A former local Democratic Party chairman has admitted to steering a $25,000 campaign contribution from a foreign national toward New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign in 2014.
Steve Pigeon, the former Erie County DNC chairman, admitted in federal court to attempting to funnel the contribution to the campaign, which was made on behalf of the founder of an online gambling business that is based out of Canada. Under federal law, foreign nationals are not permitted to make donations to political campaigns.
The Cuomo campaign ultimately rejected the donation when it found out its source.
Pigeon is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to cause a foreign donation in a state election. He faces up to 16 months in prison. The latest plea comes two weeks after he appeared in state court and admitted to bribing a judge.
The Department of Justice noted that after the donation was rejected, Pigeon arranged to have the donation be made through a third party, who was an American citizen, which allowed Pigeon and the Canadian CEO be granted access to a political fundraising party in Manhattan.
According to a WBFO report, Pigeon’s attorney said the decision to accept a guilty plea came “because Pigeon was facing three separate trials. (The lawyer) says it would be difficult to be victorious when all three cases are related.”
“Steven Pigeon undermined the transparency and integrity of the electoral process by funneling foreign money into a campaign,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said. “The Criminal Division and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting our electoral process and we will aggressively pursue those who seek to circumvent our campaign finance laws.”
United States Attorney James Kennedy added that, “transparency in political activity, including the disclosure of the sources of political contributions, is a necessary check on the power of money and a necessary ingredient for a healthy democracy. Schemes such as this, which introduce obfuscation and secrecy into the political process, threaten our very democracy by endeavoring to use anonymity as a means of eliminating accountability.”
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