Open Letter to the Erie County Legislature


I am a constituent of Mr. Rath’s but am writing to you to inquire about a resolution sponsored by Mssrs. Lorigo, Rath, and Hardwick, which will oppose Governor Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate the “Wilson-Pakula” law, which enables party bosses to endorse other parties’ candidates.

I submit that eliminating Wilson-Pakula is hardly enough to reduce the power of money and patronage in politics, and our entire system of electoral fusion should be abolished, full stop. Electoral fusion and Wilson-Pakula are not used for good; they are used for political advantage and power. The Independence Party is essentially controlled by one marginally intelligent character from Long Island, and exists to enrich and employ him and his close followers. Its name is constructed so as to confuse low-information voters who think they’re registering as unenrolled.

The Conservative Party is controlled locally by Mr. Lorigo’s father, and has shown itself to be exquisitely flexible – when convenient – with respect to the “principles” on which it purports to base its endorsements.

In my town of Clarence, the Conservative endorsement for Supervisor was allegedly withheld not on any ideological grounds, but partly due to personal animus, and partly due to private business interests. That’s the stuff of petty banana republics.

Political decisions and government leadership should be based on merit, not on personal vendettas or misinformation. The system of electoral fusion should be well known to the legislature, as the Independence Party was intimately involved in the so-called “coup” which took place in early 2010 whereby the Republican caucus joined with several breakaway Democrats to create an ersatz “majority”.

That was one of the most embarrassingly tumultuous periods for the Legislature and cheapened it and its mission, such as it is. If the Conservative and Independence Parties want to participate in New York or Erie County politics, Mr. Lorigo and Ms. Dixon have established that members of those parties can run and win.

But if anyone’s goal – at any point – is to establish a cleaner, more honest, and less corrupt political environment, then eliminating Wilson-Pakula is a great first step. Banning fusion altogether is an ultimate goal.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Alan Bedenko

The Root of Cynicism is Cynicism

Courtesy Marquil at

Mark Tuesday as a pivotal day – the day that New York’s own Machiavellian governor announced an effort to clean up New York’s election laws. The Malcolm Smith arrest for allegedly bribing Republican party bosses in exchange for a Wilson-Pakula electoral fusion cross-endorsement has, at long last, shined a spotlight on the transactional horribleness of New York’s legalized electoral racketeering. 

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that he wants an independent monitor at the state Board of Elections to root out corruption and campaign finance fraud. 

Ending Wilson-Pakula would be a significant blow to the clout of the leadership of the state’s influential minor parties who grant the waivers for candidates of major parties to run on their ballot lines. Cuomo said he does not support ending cross-party endorsements, meaning major party candidates could still have fusion ballot lines in a general election.

This isn’t a perfect solution, as it still permits candidates to circulate petitions to get on a minor party line. It does, however, greatly reduce the clout that minor party bosses have, and this is a desired result. Why should the boss of a party with a single-digit enrollment percentage have any clout at all? The Daily News describes the law thusly

Wilson Pakula law, which gives party bosses the power to decide if candidates not registered in their parties can run on their lines. Cuomo said the setup encourages ballot lines to be traded for campaign donations.

Of course, Sheldon Silver – champion of awful – opposes eliminating a point of electoral fraud

“I don’t think we should preclude people from running on more than one line,” Silver said at a news conference today. “They’re only allowed to registered in one party. There has to be a mechanism for us — for people — to gain dual endorsements or more.”

It’s no surprise that certain Democrats remain almost childishly butthurt over the election of Jeremy Zellner as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.  Typically, there’s litigation pending to underscore the factionalism, most of which has to do with who controls the paltry number of patronage jobs. The Erie County Independence Party barely exists in anything but name only, and the state committee is almost exclusively backing Republicans nowadays. The Erie County Conservative Party is run cynically by Ralph Lorigo, who will only endorse candidates who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and gun control, except when convenient for him and his own self-interest. The Republicans, as one would expect, oppose Democrats uniformly. That’s how it’s supposed to work, after all. Except in judicial races. 

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone united in interest against the Democratic committee apparatus would attend a fundraiser for its chief opponent – another Democrat from neighboring Cheektowaga. If people like Ralph Lorigo can help defeat Democrats in a general election, Zellner gets blamed and the Max/Pigeon people can argue that they should take over the party, and people like Lorigo get to control a few jobs here and there, thus solidifying their positions. But if you take away Lorigo’s ability to control his party’s line, that could significantly affect outcomes. 

Because none of this has anything to do with Democratic ideas or principles. It all has to do with transactional petty nonsense like who gets to hire whom for some no-show job at some city, town, or county authority. 

Abolishing Wilson-Pakula is a great first step. Abolishing electoral fusion and cross-endorsements altogether would be a fantastic second step, as it would eliminate the number of hands in the government cookie jar. 

But if you sit there wondering why people want nothing to do with western New York’s political system, and why we have a hard time getting people to run for office, you have to realize that it has a lot to do with the fact that even the smallest, least significant elected office in this area is fraught with awfulness.