Pre-primary financial disclosures; continuing ed for DC attorneys

For elected officials and candidates who will be on the primary ballot this year, August 11th was the filing deadline for the 32-Day Pre-Primary financial reports. Here is a brief rundown of the disclosures.

Mayor of Buffalo

The September 12th Democratic primary, which will effectively determine who will be the next mayor, is a contest among incumbent Byron Brown, City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, and County Legislator Betty Jean Grant. While all three are actively campaigning, the financial reports indicate a rather lopsided race. A recent Spectrum News/Siena College poll also shows Brown with a two-to-one lead over Schroeder.

Mayor Brown has a balance of $582,168, having raised $112,964 since the previous July 15th report. His committee spent $49,623.

Comptroller Schroeder reports $130,526 in his campaign account. He has collected $50,265 since July, with $37,854 in spending.

Legislator Grant does not have a campaign account for mayor. Her county legislative account shows $11,986 cash on hand as of the August 7th cut-off date of the report. She took in $6,200 and spent $1,441.

With a month to go before Primary Day none of the mayoral committees shows any spending on TV and radio ads. That’s somewhat unprecedented for a major primary.

Erie County Clerk

While there is not a primary for this office, the Republican candidate, Mickey Kearns, did file a report. He has a balance of $45,604, having raised $21,974 since mid-July.

Erie County Sheriff

Neither Republican incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard nor his Democratic opponent Bernie Tolbert have primaries. Howard did file a report showing that he has $110,211 available for his campaign. His committee purchased $10,000 in radio ads.

Erie County Comptroller

There are no primaries for Comptroller and neither candidate filed a new report.

Judicial campaigns

Democrat Susan Eagan is unopposed for the office of County Judge. She raised an additional $550 since July. Democrat Surrogate Court Judge candidate Acea Mosey, who is also unopposed, collected an additional $350.

Incumbent Republican State Supreme Court Justice Erin Peradotto did not file an update on her July report. Democratic candidate for Supreme Court, Lynn Keane, has created a campaign committee. The Supreme Court candidates, expected to be cross endorsed by Democrats and Republicans at the September Judicial Nominating Conventions, are not required to file financial reports at this time.

That’s four major judicial offices without competitive races. While the nomination process for Supreme Court limits competition to whatever the Nominating Conventions produce, having no competition for the Erie County judgeships is a hard-to-understand development. This all seems to give new meaning to the term “nolo contendere.”

Amherst Town Board

The Republicans have a three-way primary for the Amherst Town Board. Candidate Erin Baker’s reported expenses include a “transfer out” of $5,500 to the Erie County Republican Committee, which is chaired by Baker’s husband, Nick Langworthy – an interesting transaction. That is about half of the total amount raised by her endorsed Republican running mate, Joe Spino. Baker’s committee has a balance of $43,897. The third candidate in the primary, Christopher Drongosky, hasn’t even created a campaign committee, which it would appear violates the Election Law.

The Republican candidate for Amherst Town Supervisor, Marjory Jaeger, has a balance of $32,923 in her account compared with the $10,677 in the treasury of Democratic candidate Brian Kulpa.

Continuing education training for DC attorneys

Attorneys, like other licensed professionals, are required to keep current with their line of work by attending courses and programs that provide information on the latest developments in their respective fields.

One of the major impacts of all the mess that the Trump administration has created in the Russian fiasco and other matters is the sudden increased demand for personal legal services that has resulted. It almost seems like people from the White House housekeeping staff up to the president of the United States are lawyering-up.

What better example of the consequences of this than the District of Columbia Bar Association’s recent continuing education announcement:

Witness to History
As turmoil roils the current White House administration, the D.C. Bar begins a series of interviews with members who played a role in investigations of former presidents.

Representing the President

 

Robert S. Bennett, the personal attorney for President Clinton in the Paula Jones case, offers his personal view on the challenges of representing a sitting U.S. president facing investigation.

Getting to the Truth

 

W. Neil Eggleston reflects on his experience as deputy chief counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives’ committee that investigated the Iran-Contra scandal.

July campaign financial reports are filed; speculation about Western District federal appointments

July 15th was the deadline for political committees in New York State to file their periodic financial reports. Committees involved with an active election campaign this year will be required to file several additional 2017 reports starting in August.

Compared with past experience, the election campaigns that are being fought this year are publicly pretty mild. The work of collecting and filing nominating petitions is complete. Organizing fundraisers and getting voter recruitment and get-out-the-vote programs set up is, or at least should be, well underway and mostly out of view of the general public that is not much interested in local political things in the middle of July. Here are the financial highlights of the major local campaigns to date.

Mayor of Buffalo

The marquee race this year is for Mayor of Buffalo. Mayor Byron Brown is seeking his 4th term. His challengers are City Comptroller Mark Schroeder and County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

As the incumbent, Brown started the race with financial and organizational advantages over his opponents. Financially the Brown lead in campaign funds remains substantial, with his current bankroll more than four times larger than Schroeder’s.

As of July 15th the Mayor’s political committee had a balance of $518,826. He raised $439,292 in the past six months from a large variety of individuals and corporations. Strangely, the Brown report includes 39 pages of fairly large contributions, totaling $251,443 that lists only addresses but no names. The Brown committee spent $261,085, with the biggest expenses for polling and fundraising.

Schroeder has a balance of $118,115, with his six months of fundraising producing $115,592. His committee spent $154,537, with the largest expenditures paid to a Los Angeles consultant and polling expenses.

Betty Jean Grant does not have a mayoral campaign committee registered with the State Board of Elections. Grant’s county legislative committee balance is only $7,227. She raised $6,240 since January and spent $4,678.

There are also candidates who have submitted petitions for the Republican, Conservative and Green Party nominations. No one at this point in time has any reason to take those candidates seriously. The Republican and Conservative candidates might only be “placeholders” who may later decline the nominations to be replaced by another candidate. Mark Schroeder has filed Reform Party petitions. There are 16 registered Reform Party voters in the City of Buffalo.

Erie County races

There are five countywide races on the ballot this year. Here is a rundown of the financial reports from the major candidates in those election contests:

  • Sheriff – Incumbent Republican Tim Howard is being challenged by Democrat Bernie Tolbert. Howard has $138,539 in his campaign treasury. He raised $92,650 during the past six months. Tolbert has $41,742 available. He loaned his committee $25,000.
  • County Clerk – This position has been vacant since Chris Jacobs assumed his new office of State Senator in January. Peggy LaGree, formerly the First Deputy Clerk, has been holding down the fort as Acting County Clerk. The endorsed Democratic candidate is Steve Cichon, who for many years served as a reporter and then news director at WBEN Radio. The Republican and Conservative Party candidate is Assemblyman Mickey Kearns. As of July 15th political newcomer Cichon had raised $16,848 and has $14,216 in the bank. Kearns has a balance of $27,380. He raised $17,149 for the Clerk campaign since January. It is likely that before this campaign is over the Democratic and Republican Party organizations will spend heavily to win the office. This election is only for the final year of Jacobs’ term in office as Clerk. The office will be on the ballot again for a full four year term in 2018.
  • Comptroller – Incumbent Republican Stefan Mychajliw is seeking his second full term in the office. The Democrat is CPA and attorney Vanessa Grushefski. Mychajliw has a campaign account balance of $90,441, having raised $32,525 since January. Grushefski has $15,817 in her account, having raised $20,577 thus far.
  • County Court Judge – Democrat Susan Eagan, who has filed petitions in all parties, is the only candidate running for this office. This is somewhat of a mystery since the office comes with a ten year term and a very generous salary. Nonetheless Eagan has a campaign committee with a balance of $38,525. She has raised $39,934 and has received a $10,000 loan from Jim and Sue Eagan.  Whatever she cannot spend on her campaign or by donating to the political parties or to other candidates will need to be refunded after the election.
  • County Surrogate Court Judge – there is also only one candidate for this judicial seat, Acea Mosey, who has served as the Court’s Administrator for the past several years under retiring Judge Barbara Howe. Mosey is endorsed by the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties and has filed petitions for the other parties’ nominations. Her committee has a campaign balance of $750,832. She raised $379,201 since January, and loaned the committee another $300,000, bringing the total of her personal loans to $450,000. Like Eagan and all judicial candidates, there will be lots of refund checks going out from the Mosey campaign after November. Acea Mosey is well qualified for the office of Surrogate Judge and this race has essentially been over since last year. So the only question, when looking at all the money she has raised and loaned to her campaign is: “why?”

State Supreme Court

There are two positions of Justice of the Supreme Court in the 8th Judicial District to be filled this year. There is one incumbent – Appellate Court Justice Erin Peradotto. Democratic and Republican Party leaders have come together to propose cross-endorsements for Justice Peradotto, who is a registered Republican, and Lynn Keane, a Democrat. Keane is currently the Town Justice in Orchard Park. She narrowly lost an election to the Supreme Court last year.

Assuming the respective party nominating conventions go along with the Erie County chairmen in September we are only going through the formalities here. Peradotto has a committee fund balance of $101,708. Keane has not as yet created a 2017 committee.

Town of Amherst

For now I’ll just leave this as a list of campaign committee balances with no editorial comments (except that Republican State Chairman Ed Cox contributed $250 to Erin Baker):

  • Democrat for Supervisor – Brian Kulpa $4,070
  • Republican for Supervisor – Marjory Jaeger $31,465
  • Democrat for Council – Jacqualine Berger $2,939
  • Democrat for Council – Shawn Lavin $1,092
  • Republican for Council – Erin Baker $56,800
  • Republican for Council – Joseph Spino $7,449
  • Republican for Council – Christopher Drongosky – no committee registered
  • Conservative for Council – William Kindel – no Council committee registered

O’Donnell for New York

The O’Donnell for New York committee was set up in 2005 in anticipation of a 2006 race for state attorney general. Denise O’Donnell was to have been the committee’s candidate.  She dropped out after the state Democratic Party Convention in the spring of 2006.

Aside from preliminary campaign expenses for the race that was never run, the main beneficiaries of the committee’s largesse have been the re-election campaign of her State Supreme Court Justice husband John O’Donnell and her lobbyist/political consultant son Jack.

As of July 15th the O’Donnell for New York committee had a balance in its treasury of $280,776. It spent $268 on bank and IRS fees since January. Bank interest produced $405 in new revenues. In total this committee has raised $1,122,670 since 2005. You can read further information about this committee in a previous posting on this blog.

Garner update

A previous post mentioned the political income that political operative Maurice Garner had collected in recent years. 2017 is not going as well. His Urban Visions and Garner Associates collected nothing in the past six months. His Urban Chamber of Commerce organization, one of three locations raided by the FBI and State Police last month, collected a total of $650 since January from the committees of Acea Mosey, Byron Brown and Joel Giambra.

Speculation about Trump administration appointments in the Western District of New York

The most obvious and significant local political appointments that follow from the election of a new president are the positions of federal judge, United States attorney and United States marshal. Word on the street is that Republicans in Western New York have settled on their choices for those offices in the Western District of New York.

For judge the person moving forward is Amy Habib Rittling, a partner at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman. The role that Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand might play in consideration of the nomination is not known. This appointment would fill a long term vacancy on the Court.

For U.S. attorney speculation centers around Hodgson Russ partner John Sinatra. Sinatra is the brother of developer and Bush 43 appointee Nick Sinatra. The U.S. attorney’s position has been vacant since William Hochul resigned last fall.

The choice for U.S. marshal, according to circulating reports, is Peter Vito. Vito served as Commissioner of Central Police Services in the administration of then County Executive Chris Collins. Normally the U.S. marshal’s position in the Western District goes to someone from Monroe County if the U.S. attorney is from Erie County.

Actual presidential nominations and congressional action on these appointments will depend on how such things fit into the schedules of the Trump administration and Congress. At the moment they seem to be pretty busy with other things.

How Pigeongate may end

This blog, Alan Bedenko’s extensive work in The Public, and Buffalo News reporting have certainly detailed the rise and fall of Steve Pigeon over a very long period of time. Things are starting to move at a quicker pace now.

The infamous raids on the homes of Pigeon, Steve Casey and Chris Grant occurred nearly 23 months ago. Except for Pigeon’s situation, we don’t yet know what purposes those events served. Continue reading

Knowing when to leave, in politics and football; Caputo looking for partners

My daughter points out to me that I often quote a song lyric to make a point and that I do that more than most people. Guilty!

Recent headlines got me reviewing some lyrics in my head, from an old Burt Bacharach song. The lines that rang a bell: “go while the going is good; knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn. Go!”

I’ll avoid here referring to anyone located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Buffalo News a few days ago reported on the ongoing feud between two veterans of local politics, Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein and former Amherst Town Councilman Bill Kindel. Both of them have been around the block a few times.

20150526_Weinstein_GiambraWeinstein is finishing his second term as Amherst Supervisor. He previously served as a town council member and a member of the Williamsville School Board. He was also a member of the Erie County Legislature, serving as a supporter of the policies of Joel Giambra which led to the meltdown of county government in 2005.

Kindel, besides having served 20 years as a member of the Town Council, has for many years been the Chairman of the Amherst Conservative Party. He has also made some unsuccessful comeback attempts with the Town Board.

The current feud involves the upcoming race for a couple seats on the Amherst Town Board. Weinstein, who is term-limited as supervisor, wants to stay on the Board as a councilman. Kindel would like to return to the Board. The feud follows from Weinstein’s re-affiliation last year as a member of the Conservative Party, which would facilitate him running for the Conservative town board nomination in a primary as a member of the party. I guess he assumes that the Republicans will give him their endorsement.

While I have been a resident of Amherst for thirty years, I haven’t involved myself in town politics. I do think, though, some new blood would help a town government to spend less money and to cut down on the congestion that excessive development is creating. Transit Road, Sheridan Drive and Main Street, on any given day, are among the most traffic-jammed streets in Western New York. It’s time to call a time-out and re-evaluate where the town is going.

It’s also time to leave it to someone else, Barry and Bill. “Go while the going is good; knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn.”

There are new candidates on the horizon. Amherst Democratic Town Chairman Jerry Schad reports that at least three top-notch candidates are in the running for the two vacancies on the Board: Shawn A. Lavin, an accountant, Jacqualine G. Berger, an educator, and Matthew Clabeaux, an attorney.

Assemblyman Ray Walter’s Chief of Staff Erin Baker will seek one of the Republican nominations. I know Erin from the days when I was director of government relations at Canisius College and Erin worked in the Advancement Office as a student intern. She’ll make a fine candidate too.

It’s time for a change.

Football teams knowing when to leave

NFL teams are on the move. There’s never enough money where league owners are concerned. Cities keep throwing cash at them.

The Rams last season re-located to Los Angeles after a couple of decades in St. Louis; which was after several previous decades in Los Angeles; which was after a number of years in Cleveland, before the Browns joined the NFL for the first time. The Browns, of course, moved to Baltimore after the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis. Then, several years later, Cleveland got a new version of the Browns.

The San Diego Chargers are no more, having moved to Los Angeles – which is where they were originally for a couple years, before going to San Diego.

The League this week also approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in two or three years. It should be a fun time in Raider Nation, Oakland location, until then. The Raiders, of course, had previously re-located to LA for a few years before going back to Oakland.

Okay, I know, enough.

The Buffalo News reported this week that the Pegulas are letting things settle in Orchard Park before starting a conversation about a new stadium for the Bills. Evidently pressure from NFL bigwigs Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft has let up a little. How nice of Jerry and Bob to not tell Erie County what to do at least for a while. At the moment there don’t seem to be any cities left that are looking for an NFL franchise, so there’s no talk about the Bills moving.

The team’s ownership seems to think that they should “have some success” before coming to the county for a new home. That should keep the taxpayers safe for at least a few years.

Caputo branching out

Michael Caputo, locally-based political operative with an international reputation, is looking to capitalize on his connections with Donald Trump. Politico reports:

Michael Caputo is the latest former Donald Trump campaign staffer looking to parlay his experience into consulting work in Washington. Caputo, the managing director of Zeppelin Communications, a public affairs firm with offices in East Aurora, N.Y., Miami and Moscow. He worked as a senior adviser on Trump’s campaign before resigning after sending a celebratory tweet when Trump fired his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

— Caputo sent a letter to a number of Washington public affairs shops and trade associations earlier this month looking to strike up a partnership with Zeppelin and emphasizing his experience on the campaign. “After working closely with Donald Trump in recent years, we’re taking the initiative to be more active in Washington,” Caputo wrote in the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO. “From advising the billionaire developer on his potential New York Gubernatorial race to assisting him as he sought to purchase the Buffalo Bills, I learned how he works. … Understanding how Donald Trump ascended to the White House – and how he will likely operate — will be unique and vital counsel for your clients in the years ahead.”

— In an interview, Caputo said Zeppelin is looking to partner with other firms to take on more Washington work. “We’re looking for partners to help us in a much heavier lift,” he said. He’s hoping to open a Washington office, too. “My arena will be mostly public engagement,” he said. “I don’t intend to lobby. I’m a public relations guy.” But after working in Washington in the 1990s for firms such as Widmeyer Communications, he’s not planning on moving back down himself.

 With an office in Moscow already, Caputo seems to be all set up and ready to go with his new Trump-centered venture. And knowing “how [Trump] works… and how he will likely operate” is certainly a plus. How many people can there be who know how Trump works and will likely operate?

Does this mean that Michael Caputo will be leaving his gigs with the Erie County Water Authority and WBEN?

To see the benefit of upsizing the Hamburg town board, look at Pigeon’s activities in West Seneca; a Patrick Kane moment

The Hamburg Town Board on September 18th authorized a town referendum on Election Day to determine whether the Board should revert to five members rather than its current three.  Activist Kevin Gaughan is already challenging the Board and, by reference at least, the citizen-activists whose petitioning encouraged the Board to put the referendum on the ballot.  Hamburg is one of five Erie County towns that bought into Gaughan’s board downsizing proposals several years ago. Continue reading

Move on, nothing to see here – more political shenanigans in Cheektowaga

What would an election cycle be in Erie County without another round of hide-the-money.

Alan Bedenko on the Daily Public site yesterday detailed some things about the Right Democratic Team in Cheektowaga’s just completed Democratic primary.  The committee has a connection to Frank Max.  Max has been an affiliate of Team Pigeon, and has obviously picked up some bad habits from that group. Continue reading

Upsizing the Hamburg Town Board makes sense; the minor minor parties add ballot positions

The Buffalo News yesterday reported on the efforts of Hamburg resident Barbara Rogers and others who are seeking to “upsize” the Hamburg Town Board to five members from the current three. Ms. Rogers has presented a petition with more than 500 signatures on it, requesting the current Board to put the upsize proposition on this November’s ballot. The board members, it has been suggested, had previously supported that effort, and from what I have heard so did the party organizations in the town. Continue reading