How Does Carl Paladino Get the 'Tea Party' Tag After Teabagging the Tea Partiers?
Sometimes it's really tough to figure out what's news in New York. Everywhere in America, and on every national cable channel, it's Tea Party talk all the time.
Carl Paladino runs for governor as if he's a Tea Partier and knocks off the ballot the only candidate to actually file petitions as the nominee of some version of the Tea Party and nobody thinks it's news.
Who knows who's a legitimate Tea Partier?
There's no question that the party Paladino just wiped out -- in a court decision affirmed unanimously late yesterday by the appellate division in Albany -- is some zany byproduct of Independence Party leaders in Westchester and Long Island, one of whom is a big strip bar owner.
Their candidate, liability lawyer Steve Cohn, collected 45,000 signatures, far more than Paladino's third party, the Taxpayer Party. But he forgot to pick a lieutenant governor and, though that's been happening for decades, Paladino got a court to rule that running without a sidekick is unconstitutional.
Never mind that Jimmy McMillan, who ran for governor in 2006 and is running again now as the candidate of the Rent's Too Damn High Party, has never had a running mate and will not only still be on the ballot, but is slated to appear in next Monday's only gubernatorial debate. State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin told the Voice no candidate "will be rejected unless challenged," meaning that Paladino's decision to only challenge the Tea Party allows a party like McMillan's to run, even though the courts have ruled such a single-candidate ticket unconstitutional.
As questionable as the Steve Cohn group might be, Paladino's Tea Partiers are no jewels either, and they never even bothered to form a party or file as one, like the suburban gang did. In fact, Paladino's Tea Partiers, Rus Thompson and James Ostrowski, are downstate haters, leading a Western New York secession movement. And they've combined to collect $41,467 as consultants on Paladino's campaign payroll, with Thompson actually nominated for comptroller on Paladino's third party, the Taxpayer Party. Indeed Thompson is Paladino's driver, and is widely credited with being the guy who talked his hero into running.
Tough guy Rus, a concrete truck salesman, is known to bark back at Duke, the pitbull Thompson and Paladino use to scare babies.
In the Paladinoland, it's not just gays or blacks or Jews like Shelly Silver who are villains. It's everyone within commuting distance of the city.
Consider Ostrowski's blog post on September 30, entitled "We Need to Separate": "the subtext of the fight between Carl and the NYC press is this: NYC hates Upstate. Upstate doesn't like them either. Let's separate. If you drive to work in NYC, you stay with them. If not, you stay in the new New York State. The city and its burbs will be called the new state of NYC. Case closed."
Thompson told Glenn Beck "unless we separate them from us, they will continue to set destructive policies for the rest of the state." Thompson, Ostrowski and Paladino allied with one another in early 2009 at the first Tea Party rallies in the Buffalo area, where Thompson announced at one protest: "If we are to survive here in Western New York, then we need to split from NYC." Demanding a referendum on secession, Thompson declared that March at one rally: "Let upstate be upstate." Their rallies are flooded with 51st State t-shirts. "We're tired of being the redheaded stepchild," Thompson told WABC in a diatribe about "the anger and frustration" upstate feels about downstate.
Geographic divisiveness is only part of the Thompson/Ostrowski line. Ostrowski has written a book championing the end of public education, saying that "government schools are turning into fornicatoriums featuring more and more sex." Another book, called "Direct Action: We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot," urged the formation of neighborhood militias. "We do not accept the legitimacy of the regime," Ostrowski wrote, a reference to the Obama administration.
Paladino hired him to do research for the campaign and he said he "did almost everything, Medicaid, schools" for about two months before leaving the campaign. He still regards Paladino as "a folk hero in western New York," warning that city residents "will find that out on election day. Calling Paladino a "fellow traveler," Ostrowski nonetheless said he'd never discussed his secession ideas with him. He insists that "the way Carl has been treated is symptomatic of a larger problem," which is: "We have two New York states." In one Tea Party rally speech in 2009, Ostrowski said: "We need 25 more Carl Paladinos."
Paladino himself has never addressed directly the question of secession, but he has told a Hornell, NY audience before the primary in September that he likes Staten Island and Queens because they are "just like us." That leaves Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, he added, and "they can have them," suggesting different boundaries than Ostrowski for his two-state solution.
The supercharged rhetoric, of course, bears no relation to reality. The two prime studies done on this question -- one in 1999 and the other in 2004 -- revealed that "upstate communities, both urban and rural, are significant net recipients of revenue from downstate." The latest study calculated that the city's net contribution to the state was $11 billion a year, if the personal income tax payments are allocated "according to the workplace of tax payer." That means people who work in NYC paid $11 billion more in taxes than the city got in state services or subsidies.
Upstate metropolitan areas like Buffalo, the study found, were "net recipients of almost $4 billion." The study, done by the Rochester-based Center for Government Research, was using data almost a decade old, but most observers believe the disproportion is even greater now, with the city and suburbs carrying upstate on their financial backs.
The Buffalo News noted recently that Paladino is "still not campaigning extensively in the city or suburbs," and interviewed a number of downstate GOP leaders who were dismayed by it. The story described Paladino's campaign as "a supposedly statewide effort that appears barely operating beyond Buffalo."
Research assistance: Lily Altavena, Samantha Cook, Ryan Gellis, Jared Greenfield