The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that Councilman Charles A. Walker, now in his 18th year on the city council, has received dozens of campaign contributions to his political candidacy committee, the Friends of Charles A. Walker, which he did not report to the NYS State Board of Elections.
The list of donors which Walker never disclosed include Mayor Paul Dyster, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Former State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, Niagara County Legislators Dennis Virtuoso and Jason Zona, and former state senator Antoine Thompson.
These and a raft of unions and PACs donated to Walker, the Reporter learned.
Yet Walker, during the last 10 years, never reported a single campaign contribution from anyone.
Financial disclosures, required by State law, and posted on the NYS State Board of Elections' website, require every donation to, and money spent, by a candidate, be reported.
Records in the NYS Board of Elections electronic filing system (publicly available through the New York State Board of Elections website) show Walker did file four reports since 2000. All four reports - dated July 2009, January 2010, July 2010, and January 2013, claim "no activity."
A report of "no activity" is a declaration that the campaign committee of a political candidate has neither received nor spent any funds, and the account has been inactive for the time period covered in that report.
While Walker filed "no activity" for four periods, a cross-referencing of NYS Board of Election records revealed that Friends of Charles A Walker did receive campaign contributions during at least one period in which he claimed "no activity."
The Reporter traced donations to Walker's campaigns because these were made through other candidates' election committees or through PACs (Political Action Committee) which are legally required to report their donations to candidates to the NYS Board of Elections.
Walker's Jan 15, 2010 filing of "no activity" covers the period of July 15, 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. This time period coincides with his reelection in 2009.
Walker claimed he had zero activity, no donations and no expenditures, from July 15, 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. Yet, during that period, NYS Board of Election records shows that:
Antoine Thompson gave Walker $500 on August 12, 2009 and $500 on Sept. 8, 2009.
Thompson, a state senator at the time of the donations, reported his contributions to the Walker campaign. Walker's campaign reports showed no donation being received.
The Friends of Paul Dyster donated $200 on Oct. 15, 2009 and $650 on Oct. 30, 2009 to Walker. Dyster's donations were reported on Dyster's disclosure reports, but not on Walker's - who again claimed "no activity."
Laborers Local #91 donated $500 on August 24, 2009 and $400 on Oct. 6.
The Niagara Falls Firefighters Union gave Walker $750 on Sept. 10, 2009, $350 on October 9, and $650 on Oct. 27.
While there may be others, these donations show Walker accepted $3,750 in donations while claiming he received zero dollars into his campaign account.
Noted election law attorney Peter Reese told the Reporter, "It appears to me based upon reports filed by committees giving money to Walker, that one fraudulent 'no activity' report has been filed. The courts have held that the public has a right to know who is contributing to whom and NY State has decided there has to be disclosure about who is paying for campaigns."
While it is almost unheard of to level criminal charges, it can happen, Reese said. Referring to Joe Mascia, who was recently charged for filing campaign disclosures two years late, Reese said. "If we have a system of equal justice, Walker needs to file some quick amendments or he is in trouble. Remember Joe Mascia hadn't filed false reports, he only filed late reports."
Mascia, an unsuccessful 2012 candidate for the 149th State Assembly District seat, was charged by Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita with filing a late campaign finance report. Mascia pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in April in Buffalo City Court.
Reese pointed out that while Mascia filed late for one election cycle, Walker failed to file for four campaigns. Walker ran for council in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013.
In October 2013, The Buffalo News questioned Walker about why he failed to file disclosures for the 2013 campaign season.
Walker said "he would check with the two people helping to manage his campaign about the unfiled paperwork."
When questioned 10 months later by the Niagara Gazette, in July 2014, about his failure to file for the 2013 campaign, Walker said, "I have to sit down this week or next week to get that figured out."
To date the Reporter has discovered 40 donors who had PACS or election committees. There may be hundreds of others who donated to Walker that we do not know about since they have no legal obligation to report their donations.
Individuals and companies that make campaign donations are not required to file records of their donations. If developer Mark Hamister, for example, made a donation to Walker he would not be required to file a campaign disclosure since he is a private businessman. The only way the public would know about such a donation would be if Walker disclosed it on his returns.
With this in mind, the Reporter contacted Walker to ask him about his years of non disclosure, the dozens of contributors the Reporter discovered, and the January 15, 2010 "no activity" disclosure which is clearly erroneous since he did receive numerous donations.
Reporter: Are you going to continue to ignore this issue?
Walker: I'm not ignoring it. You probably will, over the next few days, begin to see my campaign stuff updated. I'm not ignoring it. Over the next few days you will see all the information begin to go up on the state's website.
R: You have made statements in the past that you were going to file and it hasn't gotten done. Do you have an accurate accounting of your expenses and donations?
W: I do.
R: How do you intend to handle the erroneous January 15, 2010 disclosure where your filed declaring "no activity" yet there are records of numerous donations?
W: I will have to review that because this is the first time I'm hearing it so I have to review that.
R: Did you personally file that 2010 disclosure?
W: I can't make any comments as to what's what. Like I said I'm in the process of filing, getting all my paperwork updated.
R: I have before me a record of several contributions that show activity during that time period. Do you plan to amend that report?
W: I'm going to review all the paperwork and if there is something that is not correct and needs to be amended, we will make that change. We have all the records.
R: Do you know who filed your Jan 2010 "no activity" disclosure?
W: I won't go into all that right now.
R: Will you file reports covering all the years? Going back how far?
W: Whatever the state doesn't have and if there is some discrepancies we will update it all. It's been an unfortunate situation that it has gone on this long. Over the next few days to a week we will have all those papers done on the state's website.
R: We will be able to find that in a weeks' time?
W: In a weeks' time you will be able to review it all.
R: You're giving us a deadline then?
W: Oh yeah. You'll see it all. I have all my records.
R: Is there any reason you didn't file before for all these years?
W: I won't go into that.
R: Did you file the Jan 15, 2010 or was that done by someone else?
W: I won't go into that
R: But you're promising to file by when - the end of the month?
W: Oh yeah before March, around by the 28th, we should have it all in.
|Mayor Paul Dyster, who often relies on Charles Walker to cast critical and deciding votes, donates regularly to Walker's campaigns.
|Former State Representatives Francine DelMonte and Antoine Thompson donated to Charles Walker, their campaign reports show.
Below is a list of campaign contributions to Councilman Charles Walker which to date he never reported. There may be many more.
$500 August 15, 2013 Niagara County Democratic Committee
$750 Sept. 4, 2013 Niagara County Democratic Committee
$1,000 October 19, 2013 Niagara County Democratic Committee
$500 October 21, 2009 Niagara Falls Fire Officers PAC
$200 April 30, 2013 Niagara Falls Fire Officers PAC
$1,400 October 18, 2005 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$140 June 11, 2009 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$70 August 12, 2009 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$790 Sept 10, 2009 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$350 October 10, 2009 Niagara Falls firefighters PAC
$650 October 27, 2009 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$1,400 October 18, 2005 Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC
$300 August 11, 2009 IUOE Local 463 State and Local PAC
$1,000 Sept. 10, 2013 IUOE Local 463 State and Local PAC
$100 July 28, 2004 Committee to Elect Robert Anderson
$100 August 5, 2004 Committee to Elect Byron Brown
$50 October 22, 2005 Friends for DelMonte
$300 June 11, 2009 Friends of Paul Dyster
$50 June 17, 2009 Committee to elect Robert Anderson
$250 August 6, 2009 UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local No 22 PAC
$35 August 9, 2009 Friends of Dennis Virtuoso
$35 August 9, 2009 Friends of Sam Fruscione
$500 August 12, 2009 Friends of Antoine Thompson
$500 August 24, 2009 Laborers Local 91 PAC
$100 August 25, 2009 Bricklayers Allied Craft Workers Local 3 Buffalo Chapter PAC
$500 Sept. 8, 2009 Supporters of Antoine Thompson
$200 October 6, 2009 Friends of Dennis Virtuoso
$400 October 6, 2009 Laborers Local 91 PAC
$200 October 16, 2009 Friends of Paul Dyster
$650 October 30, 2009 Friends of Paul Dyster
$100 August 29, 2013 Friends of Paul Dyster
$100 August 30, 2013 Friends of Dennis Virtuoso
$500 October 3, 2013 UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local No 22 PAC
$100 October 5, 2013 Friends of Dennis Virtuoso
$1,000 October 8, 2013 Northeastern Regional Council of Carpenters PAC
$70 October 10, 2013 Friends of Jason Zona
$100 October 10, 2013 Friends of Paul Dyster