A former New York Democratic Party county chair was charged with unlawfully soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign national and conspiracy to commit such an offense, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Steven Pigeon previously headed up New York’s Erie County Democratic Committee. He now faces charges that carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. of the Western District of New York.
“Between 2010 and 2015, Pigeon was working, among other things, as a political consultant and lobbyist and ran various companies that were engaged in such consulting and lobbying activities. One of Pigeon’s clients was an online gaming company based in Montreal, Canada that was founded and operated by a Canadian national. Between 2010 and 2015, that Canadian company paid approximately $388,000 to Pigeon and his companies, for among other things, lobbying efforts aimed at the legalization of internet gambling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Bonanno said in a statement.
According to a complaint unsealed Monday morning, between Jan. 31, 2014, and Feb. 25, 2014, Pigeon sought and coordinated a $25,000 donation from the founder and CEO of a Canadian online gambling company for the re-election campaign of a candidate for statewide public office.
Defense attorney for Pigeon, Paul Cambria, told NY State of Politics the candidate in question was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Under federal law, a foreign national cannot donate to any federal, state or local races.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that after the contribution was rejected two separate times, it was finally sent through a person from Florida.
Cambria told NY State of Politics that the U.S. citizen in Florida was an attorney for the Canadian businessman who claims he was just made aware of the federal probe.
“If somebody’s going to claim that that contribution was illegal, I think there’s a real question about that. Why aren’t all the other participants, direct participants being charged?” Cambria asked.
Cambria says Cuomo’s campaign and the Florida lawyer knew very well about what was happening and claims his client, Pigeon, is the only one taking the blame.
“He’s expressed that, many times and feels that there’s political motivation going on, at least from the state’s standpoint,” Cambria said.
However, a Cuomo campaign spokesman denied the accusation from Pigeon’s lawyer telling NYS of Politics, “As is made clear in public record, the campaign rejected donations we believed to be out of compliance with campaign finance laws. We are assisting in this inquiry in any way that we can.”