Chris’ Tally Ho

Assemblyman Errigo had been saving a seat for the woman, but she was somewhat late, so Collins took it instead. Here’s that exchange again between County Executive Chris Collins and an as-yet unnamed “Erie County woman” at the State of the State Address:

She comes up the aisle and now this is a very crowded situation here and so she looked at me and said, ‘I thought you were going to save me a seat,’ and I said, ‘Well, I told you to get here earlier,’ and he (Collins) says, ‘If you want this seat you have to give me a lap dance‘,” says Errigo.

The Daily News quoted Collins as saying,

I’m sure if you offer someone a lap dance, you can find a place to sit,”

Collins had spoken inappropriately to and about the same unnamed woman just the night before.

…another Western New York elected official, who also asked not to be identified, said Collins made an additional inappropriate remark to the same woman the night before during a reception at Albany’s Fort Orange Club.

“It was not something I would expect from someone running for governor,” the official said. “And it shouldn’t have been said in mixed company.”

How did he behave, exactly?

…according to Errigo, when over cocktails Collins approached the same woman and said, “Geez, you look good.”

“‘You guys should have seen her when she was 16,’ ” Errigo quoted the county executive as saying.

Assemblyman Daniel J. Burling, R-Alexander, who was part of the conversation, admonished Collins for the comment, Errigo said.

Errigo said the Buffalo woman was highly offended by Collins’ remark, corroborating the version given by another Western New York elected official Wednesday.

Collins’ response:

“The mischaracterization and fictionalization of my conversation with a friend that was purportedly overheard is something that is even beneath the low standards of slash and burn politics. One thing I’m learning is that fighting the status quo in New York is not easy. It’s amazing how far individuals will go to protect entrenched political agendas.”

Agendas. I love it when he says that. It’s as inevitable as the morning dew on a sultry summer’s morn.

The Answer Lady addresses this issue from a woman’s perspective – looking at it through the lens of power and submission. There is clearly an element to that, and Collins is a guy who does not like, and is not used to, people opposing him, much less disagreeing with him.  That’s why he can’t and won’t apologize, acknowledge he might have said or done something wrong, or otherwise behave like a normal human being might.  His angry denials and accusations only make him seem petty and tone-deaf.

I like to look at this issue through the lens of, “how do normal people behave”. The lapdance quip, taken by itself in a vacuum, is somewhat silly and ridiculous. But taken within the context of a political powerhouse who is allegedly running for governor, uttering it to an acquaintance in a public setting, whether it is offensive is wholly up to the person to whom it is said. Word is, the unnamed “Erie County woman” is pretty offended.

I find it to be more evidence of the fact that our county executive appears to be a more arrogant, skinnier version of Rodney Dangerfield’s Monty Capuletti character in 1983’s Easy Money.

But who is this woman? No one wants to go on the record with it, but Chris and I have confirmed with numerous people that Collins didn’t clumsily joke around about lapdances with an elected official or some county employee. In this instance, the woman’s identity is a critical piece of the puzzle. It’s a part of the story itself.

We quite quickly discovered the identity of the woman to whom Collins uttered the “lapdance” line, and it is by no means a big secret around town.  But not one media outlet or commentator would reveal it, indicating limply that she didn’t want to get involved.

I’m sure that most of the people in the paper today don’t want to “get involved” with stories about their malfeasance or victimhood.  Identities are shielded when there is a valid public reason to do so, e.g., someone is the victim of a rape, or is a juvenile.  Shielding the woman at the center of the Chris Collins gaffe story serves no purpose except the fact that she is by all accounts quite wealthy and powerful.  With respect, that’s not a good enough reason.

Laura Montante-Zaepfel

Laura Montante Zaepfel comes from a very prominent and powerful family indeed. The Montante family started Uniland, where Mrs. Zaepfel works, and she is a very generous benefactor to political candidates and committees on both sides of the aisle.

Volker, Spitzer, Brown, ECDC, Hayes, Case, Lee, Reynolds, Slaughter, Humiston, Giuliani – Zaepfel has contributed to all of them. Uniland has donated $12,000 to Collins’ committee, and also to names like Konst, Stachowski, Hayes, Marinelli, ECRC, Dixon, Tokasz, Grassroots, Volker, Hoyt, ECDC.

The political contributions and fundraising organized by Ms. Zaepfel, her family, and the company for which she works solidly place them all among the region’s political, economic, and social elites.

When Collins placed Sheldon Silver among the three anti-Christs, it took downstate Republicans’ breath away.

When Collins insults a powerful, politically connected woman who is an active political contributor and fundraiser, he’s just blown a cannonball through his political career.  And part of its newsworthiness is Mrs. Zaepfel’s identity.

Chris Smith has been digging around and a source within the Erie County GOP tells him, “It’s one thing to make a fratboy joke in the locker room, it’s another thing to ask Carl Montante’s daughter to give you a lapdance.  It’s not just offensive, it’s political suicide.  If Chris wants to run with the big boys downstate, he needs to learn to keep his ‘jokes’ to himself.”  Chris was able to confirm with two other GOP sources that Zaepfel was the target of Collins’ comments, one saying, “I doubt she’ll go on the record about it as Laura is a professional woman with a fantastic reputation and a tremendous resume.  I doubt she wants the negative attention that would come with this issue.”

Chris called Zaepfel’s office multiple times for comment and was told each time that Zaepfel was “unavailable”. My calls to Errigo’s and Burling’s offices were not returned.

Why did we reveal the woman’s name when no one else would? Because it’s an important part of the story. Because it matters. I don’t know why the big media wouldn’t do it, but part of what makes it a story is the balls – the chutzpah – the unapologetic, misogynist rudeness that Collins has even for powerful, wealthy, attractive women with whom he comes into contact. It is a story that fleshes out who Collins is as a man, as a leader. The result isn’t pretty.

When you offend someone who is a big benefactor to people in your political party, that can come back to haunt you.  When someone makes news, that person should be identified for her newsworthiness, regardless of who she or her family is.