Press reports reveal mishandling of Maziarz campaign funds - The Buffalo News

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Press reports reveal mishandling of Maziarz campaign funds

The federal probe of State Sen. George D. Maziarz is spilling into politics following new reports that his campaign fund wrote tens of thousands of dollars in unitemized and unreported checks made out to cash, although at least one check went to the Broome County softball team of his treasurer’s daughter.

These revelations prompted Gia M. Arnold, who is running in the Republican primary to succeed Maziarz, to demand Friday that federal prosecutors freeze his remaining $1.1 million in campaign funds.

“Maziarz’s campaign account should be frozen, and any activity or expenditures should have to be approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Arnold said. “We must hold accountable our elected representatives to stop the cycle of corruption that New York is known for.”

Any move to prohibit the senator’s spending from his campaign account could prove significant if he planned to use it for potential legal expenses connected with the federal grand jury probe.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan would address neither Arnold’s request nor whether prosecutors hold such power.

Arnold’s comments followed a report Friday in the Albany Times-Union – citing people who had been briefed on the investigation – that the Maziarz campaign gave $1,800 to the TC Tremors softball team in Endicott. The daughter of campaign treasurer Laureen Jacobs played for team. Players on the team were responsible for paying $1,750 in order to play on the team, the Times-Union said.

The Buffalo News has previously reported that Jacobs is among three Maziarz staffers issued subpoenas as a result of the federal grand jury probe in Manhattan.

Now the Times-Union reports that Maziarz’s campaign account also made thousands of dollars in purchases from a business where Jacobs previously worked – Southern Living At Home. Reports filed with the state Board of Elections show six payments from the Maziarz campaign to Southern Living At Home.

The entries list the acronym “SLAH, and itemize just $3,159 of the approximately $7,000 in debit card and check purchases the campaign made from Southern Living At Home, an Alabama-based company that shut down last year, according to the Times-Union.

The newspaper also reported Maziarz’s committee failed to report more than $325,000 in expenditures between 2008 and January 2014. During that same period, the campaign wrote more than 300 checks to “cash,” including 73 checks totaling $29,430 that were never reported to the state Board of Elections.

It added that the campaign on occasion reported that the checks made out to cash were received by an individual Senate staff member or a specific campaign worker, but the check would then be endorsed by someone else. In many cases, the campaign never listed the final recipient of the money.

Maziarz did not return a call seeking comment.

Jacobs’ attorney, Terrence M. Connors of Buffalo, declined to respond to the latest revelations. But he has previously indicated he believes his client is not a target of the investigation and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Bharara’s probe of Maziarz and other lawmakers picks up from the Moreland Commission appointed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to unmask public corruption.

But when the governor unexpectedly terminated the panel at the end of this year’s legislative session, Bharara picked up its work and continued its own investigation that began to manifest itself in recent weeks with the subpoenas issued to the Maziarz staffers.

It was clear Friday that the investigation and Maziarz’s simultaneous decision not to seek another term will cast a long shadow over the election to succeed him in Albany.

“George Maziarz and his campaign staff need to answer these allegations,” Arnold said.

Arnold, who had previously declared her primary challenge to Maziarz and who now faces North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt for the Republican nomination, acknowledged that Maziarz’s announced retirement from the Senate has prompted a “huge change” in her campaign. She has suddenly been receiving more media attention and now expects to run a competitive campaign against Ortt, who is backed by party leaders.

The News previously reported that subpoenas have also been issued to Alicia D. Colatarci and Marcus R. Hall, Maziarz staffers who resigned just a few days before the senator announced he would not seek re-election.

The Times-Union said Moreland Commission investigators subpoenaed bank records last year from the accounts of Maziarz and 27 other senators whose campaigns had credit card or unitemized expenses that exceeded $10,000.

The paper cited sources familiar with the findings who said money was flowing from campaign accounts to elected officials, their staffers and campaign workers.

In many instances, the Times-Union said, money flowed from campaigns through unitemized payments made from debit cards, ATM withdrawals and checks made out to “cash” with no explanation of where it was spent.


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