Sunday, May 27, 2007

Who is Joe Latini? (Or, the return of the llamas.)

I covered the Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County Republican party conventions at the Radisson Hotel in Holtsville Thursday evening. But the most interesting part of the evening involved Riverhead politics.

After the proceedings ended, I was chatting casually with the man who's running for tax receiver — I'm sorry but his name escapes me; I didn't write it down — when this other man I'd never met before came over and joined the conversation.

He started telling the tax receiver candidate he should move to Riverhead, like he himself had done. Things are so easy out there, he said. You can really influence elections. It's so small. Etc. He said, you can knock incumbents out so easily, because without the committee designation, there's no way they can win a primary. And then he started bragging about what he did in the last town election in Riverhead.

"I did it to Rose," he boasted. "And I can't wait to do it to Barbara. She's not going to get re-elected. She's not even going to get the nomination," he said with a big smile. "And I'm going to be grinning from here to here." He pointed at his ears with his two forefingers.

All right, then. I wasn't sure how, or whether, to respond to this. Who the heck was this guy? That's what I wanted to know. So I asked. Joe Latini, he told me. I introduced myself, but I'm fairly certain he knew exactly who he was talking to when he came over and said these things about Riverhead politics, Rose Sanders — who got railroaded out of office in a very sleazy campaign in 2005 — and Barbara Blass, who has a target on her back now. (Her party is mad at her for supporting Rose in the 2005 primary, among other things.)

Joe Latini. He lives in Wading River, apparently a recent transplant, because he was the Republican candidate for county legislator in the 5th district in 2003. He ran against Vivian Viloria-Fisher, the deputy presiding officer of the county legislature.

Blass, a Riverhead Republican, and Fisher, an East Setauket Democrat, have one thing in common that I know of (besides gender): the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum wants them both out of office.

I don't recall whether LIEVF took an official position against Sanders in 2003. But LIEVF board member Anthony Coates, who ran Republican Ed Densieski's failed supervisor campaign in 2003, was involved in creating a couple of very nasty anonymous mailers that went out to Republican voters on the eve of the GOP primary. (The Riverhead GOP didn't support their incumbent councilwoman, Sanders, nominating instead John Dunleavy. Sanders ran a primary campaign to try to get the nomination.) One of the anonymous mailers had a picture of Sanders, Blass and Hillary Clinton at an anti-Broadwater rally, organized by the Anti-Broadwater Coalition (of which LIEVF is a member). It didn't mention Broadwater; it just said, "Birds of a feather?" obviously trying to smear Sanders and Blass by associating them with the devil Hillary. Pretty ironic, a LIEVF board member involved in creating a mailing that slammed a candidate with a picture taken at an anti-Broadwater rally sponsored by a coalition LIEVF belongs to.

The News-Review tracked down the name of the owner of the vacant condo whose address was the return addresss on the anonymous mailer: Christopher Carbonne. We also tracked down the name of the mailing house that owned the bulk mail permit used on the mailer, Village Graphics. Anthony Coates admitted to me that he was the one who involved Chris Carbonne, a graphic artist, in the Sanders mailings. Carbonne was a personal acquaintance, he said. But Coates claimed, quite incredibly in my opinion, that he didn't know who had placed the order or who paid for the mailings. Carbonne and Village Graphics both wouldn't say.

LIEVF's campaign finance disclosure statements, posted online at the board of elections Web site, show a $1,725 payment to Christopher Carbonne, Inc. for "graphic design and printing" and a $540 payment to Village Graphics, "mail house" both on Nov. 3, five days before the 2005 general election. I looked at all of LIEVF's disclosures that are posted online. These were the only payments to Carbonne and Village Graphics ever made by LIEVF, at least for the eight reporting periods for which statements are posted online. So, did LIEVF order and pay for the Sanders mailers? Oh, irony of ironies, LIEVF paying for an anonymous mailer slamming a candidate with a picture taken of her at an anti-Broadwater event!

This was a question I had to ask. So I called up LIEVF's treasurer, Richard Amper, and asked him.

No, no, Amper said.

"That was a mailing we did against Viloria-Fisher," he told me.

Villoria-Fisher's opponent in 2005, Joe Michaels, doesn't list any in-kind contributions showing payment for mailings by LIEVF. (He shows one contribution from LIEVF, for $100, on Oct. 28, 2005.) But if it was the same nasty, anonymous mailer — an attack piece on the incumbent rather than a piece soliciting support for Michaels, maybe Michaels wouldn't have to disclose it by law. Or maybe, as Sanders' opponent John Dunleavy claimed in 2005, he knew nothing about it. Funny, if there was a nasty anonymous attack piece against Villoria-Fisher, she doesn't remember it. (I called and asked.) You'd think she would, but, she said, she tries not to dwell on the negative.

I guess we just have to take Dick Amper's word for it that LIEVF didn't pay Carbonne and Village Graphics for the anti-Sanders attack pieces.

It's interesting that Riverhead's got all these Brookhaven "players" involved in its local politics now. And maybe a little scary. Just like Latini said, Riverhead is small. And, yes, it's elections are probably very easy to influence, compared to a town like Brookhaven. But though it's a small town, it's got big issues, and lots of land. There are deals to be cut and there's money to be made. It's very appealing to these "players." The fun has just begun.


anonymous said...

bravo denise - slimy operatives who run anti-green, race-baiting campaigns shouldn't be mistaken for progressives. and real environmentalists should be careful about whom they associate with.

Minor Party Maven said...

I see you are starting to connect the dots. All isn't as it seems; the so-called good guys can be bad guys. They may hide their income behind PACs and not-for-profit tax filings. Being in a major political party, even your Democratic Party, is about falling in line. Let's not make Sanders/Blass into saviors -- yet. Their usefulness to the two-party system had ended, that's all. It would prove a lot, though, if they were to run independent of the system and really change things in Riverhead. Whether they are ready to be mavericks will be determined soon, as petition season approaches. Blass for supervisor. Sanders for council.

Anonymous said...

Civilettti, if what you’re reporting Joe Latini is taking credit for something you believe he didn’t do – he’s another opportunistic wanabee - why give him space on your blog?… casting out another line? Hey Joe! I can’t wait it’s done to you – see if you like having a target on your back.

Did you think it was fair to Riverhead that Rose Sander’s had two town jobs at the same time? Apparently the people don’t see it that way. The only “sleazy” part of those pieces that I can see was Mr. Sander’s salary was mentioned in one.

Mr. Anthony Coates had nothing to do with these pieces...How do I know? Coates was sent a copy before it went out as a courtesy – may be a little reporter dumpster diving was in order for you to find this out? You have been so far off the mark. I see you’ve been fishing for almost two years…time to check your soggy bait and move on…Fisher did.

The LIEVF suggestions in your blog and your semi-sarcastic “taking Dick Amper’s word” were uncalled for. You found nothing – wait you found that LIEVF paid for something. Do your homework again. Figure out how many mailings (postage, and setup), cost of design work and 4-color printing. Do you have access to that info? If you did investigate or did some research, you would have concluded postage for three pieces alone would exceed the Village Graphics payment considerably and the same for Carbonne’s share. But you didn’t. Good work!

The fun began long ago Civilettti…more to come!

Matthew T Meng said...

Denise’s May 27 article “Who is Joe Latini? Or, the Return of the Llamas” stained her reputation as a journalist and makes her look foolish. First, she got it wrong. Second, it’s all suggestion and innuendo, contradicted by the all the evidence she ignored. And third, it’s just plain stupid.

First the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum did not produce anonymous, attack ads against Rose Sanders. I’m on the LIEVF Board, I was there and I know. If Denise had been a good reporter she would have presented the facts. We did a mailing supporting Republican Joe Michaels against Democrat Vivian Fisher because we don’t think she’s a real environmentalist. It wasn’t anonymous – it had our name on it. It wasn’t mean or ugly – look at it and decide for yourself. The ad and the expenses for producing and mailing it were available from the Board of Elections and we offered to supply them to her. She ignored it all.

It gets worse. She said we opposed Blass and wasn’t sure whether we took an official position on Sanders. Her own newspaper reported that we endorsed both. She implies that we were responsible for both the “llama ad”and the one used against Rose and Barbara with Hillary Clinton at an anti Broadwater rally. She asks, “Did LIEVF order and pay for the Sanders mailings?” The B.O.E. files prove the answer is “No.! And why would we attack fellow Broadwater opponents?

Civiletti then wonders why neither Joe Michaels nor Vivian Fisher remember a “nasty, anonymous mailer – an attack piece” in the LIEVF campaign for Michaels. How ‘bout because there wasn’t one! She uses words like “if” and “maybe” and tries to make the reader think she’s found the culprit whose nasty, anonymous attack mailers drove Sanders from office – the Environmental Voters Forum. Read her article again and see how she ignored the facts and her own interviews to impugn our organization.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all for Denise is the stupidity of her premise. Why would LIEVF do nasty anonymous attack ads against our own candidate? Perhaps to elect the candidate we opposed both in the primary and in the general election? It would be like John Kerry running the “Swift Boat” ads against himself in the last presidential election.

It’s almost certain that the anti-Rose and Barbara ads were clandestinely produced by friends of their opponent Ed Densieski who made no secret of wanting to see the two gone and not by LIEVF which publicly supported both of them. Apart from the biased and unsupported innuendo, Denise’s article is most humiliating for her because the whole idea is silly. How embarrassing for her.

Matthew T. Meng
Long Island Environmental Voters Forum