In the final days of the State Senate campaign, questions are being raised about the relationship between Democrat Marc C. Panepinto’s campaign manager and the statewide teachers union that is running its own separate campaign supporting the Democratic state Senate candidate.
Danny Corum, Panepinto’s campaign manager, came to Buffalo from the United Federation of Teachers, which is the New York City-area branch of the New York State United Teachers.
Incumbent State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti is questioning if Corum is coordinating with NYSUT, which has spent $1 million on what is known as an independent expenditure campaign in support of Panepinto. Such independent expenditure campaigns are not subject to campaign spending limits, but they cannot legally coordinate with a candidates’s own campaign. Panepinto denied that any such coordination is occurring.
“This gentleman, Mr. Corum, actually works for the United Teachers Federation and Vote Cope, the organization that is attacking me in those ads,” Grisanti said in a debate televised on WGRZ-TV earlier this week. “How do you have an individual that works for the UFT and Vote Cope on a campaign? That is called coordinating campaigns, which you’re not suppose to do with independent expenditures. You are not supposed to know what is going on with these campaigns.”
Panepinto said Corum is currently working for and being paid by his campaign, not by the teachers union. “There is no coordination of my campaign,” he said.
The teachers union occasionally lends out trained campaign staff, as it did in this case, to assist candidates it supports, UFT spokesman Richard Riley said Friday.
Corum’s salary and benefits are being paid by the Panepinto campaign during the general election, he said. When the Senate race is over, Corum will return to the UFT and the UFT payroll, Riley said.
There is no coordination, Riley said, between Corum and NYSUT’S independent expenditures campaign. “By law, Danny has nothing to do with NYSUT’s IE,” he said.
Corum came to Buffalo as one of many volunteers from union and labor organizations who worked on the campaign of State Sen. Timothy Kennedy in the final days of the primary, according to a Kennedy staffer.
After Kennedy’s win, Panepinto said, he hired Corum as his campaign manager. During the primary, Panepinto said, he ran a part-time campaign. The Democratic candidate said he realized his general election campaign needed to be full- time. Panepinto said he met Corum at a Labor Day party, while Corum was working for Kennedy. Corum asked if Panepinto needed help after the primary, Panepinto said.
“Sen. Kennedy said he did a great job and I needed help,” Panepinto said. “I brought him on after the Kennedy primary concluded.”
“Danny is a hardworking young man paid by my campaign,” Panepinto added. “This is not a campaign issue. This is a distraction. Danny came to me from Tim Kennedy. He’s working 24/7 to help educate voters in the 60th District. There is no coordination.”
Corum in the past has repeatedly avoided answering when reporters asked what work he did before joining the Kennedy campaign, and what, if anything, he has done for NYSUT or UFT.
“I am employed by the Panepinto campaign,” he said earlier this week in response to repeated questions about whether he has worked for the teachers’ union.
Corum’s LinkedIn account says he graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2012, then attended the City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies, where he got a master’s degree in labor studies in 2013.
He interned for the United Federation of Teachers from August to December 2012, then began working for the UFT as a political education coordinator in September 2013, the LinkedIn account says.
In Tuesday’s election, Panepinto is squaring off against Grisanti, who has the Independence Party line, and Kevin Stocker, who defeated Grisanti in the Republican primary. Timothy D. Gallagher has the Conservative line.