There’s nothing happening here; an update on campaign finances; Sedita’s money dilemma

Does anyone know that there is an election going on?

Ray Walter, the Republican candidate for county executive, issued his second position paper of the entire campaign this week. We could get a little more excited if it was not basically the same statement he issued on September 8th. He did move the site of his news availability, however, from the front of the Rath Building to the gates of the Huntley Station.

I know I am taking this county executive election much too seriously. But my memory includes the days when Joe Crangle would insist on two news releases per day for campaigns, one timed for the News and the other for the Courier.

Note to candidates: as I publish this post there are just 31 days, 8 hours and 59 minutes until the polls close on November 3rd.

The other big political news of the week was the exciting and dramatic events culminating in the selection on Monday of Frank Sedita and Emilio Colaiacovo for State Supreme Court, both rated “qualified” by the Erie County Bar Association. Their campaigns likely ended on Tuesday when their campaign committees placed orders for hand cards and signs – probably four or five dozen for each of them. After doing that and writing some checks to the parties that nominated them, their campaigns basically ended except for some perfunctory campaign appearances.

Financial Reports

There is some news, however, from the financial disclosures that were filed (or not filed) this week. Candidates for public office in New York State were required to file new financial disclosure forms with the State Board of Elections yesterday (October 2nd), with information closed out on September 28th. Here are some highlights:

  • County Executive Mark Poloncarz has a balance of $573,070 after raising $92,826 since July while spending $166,091. His largest expenditure was $73,375 to SKD Knickerbocker for TV ads.
  • Ray Walter has $60,186 in his county executive account. He has raised a total of $86,726 for this campaign thus far, and has spent $12,142 on radio ads.
  • Democratic Family County candidate Kelly Brinkworth has a balance of $8,302.
  • Republican Family Court candidate Brenda Freedman has $4,658 as of September 28th. She recently spent $6,000 on TV ads.
  • Supreme Court candidate Frank Sedita, as of September 28th, had not transferred any funds from his District Attorney campaign account, which had $170,293 in the bank, nor has he raised funds for a Supreme Court election yet. More on this below.
  • Supreme Court candidate Emilio Colaiavoco has $54,792 in his account after recently spending $31,929. Large portions of that money went to various Democratic and Republican party committees. There were several $500 contributions (the New York Code of Judicial Conduct limit), including to Senator Pat Gallivan, Family Court candidate Brenda Freedman, Ray Walter and … Boehner for Speaker on July 15. Maybe he can get a refund on that Boehner contribution.
  • 4th District Democratic County Legislator Tom Loughran has $15,703 in his account, while his Republican opponent, Guy Marlette, has $38,519 to spend. I’ve seen Marlette videos pop up on a news site that I read. That appears to have costed $5,000.   Other than me, I wonder how people have bothered to click on it. The message is just a bunch of clichés.
  • 8th District Republican County Legislator Ted Morton has $23,658 in his campaign account. Democrat Debby Liegl has $26,837. Morton has five ballot lines, compared with Liegl’s two. Not sure that makes any difference.

In the mystery campaign division, here is an update on the accounts of Pigeon-ally Frank Max, who spread his reach into West Seneca during the September primary:

  • Max’s Progressive Democrats of WNY filed the required 10-Day Post-Primary report but the 32-Day Pre-General report has not shown up yet. The 10-Day report includes the $25,000 contribution from Pierce National Enterprises on September 9th which he has acknowledged was used to fund campaign activities in West Seneca. A total of $7,840 went to Gia Marketing for phone calls and $12,169 to a firm in Des Moines, Iowa for mailings. I guess no local firms were available for the mailings.
  • The Right Democratic Team, which appears to be another Max creation, raised money to support three candidates in the Cheektowaga Democratic primary. That money has not been reported by the Right Democratic Team, although donor committees have done so. What was the money spent for? What could be the big secret?

Sedita’s Money Dilemma

As noted above, current District Attorney and Supreme Court-designee Frank Sedita has $170,293 in his District Attorney campaign account but nothing in a Supreme Court campaign account. Sedita was nominated for the court on the 28th, which also happened to be the cut-off date for information required to be filed for the 32-Day Pre-Election financial disclosure. So if Sedita transferred money to a Supreme Court account this week after Monday we will not know about that until at least the 11-Day Pre-General report is filed on October 23rd.

Sedita’s 10-Day Post Primary disclosure lists an expense of $2,500 to a New York City lawyer, Laurence Laufer, whose Linkedin profile indicates that he practices election campaign and political law. Perhaps this is to sort out some issues noted here.

Judicial ethics rules set out how judges and judicial candidates must operate in the political arena. One of those rules establishes the window period during which the candidates may raise and disburse campaign money. Any surplus money left in a judicial campaign account must be returned on a pro-rata basis to donors within six month after the election. So any money that Sedita transfers to his judicial account that is not spent on the campaign needs to go back to the donors. But which donors would that be, since the money might have come from a larger pot of money raised originally for the district attorney campaign account.

That also leaves the question about what will be done about any surplus campaign funds that may be left in Sedita’s district attorney account after the election. The state Election Law does not deal with the question. Here is what a 1975 formal opinion of the State Board of Elections (which is apparently still the policy of the Board) says about the disposal of surplus campaign funds:

While the law on the subject of the use of surplus campaign funds is unsettled, the Board has on past occasions advised correspondents that such funds may be transferred to a constituted or party committee or a political club, prorated and returned to the donors, or held for use in a subsequent election campaign.

Of the three choices listed by the state BOE, the one about leaving the money for a future campaign does not work for a sitting Supreme Court Judge with a fourteen year term. So Sedita could either donate any surplus DA account funds to a political party or he could refund that money to the original donors pro rata. It’s complicated.

One thought on “There’s nothing happening here; an update on campaign finances; Sedita’s money dilemma

  1. Cannot stand the cross endorsements. It, along with all the money slushing around is exactly what is wrong with modern politics. I don’t see how it will ever change as the people in charge of change are also the beneficiaries of not changing. It would be a profile in courage for a candidate to refuse the cross endorsement and run on his merits. Also, the campaign funds raised for a given position should be donated to charity and not be allowed to be transferred to a new position. There are former public officials that have been out of office for almost a decade or more and are parsing out leftover campaign funds. Really disgusting.


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