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Problems with Pigeon's PACs

One of the things Tom Golisano and Steve Pigeon harp about when talking about the need to reform state government is transparency.

In fact, one of Responsible New York's eight objectives listed in its mission statement is True Government Transparency.

So it is no little irony that Pigeon has been something less than transparent in the way he has reported the financial activities of two political action committees he controls.

In fact, Pigon's PACs have been downright deceptive, if we are to believe the Erie County County Board of Elections, which has been investigating the financial doings of Citizens for Fiscal Integrity and People for Accountable Government.

Two things jump out in a story by my colleague, Matt Spina.

First, Pigeon's two PACs have filed only 11 of 43 required financial disclosure reports dating back to 2005. And half of those were filed late.

Pigeon claims the PACs were not required to make some of the filings because the committees were not active in some election periods. The state election law is clear: you are required to file a report for all periods. The only time you're allowed to not do so is when you file a statement saying the committee was inactive for the period in question. Pigeon's PACs made so such filings.

Add to this the fact that the state Board of Elections obtained six judgments against the Pigeon PACs for failure to comply, and has taken other enforcement actions, as well.

Sorry, Steve, but when it comes to the meaning of the election law, I'll take the Board of Elections word for it, not yours.

The Board of Election's second major finding may be even more troublesome, that the PACs failed to initially disclose $45,750 in contributions and more than $53,000 in expenses, including contributions to other candidates.

The Board of Elections determined this by subpoenaing the committee's bank records and comparing it against what the PACs had filed in their financial disclosure reports. The two election commissioners put it this way:

“The information we have so far indicates there have been multiple violations of the election law,” said Dennis E. Ward, Erie County’s Democratic elections commissioner. “The most serious involve significant amounts of money going in and coming out of the committees that have not been reported. That indicates false reports were filed.”

“The committees are used as vehicles in which money is laundered and given to candidates in greater amounts than what they’re legally entitled to receive,” said Ralph M. Mohr, the Republican commissioner for Erie County.

Folks, this is serious stuff.

It would be regardless whose PACS they were.

That the committees are controlled by Tom Golisano's right-hand man makes these findings a big deal.

That Pigeon has his eye on one of the top staff jobs in the state Senate, perhaps chief legal counsel for the Republicans if they manage to regain control, makes these findings a big deal.

That Pigeon is constantly trolling the local political waters  trying to influence who gets elected to conduct the people's business makes these findings a big deal.

It's not as though Pigeon has a pristine track record.

Tony Masiello decried the "thug mentality" he said had permeated the Erie County Democratic Party by the end of Pigeon's tenure as chairman. Then there's the shenanigans last fall in the campaign against Sam Hoyt.

Pigeon's response to the Board of Elections findings is typical. He claims he is following the law and attacks those who find fault with his actions.

Sorry, Steve, but you've got some 'splainin' to do, as Ricky used to tell Lucy.


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