It’s not the first time that Tonawanda Coke owner J.D. Crane has made political contributions, and it’s not the first time they have proved controversial.
Now, Kevin P. Gaughan, the Democratic candidate for Erie County comptroller, is making an issue of Crane’s $2,000 contribution to incumbent Stefan I. Mychajliw.
Gaughan on Tuesday accused his Republican opponent of accepting “dirty” campaign money from the owner of a firm recently found guilty of 14 criminal counts of polluting the air and ground at its Town of Tonawanda plant.
“We all know that dirty money courses through the veins of politics,” Gaughan said during a news conference at a Town of Tonawanda playground not far from the River Road plant, “but taking cash from a company found guilty of knowingly poisoning our air shocks the senses.”
Mychajliw did not directly address questions about the Crane contribution but did say he was “very proud” of his support from the business community. He said he had no intention of returning the contribution.
He also replied to questions with an email indicating that the state Department of Taxation and Finance had issued two judgments against Gaughan totaling $1,171 in taxes in 2000 and 2009.
Federal prosecutors are seeking $57 million in fines against Tonawanda Coke and a prison sentence for one of its executives after guilty verdicts were returned earlier this year.
Though Crane has proved elusive in answering questions about pollution at Tonawanda Coke, he has not been shy about contributing to political candidates. The Buffalo News reported in 2010 that his company donated $49,500 over the prior few years, with the biggest chunk – $19,300 – going to the campaign coffers of then-Republican County Executive Chris Collins.
State Board of Elections records also show his contributions to Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and former Republican Reps. Thomas M. Reynolds and Chris Lee, both of Clarence, along with Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin, R-Clarence.