BUFFALO, NY-- A lot of Developer Mark Hamister's anger and frustration is because of a nasty political mailer sent out to voters in Niagara Falls this week.
It criticizes Hamister and the hotel deal he is proposing in The Falls and praises Falls Councilmember Sam Fruscione for opposing the project.
Tonight, we found out who's behind the mailer and Fruscione's association with its largest donor.
"Hi, my name is Sam Fruscione. I'm running for Niagara Falls City Council as a Democrat, a member of the Independence Party and a Conservative".
That's how Councilman Fruscione started the interview with Two On Your Side's Maryalice Demler. He agreed to talk about his re-election campaign. And among the topics, was the nasty anonymous political mailer that was sent to Falls residents earlier this week that calls Developer Mark Hamister a "con man", but praises Fruscione for questioning the Hamister hotel deal. It also asks for their vote.
"Alot of people think you were involved with sending out that mailer since you did nothing to speak out against it when it came out the other night. Everyone agreed it was atrocious. You even said so. So why didn't you speak out against it? Demler asked.
"There's no need to speak out against it. If there's a mailer that's produced without the title of 'Friends of Sam Fruscione' on it, that means it wasn't produced by Sam Fruscione," he said.
That's true. The mailer does not say who sent it. However Two On Your Side learned earlier today that it was created and sent by a PAC, a Political Action Committee based in Buffalo called "Western New York Progressive Caucus". Today their spokesperson Dan Jones admitted to Two On Your Side on the phone... "We created and sent the flyer because we support Sam Fruscione... but Mr. Fruscione did not have a hand in creating it or sending it." And according to election law regarding PAC's, Mr. Frusione would not be permitted to.
Jones also confirmed that one of WNY Progressive Caucus' largest donors, to the tune of $20,000, is a well known Buffalo political operative named Steve Pigeon. His history and work in political circles is well documented. Coincidentally, just this week Pigeon was called out in a news conference by the Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, who condemned the WNY Progressive Caucus PAC for allegedly violating election law.
"Steve Pigeon ruined this party once before and I will not let him do it again!" said Zellner.
"Who is Steve Pigeon? Demler asked.
"Steve Pigeon is a friend of mine," said Fruscione.
"So is Gary Parenti. They are friends of mine. I grew up with them guys."
"Mr. Pigeon is an attorney. Is he the one who is advising you?" asked Demler.
"I'm not answering those questions at all," said Fruscione.
"Why would you not talk about who's advising you as a councilman? You're using his advice," Demler pressed.
"I'm using a lot of people's advice besides anybody else who's giving me advice," Fruscione added.
Fruscione abruptly ended the interview shortly after this exchange and called the interview "entrapment".
Again, Fruscione agreed to speak with Demler about his re-election campaign, just as she did with all of the Niagara Falls Council candidates running for election or re-election this fall.
WEB EXTRA: You can find those candidate profiles on wgrz.com along with the entire un-edited conversation of Demler and Fruscione discussing the development deal by clicking on the icon.