Contributions During Recent Charter Campaign

The following information is from the New York State Board of Elections reporting on the contributions made by proponents and opponents of the most recent charter proposition.  SUCCESS supported the charter update on the November ballot and Its Time Saratoga opposed it.

Contributions to SUCCESS

UNITEMIZED

,

99.00 22-MAR-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 July Periodic A N/A N/A
DALTON, JOSEPH
LOUGHBURY RD
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
150.00 17-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
FINCH, HARRIETT M
268 CHURCH ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
90.00 17-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
INGMIRE, LANCE
44 TROMBLEY RD
STILLWATER, NY 12170
100.00 17-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
POKOIK, LEE
NORTH BROADWAY
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
100.00 15-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
SELLERS, BONNITA
P.O. BOX789
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
250.00 13-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
SELLERS, RICHARD
73 FIFTH AVE.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
250.00 15-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
SELLERS, RICHARD
73 5TH AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
250.00 20-MAR-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 July Periodic A N/A N/A
WEIHE, JANE
44 WHITE ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
500.00 22-MAR-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 July Periodic A N/A N/A
WIEHE, MARTHA J
44 WHITE ST.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
250.00 15-OCT-18 SARATOGIANS UNITED TO CONTINUE THE CHARTER ESSENTIAL TO SUSTAIN OUR SUCCESS (SUC 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
Total Contributions: 2,039.00

Contributions to Its Time Saratoga

Contributor Amt Contr. Date Recipient Report Sched Office Dist
ALTAMARI, JEFFREY
10 VICTORIA LA
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
2,500.00 01-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
BOARDMAN, JOHN
118 WHITE ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 15-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
BOYD, GORDON
99 STATE ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
500.00 17-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
BOYD, GORDON
99 STATE ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
500.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
BULLOCK, ANN
86 LINCOLN AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
100.00 02-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
GLANSBERG, LINDA
30 CROMMELIN DR
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
25.00 29-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
KIRWIN, JOHN
94 LINCOLN AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
25.00 17-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
MASSIANO, MATHEW
20 OAKRIDGE BLVD
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
100.00 18-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
MATHIESEN, CHRISTIAN
154 WEST AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 01-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
MAXWELL, OTIS
158 LAKE AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
25.00 29-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
MCTYGUE, THOMAS
251 CR 68
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
200.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
MCTYGUE, WILLIAM
15 YORK ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
200.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
PINGEL, MARK
1 VICTORIA LN
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 23-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
PROUGH, MARGARET
22 FERNDELL SPRING DR
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
SCHWARZ-LAWTON, HELEN
209 NELSON AVE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 16-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 11 Pre General A N/A N/A
SELL, DANIEL
1 LAURA LN
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
25.00 29-OCT-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
TURNER, ROBERT
180 PHILA ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
250.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
VAN METER, MARGIE
175 WASHINGTON ST
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
50.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
WATKIN, RAYMOND
9 WOODLAND CT
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
100.00 06-NOV-18 IT’S TIME SARATOGA! 2018 27 Post General A N/A N/A
Total Contributions: 4,850.00

Through the Looking Glass at the New York State Board of Elections

The NYS Board of Elections (NYSBOE) provides a query function that allows the public to ask who contributed to political action committees and how much they gave.  It also provides  reports on the expenditures made by these committees.  The reports above on contributions made to Its Time Saratoga and SUCCESS are the products of these queries.

When I ran the reports I found a strange thing.  The Its Time Saratoga reports showed they had roughly a $10,000.00 balance on hand.   This PAC raised almost $5,000.00 for the 2018 mailing. it made no sense that they would do this if they had $10,000.00 on hand.  I contacted Its Time Saratoga’s treasurer, Rick Fenton, to ask if he could explain this balance. Mr. Fenton responded that there was no such balance, and that all his periodic reports balanced to the penny.

I then called the NYSBOE and spoke to the IT people.  They told me that the reports had to match since the report on the contributions and expenditures came directly from their periodic reports submitted by the PACs.  I emailed Mr. Fenton advising him of this.  A few days later he wrote back informing me that he had spoken to someone at the NYSBOE and that they acknowledged that there was a problem with the general query.  So I called back the NYSBOE and they again insisted that the reports should match.  Again I wrote Mr. Fenton.  I gave him the name of the person I spoke with and his phone number and wrote that this IT person had insisted that the numbers would match.  Mr. Fenton in turn wrote back again dismissing my concern and reiterating what he had been told.

I considered writing a blog criticizing Mr. Fenton for his apparent indifference to NYSBOE’s assertions to me.  Instead, I decided to dig deeper.  I found another option that provided summaries for each of the reports the PACs submitted periodically on what they had received and spent.  I then entered the contributions and expenses from each report into a spreadsheet.  What I found was that the contributions matched the general query but that the expenses were significantly less.

I then called IT again.  I pointed out to them that these reports did not match.  They were unable to explain this and they connected me with another department that worked in this particular area.  The gentleman I spoke to acknowledged the problem.  He remembered talking to Mr. Fenton and acknowledged that he had been unaware of the problem prior to his conversation with Mr. Fenton.

Into The Data Weeds

As it turns out in-kind contributions and refunds are reported on different forms which are not picked up by the general query.  For instance, Tony Ianniello picked up the cost of a mailing for Its Time to the tune of $7,500.00.  This appeared in the main report as an in kind contribution from him but the expenditure did not because it was recorded on a different form.  Similarly, $1,500.00  was refunded to another contributor but was recorded on a different form and did not appear either as a negative number on the contributions report or as an expense in the expense report.

I made my living writing software and working with databases.  It should be simple to correct this design flaw.  The reality is that bugs are only fixed when someone with sufficient influence cares that they be corrected.  It is a sad testament to how seriously these reports are taken that this hasn’t happened.

Kafka at the NYSBOE

While I was trying to figure out why the numbers did not match I decided to inquire how one would pursue a violation in reporting by PACs.

Risa Sugarman is the Chief Enforcement Counsel for the Board of Elections and is in charge of conducting investigations. Her office has been at the center of controversy for years.  As I understand it, following the Governor’s disbanding of the Moreland Commission in 2014, he appointed Ms. Sugarman as the counsel heading this office.  She has pursued a number of high profile cases.  One involved donations to the Independent Democratic Caucus in the New York State Senate.  This was a group of right wing Democrats mainly from downstate who made a deal with the Republicans to keep them in the majority and in turn received significant perks and power (most of them lost their primary before last year’s election and are now gone).

Ms. Sugarman has been at bitter odds with the commissioners of the NYSBOE.  The commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans, are appointed by the State Legislature.  In a bizarre environment, she is supposed to report to them but as she was appointed by the Governor, she regularly refuses to cooperate with them.  She routinely is required to go before them but she provides them basically nothing.  She has literally not even submitted reports to them on her unit’s activities.  Her appearances before them are often ugly events.

At any rate, I called her office.  On my first attempt I left a message explaining why I wanted to speak to her.  For the next several days I called only to get the same message.  To my surprise, late one afternoon a person answered.  I asked to speak to Ms. Sugarman.  The person put me on hold and when she returned said the counsel was in a meeting and that she was aware of my earlier call.  I was told to put my complaint in writing and was given an email address.  This all seemed very loose.  One has to wonder whether anyone would have called me had I not pursued my request.  I asked  the person to explain the process.  She reiterated that I should make my complaint via email.  She then told me that other than an acknowledgement I would hear nothing further.   I asked, “Does this mean that I will not be informed whether the counsel would be pursuing an investigation on my complaint?”  I was told that was correct.  I asked, “if the counsel pursued my complaint and found it was valid and took action you are telling me that I would not be advised?”  I was told that was correct.

As far as I was able to find out, this policy of secrecy is not in the law.  One wonders whether this is a sign of a lack of resources, a sloppy indifference to transparency, or an overzealous sense of autonomy?  Maybe it is all three.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Contributions During Recent Charter Campaign”

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