Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said Tuesday he knew nothing about the “shenanigans” involving a former Republican campaign operative accused of circulating petitions for two bogus Green Party candidates for Congress.
The state Board of Elections last week threw out two Green Party petitions from the 23rd Congressional District — including one for an Olean woman, Amber L. Cole. Neither Ms. Cole nor the Steuben County man whose name also was on a nominating petition circulated by Darin Robbins of Corning, had authorized their names on the petitions, according to an article last week in the magazine Mother Jones.
Mr. Robbins was employed last year by the National Republican Campaign Committee as a “video tracker” for Democratic congressional candidate Martha Robertson of Tompkins County.
Rep. Reed told reporters, “I did not know about it. I did not know what was going on with the Green Party petitions.” He said his campaign had 300 volunteers working to get signatures on Republican, Conservative and Independence Party petitions.
What does he think about the political shenanigans? “When you deal with these races, nothing surprises me,” Rep. Reed replied. “We try to focus on what we can control.”
Rep. Reed admitted when he heard the news that he was not happy. He declined to speculate on Mr. Robbins’ motive for circulating the Green Party petitions.
Should there be an investigation into the election year shenanigans?
Rep. Reed is not calling for an investigation. “We are focused on going forward,” he stated.
Rep. Reed also said Tuesday he was “very disturbed” by recent reports that some veterans died waiting for treatment at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Phoenix.
Rep. Reed, R-Corning, said he spoke with the director of the Bath VA Hospital and plans to speak with directors of facilities in Buffalo and Erie, Pa., to ask whether a similar situation exists for 23rd Congressional District veterans.
The director of the Phoenix VA Hospital, Sharon Helman, and two other hospital officials were placed on administrative leave last Thursday by Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki while the VA investigates the charges.
Two VA doctors have made accusations of misconduct, including a “secret list” detailing real times veterans were forced to wait for medical care. Regulations call for veterans to receive treatment within 14 days.
Rep. Reed said as many as 40 veterans may have died waiting for VA treatment in Phoenix.
“Potentially, veterans were delayed treatment that led to their deaths,” Rep. Reed told reporters during a weekly telephone press conference. “I wanted to make sure that was not happening in our backyard.”
Rep. Reed said he met with Bath VA Hospital Director Michael Schwartz “who assured me that was not the case.”
Rep. Reed said he plans to speak with the directors of the Buffalo and Erie VA hospitals as well. “We are in a process of reaching out to Buffalo and Erie, Pa,” VA facilities, he said. “We want to make sure they have the same commitment” as at the Bath VA facility.
There may have been financial incentives the Phoenix VA director received by not disclosing the amount of time many veterans spent waiting for VA treatment, Rep. Reed said.