Although he has no plans to run for office again, former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello has entered private life with the second-richest campaign bankroll of any local-level politician in Western New York.
Masiello, who retired Dec. 31 after 12 years as mayor, reported to the Erie County Board of Elections that two separate accounts held $782,049 -- second only to the $820,000 reported by County Executive Joel A. Giambra, who also says he does not plan to run again when his term expires at the end next year.
Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said he is not aware of any upstate local-level politician leaving office with so much money. But he said the former mayor is free to use it for virtually any purpose, as long as he follows rules such as limits on contributions to individual candidates.
"The rules are wide open, and I'm sure they were designed that way," Daghlian said.
Masiello's fund now essentially will act as a political action committee, Daghlian said. Most former politicians use their funds primarily to support other candidates, but he can use it for many purposes as long as he can justify the expenses, Daghlian said.
"He just can't use it for personal use," Daghlian emphasized.
Masiello said he had consulted lawyers about turning his campaign fund into a foundation, but found that "too restrictive." He now says he will use the money to support his favorite political causes, most notably the Democratic Party.
"I'm going to try to stretch it to get the biggest bang for as many civic and political causes as I can," Masiello said. "And I'll do it as judiciously and responsibly as possible."
Support for Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan and causes close to him constituted the bulk of Masiello's political activity other than his own. He gave $13,000 to Lenihan or the party and $15,000 to the county comptroller candidacy of Mark C. Poloncarz, a top Lenihan priority last year.
Among expenditures, $13,750 went to YES Buffalo, a public relations firm run by his wife, Kate. Masiello said that, with no communications director in his administration for the last half of last year, he contracted with his wife for various services, including "policy papers and extraneous reports."
"I chose to utilize her skills rather than hire someone at the city's expense," he said.
Masiello, a Democrat, also recorded several other interesting expenditures, including $75 for State Sen. Dale M. Volker of Depew and $125 for Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of Clarence, both Republicans. He also gave $1,000 to the Erie County Republican Committee, under whose banner he ran twice for mayor.
"He supported me on two occasions, and I was happy to write him a check," Masiello said of Erie County Republican Chairman Robert E. Davis.
The former mayor said he plans to use the money to support other activities as well, especially causes dealing with "kids, education, literacy and poverty."
Other expenses in Masiello's report included $2,158 for Buffalo Sabres tickets, $300 for baseball tickets in New York and $100 for membership in the Canisius College Cage Club.
Masiello held his last fund-raiser last February, a $500-per-ticket event in Oliver's Restaurant. But some of the more than 200 supporters who attended did not pay that much. Masiello decided in April not to run for a fourth term.