A reader brought to my attention a rather weird passage in ace Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy’s story yesterday about the Paterson administation’s referral of an election law violation case regarding Steve Pigeon to the US attorney’s office in Manhattan.

At the heart of the case are allegation by former prosecutor Mark A. Sacha (who was fired after the News initially reported his complaints) that two successive Erie County DAs gave Pigeon a pass on what Paterson’s counsel Peter Kiernan has since determined was a “pattern” of violations.

Kiernan’s reasoning: US Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara is already investigating Pigeon on unrelated tax and money laundering charges. So what’s one more charge added to the mix?

Well, Sacha doesn’t see it that way. McCarthy writes:

“Informed that the governor’s office was referring the Pigeon investigation to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Sacha questioned why the matter has been referred to federal investigators when the local FBI and U.S. attorney’s office did not prosecute in 2008, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Sacha says that while Paterson was interested in pursuing the case last fall when he was a candidate for governor, the lame duck governor is now committed to protecting the gubernatorial aspirations of Cuomo, a fellow Democrat.

“The rules that regard election laws are fundamental because they ensure that it protects the right to free and fair elections,” Sacha said. “And the right to vote is fundamental because it protects all the other constitutional rights, and the state has a duty to protect that.”

As attorney general, Cuomo would be charged with appointing a special prosecutor (or appointing himself as special prosecutor) to probe Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic chairman and now counsel to a top State Senate leader.

That would have proved “embarrassing,” Sacha said, because Pigeon has emerged as a significant influence in determining the endorsement of the often influential Independence Party, which last month backed Cuomo for governor.

Sacha goes on to note that Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman and counsel to Senate Majority Pedro Espada Jr. (whom Cuomo continues to invesigate after slapping him with two civil lawsuits), has influence over how state Independence Party founder Tom Golisano – a Cuomo fan (and, since the millionaire’s tax passed, Florida resident) – directs his considerable resources.

“(Frank Clark and Sedita) improperly used their discretion to protect a political friend,” Sacha told McCarthy, “and the governor has used his discretion to improperly protect the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.”

Kiernan insisted his decision to go the DA route over appointing a special prosecutor, was not political, but also acknowledged that no one from the administration ever discussion the matter with Cuomo himself.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen Paterson go out of his way to assist Cuomo, who, after all, has tapped former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to investigate the governor for the David Johnson and Yankees tickets ethics scandals.

Paterson didn’t even attend the Democratic convention in Rye at which Cuomo was unanimously selected to be the party’s standard-bearer – a role the governor hoped would once be his – opting instead to remain in Albany to work on the budget.

And look how far we’ve come with that.