Two top lieutenants of G. Steven Pigeon, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to bribery in state and federal courts, admitted to their own election law crimes in State Supreme Court on Tuesday.
David B. Pfaff and Kristy Mazurek, key elements of the Western New York Progressive Caucus fund that first drew the attention of state and federal investigators, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor election law violations surrounding their coordination with existing campaigns.
Both were sentenced immediately to a one-year conditional discharge.
Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced the pleas, which were entered before State Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio Jr., who has been supervising all state charges stemming from Pigeon and his connections to the caucus.
On behalf of the Western New York Progressive Caucus, Underwood said Mazurek and Pfaff sought input from an Erie County legislative candidate about campaign literature and a photo shoot. Western New York Progressive Caucus then paid expenses, on behalf of the candidate, that exceeded the $1,476.50 contribution limit of that race by over $16,500.
The attorney general charged that very little money was raised by the candidates themselves – Rick Zydel and Wes Moore – who were running against those backed by Democratic headquarters.
The rare pleas to election law violations stemmed from the state’s contention that the pair coordinated their Progressive Caucus activities with the existing campaigns of the candidates. Though such independent committees may spend on their own, they are prohibited from coordinating with individual candidates.
Underwood, who noted the committee was created in 2013 by Pigeon and Mazurek to support their candidates in the Democratic primary, said the scheme amounted to an effort to “skirt the law.”
“New Yorkers deserve to trust the integrity of our elections,” she said. “We’ll continue to enforce New York’s election and campaign finance laws – and hold accountable anyone who breaks them.”
Pfaff, 59, has been associated with Pigeon for decades in helping to run his various fundraising and spending activities. He said at the time of the investigation launched by former Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman that clerical errors were behind the discrepancies in campaign finance reports.
Mazurek, 47, is a former television reporter who has also been associated with Pigeon since returning to Buffalo several years ago. She unsuccessfully ran in a Democratic primary for the Assembly in 2016 while under investigation.
The attorney general on Tuesday noted the connection between the defendants pleading before Cerio and Pigeon, who is slated to be sentenced in January after entering guilty pleas in federal and state courts earlier this fall.
On Sept. 29, the former Erie County Democratic chairman pleaded guilty to a felony, admitting that he bribed former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek, who previously pleaded guilty to felony charges and resigned his position on the bench.
Former Assistant District Attorney Mark A. Sacha and two former Erie County legislators initiated the case in 2013 with a complaint to the Erie County Board of Elections over Pigeon's fundraising tactics with the Western New York Progressive Caucus.
That complaint ultimately led to a referral to the attorney general, an investigation and charges.
Assistant Attorney General Susan H. Sadinsky of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Diane M. LaVallee of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau prosecuted the case.