John Faso, a Columbia County Republican running to fill the open seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District, has slapped his GOP primary opponent Andrew Heaney with a cease and desist letter to stop “knowingly spreading falsehoods in his advertisements and public statements.”
And Heaney’s response: Sue me!
The letter, sent from Faso’s attorney and released via his campaign, says Heaney, his campaign treasurer and the New York Jobs Council, an anti-Faso super PAC that’s been running ads against Faso, should publicly retract the “deliberate falsehoods and stop using related advertisements” being used against him.
“The most important qualities voters should look for in an elected official are character and integrity,” Faso said. “By making and recklessly repeating these false charges, Mr. Heaney has demonstrated that he is willing to say and do anything to advance his political career.”
But in a statement Heaney, a Dutchess County heating oil executive, defended the statements as true. The political advertisements refer to a 2010 settlement that Faso’s former law firm, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, made with the office of the former state attorney general, now-governor Andrew Cuomo.
Stemming from a pension pay-to-play scheme, Manatt paid a $550,000 fine and agreed to a five-year ban from appearing before any public pension fund in New York. The firm admitted no wrongdoing. The settlement said that the firm worked as unlicensed financial broker working to help companies win business with New York’s massive pension funds. Manatt received fees for successfully placing an investment with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, but its other efforts failed.
The settlement says one partner of the firm, who is referred to only as an “Albany-based partner/lobbyist” and who practiced law, government relations and lobbying, introduced alternative investment firms to pension funds that included the New York State Common Retirement Fund, New York City pension funds and the New York State Teachers Retirement System.
“The Albany-based partner/lobbyist was not licensed as a placement agent or securities broker; nor did he include these activities on his New York State or New York City lobbying disclosure forms,” the settlement says.
Though Faso was not named in the settlement, he was subject to its terms like the rest of the firm of more than 400 members. When Faso left the firm in 2013 he was no longer subject to it. Faso has said he never acted as a placement agent in the firm and was never subpoenaed. Bill O’Reilly, Faso’s campaign spokesman, has previously said the investigation into Faso was politically motivated.
“The facts are the facts: John Faso was politically targeted in 2010 by a famously vindictive Andrew Cuomo; he was parsed to the minutia, and found to have done nothing wrong,” O’Reilly said.
At the time, Faso was identified by some outlets as the Albany insider in the settlement. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said Faso was one of the people who helped secure investments. The Times Union cited a source close to the investigation arranged or tried to arrange investment firms and state pension funds.
Despite the letter Heaney, in a statement, doubled down on the issue Thursday, saying that Faso is the unnamed person in the settlement and challenging Faso to sue the campaign.
“John Faso is the ‘Albany-based partner lobbyist’ who was sanctioned by the Attorney General for violating state laws, he knows it, the press knows it and absolutely everyone in Albany knows it. But like his Albany pals Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, John Faso thinks he is above the law and will lie to the people of the 19th Congressional rather than admit his crimes. John Faso, please sue our campaign! We would run to court eager to prove what everyone knows,” Heaney said.
Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is retiring. The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.