The Independence Party Convention

or too much night air

joseph tiraco

                    The cult dominated Independence Party staged a sellout to the Republican Party at the Brooklyn Marriot’s Grand Ballroom - a heavyweight title contest for Row C on the November ballot; Governor of New York State, George Pataki, against his old nemesis, billionaire businessman, B. Thomas Golisano. The inevitable clash was toe to toe razzle-dazzle.


                    The weekend nominating convention began Friday night with dueling candidate receptions in two posh hotel suites adjoining the Grand Ballroom, the arena for the political fight on the morrow. Pataki’s open bar, vegi-dip and salted hors d’oeuvres contended with Golisano’s rolling bar, bonne bouche and Italian pastries. The state’s political elite drifted in small knots from suite to suite sampling the goodies. Notables and notorious huddled in dark corners whispering the details of deals; for all its outward sophistication, under the surface, this was a Persian marketplace for buying and selling votes. The state’s third largest voting block, 200,000 registered voters, was quietly up for sale, and the who’s who of New York politics: Pataki, McCall, Spitzer, Hevesi, just to drop a few names, had agents in the crowd. Conspicuously absent was the Cuomo camp. Andrew Cuomo had followed Hillary Clinton’s lead, and publically denounced Marxist radical Lenora Fulani for her anti-Semitic and anti-American statements. Nevertheless, sandwiched between Pataki’s daughter and lieutenant governor Mary Donahue, Lenora Fulani beamed in constant nutation; whatever the conversation, it clearly pleased her.


                    The Roman Emperor Vespasian, who taxed even the use of public urinals, is said to have thrust coins under his disapproving son’s nose and barked, “see, the money has no smell.” Governor Pataki seems to have reached the same conclusion about votes and voters, once cast retain no lingering odor. Days prior to the Independence convention, Pataki attended a fund raiser for the Manhattan Independence Party, the hardcore center of the Newman-Fulani cult and the seat of their power. In a room where cameras and reporters were strictly verboten, the Governor of New York sat squarely between Newman and Fulani, whose radical cult the FBI once labeled, “armed and dangerous.” Details of their conversation never left the tightly sealed room, but the ten-million dollar taxpayer guarantied bond for the cult’s tax-exempt corporation (the governor recently pushed through the state legislature) and state jobs for family members of Independence insiders, would be a good guess. The stage was set for the Pataki nomination.


                    The nominating convention opened on Saturday morning in a cavernous room that could hold the aggregate of all the people who attended all the meetings ever held by the tiny Independence Party. A lost tourist wandering onto the scene would think they chanced upon the Republican Party gubernatorial convention. The room was papered wall to wall with Pataki posters, and only Pataki posters. Republican Party operatives ushered in a steady stream of boisterous Republican Party faithful to fill the room to capacity. Independence members were merely a few strewn corks bobbing on an ocean of Pataki supporters. No one asked how a small party with ten-grand in the bank could afford all this splendor?


                    The entire nominating process, including the speeches, and the voting, took about two hours; enough time to reveal a stark contrast between the two title contenders. Golisano was nominated first. Two state committee people stepped to floor microphones, and in conversational tones, at times almost inaudible, nominated and seconded Tom Golisano as the Independence Party’s gubernatorial candidate. The large audience did not know what they were talking about and strained silently to here their cue - the name “Pataki,” which did not occur. When the Golisano nomination had finished, there was a ripple of polite applause. Then two members of the executive committee rose to nominate Pataki. At the first mention of the name, the crowd broke into a frenzy of whoops and hollers. Republican operatives jumped in front of the crowd to act as cheerleaders, bouncing their palms up to raise the noise level until it became pandemonium, then bouncing palms down so the noise subsided and the speaker at the podium could continue. Once Pataki was nominated, the crowd was again whipped into a frenzy, only this time, men with broadcast television cameras were let lose on the crowd, thrusting lenses inches from faces to capture looks of twisted mayhem up close; a phoney act fed through the boob tube to an inert public. If the ancients were right, and people get the government they deserve, then team-Pataki was giving New Yorkers a full measure of their just deserts.


                    Tom Golisano’s name was called from the podium. The room grew very quiet. A solitary man entered into the stillness from a door at the back of the room. A mature man, steel colored hair and steel rimed glasses offset by his meticulously tailored black suit, strode in deliberate, spry steps across the polished floor to the podium. At this point, the number of Independence Party people in the room became readily apparent. This man was the founder of the party, and the applause by the eighty or so Independence Party people in the room was lost in the cavernous space. He too spoke in conversational tones and in plain unadorned language. He cited statics disagreeing with the rosy picture painted by his opponent. He spoke about time honored values like family, education and opportunity. After fifteen minutes, there was another ripple of polite applause swallowed up by the room. Tom Golisano assumed a deliberate stride across the floor to the same door he had entered by, and without looking back, was gone.


                    Pataki’s entrance and exit were a whirl of commotion. People engulfed his entourage as it traversed the room. His speech was peppered with political jargon, like I&R, and platitudes like, stay the course, while a chorus of, four more years and Pataki Pataki Pataki droned in the background. “I will reverse the Rockefeller drug laws” he said to roaring cheers; but, since these laws are already dead in all but name, close the book on these laws, would have been a more accurate, though less sensational statement. But the distinction is inconsequential.


                    In the end, nothing these two men said mattered, in fact, the entire day was a moot point. Pataki needed the Independence Party ballot line unencumbered, or at least, with a pushover as a primary opponent. Many knowledgeable people think Pataki is out of his mind if he accepts the Independence nod and ventures a September primary against Tom Golisano.


                    What if the governor decided to risk an Independence Primary? Then it's do or die for both men, neither can survive the loss - Pataki would limp beaten and bleeding into the general election, and Golisano must cary the party he founded or get laughed out of politics. If you’re an enrolled Independence voter, that rolling bar from the Grand Ballroom might pull up to your front door, and while you’re chomping on an Italian pastry, the governor could stop by to paint your backyard fence. Even better, Tom Golisano is so enraged with Pataki, he has said that he will spend an unprecedented seventy-five million dollars to beat him. Can Pataki spend less to win? With this staggering sum, they could get group rates at Club-Med, and send the entire Independence Party to Barbados for a few weeks to consider their votes. It gets even better, Donald Trump is an enrolled Independence voter, bitten by the presidential bug. What if George Bush decides to primary Trump for the Independence line? They could make Pataki and Golisano look like pikers. Hell, seventy-five mil is chicken feed in national politics. . . Where are we going with this?


                    More to the point, where is American politics going in the Twenty-First Century? Super spending for campaigns is the current trend, and growing exponentially. The taxpayer is being dragged (or sometimes, like the Pataki-Fulani ten-million dollar deal + jobs, surreptitiously pressed) into campaign financing. Clearly, public campaign financing demands a larger role for the public in politics. We pay for it one way or another. Why not take charge and put an end to campaign madness?

The author can be reached for comment by email,        

New York City

May 24, 2002