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NY-26: Jon Powers' Attack on Jack Davis A Red Herring?

by on August 11, 2008

Last week, I noted the hypocrisy of the Niagara County Democratic Party for not returning donations they received from Jack Davis while calling for an investigation into alleged bribes. Well, according to Mike Hudson of the Niagara Falls Reporter, there’s even more hypocrisy from Niagara County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Rivera. According to Hudson, the “crumbling campaign” of Jon Powers “reached the bottom of the barrel last week” by bringing in Rivera as an attack dog for his campaign. 

In a letter to District Attorney Michael Violante, Rivera asked for an official investigation into whether or not the petitions were properly witnessed.

“It is the responsibility of the Democratic Party to clean up our own backyard, and such acts, whether you determine them to be illegal or not, should not be tolerated,” Rivera wrote.

Perhaps the chairman would have done well to check a little closer to his own home prior to making the unsubstantiated charge. He might have found out that his own employer, Buffalo attorney and Democratic dealmaker Marc Panepinto, has already been convicted of the same offense.

Panepinto hired Rivera following the 2006 Democratic Primary here, during which Rivera improperly used his authority as an insurance investigator to obtain long-sealed police files on Gary Parenti, who was challenging state Rep. Francine Del Monte.

Rivera’s employer, Liberty Mutual, fired the political hack after Parenti sued and recovered a sizable settlement for invasion of privacy. Panepinto saw potential in the political operative, and hired him to do investigations on behalf of his law firm.

But apparently Rivera forgot to investigate Panepinto. If he had, he would have discovered that the former Laborers Local 210 organizer was charged with election law violations, pleading guilty in Erie County Court and earning a conviction on Oct. 11, 2001. Panepinto admitted to the court that he had signed his name as a subscribing witness to nominating petitions that were not in fact signed in his presence and turned out to contain fraudulent signatures.

Hudson also claims that Rivera’s new conference was conveniently timed to draw attention away from the Bob McCarthy story in the Buffalo News highlighting the dubious nature of Powers’ non-profit War Kids Relief and the excessive salary he paid himself.

Rivera claimed to possess notarized affidavits from nine North Tonawanda residents who allege they signed Davis petitions witnessed by a female, Kelly Taylor, which had actually been circulated by an unidentified man. If Violante eventually finds any wrongdoing in the case, any charges that might come up would not go before a judge before next spring at the earliest.

Not so coincidentally, Rivera’s news conference was timed to coincide with a Buffalo News article by Bob McCarthy that detailed the finances of War Kids Relief, a charity founded by Powers to allegedly provide aid for Iraqi children orphaned by the war there.

One Democratic strategist seems to have theory:

“Clearly, the attack on Davis was directed to take attention away from Powers’ own troubles with his so-called charity,” one longtime Democratic strategist told the Reporter. “You can’t help but think that a large part of the money he said he was raising for war orphans went instead into his own pocket so he could run for Congress.”

I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but when you consider the fact Powers has already violated elections laws by using campaign funds for his own personal rent, I suppose anything is possible. And, if course, it has been a few days now since the Buffalo News story came out… and, as Hudson notes, Powers has yet to issue a denial.

 

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From → Campaign 2008, NY-26

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