Erie County prosecutors are asking questions about campaign donations to a Buffalo-based State Senate race in 2014 as part of a burgeoning statewide investigation that extends to the mayor of New York City.
Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. said he will not discuss details, but acknowledged his office is involved. Sources familiar with Flaherty’s effort say it revolves around the 60th District race between Republican Mark J. Grisanti and Democrat Marc C. Panepinto, which Panepinto won.
It is expected Bonanno’s investigation will center on whether any illegal coordination occurred between contributing committees and individual campaigns. Suggestions of such activity surfaced during the 2014 campaign, according to Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr.
“There were complaints that there was coordination between the teachers union and the Panepinto campaign,” Mohr said, “in the general campaign and specifically with signs.
“But there was never any formal complaint,” he added.
It is also expected that transactions The Buffalo News reported last July between the Erie County Democratic Committee and a political action committee linked to a state teachers union will be involved in the probe.
Some of the details:
The News reported that a significant donation to the Erie County Democratic Committee for Panepinto’s campaign – involving some of the same unions and consultants now under scrutiny – was never recorded. Campaign finance reports showed the United Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education sent $100,000 on Oct. 28, 2014, to Erie County Democrats. Two months later, the local Democrats sent $50,000 to the Red Horse Strategies political consulting firm in Brooklyn, which was working for the Panepinto campaign.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said at the time that the committee never received money from UFT/COPE, a teachers union political committee. In fact, he said he never reported the income and never cashed a check because he never received one.
A UFT spokesman also said at the time that the union cut a check for Erie County Democrats on Oct. 28, 2014, as part of its efforts to aid Senate Democrats, but never sent it after establishing other priorities.
Campaign finance records show the New York State United Teachers union spent more than $1 million on the 2014 race to defeat Grisanti.
Campaign finance law in New York State is opaque and complex, so your guess is as good as mine whether there's anything here for the UFT and NYSUT to be worried about.
NYSUT dropped $1 million to defeat Grisanti in 2014, which sounds like an awful lot of money, until you hear that charter school proponents spent $1.5 million+ in the recent special election to replace soon-to-be imprisoned Dean Skelos in his Long Island state Senate seat (their guy lost anyway.)
Quite frankly it bothers me a bit that de Blasio's getting a campaign finance colonoscopy for his 2014 efforts to win the state Senate for Dems when nobody blinked at Cuomo for raising $17 million from undisclosed sources for his Committee To Save New York and using $10 million of that to fund TV ads touting his agenda.
It also is bothering me that the teachers unions are getting this scrutiny for their donations but nobody's looking at the hedge fund managers and education reformers spending millions to elect their guys and push their anti-union/pro-charter school agenda.
Quite frankly, somebody ought to be looking into how StudentsFirstNY, Families for Excellent Schools and some of the other ed deform/Wall Street entities are spending their cash and the same goes for Cuomo.