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Pursuit of elusive Pigeon intensifies Legal accountability sought for politician

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Mark A. Sacha's call for a special prosecutor to investigate G. Steven Pigeon's behind-the-scenes maneuvering marks the third recent recommendation for Pigeon's prosecution.

In an article published Sunday, Sacha told The Buffalo News that he had compiled evidence showing that Pigeon had laundered a $10,000 contribution from former County Executive Joel A. Giambra's campaign fund to Paul T. Clark's unsuccessful campaign to succeed Giambra as county executive but that two successive district attorneys have failed to act on the evidence.

Both county elections commissioners, Dennis E. Ward, the Democrat, and Ralph Mohr, the Republican, previously have said Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman, routinely ignores election law.

Mohr contended last October that Pigeon -- now a political adviser to B. Thomas Golisano, the billionaire who owns the Buffalo Sabres -- had laundered thousands of dollars from Golisano's political committee and others in an attempt to conceal the origin of the money and to circumvent contribution limits.

The Republican elections commissioner wrote to the district attorneys in Erie, Niagara and Genesee counties, and submitted records showing Pigeon's Citizens for Fiscal Integrity had missed 22 reporting deadlines and had exceeded campaign contribution limits.
Mohr also contended that Golisano's political committee, Responsible New York, which could donate unlimited amounts as long as it did not coordinate with candidates, had a direct role in Joe Mesi's campaign for the State Senate.

Mesi opponent Michael H. Ranzenhofer, a Republican from Clarence who won the Senate seat, also alleged that Golisano's group was illegally coordinating its campaign with Mesi. And Mesi's opponent in the Democratic primary, Erie County Legislator Michele M. Iannello, made a similar complaint to State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

Their complaints were similar to one filed earlier by Jeremy C. Toth, a campaign adviser to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo. Toth asked for an investigation into his complaint that Golisano's Responsible New York coordinated with Hoyt's opponent, Barbra A. Kavanaugh, in September's Democratic primary.

Then, in June, Ward joined Mohr, alleging that two political funds controlled by Pigeon routinely flout state election laws set up to monitor the flow of campaign money.

"The information we have so far indicates there have been multiple violations of the election law," Ward said. "The most serious involve significant amounts of money going in and coming out of the committees that have not been reported. That indicates false reports were filed."

Added Mohr: "The committees are used as vehicles in which money is laundered and given to candidates in greater amounts than what they're legally entitled to receive."

"A selective persecution" is what Pigeon calls it. "It is an abuse of power."

Pigeon also is the $150,000-per-year counsel to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, the job he took after engineering the coup of Senate leadership in Albany last June.

Neither elections commissioner could be reached to comment Sunday.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com and mbeebe@buffnews.com

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