Hinchey's Partition Street pork

An article in last week's Daily Freeman raised questions about whether U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey used federal funding for personal gain when he got $800,000 for sewage system improvements in the village of Saugerties, where he owns part of the recently green-lighted Partition Street Project development.

On Tuesday, the Freeman reported that Hinchey brings home more pork to upstate New York than any of his fellow congressmen. In the story, Freeman correspondent William J. Kemble noted that the Saugerties sewer funds would be used to improve Hinchey's Partition Street property:

Among federal earmarks secured by Hinchey is $800,000 for the village of Saugerties to improve water and sewer service to village properties, including one Hinchey co-owns with Horse Shows in the Sun owner Thomas Struzzieri and John Mullen, a local contractor.

Hinchey's chief of staff, Jeff Lieberson, wasn't pleased with that statement, presumably because it makes it sound like Hinchey's earmark is for himself. According to the Freeman, Lieberson demanded a correction as soon as the article ran.

Instead, the Freeman ran an uncharacteristically scathing additional article in which it pointed out that Hinchey's office itself, in a press release last fall, had said that the funds would be used to repair the sewer system on Partition Street. 

In the second article, Kemble recounted that Hinchey was pretty defensive  when a reporter asked him whether he would personally gain from the sewage improvements:

[At] an Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast last month, Hinchey was asked by a Freeman correspondent about the funding benefiting the property and brusquely declined to answer, dismissing the query as “bulls**t.” He later issued a statement defending his general role in obtaining grants for local projects.

Turns out, Hinchey and Saugerties officials had worked hard behind the scenes to prevent the sewer earmark from looking like it benefited Hinchey:

Lieberson said on Tuesday that there were behind-the-scenes discussions to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest with the Partition Street project. Village officials confirmed those talks.

All these revelations led the Freeman to write a third story, on Friday, detailing what Hinchey's earmarks do for several local properties to which he and his business partners are connected. In that story, it comes out that Hinchey once said that he was planning to keep an office at Partition Street. Lieberson rushes to correct that misstep, too:

Jeff Lieberson, Hinchey’s chief of staff, later said the congressman has no specific plans for office space in the building and it would not be a congressional office anyway. He said he believed the congressman was speaking hypothetically about the office space.“There’s no personal gain,” Hinchey said of his involvement in the project.

Right. Groundbreaking for the controversial project has now been set for June, so time will tell. But the Freeman's three-part series on Hinchey's pork might hurt the Congressman's reputation. Here's what RedState, a conservative blog about national politics, wrote about Hinchey today

Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-NY 22nd District, has a unique distinction, he is the regions number-one porker according to the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste which put Hinchey’s earmarks at $54.96 million. What makes Hinchey’s earmarks especially interesting is that $800,000 of the earmarked tax dollars may have gone for a sewer infrastructure project that will help the Partition Street Project, a project in which Hinchey has a financial interest. Another $100,000 of tax dollars went to the Bardavon 1869 Opera House a project that one of Hinchey’s Partition Street partners is involved with.