Before Larry Piegza wore a MAGA hat, he attacked Trump's alleged ties to Putin
Updated at 2:20 p.m. with additional comments from Piegza.
President Trump "is a traitor." He's "Putin's lap dog." "He colluded with the Russians." These aren't statements you would expect to hear from a candidate for Congress who wears a red MAGA hat and holds himself out as a better choice for Trump Republicans than the current incumbent.
But Larry Piegza has used these phrases in his social media advertising The Batavian has learned.
There's a clear pattern: Before Rep. Chris Collins was arrested by federal authorities on insider trading charges, Piegza attacked both Trump and Collins. Trump as a traitor, Collins as corrupt and unethical.
After Collins was arrested, Piegza donned the MAGA hat and proclaimed himself the only pro-Trump conservative who wasn't also facing criminal charges in the race. He's been selling himself that way to the media and on social media and at campaign appearances ever since.
Asked about the transformation, Piegza issued a statement to The Batavian and said the attacks on Trump were an attempt to draw attention to his campaign. He wanted to offer an alternative to Collins -- who was already facing an ethics investigation -- who wasn't a Democrat but Republicans didn't want to listen to him.
"The problem came up against when I tried to get my message out as a third-party candidate," Piegza said. "When people heard that I was against Collins, they accused me of being a Democrat and walked away.
"Noting that Trump gets a lot of press by making huge, provocative statements, I followed his example and called him out on some issues, namely his over usage of Twitter and his bizarre love of Vladimir Putin. I was doing this to create media buzz and get some free press."
After Collins was arrested, Piegza said he changed his tone because he calculated that in the changed political environment, he would get coverage.
"When Chris Collins was arrested, I panicked (like the rest of the district) when I realized that he couldn't get off the ballot," Piegza said. "Our district might be known as the district that elected a criminal! I dropped my provocative statements because I felt the press would cover me more naturally."
We also asked if the Democrats had anything to do with his campaign. He hasn't responded but that's a suggestion raised by Ellis McNally, who describes herself as a Republican strategist in Western New York, in a piece published on the blogging platform Medium in September.
In his statement, Piegza didn't address that charge directly but he did lead off by saying that there had been a fake candidate in the race early on, one seemingly put up by the Collins team, Mike Zak, as a Green Party candidate (an apparent attempt to draw votes from the Democratic nominee). Zak was eventually found out and he withdrew from the race.
In a follow-up e-mail, Piegza said of the suggestion that the Democrats have something to do with his campaign, "It is false. The Reform party has always supported Chris Collins in the past. In this election throughout the state they are endorsing conservatives. They chose to endorse me because Chris Collins probably broke the law and they wanted an ethical candidate. If the local GOP offices had just endorsed someone else, I wouldn't be running, and the Reform Party wouldn't have endorsed me."
In a NewsGrowler piece about the controversy, published in May, Piegza is described as supporting the Mueller investigation.
Like Collins, Piegza is a hardline conservative. He is pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and for lowering taxes. Unlike Collins, Piegza describes himself as “pro-Mueller,” indicating his support of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump.
Piegza sent two press releases (one, two) to The Batavian before Collins was federally charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI (charges he denies). Neither of them mentioned Trump, though Piegza did say he wanted to return the GOP to its conservative roots.
“Many people are saying we’ve drifted from believing in good fiscal responsibility, ethical values, and a government that stays out of our lives. People are saying they’d like to see us return to these values. I’ve shown that I can make good fiscal decisions that aren’t at the expense of another person. I’d love to help restore the party to a strong ethical foundation.”
It's a common complaint of NeverTrump Republicans that Trump is pulling the party away from its traditional values.
After the jump, the complete statement from Piegza:
This seems like Collins' last hurrah -- an attack on the best conservative candidate in the district. It tells me that Collins has finally realized that he will probably place third in this race. Sad.
The fake candidate in this race was Mike Zak.
Here's my full statement:
The facts show that I believe that the policies Trump is enacting -- tax cuts, better trade deals, etc. are fantastic and exactly what this nation needs.The economy is thriving under Trump's leadership, and he is setting up deals to make us more competitive for the future.
I don't believe anyone should trust politicians at their words so if you want to know what I stand for, you should "Follow the money."
Six months ago I founded the American Center for eDemocracy, LLC.(http://eDemocracy.us). This is a website which allows citizens to tell their congressman exactly how to vote on policy and allows residents to tell their congressman what they want them to fight for. This start-up company will personally cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of effort before we turn a profit (if ever). I spent my time doing this because I believe politicians should represent their districts' needs exactly, and I really believe that a tool like this will help them do that. One example of why this might be useful is if you think back to when Collins repeatedly voted to end Obamacare. A system like eDemocracy.us would have told Collins that voting against it and ending preexisting medical condition coverage was a bad idea.
The fact is, NY 27 is Trump country. I am confident any polling of residents through eDemocracy will result in people saying that they want to support President Trump. So if you follow the money, you'll see that I will support Trump completely. I simply didn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to ignore the result. That would be like a farmer hiring people, buying equipment, planting crops and then burning the crops before harvest.
So why did I run?
Twelve months ago I ran against Chris Collins because he had most likely broken the law and I wanted to allow people to cast an "Ethics Vote." I knew that many people wanted to tell our Republican Party to "Endorse better candidates -- we do not support criminals." I wanted people to not have to choose between holding their nose and voting for Collins or voting for a Democrat.
The problem came up against when I tried to get my message out as a third party candidate. When people heard that I was against Collins, they accused me of being a Democrat and walked away. Noting that Trump gets a lot of press by making huge, provocative statements, I followed his example and called him out on some issues, namely his over usage of Twitter and his bizarre love of Vladimir Putin. I was doing this to create media buzz and get some free press.
When Chris Collins was arrested, I panicked (like the rest of the district) when I realized that he couldn't get off the ballot. Our district might be known as the district that elected a criminal! I dropped my provocative statements because I felt the press would cover me more naturally. As a small business entrepreneur, I believe I can very much help out NY 27. As a Pro-2nd amendment candidate, I've also donated $150,000 to help regrow fish and game populations in the U.S. If you want to "follow the money" for proof, you can contact Sharon London at National Wildlife Federation. Check out my website for a full platform at http://FixItLarry.org
The great news is that if you, the voters, believe that I am planning on voting against a policy you love, you can just log in to http://eDemocracy.us and tell me to vote the way you want. I've already promised that if 60% of the voters in the district want me to vote a certain way, I will, no questions asked. This is a far better deal than Chris Collins gave us when he stated he votes the way his donors tell him to.
In summary, people have two choices this election. They can choose to vote for Collins, who most likely has broken the law and does not listen to residents. Or, they can vote for someone who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars proving that he just wants to listen to his voters. My recommendation is that everyone should vote for the candidate that they can brag to their grandchildren about afterwards.
Additionally, we asked Piegza questions about his views of Trump. Here is that portion of his follow-up email.
Do you believe Trump is a traitor, as you say in one of your ads? Did he collude with the Russians? Is he Putin's lap dog?
Trump's methodology of getting things done is to alternately praise and threaten world leaders. This seemed to work for both Canada and North Korea, as he has managed to renegotiate deals and accomplish things that other leaders thought impossible (remaking NAFTA, returning fallen soldiers remains, etc.). This obviously means Trump has a "change of pace" strategy that works well. It is what the voters have hired him for -- shaking up the current order of things. It is stunningly effective -- China is now starting to buckle under the tariffs, and I would guess that they will come to the table soon. All of this indicates that Trump is a very successful negotiator. It is time that everyone in Congress get behind his strategies and help him succeed.
Months ago, Russia dumped all of their U.S. bonds. This is a great indication that Putin is unhappy with the United States and that Trump is not colluding with anyone. The U.S. has also arrested a lot of Russians and expelled 40ish diplomats from the United States. Is Trump a traitor? No.
Why did I say provocative things in my ads? As a third party candidate, I have been unsuccessfully trying to get the press to notice me in this race. Thus, I've been forced to do edgy things to get on everyone's radar. Trump should be pleased -- imitation is the highest form of flattery. I've actually been studying what he does to try to learn how he accomplishes the things he does. The whole reason why I took a cardboard cutout of Chris Collins and took pictures in front of a police car is I'm working to master that "edgy" side of communication.
Should the Mueller investigation continue?
It's been a year and a half and there is no evidence of collusion. This is a strong indication that it should be closed down.
Some factual corrections on Piegza:
"Trump's methodology of getting things done is to alternately praise and threaten world leaders. This seemed to work for both Canada and North Korea ..."
We'll get to Canada, but on North Korea, NK still has an active nuclear program. It's true there have been no more missile launches but Trump promised a denuclearized NK and that hasn't happened.
Trump said NAFTA was a horrible deal. He said we had this huge trade deficit with Mexico that he would fix. Arguably, the biggest change with the new NAFTA is the name, USMCA. Much of the old NAFTA was retained. What's new mostly comes from the TPP deal Trump scotched. Most importantly, he really doesn't have a deal yet because all three countries must ratify it. That's going to be a problem domestically because unions still oppose it. While they like some of the improved labor standards for Mexico, they decry the lack of enforcement mechanisms. There were labor standards in NAFTA that weren't enforced. Both countries may be concerned that the new deal is an impingement on national sovereignty because it prohibits them to enter into a deal with China. It also imposes an export tax on some Canadian dairy products. U.S. dairy farmers get some help from the new deal but not much. It's not expected to change much for our dairy farmers, and helping dairy farmers was one of Trump's stated goals. The new deal is going to do nothing to reduce the trade deficit with Mexico but it will force consumers to pay about $3,000 more per new car.
There's no evidence that Trump got anything out of Mexico or Canada that a less bombastic approach wouldn't have accomplished.
"China is now starting to buckle under the tariffs ..." China is exporting more than ever to the U.S. and the trade deficit is growing. It's also true that China's economy is slowing and tariff's are having some impact, but companies are also leaving China because of higher labor costs, higher land costs and increased environmental regulations. The calculation is hardly straightforward.
"I would guess that they will come to the table soon."
The White House said today, don't expect a trade deal soon with China.