If Roger J. Stone Jr. walks into a political hangout like Buffalo’s Founding Fathers, chances are he'll know everyone in the joint.
Stone, the confidant of President Trump, was arraigned Tuesday on charges of false statements, witness tampering and obstruction of justice stemming from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the 2016 presidential campaign. And while he stars in dozens of campaign histories around the nation over four decades, he is also no stranger to the politics and politicos of Buffalo and New York State.
Republicans like Jack Kemp and Carl Paladino? Stone helped devise their campaign strategies.
Minor party gubernatorial candidates like Tom Golisano? Stone’s trademark round glasses pored over the former Buffalo Sabres owner’s campaign plans, too.
Democrats like G. Steven Pigeon? Stone has worked with the former Erie County Democratic chairman through a host of New York political adventures.
But the part-time Manhattan resident knows his way around Buffalo, too. Former Erie County Republican Chairman Victor N. Farley, familiar with Stone’s efforts for Kemp 35 years ago, knows him and likes him even while acknowledging the long time moniker of “dirty trickster.”
“He had a reputation that he was prepared to do stuff you might not like ... dirty tricks,” Farley said, “though I never saw him do anything like that.”
Instead, the former chairman recalls Stone’s intuitive grasp of everything political.
“If you asked him about the weather and he said it was raining,” Farley said, “he didn’t have to look outside.”
Stone left footprints beside a host of New York’s best known pols, including:
• Jack Kemp: The Republican congressman from Hamburg entered presidential discussions as far back as the 1970s. By 1984, the talk got serious.
Former Kemp aide Russ Gugino recalls the congressman signing up Stone for the 1984 House contest against Peter J. Martinelli. The GOP never anticipated problems for the national powerhouse against a little known Democrat, but aimed to rack up numbers and bolster the 1988 presidential case.
With Stone at the helm, Kemp won by a more than 3 to 1 tally.
“He helped us a great deal and was very experienced,” said Gugino, noting Stone’s services did not come cheap. “He always said ‘you get what you pay for.’ ”
Gugino recalled that Stone partnered with other major names in GOP politics – Charlie Black, Paul Manafort and Lee Atwater, who was also known for controversial campaign tactics.
“Lee Atwater was just like Roger Stone in a lot of respects, but nobody ever criticized Atwater because he was a ‘Bushie,’ ” he said, referring to Atwater’s work for President George H.W. Bush.
“Every party has operatives like Roger Stone, but the things you hear now come from nothing more than jealousy,” Gugino added, “because he did it better than their people.”
Gugino said Stone never worked in Kemp’s last congressional campaign in 1986 nor his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1988.
“Roger had a lifestyle Jack didn’t appreciate,” Gugino said.
Still, Gugino says he is not joining prosecutors and others now “kicking him when he’s down.”
“I feel sorry for him,” he said. “And I’m upset at the people who are gloating over his misfortune.”
• Steve Pigeon: Another well-known political operative, Pigeon’s controversial campaign tactics have likewise landed him in state and federal courtrooms over recent months.
Even though he was leader of upstate’s largest Democratic organization and supported Andrew M. Cuomo for governor in 2002, Pigeon served as a Golisano adviser as far back as the billionaire’s first run for governor on the Independence line in 1994. Stone also signed up to help Golisano’s third and final campaign for governor in 2002.
• Carl Paladino: The Buffalo real estate developer says Pigeon suggested Stone while planning a 2010 campaign against Democrat Cuomo. Paladino said he thought Stone was "intriguing" as he tried to take on a Democratic administration Paladino described as "evil."
"I wanted someone who knew his way around," Paladino recalled. "Steve gave me his phone number."
Stone then steered Paladino toward an overwhelming victory in the Republican primary. Paladino told cheering crowds he would swing a baseball bat at the state’s political system, while Stone devised the angry-looking orange and black posters proclaiming Paladino’s “mad as hell” slogan.
“He wanted something different, and I just listened to what he said,” Paladino said.
• Jack Davis: The three-time candidate for Congress against then-Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. But three sources familiar with the situation say Stone was an early figure in the 2004 contest. The sources said Davis, a former Republican and president of the I Squared R Element Co. in Akron, was familiar with Stone and brought him to his plant to discuss the race.
Two of the sources said Stone did not end up joining the campaign as general campaign consultant, mostly because Reynolds was considered too major a figure in the national GOP for Stone to oppose.
• Hormoz Mansouri: Though the Amherst engineer has long dabbled in politics, he encountered Stone on the opposite end of a lawsuit. Stone was helping Native American tribes enter the casino gambling business about 15 years ago in efforts that eventually failed, drawing the ire of investors like Mansouri.
Mansouri would not comment for this story, but court records indicate he sued Stone and two Delaware companies in 2010 regarding a California Indian gambling proposal dating to 2003, in which Mansouri had invested $500,000.
Mansouri, represented by attorney Joseph G. Makowski, sought information linked to the failed venture from the defendants that observers surmised might be used for tax purposes.
Daniel C. Oliverio, who with assistance from colleague John L. Sinatra Jr. (recently nominated for a federal judgeship) represented Stone, noted this week the suit was dismissed by former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek.
Oliverio recalls Stone as a “gentleman” and an “easy to deal with” client.
“He always promptly returned my calls and was very grateful for the result,” he said, noting Michalek dismissed the case after only one court appearance.
“I never heard from him again,” Oliverio said of Stone.
• Ralph C. Lorigo: An attorney and chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party, Lorigo also worked with Stone on Indian casino proposals. Lorigo said he arranged meetings with the secretary of the interior on behalf of the same California tribes Stone was representing and their unsuccessful proposal in which Mansouri invested.
Lorigo traveled to Florida in the early 2000s, where Stone asked him to join the California casino effort that never materialized. Lorigo also joined Stone in Paladino’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, as well as unsuccessful efforts in 2013 and 2014 to entice Trump into a challenge against Cuomo.
“When I went to New York to have him run for governor, I remember a conversation with [Stone] that it was not in Trump’s interest to run for governor,” Lorigo said. “It was about running for president ... he had bigger plans.”
• Michael R. Caputo: The East Aurora political consultant first met Stone back in 1985, working as his driver, and then in the efforts for Kemp.
“He was like my big brother,” said Caputo, explaining he and Stone developed a bond that extended to their families spending holidays together.
Caputo’s relationship has continued through the years, and may have contributed to his 2018 grilling by Mueller’s Washington investigators. The Buffalo News reported then that prosecutors asked about key figures in the Trump campaign.
“They asked me about all my friends,” said Caputo, who has worked not only with Stone but with former Trump campaign manager Manafort, Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and others in the president’s circle. “It’s a frightening thing.”
In December, The News reported that Caputo had launched a fundraising appeal for Stone, who he claims has been financially destroyed by the Mueller probe.
“Roger has lost everything, and I pledge to you every cent will go to pay the costs he’s incurring due to his two year torture,” Caputo said in an appeal to supporters. “He’s been behind President Trump all the way, all those years. The president backs him up. I back him up.”
Caputo promised then to use some of the proceeds to help “several other Trump associates in these investigations.” They include Kristin Davis, he said, the one-time “Manhattan Madam” who ran for governor in 2010. The New York Times reported then that Stone was advising her campaign.
A few days ago, however, Caputo said his fundraising efforts had met with “limited success.”
Caputo was also in Florida on Friday when he first heard of Stone’s arrest, and immediately drove from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to be with the man he considers his “mentor.”
“For the last six months, Roger has been hearing that ‘it’s coming this Friday,’ ” Caputo said of Stone’s impending indictment. “No one is more prepared than Roger Stone for this. He’s ready to prove his case.”