New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been roundly criticized for failing to pursue public corruption cases against elected officials who have been accused of enriching themselves with public dollars.
So it is curious, they say, that he would allocate law enforcement resources into investigating a much more minor charge against the lobbyist G. Steven Pigeon, a former Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party and an active figure in New York politics.
Pigeon, an intrepid political insider who engages in politics like sport, contributed $100,000 in personal savings to a PAC, managed by the political operative Kristy Mazurek. By all accounts, both are well versed in the legalities surrounding campaign spending and political action committees and insist that they adhered to those laws strictly.
Pigeon’s earnings are in “the mid-six figures”, the Buffalo News reports. He is of counsel at the Rochester based law firm of Underberg & Kessler. His client list includes powerful politicians, multinational firms, and some of the state’s corporate mainstays.
His contribution to the PAC was used for mailers and field staff in local county legislative races. It was his own money used for political speech, as is allowable under campaign finance laws and a constitutionally protected right.
The investigation was prompted by the Attorney General after being prompted by County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who challenged State Senator Tim Kennedy in the Democratic primary last year and remains bitterly angry that the party didn’t coalesce around her following her receipt of the party’s endorsement. Pigeon supported Kennedy.
Political observers say the investigation is a politically charged abuse of power that will backfire on the sitting Attorney General, whose central participation in the Moreland Commission debacle has raised serious ethics questions inside his office.
Pigeon is close to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is at odds with Scheiderman. In political circles, the AG is rumored to have cut a deal with US Attorney Preet Bharara on the Moreland Commission corruption scandal. Schneiderman’s deputizing of Commission members implicates him all sorts of legal improprieties. It’s rumored that he cut a deal to insulate himself from the scandal, but that has not been confirmed by either office.
Cuomo and Schneiderman have since been feuding intensely behind the scenes. Local operatives surmise that the AG is going after Pigeon as part of the tit-for-tat back and forth with the Governor’s political machine.
Schneiderman is known to be ambitious with his eyes set on the Governor’s mansion. Operatives close to Cuomo say that Schneiderman saw an opening to scandalize the Governor and, potentially, push him out of office.
Observers note that aggressiveness in politics is often met with an equal and opposite response. They think that the AG’s maneuvering will backfire, and that he could even be brought up on abuse of power charges. That is yet to be seen and very far from certain.
We will be following how it all plays out.