Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Incumbent state Sen. George Maziarz raised and spent four times as much money as two of his opponents together in the past month, according to the candidates' latest campaign finance disclosure reports.
The reports to the state Board of Elections show campaign fundraising and spending activity from mid-July to mid-August. Maziarz's report shows his campaign raised nearly $49,000 in that period, and spent $37,000, mostly on staff and office-related expenses. His campaign fund balance, as of Aug. 9, was $838,000.
Fellow Republican candidate Johnny Destino, the Tea Party-backed Niagara Falls School Board member who's fighting Maziarz for their party line in the Sept. 13 primary election, raised $7,824 and spent $6,371 in the past month. Destino's reported fund balance was $1,453.
Democratic state Senate nominee Amy Hope Witryol raised just under $3,000 and spent $2,500 in the past month. Witryol's fund balance was $12,015.
The reports require candidates to list contributions by individuals/partnerships, corporations and "other," meaning political action committees, trade associations and the like, and also list expenses, campaign-to-campaign fund transfers and any debts.
Maziarz's 32-day pre-primary report shows his campaign raised more money from PACs and associations, $19,450, than any other donor type.
Gifts of $1,500 came from the Verizon Communications Good Government Club, and the PACs of Time Warner Cable, Entergy Corporation, Independent Power Producers of New York, Empire State Petroleum and NY Solar Jobs; and a $2,000 donation came from the Wine PAC. Maziarz is the chairman of the Senate's energy and telecommunications committee.
Maziarz's report shows he raised $18,344 from 89 individuals and partnerships. The list is heavy with the names of present and former public employees and elected officials in Niagara County, chipping in anywhere from $50 to $500 apiece.
A sampling includes county employment and training director Tom Jaccarino, county public information officer Christian Peck, county GOP election commissioner Maryann Casamento, deputy county clerk Wendy Roberson, county legislator Kathryn Lance, North Tonawanda City Attorney Shawn Nickerson, Lockport City Attorney John Ottaviano, Lockport Town Attorney Daniel Seaman, Lockport town prosecutor Bradley Marble, Niagara town board member Daniel Sklarski and Newfane town board member Gordon Fletcher III.
Gifts to Maziarz by campaign fund transfer came from NT Mayor Rob Ortt, Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, Lockport Treasurer Mike White and county legislator Keith McNall, all of whom donated $100 each, and Niagara Falls city judge Angelo J. Morinello, who donated $200.
Maziarz's pre-primary report shows his campaign took in another $11,000 in donations from 25 corporations, fewer than half headquartered in the 62nd District.
Maziarz transfered $2,000 from his campaign fund to the state Senate Republican Committee on July 12, according to the report.
Destino's report shows he received $1,984 in donations from individuals/partnerships, $150 from a single corporation, and $3,690 from PACs and associations in the past month.
The single largest contributor in his report is "Turning Albany Upside Down," a Carl Paladino/Tea Party-backed effort to remove "establishment" Republicans from the state Legislature. The association donated $2,740 to Destino in two installments.
Destino also reported a personal loan of $2,000 to his campaign, on Aug. 2 and, a day later, an expense of $2,500 to co-sponsor the Italian Festival in Niagara Falls.
In the pre-primary reporting period, most of Destino's individual/partnership contributions — and about half of Witryol's — are listed as unitemized "unit" gifts. Donors' identities aren't required unless they give $100 or more.
Unit gifts might represent the sum of small donations collected at a fundraising event, but they can also signal donors' desire not to be listed in a particular candidate's campaign finance reports, according to Kevin Hardwick, professor of political science at Canisius College.
"There's a reason why people give $99," he said. "Donors contribute to the candidates that they think will win; and there are a lot of good reasons to contribute to the incumbent, especially if he's been popular in the past as (Maziarz) seems to have been. You wouldn't want to get caught betting against him."
Witryol, who faces a Working Families primary contest with Timothy D. Moriarty of North Tonawanda, reported receipt of $969 in donations from individuals/partnerships since mid-July; no corporate gifts; and a single PAC donation, $2,000 from the Buffalo-based Women's Tap Fund.
Moriarty did not file a pre-primary finance report. The state Board of Elections' financial disclosure database does not list a campaign committee in Moriarty's name.
Witryol's single largest expense in the past month was payment of $990 to "Housh Law Offices" in Buffalo. Frank Housh was her attorney when she sued to have Moriarty's Working Families designating petitions invalidated on the basis they're "fraudulent." The petitions were carried exclusively by notaries and commissioners of deeds who are also Maziarz/local GOP foot soldiers; and the attorney who represented Moriarty in court, John Ciampoli, is a former counsel to the state Senate GOP Campaign Committee.
Witryol's legal argument with the petitions — that they're flawed because a listed committee to fill vacancies didn't contain the required number of Working Families party members, and they were in essence a device by which Maziarz could obtain the minor party line for himself — never got a hearing. A state Supreme Court judge dismissed the suit on a technicality: Service of papers to the state Board of Elections in Albany, one of eight defendants, was one day later than election law allows.