Tonawanda News

August 3, 2012

Witryol: Maziarz mailer 'misleading' voters

By Michael Regan , michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Democratic state Senate candidate Amy Hope Witryol took state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, to task Thursday for using public funds to send out a mailer promoting his support for a law that’s already on the books at the federal level. 

She called the literature, which touts Maziarz’s vote in favor of the Public Assistance Integrity Act aimed at ending abuses in the welfare system, a political ploy that “may well violate laws intended to prevent elected officials from using public money for private purposes.” 

“It’s time to end the job-killing political corruption,” she said. 

Predictably, Maziarz sees the issue differently. Contacted by phone Thursday for his response, Maziarz said Witryol’s accusations were just another in a long line of erroneous accusations, including a lawsuit she has filed over Maziarz’s attempt gain the backing of the Working Families Party — normally a Democratic stronghold — and attempts to tie him to the hazardous waste industry. 

“She is a desperate candidate,” he said. “She is wrong in that I get a mail budget like every other Senate member and we passed this (welfare reform) legislation with the support of Gov. Cuomo and 56 out of 62 members.”

However Witryol, posted in front of North Tonawanda City Hall with a small group of supporters in Mazarz’s hometown, said she has sent a Freedom of Information request to the senator’s office seeking additional details on the mailers. She also believes that because the mailers were sent from his Lockport office, the literature may have violated state law. 

Witryol drew a comparison to a former Maziarz rival, ex-state Sen. Antoine Thompson, who was criticized for using taxpayer funds to create and distribute a book touting his accomplishments in the heat of a political campaign.

“When you receive official communication from a member of the New York state Senate on your dime you would expect it to be professional and for the benefit of the public,” Witryol said. 

Thompson’s publication was a 102-page soft cover book with 15 color photos of the senator. The Maziarz mailer in question is a two-sided glossy card stock. The front contains color images evoking casinos, bars, strip clubs and other places where welfare recipients could previously use an EBT card to withdraw cash, presumably to buy liquor, cigarettes, lottery tickets and other luxuries that state assistance is not intended to underwrite. It includes the tagline “Senator George Maziarz ... Fighting to protect your tax dollars.” The back includes information on what the bill does to close the welfare loopholes.

The state Senate bill was drafted in response to a federal law that mandated all states pass such restrictions by 2014 or face the possible loss of welfare money the federal government gives to states to dole out. The state Assembly has yet to take up the legislation.

Maziarz also responded to Witryol’s suggestion that the mailers had targeted only a section of his constituents, admitting that was the case but noting that there were no illegalities involved. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.