For years, politicians and even elections commissioners on both sides of the aisle have complained that political strategist G. Steven Pigeon runs campaign funds that receive more, spend more and do more than their public reports indicate. That was the case in the last decade with Pigeon war chests called People for Accountable Government and Citizens for Fiscal Integrity.
Something also may be amiss with another Pigeon-connected fund, the more recently created WNY Progressive Caucus.
While Pigeon is a Democrat, he’s not beholden to all Democrats, and he gets in the way of those he doesn’t like. Generally, they are those backed by Erie County’s Democratic Party headquarters. In 2013 Pigeon gave $100,000 of the $267,000 that the Progressive Caucus raised to oppose headquarters-backed candidates.
For example, the Pigeon-connected fund worked against County Legislator Betty Jean Grant of Buffalo, a party vice chairwoman who was seen as a viable threat to Pigeon ally Timothy M. Kennedy for his State Senate seat. So the Progressive Caucus financed an opposition effort against Grant when she sought another term on the County Legislature.
Grant won but another headquarters-backed Democrat, Timothy R. Hogues, did not. Bert D. Dunn was the Democratic Party’s favored candidate for sheriff. But Pigeon’s committee backed Richard E. Dobson in the Democratic primary, and Dobson won, only to be throttled in the general election. The election night mood was glum that year at party headquarters. Not only did the party fail to capture the county comptroller’s office or the sheriff’s office, it lost its majority on the County Legislature.
Independent political committees are not allowed to coordinate with the campaign staffs of the candidates they favor. But Grant and some of the other politicians targeted in the 2013 races complained loudly that there must have been coordination and cooperation. While similar complaints leveled about Pigeon in past years went nowhere, this time they went somewhere. The Erie County Board of Elections and the state Board of Elections started poking around. So did Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
The Buffalo News reported in February that investigators for the attorney general had interviewed Grant and some other politicians central to those 2013 contests. On Thursday, state investigators launched the most public display yet of their interest in Pigeon. They executed a search warrant at his waterfront condominium in Buffalo. They also executed search warrants at the home of Steven M. Casey, Buffalo’s former deputy mayor and a Pigeon friend, and at the home of Christopher M. Grant. Grant, chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, has worked with Pigeon on political endeavors.
Over the years, Pigeon has steadfastly denied colluding with the actual campaign staffs of the candidates he helps. He repeated those denials as they relate to the WNY Progressive Caucus. In February he called the complaints a “frivolous political witch hunt.”
The fund’s treasurer is Kristi Mazurek, a politically active former legislative aide who also acts against party headquarters. She has hired highly regarded Buffalo lawyer Joel L. Daniels to represent her, but Daniels had little to say about the matter Thursday.
News Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org