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How closely is Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster linked to the well-heeled Buffalo law firm of Phillips Lytle?

On Tuesday of last week, the same day the Niagara Falls Reporter revealed that the law firm was hosting a swanky $250-per-person cocktail party to help finance his campaign, Dyster was sitting in the swank HSBC Arena luxury suite Phillips Lytle is rumored to pay as much as $100,000 for every year in order to impress hick politicians and other clients.

There the mayor watched the unimpressive Sabres drop a 1-0 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. Wearing a sports jersey and baseball cap like many other beer-swilling rubes in attendance, Dyster was wined and dined by the law firm in the style he hopes to become accustomed to.

The nearest a mere mortal can get to sitting in a luxury suite is a seat in the 200 Club Center level, tickets for which retail at $136. These differ from the luxury suites in that they don't have tables loaded up with gourmet food, a wet bar or a fridge full of beer available for free to hockey fans seated there.

Dyster's relationship to Phillips Lytle begs for closer examination. Why in the world would a Buffalo law firm want to throw an expensive shindig for the mayor of a town where 67 percent of the schoolchildren live in households that are below the federal poverty level?

Why would they lavishly entertain that same mayor -- it's uncertain whether any cronies or other Dyster family members also attended -- in a luxury suite at the HSBC Arena?

Maybe it's all just out of the goodness of their little hearts.

Phillips Lytle, after all, is a law firm, and aren't most law firms known for being kind and generous?

Or maybe there's another reason.

One of the hosts of the Dyster fundraiser is Phillips Lytle attorney Alisa A. Lukasewicz, who recently served as corporation counsel for the city of Buffalo. The other is Kenneth A. Manning, a partner in Phillips Lytle, who specializes in, among other things, labor law.

Dyster's desperate dive for big bucks in Buffalo hearkens back to the worst cases of influence-peddling Niagara Falls has ever seen. Where's the FBI when you need them?

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 22, 2011