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Kathy Hochul, New York Democrats under fire for using luxury suite to watch Bills game: ‘Abused their power’

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A formal complaint has been made against New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other New York Democrats, who are being accused of using their government positions to see the Buffalo Bills face the Dallas Cowboys in a luxury suite last season. 

Hochul was joined by New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and New York Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, among others, in the “I Love New York” suite at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, to watch the Dec. 17, 2023, game. 

Lawyer David Grandeu sent the complaint to the New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, per the New York Post.

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at the Dutch Broadway Elementary School in Elmont, New York, on May 9, 2023. (Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

“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,” Grandeu’s letter said. 

“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.”

The “I Love New York” suite is controlled by the Empire State Development Corp. (ESD), which reports to Hochul. It’s filled with 16 seats and is used to promote New York’s economy. 

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Hochul, a Buffalo native, is a die-hard Bills fan, while Heastie is a Cowboys fan. That was seen on Hochul’s social media the day of the game, when she posted a photo of herself, Heastie and Peoples-Stokes.

“As Buffalonians, @CPeoplesStokes and I both believe in tolerance for those with opposing opinions…and that’s why we decided to allow a certain [Cowboys] fan to join us at the @BuffaloBills game,” she wrote.

“Sorry about the score, @CarlHeastie! Let’s go Buffalo!”

The Bills demolished the Cowboys, 31-10, on their way to the playoffs last season.

ESD filed a report about the attendance of Hochul and her guests during the game last season, saying charitable donations equal to the value of the seats in the suite were made. Hochul’s office told the New York Post that the proper steps were taken to sit in the suite for the game.

KAthy Hochul in Albany

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during the State of the State address in Albany on Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“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,” Hochul spokesperson Avi Small said, per the New York Post. 

The donation was made to FeedMore WNY.

A.J. Baynes, CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, also noted that there was a “very productive discussion on critically important infrastructure for the future of the town of Amherst” with Hochul in the suite.

ESD spokesperson Matthew Gorton also told the paper that Heastie’s office requested to use the suite, which was “honored as a courtesy” and “all guests were notified of the rules regarding lobbyists’ attendance and public reporting requirements in advance of the game.”

Grandeu believes the fact that charitable donations were made proves the suite was used for personal use rather than a location to operate in their official capacity.

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Gov. Kathy Hochul (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

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

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