The Three Stooges – one of the most successfully comedy acts in history – posthumously played an unlikely new role last year: As major donors to a campaign account controlled by Nick Langworthy, the new chairman of the New York State Republican Party.
Last year, the “ECRC Chairman’s Club” received nearly $13,000 in donations from “Moe Howard” and “Larry Howard,” and also made a $150 payment to “Curly Howard,” according to publicly filed campaign finance records.
A state Republican Party spokeswoman said that the Stooges’ listing in the campaign filings resulted from errors by the committee’s campaign treasurer, who had put the Stooges’ names in as “placeholders” for real, living humans’ donations made through PayPal.
The Stooges’ names were then accidentally left in place when legally-required reports were filed with the state Board of Elections.
Moe, Larry and Curly – known for their slapstick physical comedy – collectively comprised The Three Stooges during their 1930’s and 40’s heyday, making dozens of films. Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard, the actors who played them, are all long deceased. (In one local connection, three of the most famous Stooges, brothers Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard, did call Chatham, Columbia County, their home.)
In the Chairman’s Club campaign filings, the address listed for Moe, Larry and Curly was 715 Main St. in Buffalo – the headquarters of the Erie County Republican Committee. The Chairman’s Club campaign treasurer, Robert Lichtenthal, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
While Langworthy’s committee did submit a new treasurer’s name in an effort to replace Lichtenthal last September, the paperwork has not gone through, according to John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections. That’s because the Board never received a required resignation letter from Lichtenthal, Conklin said, and “several attempts to follow-up went unanswered.”
Jessica Proud, the spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, said the paperwork was now being finalized with the Board of Elections replacing Lichtenthal.
“The Erie County Republican Chairman’s Committee was established as a separate committee long before Nick Langworthy’s tenure as a separate committee to conduct various business related to the Chairmanship,” Proud said. “The previous bookkeeper used a few placeholder names while compiling filing data and it was erroneously sent to the Board of Elections before being updated. When the error was discovered, it was immediately corrected and the bookkeeper has since been replaced.”
The erroneous campaign filings were amended about six months after their original submission as an official public document, according to the state Board of Elections.
The errors no longer appear anywhere on the state Board’s website. But paper copies of the original campaign filings are still available upon request from the Board.
On March 20, 2018, Langworthy’s account received $11,457.90 from “Moe Howard.” (Over the next week, Langworthy paid himself $11,500 for “consulting.”)
On Jan. 31, 2019, the Chariman’s Club campaign filing was amended, according to the Board of Elections. Instead of the “Moe Howard” donation, it lists 19 separate contributions made through PayPal between January and March 2018. The total of the 19 donations was close to the amount originally given by “Moe.”
On July 31, 2018, “Larry Howard” gave $1,500 to Langworthy’s account. When amended in January, that appeared instead as a $1,500 contribution from a woman named Michelle Maccagnano.
On June 19, 2018, the Chariman’s Club had paid $150 to “Curly Howard.” Six months later, that was amended to be a $150 transfer to the Alden Republican Committee.
Just this week, Langworthy happened to denounce “fraud” and “shell donors” he said were likely to result from a new publicly funded campaign finance system in New York, which is being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democrats.
At a press conference held at the state Capitol, Langworthy denounced a newly appointed commission, which is set binding recommendations implementing publicly financed elections in New York by Dec. 1.
“We’ve seen people go to jail for fraud in this state. And you’re just giving more opportunity for fraud,” Langworthy said. “We are opening up a door and culture for fraud that we haven’t seen in state politics in a long time…You get a certain amount of shell donors, and you get a huge infusion of cash from the taxpayers.”
There’s no evidence that the incorrect filings by Langworthy’s committee were in any way intentional.