Erie County Democratic Chair Calls For Moreland Commission Investigation
When Jeremy Zellner took over as the head of the Erie County Democratic Party, he hoped to unify a group with fractured loyalties. It’s something Zellner’s predecessor and mentor Len Lenihan struggled with for years. Nearly a year after beating out several challengers to be elected chair, Zellner is involved in another fight with a well known party insider.
“Steve Pigeon is behind $75,000 of illegal campaign contributions,” said Zellner.
Just a few days before the September 10th primary, Zellner is accusing Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman, of funneling money through a Political Action Committee to benefit several democrats challenging the party endoresed candidates running for the Erie County Legislature and Sheriff. It’s a PAC Zellner believes is violating election law.
“They’re spending over the limits on these campaigns. The limit, you’ll have it in your packet is about 17-18 hundred dollars and they’re way over it because they’ve sent out multiple mailings in each of these races,” Zellner said.
During a press conference, Wednesday night, Zellner claimed the WNY Progressive Caucus has spent more than $60,000 on television ads for Sheriff Candidate Dick Dobson. Dobson is challenging fellow democrat Bert Dunn who has the support of Zellner’s committee.
“Dick Dobson needs to return this money and not take the support from Steve Pigeon because it’s illegal. He wants to be the chief law enforcement officer in Erie County; he needs to follow the laws,” said Zellner. “Steve was exiled from this organization years ago for running it into the ground.”
Pigeon admits to donating to the PAC but told YNN’s Ryan Whalen since it’s an independent committee there are no spending limits.
“I have a right like anybody else in this country, my first amendment right, to donate to who I want to donate to. And just because this inexperienced chairman, who basically his only experience was getting the coffee of Len Lenihan, doesn’t like where I donate my money, that’s really not his business,” Pigeon said.
It’s not just the amount of money the PAC spent that bothers Zellner. He’s also questioning the way it was created, registering with the state Board of Elections on August 22nd.
“This PAC did not file anything until 3 o’clock today (Wednesday) with any details, but they started raising money and spending money in early August,” said Zellner.
Zellner is calling for an investigation by the newly created Moreland Commission. The commission was created by the Governor, in part, to enforce campaign finance rules.
“I think the Governor created this for a reason. I think he has a lot of foresight. I think he sees that people are tired of the corruption that people like Steve Pigeon bring to the table,” Zellner said.
So far, neither Pigeon nor those accepting donations from the PAC seem worried.
“The county chairman can do whatever he pleases. If he wants to have an investigation he can,” said Sheriff Candidate Dick Dobson.
The Friends of New York State Senator Tim Kennedy and the local bricklayers union also made large contributions to the WNY Progressive Caucus. Facing several well-funded primary challenges on Tuesday, some believe Zellner is concerned he could end up leading a party more fractured than ever before.
“I think what he’s really more upset about is this committee is outraising him and outspending him,” Pigeon added.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Casey Bortnick on September 5, 2013 at 2:13 am, and is filed under 2013, Campaign Finance Reform, Democrats, Erie County, Ethics. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|