Another politician is facing the heat–Buffalo operative Steve Pigeon. The former Buffalo Democratic leader is charged with running a PAC to illegally fund county legislative races.
Steve Pigeon became a famed operative, known for his shadowy involvement in campaigns and lobbyists. One of the first backers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he first ran for Governor in 2002, Pigeon became a key player in Western New York for Cuomo. He also worked on Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign and numerous state and local campaigns. But his most important and controversial work was for Buffalo billionaire Tom Golisano, the founder of Paychex and former owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team.
Golisano and Steve Pigeon–an unholy alliance
Even though Pigeon was the Erie County Democratic Chair, he remained close to Golisano as Golisano ran for Governor, as an Independent. After Pigeon was forced out as party chair, he helped Golisano buy the Sabres and worked as Golisano’s operative. They set up a group to help Democrats win the State Senate in 2008 but quickly turned against the Democrats. The story is that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith spent a meeting with Golisano texting on his Blackberry.
In retaliation, Golisano called up Pigeon and set him to work. He convinced four Democratic State Senators to defect and join the Republicans, giving the Republicans a slim majority in the Senate (a precursor to today’s IDC). Pigeon became the state Senate lawyer, in what was seen as his crowning triumph.
Now, the tables have turned.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Pigeon with three counts of trying to evade state election law. He’s also accused of bribing a judge; the judge pled guilty to the charges. In 2013, Pigeon’s group the WNY Progressive Caucus raised over $250,000 for three Erie County candidates. The group was supposedly independent but was allegedly closely tied to the campaigns, arranging their literature, photoshoots, and paying for signs. In doing so, the group widely exceeded the legal limit for campaign contributions. Two of the opponents complained to the State Attorney General’s office and set in motion this investigation.
Two of Pigeon’s associates were also indicted on these charges. One is said to be cooperating with the prosecution.
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