“A QUID PRO CUOMO“
by Sharon Rondeau
We learned of Finley’s resolution through the New York State Grassroots Groups coalition, whose initiatives and news announcements are often published at The Post & Email. The groups seek to overturn the New York SAFE Act, oust corrupt politicians from office, and elect average citizens who are not career politicians.
New York’s new gun law, the SAFE Act, was passed in January 2013 following the murder of 26 schoolchildren and educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, which is approximately 40 minutes from New York City. Many, including the New York State Sheriffs Association, were concerned about the constitutionality of the law and the haste with which it was passed.
The resolution, which Finley read in its entirety in a YouTube video dated January 4, was read into the minutes of the St. Lawrence County legislature’s meeting later that day and can be read here: Russ Finley St. Lawrence County Sanctuary Resolution
Subsequently, The Post & Email contacted Finley to obtain more information about the direction in which he wished his resolution to go. Finley spoke with us while he carried out his daily chores on his beef farm.
The first statement Finley made in regard to the resolution was that “If you can have a sanctuary for an illegal act, then you should be able to have a sanctuary for something that’s constitutionally protected.” An example he provided was the existence of “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens by “willingly and knowingly violating federal law” for which Finley holds Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio responsible.
Finley hopes that the resolution will be adopted by not only St. Lawrence County, but also the other 61 counties in the state.
Finley explained that he believes that a provision in New York’s pistol law which allows judges to place restrictions on gun ownership is unconstitutional. “After the investigation into a person’s background is done, the judge has the final say on the permit. In many counties, the judges say, ‘Full carry-conceal, no problem.’ We have a judge – and there are many other judges in New York – who places restrictions for ‘Sporting use only.’ By observing the ‘sanctuary’ element of the resolution, it supersedes the judge’s placing of restrictions on a pistol permit. There are multiple facets to this. Does it hold a lot of water? No. But what it does do is give the sheriffs, which are the highest-elected official in the county, the right to supersede the state police, who are in charge of enforcing the SAFE Act. If the state police are encroaching, the sheriff can step in and say, ‘I’m going to use prosecutorial discretion. I’m not going to arrest anybody.’ The resolution gives them the right to do that because we have a county ordinance that says ‘no.'”
In November 2014, Finley was a write-in candidate for the 116th state Assembly district, garnering 5% of the vote. He is again seeking the seat this November, with a primary on September 12.
Finley told us that there are “multiple” reasons why he is running again. “Neither party is doing anything for us. I’m a conservative. I was a registered conservative and got into politics with the passage of the SAFE Act. I’ve written about 100 articles about waste, fraud and corruption. I’ve written until I was blue in the face; I’ve given speeches at rallies and on YouTube about the unconstitutional SAFE Act, and what I realized is while I laud everybody’s efforts, it doesn’t do any good unless you’re sitting in one of those chairs.”
New York State has a myriad of political parties, including the “Conservative Party,” under which Finley ran in 2014.
The reason I was a write-in in the primary last year was that New York allows “fusion voting,” where you can run on as many lines as you want as long as they give you a permission slip called a “Wilson Pakula.” The Republicans would always come to me and say, “You’re a conservative; please circulate a conservative petition; help our guy, help our guy…” I wanted to get involved, and they said, “We’re not going to let you run.” Now what kind of representative government is that?
There are seven organized parties in the state of New York, so if you try to run as an Independent, you are literally eight rows down and 12 rows over, so no one ever finds your name.
The Post & Email then mentioned Denver Jones, who in 2014 had challenged then-State Sen. Tom Libous for his long-held seat. Libous defeated Jones in the primary and went on to be reelected. However, last summer, after serving 27 years, Libous was convicted of lying to the FBI and sentenced to six months of house arrest, a fine of $50,000, and two years of probation following expulsion from the senate.
Libous’s sentence could have been as harsh as five years in prison, but his deteriorating health heavily influenced the judge’s decision.
Of Jones’s intention to run in the special election to replace Libous last year, Finley commented, “He was pushed out, because the law allows organized parties to pick candidates, but there’s no opportunity in a special election like that to get on the ballot.” Of his own ambitions, he said:
I hate politics; I love people. People look at me and say, “I might not like the way he said it, but at least he’s telling me the truth.” When you tell people the truth, and people don’t realize how deep the problems are, they start to say, “He’s a conspiracy theorist.” But over seven years and 100 articles, I can honestly say I’ve never been proven wrong because I do the research before I put pen to paper.
In that course of time, I’ve learned how to speak to people in a way that’s not gruff or combative. Someone can say I’ve “evolved in my thinking,” but rather, I’ve evolved in the way that I address the issues.
I was young, hotheaded, an athlete and a biker…bald head, goatee, tattoos, I’m that guy. That’s indicative of the people in my district, and what I believe people are looking for is a guy that when they’re out in public who’s wearing jeans and a Carhartt® T-shirt, that’s who he is. They’re looking for a politician or a person who can take the political mumbo-jumbo and translate it into simple, “This is this; that’s that. This means this.”
Republicans and conservatives are being hammered as being the party of “no.” The problem is they just say “no.” There are four steps to “no.” There’s “no;” that’s one. There’s “Here’s why; no;” that’s two. “Here’s what will happen; no;” that’s three; and the big one, number four, is “Here’s what we have to do instead.” So you have to give a viable alternative.
Last time, I was running as a third-party candidate, and I couldn’t even buy newspaper ads because all the newspapers in the area had money into my opponent’s campaign. I could have bought an ad, but it would have been prohibitive. I’m in a liberal, Democrat district, and I’ve gone out and delivered a conservative message to people. I worked hard; I delivered the message; the big thing was I was never called a “spoiler.” Even the Democrats said, “I don’t support him; I’m not going to vote for him, but it wouldn’t scare me if he gets elected. At least I know I can talk to the guy.”
To me, that is a victory. To the Conservative Party, that is a victory: learning how to talk to people. That is what I accomplished last time. So this time, I’ve taken the Republican Party out of the loop. They can’t stop me from running because now I’m registered as a Republican. Whoever tries to challenge me will have to run against me in a straight-up Republican primary, plus they will have to challenge me as a write-in for the Conservative line.
I run as somebody who is going to be strong, take the bull by the horns, offer viable alternatives and not back down.
Further to his resolution, Finley said:
Do I believe in its inherent value? Certainly, I do. But also, let’s look at it: there are 18 million people in the state of New York and 6.5 million gun owners, and I’m the only person to think of something like this?
To me, this resolution is not clad in stone. It’s a template, and what I said to the St. Lawrence County assembly was, “This is a template. You can add, change, subtract, and hopefully other counties will adopt it, if nothing more than reminding the people in Albany that we’re dissatisfied with what they’re doing. That was the purpose of it.
One of the things about the “Open Comment” session was that they can’t reply. This was the first meeting of the year; they just elected a new chair and vice-chair; there are other things going on. So I gave it to them as a template. Down the road, it will probably be addressed, but it gives them something to work with.
Most of the people who were elected to the county legislature were running on “We’re going to defend the constitution in this county and do what we can,” so this gives them another way of owning up to it.
My name is nowhere on that document; this is a template for any county to use. It’s an idea; it’s a platform. When it goes to other counties for them to hear, think about, vote on, then any legislator who votes against it will inspire gun owners to come out and say, “That guy is against my rights.” So it’s a template and a litmus test for the legislature.
It’s a “quid pro Cuomo.” If you’re going to break the law and allow sanctuaries from the law, we have a constitution that we want to obey that says that the right to bear arms cannot be infringed. So if you can establish a sanctuary for an illegal act, then we can establish a sanctuary for a legal act.