State Sens. George D. Maziarz and Patrick M. Gallivan issued statements Tuesday in which both denied any wrongdoing, after an Albany-based political magazine said the two local senators led the state in the amounts of unexplained spending from their campaign accounts.
Maziarz, R-Newfane, had $140,000 in unspecified expenditures between 2008 and 2013, City and State magazine reported, buying everything from wine to a clown rental.
Gallivan, R-Elma, had $80,000 in unreported expenses on a campaign credit card, the magazine said, which included purchases of cigars and payments to tanning salons.
State Election Law says individual expenditures of less than $50 don’t have to be itemized, but the magazine reported that the commission was interested in whether large lump sums not otherwise broken down on disclosure forms concealed purchases not related to political campaigns. Spending campaign money on personal expenses is illegal.
City and State reported that it obtained internal documents from the Moreland Commission, the now-defunct panel charged with investigating corruption in state government, which showed the commission was looking into campaign expenditures whose nature was not explained on financial disclosure forms.
Spokesmen for both Maziarz and Gallivan said their bosses were too busy with Albany meetings to be interviewed Tuesday.
A statement from Maziarz’ office said, “The Moreland Commission never asked me for any information, made any inquiries to my office or raised any issue with my campaign. We have followed all campaign laws, reported all expenditures and have always been very transparent.”
Gallivan’s statement said, “It is important to note that this discussion involves donor contributions and not taxpayer money. All expended funds were related to a political campaign or the holding of public office as the law requires. These expenditures were related to various meetings, events, public appearances, fundraising and gifts, as well as activities associated with assignment to the Senate’s State-Native American Relations temporary committee.”
Gallivan added, “We have always endeavored to comply with the state’s campaign financial disclosure requirements and continue to review all of our filings to ensure full compliance.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission March 29 as part of this year’s budget deal with the State Legislature, whose members had been irked by the commission’s inquiries. A member of the commission said recently that it unearthed potential crimes by 10 to 12 legislators.
Maziarz’ spending, according to the commission records cited by the magazine, included payments to his older brother Marvin E. Maziarz through a company called MEM Enterprises. George Maziarz’ spokesman, Matt Nelligan, said the senator was using his brother as a campaign consultant.
City and State said the documents showed $39,000 was paid to Marvin Maziarz, a retired Niagara County Community College professor, over the six-year period.
“Marvin’s making $500 a month over the six years, is what it boils down to,” Nelligan said. Actually, if the commission’s total is accurate, it would be $650 a month.
“Like other people who run for office, I pay consultants for their services. One consultant is my brother Marvin,” the Maziarz statement said. “He has instituted and run the grassroots portion of my campaign for years, including event coverage, lawn signs, volunteer coordination and more. Again, this has always been clearly reported and is a legitimate campaign expense.”
“The Board of Elections says these are perfectly legitimate expenses,” Nelligan said. “We’re not hiring consultants from D.C. or New York City.”
The Moreland Commission dug into about $140,000 in unitemized Maziarz campaign expenses and $67,000 in credit card payments labeled as office expenses. City and State reported that they found more than $125,000 in purchases at retailers, nearly half of it unreported.
Stores patronized included Target, BJ’s Wholesale Club, chocolate shops, wineries, wine stores, bookstores and florists. The campaign also spent $19,000 at arts and crafts stores and gift boutiques such as Michaels and Oriental Trading and Willow House, and $4,000 in spending at toy stores and costs to hire a clown for events.
Maziarz’ statement said, “My campaign activities involve a lot of community support and grassroots activity. We support a host of local not-for-profit events with gift baskets, journal ads, gift cards, purchase of tables, etc. These are all small dollars hence they have not been itemized. Whether it’s the United Way, local hospitals and fire companies or some other worthy community event, our campaign committee makes these kinds of donations on a regular basis.”
Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nicholas J. Forster issued a news release calling on Maziarz to resign.
“Maziarz has used campaign donations as a personal slush fund for his benefit along with his family and political cronies,” Forster charged. “Wines, chocolates, flowers, toys and money for relatives should be fully explained and the public has every right to know the truth.”
Nelligan said Maziarz would not comment on Forster’s statement.
City and State reported that bills on a Capital One credit card held by Gallivan’s campaign committee revealed $1,200 spent at casinos, $1,000 on cigars and $300 on “tanning beds and at salons.”
The commission documents showed Gallivan also made about $4,000 in unreported payments to AT&T and $3,500 to Verizon Wireless. Also, there were $4,000 in charges to the DeLacy Ford dealership in Elma, and almost $3,000 in loan payments to M&T Bank.
The magazine said the Moreland Commission also was looking into $47,000 in unreported charges on an American Express card used by the Gallivan committee.