully challenge the committee chairmanship repeatedly over the last decade. They’re now gearing up not only to do battle against Grant, who is well-liked and not even close to lying down for these punks, but also to back a likely Mazurek effort to take the Assembly seat most recently kept warm by creepy toilet video director Dennis Gabryszak. AwfulPAC failed to account for $35,000 in TV spending, and spent another $112k directly on behalf of failed Sheriff candidate Dick Dobson, despite not properly being set up as an independent Dobson committee

Meanwhile, Kennedy flips and flops on abortion – he was pro-life when convenient, and is now pro-choice because that has suddenly become convenient – 

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo’s joke of an election law review – the Moreland Commission – has done absolutely nothing about any of this.  It hasn’t addressed election law shenanigans or improper reporting, raising, and spending of money, and has completely avoided the issue of toxic and corrupt minor “parties” and their use of electoral fusion to obtain unearned political clout and patronage. 

As Kennedy and Mazurek run, watch how the money flows in and out of their campaigns, (to the extent the disclosures resemble reality), and that’s how you’ll know what this is all really about. Hint: good government and constituent service aren’t on the list.

Defunct Tim Kennedy Campaign Account Donates $45,000

As noted last week, state Senator Tim Kennedy (who famously switched allegiances in 2010 to support a de facto Republican majority, Collins-puppet County Legislature, in order to, among other things, secure Conservative backing via Steve Pigeon for his Senate run against dinosaur Bill Stachowski) has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the questionably legal political action committee being led by Steve Pigeon and Kristy Mazurek. The “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC” has been supporting Democratic primary candidates who are opposed to Erie County Democratic Headquarters, such as turncoat Democrat Barbara Miller-Williams, Joyce Wilson Nixon, Rick Zydel, and Wes Moore. Indeed, there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that the PAC has been coordinating its activities with that of some of these campaigns, in contravention of the law. 

On September 5th, the 24 hour reports of big donations showed an influx of cash from “Kennedy for Senate”. 

 

Here is the first set of Tim Kennedy cash that the Mazurek/Pigeon/Max PAC reported: 

$45,000 from “Friends of Tim Kennedy” – an account that has been inactive since 2011

The most recent activity for “Friends of Tim Kennedy” shows a balance of $8.61. 

So, if the account had $8.00 in it and was inactive, how exactly did it re-appear and raise $40,000 just a few weeks ago? 

UPDATE: A correspondent with knowledge of Election Law emails this: 

Kennedy (probably both his committees) is in violation of the campaign finance law for failing to file two pre-primary reports disclosing his campaign contributions and expenses, including his contributions to the Pigeon / Mazurek PAC.  Once he starts to donate, he is “participating” in a primary election – and that triggers the obligation to file NOW (EL 14-102(1).  He’s going to pretend he doesn’t need to, and then try to just file his semi-annual report in January, claiming that he doesn’t have a primary and therefore doesn’t have an obligation to file.
 
Also, here’s video of Steve Pigeon and Deputy Mayor Steve Casey meeting with Tim Kennedy a few years ago (FF to 0:35): 
 

That’s not all – people close to the Dearmyer campaign report that there have been phony pro-Dearmyer calls being made by people who are (a) not affiliated with her campaign; (b) not really supporting her and providing false information; and (c) being very rude when calling. This smells of this PAC. 

AwfulPAC

Yesterday, I wrote about the Kristy Mazurek / 2Sides / Steve Pigeon involvement in a shiny new PAC that sent out thousands of unattributed campaign literature smearing incumbent Democratic county legislators Betty Jean Grant and Tim Hogues, and supporting challengers Joyce Wilson Nixon and Barbara Miller-Williams. Instead of focusing on the politics as usual, I noted that the state should really change the rules to require that campaign advertisements disclose who paid for them

Yesterday afternoon, the PAC’s financial disclosure was revealed on the Board of Elections’ website, and Geoff Kelly wrote up most of the details in Artvoice’s print edition. Big news was a $45,000 influx of cash from Senator Tim Kennedy’s campaign fund, which represents a huge middle finger to, among others, Betty Jean Grant, who not only primaried Kennedy last year, but came within spitting distance of defeating him through a write-in campaign. There was also a $20,000 “loan” from Steve Pigeon.

But what we also noticed last night was the list of 24-hour notices of massive contributions. Here it is: 

Frank Max gave almost $2,000. Steve Pigeon donated a straight $30,000 – no loan, just cash. AJ Wholesale is a business that is not located in New York State, but on sovereign Seneca territory. It is owned by Aaron Pierce, who was targeted in 2010 for possibly illegal tax-free cigarette shipments in violation of federal law. Pierce unsuccessfully ran for Seneca President in 2012. He’s given money to Kennedy, among others: 

AJ Wholesale didn’t appear in any searches for prior donations. Curious, that. 

Oh, My God

Buffalo City Hall

Photo by Flickr user W Alex Fisher

Consider this scenario: 

Antoine Thompson returns to Albany, replacing Tim Kennedy. 

Byron Brown goes to Washington, replacing Brian Higgins. 

Tim Kennedy moves into the 2nd floor of City Hall, replacing Byron Brown. 

All of these rumors are floating around town, gaining steam. So my question is, are we living a Stephen King novel?