BUFFALO, NY – The Seneca Nation of Indians is currently spending tens of thousands of dollars on air television and radio commercials criticizing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Bills stadium deal.
University at Buffalo Political Science Associate Professor Jacob Neiheisel said the Senecas join a number of downstate lawmakers, Hochul’s political rivals and good government groups in the critique.
“Everything has a political fallout, particularly if public money is involved at some stage,” Neiheisel said.
The Seneca Nation president expressed anger last week at how the governor froze Seneca bank accounts in order to collect long-disputed casino revenue sharing funds. However, Neiheisel believes the ad buys are more than just an expensive pot shot.
“If they’re rational actors, and I assume that everybody involved in politics at some level is, this is much more of a testing the waters in a market that’s not overly saturated yet to see what possible impact it could have,” he said. .
Neiheisel said the public’s memory is short so if the Senecas want to impact Hochul’s election chances, they may fund more ads closer to the primary or general elections. He believes if more groups also target the issue, it could have an aggregate negative impact on the campaign.
The Senecas also criticize Hochul’s connection to the hospitality giant Delaware North. Her husband is the top attorney for the company.
An ethics complaint from Republican attorney general candidate Michael Henry also calls for an investigation into whether Hochul violated Public Officers Law by not recusing herself from negotiations due to the potential conflict of interest. The governor’s office has said the company was neither involved in negotiations nor guaranteed a concessions contract in the future.
Neiheisel said unless an investigation gains real traction, he doesn’t expect it to resonate with voters.
“The partisan nature of it, the fact that we were in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, a couple with this is just New York, that it’s really going to have much of an impact,” he said.
Neiheisel said as Hochul’s campaign continues, the issue may become less about whether or not she made the right or wrong decisions, but how she is able to sell it to voters.