Ralph Mohr and Tom Golisano are engaged in an interesting and unusual battle.
Mohr is questioning if Golisano's Responsible New York is operating on the up and up and says Steve Pigeon has been playing fast and loose with campaign finance law for some time now.
Golisano has taken offense, to put it mildly. He went so far as to stage a press conference Friday outside Mohr's office at the Erie County Board of Elections. Among TG's beefs -- politics at the Board of Elections.
These two stories by Bob McCarthy lay it all out.
Golisano, in complaining about politics at the board, is stating an obvious fact that everyone in government has overlooked for, well, forever.
Boards of Elections are political cesspools all over New York. State law lays the groundwork and county legislatures take it from there, appointing political types as commissioners.
Look at who we've had in Erie County. Right now we've got as commissioners Mohr, a Republican insider who used to serve in the County Legislature, and Dennis Ward, a Democratic Party insider whose wife just happened to be vying in the recent Senate primary with the Golisano-backed Joe Mesi.
Puts Ward in a compromising position, wouldn't you say? And what about Mohr, who just happens to spring into action involving a Senate race that could decide the balance of power in the State Senate.
Let's not stop with the two commissioners. Look at their deputies. Dennis Ryan is chairman of Republican Party in the city, while Alonzo Thompson Jr. is president of Grassroots Inc., the political organization from which Mayor Brown emerged.
It's been like this for a long, long time. In recent memory, we've seen Roger Blackwell move from the County Legislature to the Board of Elections. Larry Adamczyk, a key political strategist for Dennis Gorski, succeeded Blackwell. Mohr's predecessor as GOP commissioner was Phil Smolinski, a Jimmy Griffin political operative and secretary of the Erie County GOP.
The result is a good old boys network in which the kind of enforcement Mohr is now pursuing is rare. And in this case, refreshing.
I don't know if Golisano or Pigeon is violating campaign finance laws. But, based on my previous reporting of their involvement in the Sam Hoyt-Barbra Kavanaugh primary, I believe Mohr is certainly within bounds asking questions and using his power of subpoena.
In opting to operate as an independent political committee, and using Pigeon as his quarterback, Golisano should have anticipated the scrutiny. Now he's got it.
In refusing to answer questions, Golisano is running the risk of the he "doth protest too much" syndrome.
And in investigating potential skulduggery, Mohr begs the question "Why doesn't the Board of Elections do this more often?" This is only the second time in nine years the board has used its subpoena power.