It is being rumored among political operatives that former Democratic Party Chairman G. Steven Pigeon — recently indicted on bribery charges by his longtime nemesis Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — is willing to take a plea deal in exchange for providing the government information on Senator Tim Kennedy.
Kennedy gave more than $80,000 to WNY Progressive Caucus, a fundraising vehicle run by Pigeon. It is rumored that Kennedy contributed those monies with a directive to Pigeon: smear County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who had come shockingly close to defeating Kennedy’s well funded campaign in 2012.
It is thought that the two men then coordinated activities between the independent expenditure committee and the Senator’s reelection campaign — including details relating to the production, content, and distribution of political mailers to frequent voters viciously disparaging Grant and her political allies, Tim Houges, Winnie Fisher, and Lynn Dearmeyer.
Grant’s complaint relating to the illegal coordination initiated an investigation into Pigeon’s political activities, which led to a raid of his waterfront condo. State Police investigators seized a computer and a cell phone from that apartment which provided evidence of alleged bribes of State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek, who pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe and resigned his judgeship in a plea deal that saved his lucrative state pension.
Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria, had argued that evidence seized form the residence should be inadmissible based on an incorrect apartment number listed on the search warrant. The evidence — at the crux of the prosecution’s case — was ruled admissible earlier this month.
Now, Pigeon could be ready to talk.
Schneiderman is an ambitious politician with his eye on the Governor’s mansion, and is known to be deeply envious of the corruption crusading reputation of former US Attorney Preet Bharara. Indicting a Senator over an unelected operative is an easy decision — as he chose to do in Niagara County last week when he cut a deal with Henry Wojtaszek and indicted Senator Rob Ortt on seemingly less serious allegations.
Schneiderman has attracted the serious criticism that he only pursues public corruption charges against his political rivals, while ignoring the improprieties of his political allies. Critics point to the indictment of former Town of Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max, who is aligned with Pigeon, while ignoring similar allegations against the current Chairman, Tim Wenger, who is aligned with Erie County Democratic Party headquarters.
An indictment of Kennedy, a member of the Democratic caucus lead by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, could help undo that critique. Stewart-Cousins and Schneiderman are close political allies. Such plea deal could allow Pigeon to avoid jail time, although he may be forced to surrender his license to practice law.
The indictment would essentially force Kennedy to resign his seat, making for a wide open primary contest among local Democrats. Among those considered contenders for the Senate seat: the widely respected County Legislator Betty Jean Grant; the West Side businessman Rory Allen; the Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski; and the school board contender Austin Harig.