A few days ago the Buffalo News published an article about Steve Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria. He was demanding to be provided with information the federal government may have acquired from a witness who is thought to be cooperating with prosecutors in their investigation of Pigeon. There is no word yet on the government’s response to Cambria.
Cambria first came into the Pigeongate picture when Pigeon was about to be indicted for allegedly bribing State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek. The case had its origins in the State Attorney General’s investigation of the scandal revolving around Pigeon’s WNY Progressive Caucus and the way in which that political committee was funded and spent its money. The Pigeon indictment and the Michalek guilty plea, however, had nothing to do with WNY Progressive Caucus’ activities.
The issue Cambria is raising about the federal portion of the Pigeongate investigation was one of the first views we have had in this scandal of what the feds are doing. At the end of the day it may be that the federal probe could be the case that takes precedence in the prosecution of the Pigeongate matter.
First, a brief rewind of the WNY Progressive Caucus issues. In 2013 Steve Pigeon and his band of merry men and women set up that political committee to raise and spend money (about a quarter million dollars) that was intended mostly to defeat Democratic candidates for office who were supported by the Erie County Democratic Committee headed by Jeremy Zellner. Various underhanded and slimy brochures and ads were produced. Money came in from various sources and in amounts that raise legal questions.
So what might attract the attention of the federal government? The money. Lots of federal public corruption prosecutions involve how money was obtained and/or used illegally, and whether income was properly reported.
Steve Pigeon has often managed to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds from rich people and from people who seek to advance their own interests. The records of the WNY Progressive Caucus and other committees he organized or supported also report contributions and loans from Pigeon himself totaling tens of thousands of dollars.
Pigeon’s explanation for his largesse is basically his success in his private business activities, some in the United States, but perhaps much of it in other countries around the world. Reports of him promoting lottery systems or assisting with foreign political campaigns have been talked about for years.
I do not know anything about how individuals involved in international business transactions are paid, or what they need to do to bring their cash home in some form or another from a foreign country. If you were, for example, paid in rubles in Russia, could you just go to a bank and have it exchanged into American money, to be forwarded into your American bank account? Or do you – it seems likely – need to jump through a whole bunch of hoops to bring the money home?
If money does take some circuitous route to an American bank account, did it come with some form of a 1099-like document indicating the source and amount of the cash so that it could be reported properly? Just wondering.
The News article suggested four possible witnesses who might be the mystery person who may be working out a deal for themselves by cooperating with federal prosecutors. Each of the potential witnesses makes sense in some ways. The names included Kristy Mazurek, David Pfaff, Richard Dobson and Steve Casey. All played some role in the WNY Progressive Caucus matter.
Mazurek, of course, just recently ran for the State Assembly in a Democratic primary and Pfaff was her campaign manager. The purpose for that campaign remains a mystery, but it just does not seem likely that someone working to save herself would want to go through the tedium of an election campaign.
Dobson was a beneficiary, in some ways, of the WNY Progressive Caucus’ work. But was he a key player?
Casey and Chris Grant worked together on political campaigns, so their handiwork may have been involved in the 2013 Caucus’ activities. Word on the street is that Casey has spent some long hours with federal investigators recently, but that same word on the street has been that Casey’s cooperation involves City Hall issues rather than WNY Progressive Caucus matters.
I am guessing that the mystery witness is someone other than one of the four people named in the News story. Could it be that the witness is someone who donated money to the WNY Progressive Caucus illegally? Or maybe someone who knew where Pigeon’s loans totaling $90,000 came from, if not from his own resources?
The federal probe of Steve Pigeon’s activities has not received a lot of attention. We know that the FBI is deep into the probe. There certainly may be some pretty interesting federal issues at play. In the end the federal issues may very well trump the state investigations and charges. Next up, a State Supreme Court hearing on September 26.