Monthly Archives: October 2012

Livingston County DA Race And Political Hackery

It’s nauseating, of course, but not surprising in the least.  The Republican “Committee” reaffirmed its “support” of Eric Schiener.

“I’m humbled by your show of support,” said Schiener to the committee in a speech following the vote. “You voted tonight for a clean, honest campaign. You voted for professionalism over politics.”


Schiener can’t even maintain this facade long enough to avoid contradicting it multiple times in the same news article.  For one thing, having just mouthed the most pedestrian of political platitudes he goes on:

“I’m not telling the voters about platitudes and high ideals


Of course not.  He’s feeding them platitudes, not “telling about them”.  And “high ideals”?  He’s from Tom Moran’s DA’s office.  What are those?

Then comes the inadvertently revealing admission.  Whereas Schiener regards “high ideals” as just so much bullshit, the real question that animates him and his candidacy is:  who has the power?

Schiener dismissed the thought that a tied primary should have resulted in a closer committee vote.

“The Republican committee members don’t just represent the people who came out Sept. 13. There are 12,000 Republicans who did not go to the polls in the primary, and the committee represents all of them,” he said. “It’s hard for a committee member who’s been told all summer by the other camp that they don’t mean anything, that they don’t matter — I think you saw that sentiment tonight in the overwhelming margin.”

In other words, it’s a power struggle first, last and always and that’s all that matters.  (This, by the way, is the single worst quality of mind that a prosecutor can have.  I often wonder, do people like this tell their children that, say, virtue is bullshit?)  What Schiener is saying is that by the very fact of challenging the committee’s selection in a primary election contest the challenger alienates the committee members.  They respond to the perceived insult with a vote against the challenger.  The committee vote has nothing to do with “professionalism”, or “public service”.  It certainly has nothing to do with “humility”.

Just what is this “committee” and who are its members?  It’s almost too depressing to think about, but maybe this will help so I’ll suffer through it.

Especially in places like Livingston County where government is the only game in town worth playing, the members of political party committees are drawn from the lowest of the low.  As detestable as the “public officials” almost invariably are inasmuch as they are grotesque political hacks, the committee members are lower than that:  political hack wannabes.

How do I know this?  Personal experience.  I was a Republican Committee member in Livingston County myself at one time.  I can relate an anecdote for you.  Hold onto your hats.

Pretty much the main function of a Republican committeeman is to get signatures on nominating petitions to put candidates on the November general election ballot on the party line in compliance with the New York Election “Law”, which I put in quotes because it’s essentially a labyrinthine trap for the unwary designed to ensure advantage to the insiders – like “committee” members – who deal in politics regularly.  (You can see an example of a commonly litigated-over statute from the NY Election Law here.)

So, you know, during my brief time on the Republican Committee I carried these petitions around and got signatures from registered Republicans going door to door, which is how it’s done.  And you meet a lot of people and that’s swell.

One guy I met lived outside the village on a farm.  We exchanged pleasantries and he advised that he used to be a Republican Committee member himself.  I asked him why he quit.  He advised that the reason he got on the committee was that he wanted to sell part of his land and needed a zoning change, the Town Board wouldn’t give it to him, so he got on the committee, got himself elected to the Board and rammed through the zoning change he wanted.

He told me this without the slightest trace of recognition that this had been wrongful, indeed criminal conduct.  Actually he was notably proud of it, thinking himself to have been quite the clever boy.

This is the political culture of Livingston County in a nutshell, especially among the perennially dominant Republican Party whose leader, Lowell Conrad, has been in that position probably 50 years.   The mindset has ossified over decades at an extremely low level of moral functioning, the degradation from which is now reflected in the larger community.  A few years ago, the County was all atwitter with anticipation that a new “business” was coming to town:  a call center for a debt collection agency.  And even that embarrassment of a project collapsed in a hail of scandal, corruption and bribery.

The decay proceeds apace but it’s still hard to notice when you’re in the middle of it.  Except among the young.  They overwhelmingly leave.  Those that stay are either agreeable to embark upon the political hack track; or they are fodder for the largest Livingston County industry:  state prisons.

There has been a great deal of destruction in that time, not just to infrastructure but to the vitality and integrity of the individual inhabitants, the very character of the place and the people.  The road to recovery is difficult and slow, and frankly unlikely to be taken in my lifetime at all. Or even thought about, at least among the kind of people who make up political committees.

And yet there has been this effort by Steve Sessler.  A glimmer.  A subatomic particle of hope.  He’ll have to do it on his own, with a few good people.  Or perhaps I should say a few good men, since Steve is, after all, a Marine.

Semper Fi and all that, Steve.  I hope you make it.  There are people in Livingston County who deserve you, or at least a change in the status quo.

You honor them and yourself.  Thanks for running a great campaign, and a great effort.


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Filed under financial crisis, Judicial lying/cheating, Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions

Sessler-Schiener DA Race (Updated)

So Steve Sessler, exceeding any reasonable expectation, battled Tom Moran’s heir apparent, Eric Schiener, to a draw.  A literal draw at 1881 votes apiece.

I don’t live in Livingston County, but I did at one time.  My family roots there run very deep.  My mother is buried at St. Rose cemetery in Lima.  Her maiden name was Hogan.  Her father was a lawyer in Livingston County for many years.

So, you know, I’m not indifferent to the outcome here, even aside from the grotesque misconduct of the largely interloping public officials there that I unfortunately experienced first hand in the first decade of the 21st century.

Livingston County in the 21st century, it turns out, is a political cesspool.  The administration of criminal justice there has been an especially despicable area of governmental endeavor, and not just on my watch.  Of course, the primary responsibility for that resides with the long time District Attorney of the County – Tom Moran.

At least since 2004 Eric Schiener had been aware of widespread and serious – and indeed criminal – problems in the District Attorney’s office where he worked.  He told me so himself.  His response, unfortunately, was to do….nothing, other than look the other way or worse – to go along.

It should go without saying that this disqualifies him from becoming the elected District Attorney of Livingston County, but among the Livingston County Committee Republicans it apparently doesn’t.  They backed Schiener reflexively and in lockstep in endorsing him over Sessler to begin with; and in all likelihood they will back him again tonight, breaking the tie in his favor.

There are times, though, that party fealty becomes slavish devotion to political power and muscle at the expense of the public good.  This is one of those times.  If the political leaders of Livingston County – and that’s what party committee members are – prefer police who are cynical, rapacious (literally) and self serving armed thugs on the prowl for the largest piece of the pie their superior influence and firepower can bring them; along with opportunistic and authority abusing lawyer-prosecutors whose only real purpose is to feather their own nest at the expense of everyone else, then Schiener’s their man.

It’s a sad fact that in Livingston County this represents continuity of political leadership, calamitous though that might be.  If you doubt this take a drive around the County anytime.  All the signs are there.  Other than the County seat of Geneseo which is perennially flush with government money the area is a hollowed out backwater.  The charm and former prosperity have been sucked out of every other village.  Young people with any character or prospects flee at their earliest opportunity and never return.

But if, on the other hand, the committee members have the slightest inclination to put their less politically aware neighbors’ welfare, and that of their disintegrating community – not to mention such considerations as rewarding virtue and not vice – ahed for a change, then they will make a break with recent history and go with Sessler.

One problem with the obscene corruption of the Livingston County law enforcement establishment the committee members might ponder as they weigh their options is this:  you never know if or when a spotlight will hit.  And if it does it’s a terribly shameful event, the culprits scattering like roaches in a filthy, darkened kitchen when the lights are suddenly turned on.

Don’t cast your lot with the roaches.

Update:  What a remarkable job the Sessler campaign is doing.  They might even get Justice Ark to do the right thing.  It wouldn’t be the first time, and it seems the Livingston County political establishment might have pissed him off.

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Filed under Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions