Western New York Political Operatives Charged With Knowingly And Willfully Engaging In Illegal Campaign Coordination
Schneiderman: These Charges Send A Clear Message That We Will Aggressively Enforce Our State’s Election Laws
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the filing of a felony complaint charging G. Steven Pigeon, 55, Kristy Mazurek, 46 and David Pfaff, 57, with three class E felonies in violation of Election Law section 14-126 (5), and one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, in violation of Penal Law section 175.35, a class E felony. The three defendants were arraigned on the felony complaint today by Hon. Donald F. Cerio, Jr., in New York State Supreme Court, Erie County.
According to the felony complaint filed in court today, Pigeon, Mazurek, and Pfaff are alleged to have knowingly and willfully engaged in illegal campaign coordination while acting on behalf of the Western New York Progressive Caucus (“WNYPC”), an “unauthorized political committee,” in regard to the nomination for election of three political candidates in the September 10, 2013 Democratic primary. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of four years if convicted on all counts. The charges stem from a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the New York State Board of Elections.
“These charges send a clear message: we will aggressively enforce our state’s election laws,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “As alleged in our criminal complaint, the defendants in this case flouted the law to fund their own handpicked candidates for office in Erie County. As alleged, the defendants' use of a political committee to circumvent the law and undermine the integrity of these elections was an affront to Erie County voters – and we intend to hold them accountable.”
“In democratic societies, the voting process is a means by which citizens hold their government accountable,” said FBI Buffalo Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen. “Our system of representative government works only when it's done in accordance with the laws created to ensure fair elections.”
The felony complaint alleges that Pigeon and Mazurek created WNYPC for the purpose of electing their preferred candidates and that many of the candidates funded by WNYPC were relying almost entirely on the political committee for all campaign-related expenditures. In fact, as the complaint details, very little money was raised by the candidates themselves. For example, one candidate raised just $450 between July 12, 2013 and September 16, 2013, while WNYPC received $250,000 in contributions and spent extensively in support of the candidate’s campaign – resulting in the vast majority of the candidate’s campaign-related costs being borne by WNYPC rather than the candidate’s committee.
The complaint alleges that, on behalf of the WNYPC, the defendants sought input from two candidates regarding campaign literature and arranged for them to appear at a photo shoot paid for by WNYPC. WNYPC also paid other expenses on behalf of one of the candidates that exceeded the $1,476.50 contribution limit of that race by over $16,500; and paid nearly $12,000 worth of expenses over the $1,192.70 contribution limit for the second candidate’s race.
The defendants also allegedly conferred with a third candidate and used WNYPC funds to pay for the third candidate’s campaign signs, postage, and campaign literature. In doing so, WNYPC exceeded the $1,550.10 contribution limit for that race by over $3,200.
The defendants are also charged with filing a false Campaign Finance Disclosure Report with the New York State Board of Elections by failing to truthfully disclose the financial activity of the WNYPC.
An unauthorized political committee is a political committee that is not specifically authorized by one candidate or a group of candidates to raise or spend money on their behalf for their election.
Campaign coordination is a crime under the Election Law that is committed when a person knowingly and willfully solicits, organizes or coordinates the activities of an unauthorized committee with the activities of a candidate or the candidate’s agents for the purpose of making expenditures on behalf of the candidate that exceed the contribution limit for that candidate’s race.
In addition to the new charges filed today, Pigeon is currently under indictment for the crimes of Bribery in the Second Degree, Bribery in the Third Degree, six counts of Rewarding Official Misconduct in the Second Degree, and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. The charges arise from conduct which involved former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek, who resigned from the bench after pleading guilty to the felony charges of Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree on June 29, 2016. The indictment against Pigeon is pending before Judge Cerio. A trial date has been set for September 5, 2017.
The charges contained in the felony complaint are merely allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.