Niagara Gazette

Local News

September 6, 2013

Group with ties to WNY Democratic Party figures financed mailer focusing on Hamister deal

Niagara Gazette — A political action committee with ties to former and current politicians and Democratic Party leaders in Western New York has taken responsibility for funding the creation and distribution of an anonymous mailer that criticized Buffalo developer Mark Hamister while praising Niagara Falls City Council candidate Sam Fruscione. 

Dan Jones, a spokesperson for the group WNY Progressive Caucus, confirmed Thursday evening the PAC hired a private vendor to develop and deliver a postcard that accused Hamister Group CEO Mark Hamister of running a “con game” in his bid to build a $25 million hotel in downtown Niagara Falls. 

The WNY Progressive Caucus is a political action committee, or PAC. According to records on file with the state board of elections, the group counts among its donors Western New York business owners and several current and former politicians, including former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman and local attorney Steve Pigeon who loaned the group $20,000 and state lawmaker Tim Kennedy whose campaign committee donated $45,000. 

Jones said information on the postcard did not reflect the position of the caucus on the Hamister project, but rather the view of the project taken by the Niagara Falls Reporter. The local weekly publication has been highly critical of the Hamister Group and its bid to secure state and local support for the construction of a new hotel and mixed-use building on a piece of city owned land located at 310 Rainbow Blvd. 

“It was to educate voters using the article from the Niagara Falls Reporter,” Jones said. 

The double-sided postcard recommended Fruscione as a candidate in Tuesday’s primary for the city council, lauding him for asking questions about the proposed Hamister deal along with fellow members of the council majority Glenn Choolokian and Robert Anderson Jr.

When asked if the WNY Progressive Caucus supported Fruscione as a candidate in the city council race, Jones said the PAC supported him and his “asking the tough questions.” Jones said the postcard was not intended to reflect the group “taking a position on the project” itself. 

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