Jul 28


Mychajliw’s faulty campaign filing

Erie County comptroller is supposed to be a numbers guy. But his campaign disclosure report filed for his race for Hamburg town supervisor is rife with apparent violations.

On Monday, Erie County’s lame-duck comptroller, Stefan Mychajliw, finally submitted a July campaign finance disclosure filing to the New York State Board of Elections.

There are some problems, as there often are with Mychajliw’s campaign finances.

First, this filing — one of two required annually of all candidates for elected office — arrived 11 days late.

Second, the filing was for the campaign committee he used to run for comptroller, when in fact he is running for supervisor of the Town of Hamburg. That’s against the law: You can’t collect money for one office and use the money to run for another. Mychajliw should have registered a new committee or amended his existing one, called Taxpayers for Stefan.

Third, at least two donors — and likely a third — appear to have exceeded the contribution limit for candidates running for Hamburg town offices. 

Let’s begin by looking at some of his donors.

Mychajliw recorded 86 donations from individuals and businesses, totaling $26,250, for an average contribution of about $305.

Just 17 of those donors — 16 individuals, one business — are located in Hamburg, the town Mychajliw hopes to lead as supervisor. The other 69 come from elsewhere in Western New York.

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The list of donors includes a number of local right-wing darlings, including:

  • The Financial Guys, who host a radio show on WBEN more notable for its right-wing politics than its financial advice. Mychajliw recently snuck the Financial Guys — Glenn Wiggle and Mike Lomas — into the Rath Building through a back door so they could harass Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein. Lomas gave $2,000 as an individual and the company gave $500.
  • Robbie Dinero, the Orchard Park gym owner whose defiance of COVID restrictions made him a conservative cause celebre last year. He gave $300.
  • Russ Gugino, a prominent Republican Party operative and actual Hamburg resident, who last month was part of the effort to gather messages of support for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s write-in campaign. He gave $250.
  • Charles Pellien of West Falls, founder of the New York Watchmen and sometime radio show host. He gave $199.
  • Michael Caputo, the former Trump administration official and manager of Carl Paladino’s 2010 campaign for governor, who just moved out of his East Aurora home. Caputo gave $99.

Mychajliw benefitted from a handful of big corporate donations, too. Accadia Site Contracting — a long-time supporter of Mychajliw’s political career — gave two donations totaling $3,500. Tarver Transit of Tonawanda gave $5,000.

Both those donations exceed the $2,196 limit on donations in Hamburg town races. 

Depending on how big his ownership stake in the Financial Guys is, Lomas might be over the limit as well. If he and Wiggle are equal partners, half that $500 given by their company counts toward Lomas’s total, edging him over the cap.

As for expenses, there weren’t many. Mychajliw, a Republican, faced no primary opponent in June. In the six-month period covered by this report, Mychajliw’s campaign spent a little over $3,200. More than half that went toward printing and mailing campaign literature. The campaign also covered more than $900 in cell phone bills.

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Mychajliw will face Democrat Randy Hoak in the November general election. Hoak raised almost $37,000, according to his July filing, which contains no apparent violations of state election law. Hoak lists 316 donations, compared to Mychaliw’s 86. Almost two-thirds of Hoak’s donors are Hamburg residents, according to his filing. 

As a rule, the state Board of Elections seldom investigates a campaign’s filings unless a voter registers a complaint. Even if that were to happen, Mychajliw would likely be afforded an opportunity to amend the filing: to change Taxpayers for Stefan from a comptroller’s committee to a town supervisor’s, to return some of his donors’ money if he accepted too much.

He can’t amend its tardiness. For that he could, but probably won’t, be fined.

News and analysis by Geoff Kelly, Investigative Post's political reporter