To old timers in Rensselaer County politics he’s affectionately known as “Boy.” To state wide politicians he’s known as vice chairman of the powerful Independence Party. To everyday state Senate staffers he’s known as “Who’s that guy?”
Of course, I’m talking about North Greenbush’s own Tom Connolly, who is again making news for alleged campaign finance shenanigans.
The reason they call him “Boy” is because he learned the art of political manipulation from legendary Rensselaer County Democratic Party Chairman Ed McDonough. “McDonough’s Boy” was shortened to just “Boy” somewhere along the line.
Since the McDonough days – when Connolly was routinely found “sleeping” on the couch in Democratic Party headquarters and when he gave a painting he stole from the City of Troy to newly elected District Attorney James Canfield – he climbed the party ladder and is now a statewide wheel, or vice chairman.
The last moniker is in reference to Connolly’s jobs in the state Senate. First he worked for Sen. Karl Krueger, a Democrat from Brooklyn with close ties to the GOP, making six figures as a “special project coordinator.” If anyone can tell me what a guy Rensselaer County knows about setting up special projects for a senator from Brooklyn please drop me a line. I’m told he is hardly ever at the Capitol or the LOB so either he was always in Brooklyn setting up special events or his salary could be tacked onto what the Independence Party line is worth.
After the Haggerty fiasco – and before Krueger pleaded guilty to accepting bribes – Connolly got fired and now works for state Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Long Island, making $75,000 a year. One would think the Republicans may want the Independence Party’s backing to ensure they remain relevant in the Senate, but only a cynic would think Connolly’s job had anything to do with that.
This time Connolly finds himself in the crosshairs of Gov. Andrew Cuomo - who might want the Senate to stay status quo - and his Moreland Commission. While there are some questions with the commission appointed to weed out corruption in the state Legislature, it did find some compelling evidence to suggest the GOP was padding the Independence Party housekeeping account to use on individual campaigns. Using those accounts in such a way is illegal, but it’s a section of Election Law ignored by many and enforced by none.
To briefly re-cap, the commission found that the stat GOP “donated” more than $350,000 to the Independence Party housekeeping account, which in turn presumably spent it to lambaste Democratic candidates for state Senate during the 2012 election. E-mails between Connolly and a GOP operative indicate there is in the least collusion between the two parties though they do fall short of saying where the money actually came from to pay for the ads – the party’s housekeeping account or another account from which money can legally be spent on campaigns.
Yes, there are donation thresholds and other complexities supposedly targeted by the Moreland Commission and reformers across the board but they are beyond the scope of this post. One simple reform the state could accomplish with little or no controversy is abolishing the ability of minor parties to endorse major party candidates.
As I have written before, the party is little more than a money and power grabbing sham that tricks people into voting on the line because of a catchy name. And it’s not much different than the Working Families Party or the Conservative Party. Depending on your ilk, voters may want to see themselves as independent, part of a working family or conservative so they enroll or vote on that line not knowing any better. The WFP and Conservatives may have a philosophical bent to stand on but still rarely run their own candidates. The Independence Party, on the other hand, really stands for nothing.
Just think, without the ability to cross endorse candidates, the four-year long voter fraud scandal would not have happened in Rensselaer County. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to of public money to investigate and prosecute and who knows how much the individual players paid out. Wait … it provided me with nearly endless fodder for nearly four years so by all means, keep cross endorsements alive and well in New York state – it keeps lawyers and journalists in business.