Buffalo, New York - A former Erie County, New York Democratic party chair pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to illegally cause a $25,000 campaign donation from a foreign source to a New York state official running for reelection.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. for the Western District of New York made the announcement.
G. Steven Pigeon, 58, of Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to an information charging him with conspiracy to cause a foreign donation in a state election in violation of federal law. Sentencing is set for Jan. 25, 2019.
As part of his plea, Pigeon admitted that while working as a political consultant and lobbyist in Buffalo, New York, he represented a foreign client, Company A. At the time, the CEO of Company A was Person A, a Canadian citizen. In early 2014, despite knowing that it was illegal to make a foreign donation to a state political campaign, Pigeon solicited Person A to make a $25,000 donation to the reelection campaign of a New York state elected official, Public Official A. The campaign rejected the donation from Person A because Person A was not a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States. Pigeon and Person A then agreed to cause the donation from Person A to be made through Person B, a permanent legal resident of the United States and an employee of Company A. On or about Feb. 24, 2014, as directed by Person A, Person B made a $25,000 donation to Public Official A’s campaign. Pigeon and Person A knew that Person A would pay for, or reimburse, the donation. As a result of the $25,000 donation, Pigeon and Person A were granted entry to a fundraising event for Public Official A in New York City on Feb. 26, 2014.
“Steven Pigeon undermined the transparency and integrity of the electoral process by funneling foreign money into a campaign,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “The Criminal Division and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting our electoral process and we will aggressively pursue those who seek to circumvent our campaign finance laws.”
“Transparency in political activity, including the disclosure of the sources of political contributions, is a necessary check on the power of money and a necessary ingredient for a healthy democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Schemes such as this, which introduce obfuscation and secrecy into the political process, threaten our very democracy by endeavoring to use anonymity as a means of eliminating accountability.”
The plea is the result of an investigation by the FBI Buffalo Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gary Loeffert; the New York State Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Barbara Underwood; and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Edward Kennedy. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief John Keller of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Bonanno of the Western District of New York.