Controversy over corruption charges filed Thursday against nine men across New York State in connection with the Buffalo Billion economic-development program is now spreading into the State Senate contest in the 60th District between Democrat Amber A. Small and Republican Christopher L. Jacobs.
Small is firing away at Jacobs, the Erie County clerk, for what she described as occupying “the center of what is becoming a tangled web of LPCiminelli’s public corruption.” She also said Jacobs has long benefited from campaign contributions from the construction company now under scrutiny by Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Chairman and CEO Louis P. Ciminelli and two other executives at the company were charged Thursday by Bharara with bribery and conspiracy in a “scheme to defraud” a State University of New York entity that helps run the Buffalo Billion and other upstate development programs. Now, Small is underscoring long connections that Jacobs has maintained with LPCiminelli and the Ciminelli family throughout his political career and through his tenure on the Buffalo Board of Education.
“What shouldn’t be lost in this web of public corruption is that the same candidate plastering Western New York with commercials calling for an end to corruption has been financed by the same men who are now facing charges in one of Western New York’s largest public corruption schemes,” said Matt Tighe, Small’s campaign manager. “That’s exactly what is wrong with this system and why we need comprehensive reform.”
Jacobs responded by calling Small’s accusations “lies … the sign of a very immature and desperate campaign.”
“I have never had involvement with the Buffalo Billion project in any way,” Jacobs said. “In fact, I’ve spoken out against the SolarCity project as bad economic-development policy. I am in no way part of this investigation, nor any investigation for that matter.”
Jacobs also said money donated to his past campaigns from the company and the Ciminelli family have amounted to less than one-half of 1 percent of total contributions.
Small’s campaign also pointed out that Jacobs has a history with LPCiminelli dating from his years on the School Board. She pointed to questions raised in the past by board member and real estate developer Carl P. Paladino about the $1.4 billion school reconstruction project in which LPCiminelli was the lead developer.
Tighe noted that the project attracted scrutiny from the School Board and the State Comptroller’s Office because of tens of millions of dollars that he said are unaccounted for.