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Editorials

Erie County’s Independence Party: Claims and Rebuttals
By Gary S. Howell
Feb 6, 2007, 19:32
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A recent article in the Buffalo News raised issues about the current connection between the Independence Party and the Democratic Party. (1)

After the article appeared, a political website, with ostensible ties to Independence Party Chairman Tony Orsini, attempted to rebut the claims. (2)

The Buffalo News article claims the Independence Party has no listed telephone number and no central offices. A quick check in the phone book substantiates this claim. (1)

The News article also said that if anyone wanted to reach the Party they could call 853-2511, the phone number for the Erie County Democratic Party. A call to that number on Monday verified the claim.

Independence Party Chairman, Tony Orsini claims the Party has a headquarters on Genesee Road, in Springville, and a phone number (592-7898).

If you look in the phone book, you will discover that Mr. Orsini lives on Genesee Road, in Springville and that the number he quoted is his home phone number.

The Buffalo News article stated:

“ties between Democrats and the Independence Party are now so strong that workers in Democratic Headquarters often process Independence petitions and other paperwork”.

The News article stated further:

Local Independence Party officials dispute the notion they are Democrats in disguise, especially on the town level. But a combination of a number of factors invites new scrutiny of the area's biggest minor party:

They include:

Party backing for Democrats in all major races last year except in state legislative districts with no chance for Democrats because of the overwhelming Republican enrollment advantage.

Involvement of Democratic Party officials, including Executive Director Kathleen A. Callan, in preparation of Independence petitions. Other workers in Democratic Headquarters and on the Democratic staff of the County Legislature also help circulate petitions, even for committee members.

Involvement of Charles E. Eaton, chief of staff to Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, in preparing Independence Party petitions for committee members pledged to Anthony L. Orsini, the party's Erie County chairman. The Higgins campaign also was the largest single contributor in the second half of last year to Orsini's party expense account.


Orsini did not specifically rebut these claims in the website comments.

The News article quoted several Republicans:

"It's really become an arm of the Democratic Party," Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr said.

"There's no question about it," added Robert E. Davis, former chairman of the Erie County Republican Party. "It used to be an open line; there was a level playing field; and the Independence Party would look for someone who was really independent. In the last few years, it's just another party for the Democrats."


Orsini did not rebut these claims. However, his response to them is interesting.

“Six years ago, Ralph Mohr wanted two things: 1) removal of Charlie Flynn as chairman and 2) to have some influence in the Republican Party. His (Mohr’s) staff at the Board of Elections drove me, other members of my family, and others around Erie County to sign up Independence Party members as committeemen to help achieve his goal of supporting Republicans.

“We appreciated his efforts and supported ‘his’ Republican candidates. Bob Davis was very happy when we endorsed 7 of 7 Republicans in Amherst. We also endorsed Davis’ candidate for county executive, Joel Giambra, and many Supreme Court judges. At one point, Davis bragged that he had elected 14 Supreme Court candidates in a row.”


The News article reported Orsini’s appointment to a political patronage job:

Except for Legislator Cynthia E. Locklear of West Seneca, all Democrats in the County Legislature supported Orsini last year for appointment to the board of the Western Region Off-Track Betting Corp. Leonard R. Lenihan, chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, recommended Orsini for the position paying up to $4,000 in expenses, plus health insurance.

Orsini did not respond to this item.

~


Independence Party Chairman Tony Orsini’s bold use of both the Democratic and Republican Party to achieve his political goals is mind boggling. He appears to appreciatively use a Party when it suits his purpose and discard them when, what he perceives to be, a better deal comes along.

Orsini’s response to the Buffalo News article is selectively advantageous to him. He ignores the report on his political appointment to OTB. He doesn’t respond to the evidence that he’s currently working hand-in-glove with the Democrats. And he describes the motivation for help he received from Republicans as self-serving for those who offered favors.

~


(1) Democratic Alliance Gains Independence, by Robert J. McCarthy, The Buffalo News, February 5, 2007

(2) Orsini States Independence Party is Independent, Has it’s own HQ, By an unnamed Staff Writer, PoliticsWNY.com, February 5, 2007.

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