Advertisement

NY’s Hochul, Heastie ‘abused’ power to party in Buffalo Bills luxury suite: complaint

A complaint filed with the state's ethics watchdog agency accues Gov. Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Crystal People- Stokes of abusing their positions by turning the state's VIP luxury suite at the Buffalo Bills Stadium.
A complaint filed with the state's ethics watchdog agency accues Gov. Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Crystal People- Stokes of abusing their positions by turning the state's VIP luxury suite at the Buffalo Bills Stadium.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and other top New York Democrats were accused of turning a luxury suite at the Buffalo Bills stadium into a private party room during a marquee game last year, The Post has learned.

Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Crystal People-Stokes took over the VIP luxury suite for the Dec. 17, 2023 game against the Dallas Cowboys — with a guest list that included a lobbyist Heastie’s been tied to romantically, according to a complaint filed with the state’s ethics watchdog.

“It is clear that the public officials secured the benefit of the use of the box and the tickets for themselves and their guests for their private benefit and/or non-governmental purposes,” lawyer David Grandeau said in a March 28 letter to the NYS Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and other top New York Democrats were accused of turning a luxury suite at the Buffalo Bills stadium into a private party room. ZUMAPRESS.com
Gov. Kathy Hochul and other top New York Democrats were accused of turning a luxury suite at the Buffalo Bills stadium into a private party room. ZUMAPRESS.com

Grandeau, who  formerly served as the state’s chief regulator of the lobbying industry, added,  “They clearly abused their power to generate a valuable perk for themselves and the lobbyists that accompanied that was not available to everyday New York citizens and taxpayers.”

Heastie’s alleged girlfriend Rebecca LaMorte, lobbyist-college chum Patrick Jenkins and Jenkins’ wife, Dawn Cotter-Jenkins, were also in the suite at Highmark Stadium.

Buffalo native Hochul is a diehard Bills fan.
Buffalo native Hochul is a diehard Bills fan.

LaMorte was listed in a state report as “self employed,” not as a lobbyist and it was only later revealed by NY Focus that she was dating Heastie.

Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, a former top administrator with the Buffalo Bills’ concessionaire, Delaware North, also sat in the state’s cozy “I Love New York” suite controlled by the Empire State Development Corp as a guest of the governor.

The economic development agency reports to the governor.

Buffalo native Hochul is a diehard Bills fan, while Heastie from the Bronx and Jenkins of Queens are Dallas Cowboy fans.

Hochul, in a statement on X, suggested Heastie’s presence in the stadium suite had more to do with their Bills-Cowboy rivalry than any official business.

Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, is a former top administrator with the Buffalo Bills’ concessionaire. Kevin C. Downs for NY Post
Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, is a former top administrator with the Buffalo Bills’ concessionaire. Kevin C. Downs for NY Post

“As Buffalonians, @CPeoplesStokes  and I both believe in tolerance for those with opposing opinions… and that’s why we decided to allow a certain @dallascowboys fan to join us at the@BuffaloBills  game,” Hochul said of Heastie, who wore a Cowboys jacket and cap.

“Sorry about the score, @CarlHeastie ! Let’s go Buffalo!,” the governor crowed of the Bills 31-10 victory.

The state’s panel on ethics and lobbying acknowledged receiving Grandeau’s complaint.

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention,” the commission investigations division said.

The 16-seat VIP suite is run by ESD to help boost or promote New York’s economy.

As The Post previously reported, Tom Perez, a top aide to President Biden, sat in the state suite during the Bills Jan. 21 playoff game against Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs.

The report filed by ESD on attendance at the suite during Bills’ games last season said the Hochuls, Heastie, LaMorte, Jenkins and others made charitable donations equal to the value of the seat in the 16-seat suite.

But Grandeau claimed the fact that they all made charitable donations is evidence that they were at the game for personal benefit, not in their official capacity.

Grandeu also told The Post, “What was lobbyisting Patrick Jenkins doing in the suite? How did he get access?

“This is a simple case. You can’t use your government position to see your favorite team in a luxury box. It’s wrong. Enough is enough,” he said.

Hochul’s office insisted she did everything by the book.

“Following the guidelines governing the ESD suite, Governor Hochul gathered with members of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and Western New York leaders at the Bills game where they discussed the region’s infrastructure and economic growth. The Governor followed all State guidelines regarding usage of this space, including using personal funds to pay $531.00 to cover the cost of tickets,” said Hochul spokesman Avi Small.

The Bills determined the value of a ticket for the Bills game was $177.00 and Hochul made a donation of $531.00 to FeedMore WNY.

A.J. Baynes, CEO of the Amherst business group, said Hochul’s attendance in the suite “led to a very productive discussion on critically important infrastructure for the future of the town of Amherst.”

Heastie’s office declined requests to comment.

Heastie’s office requested to utilize the suite, which the ESD “honored as a courtesy”, said ESD spokesman Matthew Gorton.

“All guests were notified of the rules regarding lobbyists’ attendance and public reporting requirements in advance of the game,” the spokesman added.

While Hochul said she paid $531 for tickets, Buffalo Bills luxury suites could fetch between $9,000 – $30,000 for a regular season home game — depending on the opponent, date and suite, according to the Suite Experience Group.

Grandeau scoffed at the low value of the ticket for the state’s “I Love NY” suite.

Former Gov. David Paterson paid a $62,150 fine in 2011 to settle an ethics probe for using his position to get Yankees tickets.