The Erie County Democratic chairman Saturday said he will ask the state’s Moreland Commission to probe a new political action committee that Board of Elections records now show is fueled by $50,000 in donations from former Chairman G. Steven Pigeon.
Jeremy J. Zellner also blasted a major figure in the local party – State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy – for donating $45,000 to the Western New York Progressive Caucus and demanded that he reclaim the money.
The latest developments represent a heightened battle between Zellner’s headquarters Democrats and the party’s opposition forces, which have strong connections to the PAC and have been funneling more and more money into anti-organization Democrats running in Tuesday’s primary elections.
Zellner added that he will ask the Moreland Commission (newly established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate public corruption), the Board of Elections, and the Erie County district attorney to probe the new committee, which claims to operate independently of the individual candidates but which he said is illegally coordinating with their campaigns.
He accused political operative Kristy Mazurek, co-host of a Channel 2 political show from which she has been temporarily removed in the wake of a mounting controversy, of major connections to the campaigns of several Democratic primary candidates for County Legislature while acting as treasurer of the PAC.
“How can treasurer Kristy Mazurek not communicate with the campaigns of Wes Moore and Richard Zydel when she’s their campaign manager?” he said, referring to the pair of anti-headquarters Democrats running for the Legislature. “She has stated it many times in public.”
Zellner also noted that new campaign finance filings show the PAC – Western New York Progressive Caucus – has been funded by at least $50,000 from Pigeon.
“Tim Kennedy should pull his money out of this illegal PAC immediately because they are raising and spending money without properly reporting, and they have exceeded the contribution limits allowed by law,” said Zellner. “For Tim Kennedy to associate himself with Steve Pigeon, who has a history of violating election law, is troubling and Sen. Kennedy’s constituents deserve better.”
“That’s laughable,” said Mazurek, who denied any official role in any campaigns since the PAC was formed last month.
Mazurek said she volunteers at various campaigns but is involved in no coordination between them and the PAC.
“I can show up as a volunteer or for lit drops or fundraisers,” she said. “But I have been hands off because I know the rules and regulations.
“And I don’t understand these continuing, vicious attacks on Steve Pigeon,” she added. “I’ve never heard such a bunch of crybabies before.”
Pigeon also personally joined the controversy for the first time, pointing out he has the right to donate whatever amount to whatever he wants, though others dispute his claim. As he has for more than a decade of establishing independent committees that spend funds on races of their choice, Pigeon insisted the activities of such committees are legally absent any coordination with campaigns.
“There has just been no coordination, period,” he said, also claiming Mazurek has no official roles in the campaigns aided by the committee.
“There is no prohibition about conversation or communication, there just can’t be coordination,” he said. “Why are these people constantly saying DA, DA, DA? It’s called democracy; it’s called campaigning.
“It’s utter ridiculousness and desperation on the part of a person too small to do the job,” he added.
Zellner’s calls follow similar complaints lodged by County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant and Legislator Timothy R. Hogues, who also condemned Kennedy’s support of the PAC and his donation one day after it was formed.
“Like all PACs, the decisions of who they support and how they support are theirs alone,” Kennedy said in an email statement.
Grant accused Mazurek and others aligned against the current local Democratic Party establishment of attempting to exert undue influence on races in the County Legislature’s first and second districts, both wholly within the City of Buffalo.
She and Hogues also called for an investigation of the group’s activities by the Moreland Commission.