The Times Union published an online story on January 2, 2020 regarding the role of the New York State Independence Party in last November’s Saratoga Springs election. It reported that a number of local business people made significant contributions to the New York State Independence Party which then used this money to do mailings on behalf of candidates in Saratoga Springs.
Below is a list from the New York State Board of Elections of the contributors to something called “The New York State Independence Party Campaign Account.” All these donors are from the greater Saratoga Springs area.
$1,000.00 –D.A. Collins Construction: Major construction firm that sold land where hospital hopes to build its medical office building.
$500.00 -Phinney Design Group: Architectural and Design Firm. Among its many clients are New York Racing Association and Saratoga National Golf Course.
$150.00 –George “Skip” Carlson: Vice President for External Affairs with Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Mr. Carlson served for many years on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. [JK: As far as I can tell, he never voted against an application for a variance]
$500.00 –Elizabeth Jameson: Downtown merchant. Owner of Frivolous Boutique.
$1,000.00 –Matthew Jones: Attorney. Represents Saratoga Hospital
$5,000 -Thomas Newkirk: Principal owner of Saratoga National Golf Course among other investments in the area.
$250.00 –Frank Parillo: Saratoga Prime Properties LLC. Among his extensive holdings are the old Saratogian Building on Lake Avenue and the 38 High Rock Avenue.
$500.00 –Michael Toohey: Attorney – Go-to developer attorney. Vice Chairperson of Saratoga Hospital Board of Trustees.
Saratoga CoWorks: Downtown business that offers “shared space” office services.
$1,000.00 -Charles Wait: Chairman and CEO of Adirondack Trust
$250.00 –SCH PAC, Albany, NY (Could not find any info on who this is.)
This is from the New York State Board of Elections. It lists the expenditures made by the New York State Independence Party Campaign Account.
$600.00 – BAKER PUBLIC RELATIONS
350 NORTHERN BLVD
ALBANY, NY 12204
$750.00 – CAMPAIGN UNLIMITED
47 FLINTLOCK DRIVE
SHIRLEY, NY 11967
$2,500.00 – CAPITAL ADVOCATES LLC
3 AURORA AVENUE
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866
$2,971.06 -DIGITAL PRESS
5 SAND CREEK ROAD
ALBANY, NY 12205
$1,000.00 NYS INDEPENDENCE PARTY HOUSEKEEPING ACCOUNT
47 FLINTLOCK DRIVE
SHIRLEY, NY 11967
As an observant reader may notice, Campaign Unlimited shares the same address as the NYS Independence Party Housekeeping Account. This address is a private residence. So it appears that the Independence Party leadership took a fee of $1,000.00 for handling the money. It also seems like there may have been a little self dealing going on here as whatever Campaign Unlimited might be, they took $750.00 for their services.
Who is Capital Advocates LLC?
Capital Advocates LLC is a consulting firm located in Saratoga Springs. William Teator is its principal and founder. It appears that he began his career in 1994 as the press secretary for Gerald Solomon. Mr. Solomon was the Republican Congressman representing Saratoga Springs for many years. From 1999 to 2002 Mr. Teator was the government affairs consultant for the Solomon Group LLC, a lobbying firm. In 2003 he established Capital Advocates and became affiliated with the Livingston Group LLC that had acquired the Solomon Group. The Livingston Group is a lobbying organization established by Robert “Bob” Livingston who had been the Republican Congressman from Louisiana. According to this recent article in Politico, Congressman Livingston had been in line to replace Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House when his rather lurid past involving extra-marital affairs, exposed by Hustler magazine, led to his resignation. As part of his resignation he called for Bill Clinton to join him. Clinton was on the verge of his impeachment in the House. As the readers of this blog who are old enough may recall, President Clinton declined Bob’s offer.
The Livingston Group now finds itself entangled in the Trump impeachment. Livingston represents a number of Ukrainian Clients. Livingston was referenced by Catherine Croft, former National Security Council Director responsible for Ukraine, in her testimony in the impeachment hearings. She testified that he had contacted her to urge her assistance in getting rid of the then ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She testified, “He (Livingston) characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as an ‘Obama holdover’ and associated with George Soros…” She said she was unclear on whose behalf Livingston had contacted her and Politico’s attempt to reach Livingston on this issue failed.
Among the reports submitted to the NYS Board of Elections by the New York State Independence Party Campaign Account was a Schedule R. According to the Board of Elections the purpose of this report is:
Schedule R is used by Party committees, constituted committees and authorized multi-candidate committees to allocate campaign expenses among the candidates they support according to the relative benefit each candidate received from the expenditures. (These amounts are cumulative per candidate for the campaign cycle.)
The purpose of this report appears to be to identify on whose behalf the moneys raised were spent. In their October filing they identified Michele Madigan as the beneficiary, and the amount spent on her behalf as $6,076.06.
While Michele Madigan enjoyed a high profile in the mailings that I remember receiving, the mailings featured all the candidates (see sample above). In fact, one of the mailings primarily featured Skip Scirocco. This report appears to reflect a cavalier attitude regarding the committee’s responsibilities to accurately document their activities.
The State Independence Party Fails To File Final Report
The New York State Independence Party Campaign Account was required to submit a final report of its contributions and expenditures in a “Post General Report” within twenty-seven days following the election. This is an important report because there is usually a great deal of activity right before the actual election which this report is supposed to address. As the election was on November 5, the report was due by December 2. It is unfortunately not unusual for these reports to be late. There is no penalty for being late and the Board lacks any authority to enforce compliance. [JK: Hard to restrain myself from some snarky comment about this]
It Is What It Is
The reality is that the practices laid out in the Times Union article are not unusual nor unique to the Independence Party. There is nothing especially sinister or particularly creative about supporting candidates’ campaigns through donations to the parties that have endorsed them. It is how candidates regularly get around the limits of what they can receive directly, and all parties operate in this manner.
The Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision pretty much destroyed the weak remnants of limits on campaign financing. If you are not familiar with the decision here is a link to the Wikipedia explanation.
My Conversation With Eddy Miller, Chairman of the Saratoga County Independence Party
Full disclosure: I consider Eddy Miller, the chairman of the Saratoga County Independence Party, to be a friend.
I spoke with Eddy about the The New York State Independence Party Campaign Account. Eddy reminded me that during the recent campaign period he had undergone open heart surgery and was not involved with those events. He made clear to me, however, that he had strongly advocated to the state leadership of the Independence Party to help the candidates in the Saratoga Springs election that his party had endorsed. He also noted that the local Saratoga County Independence Party Committee that he chairs had scrupulously followed all the reporting requirements regarding both the contributions they received and the expenditures that they made.