May 23rd - 3:55 pm
During his Tax-Free NY announcement at SUNY New Paltz earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked to expand on his remarks to the Syracuse Post-Standard editorial board that if New Yorkers elect former Rep. Anthony Weiner for mayor than “shame on us.”
After the national media firestorm sparked by his comments in Central New York – even Matt Drudge picked up on it – the governor has apparently decided to revert to his tight-lipped approach when it comes to the scandal-scarred former congressman’s candidacy, saying only:
“I don’t have an official position on the mayor’s race, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
Cuomo has long said that he’s going to try to stay out of the crowded mayoral contest, but was goaded into giving his opinion on Weiner’s run during the following exchange with Stephen A. Rogers, chairman of the
Syracuse Media Group:
Cuomo: “It’s basically democracy. Those are grownups (in the Assembly) who are picking, who pick their leader.”
Rogers: “So if Anthony Weiner wants to run for mayor, he can run for mayor.”
Cuomo: “He runs? He runs.”
Rogers: “And if we elect him?”
Cuomo: “Shame on us.”
A Cuomo aide told the Daily News’ Ken Lovett that the governor’s poke at Weiner was just a joke.
May 9th - 12:44 pm
ICYMI: Sen. George Latimer told me during a CapTon interview last night that his two Democratic colleagues most recently charged with wrongdoing – Sens. Malcolm Smith and John Sampson – should either voluntarily give up their seats or face expulsion proceedings by their peers in order to preserve whatever modicum of trust New Yorkers have left in the Legislature.
“We need to have a hard line, and when you cross that hard line and there’s credible prosecutorial information that shows you’ve done this, you need to leave,” Latimer said. “You need to resign. If we need to expel you, if we have, you know, critical mass to do that, then we ought to do that. Because the institution is bigger than me; it’s bigger than them.”
“..I believe both of them should (resign), and not because I hold any personal animus toward them. but in both cases there is substantial prosecutorial information that really questions whether or not people have public trust in an institution.”
“You can certainly defend your right to be proven innocent in the future, but you ought to do that on your own time instead of in the middle of a Legislature where you’re making policy decisions.”
Latimer is a former Westchester County assemblyman who was elected to the Senate last year. He claimed last night that none of the seven lawmakers caught on ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley’s secret recordings is a “new” member of the Democratic conference – in other words, elected post-coup.
The Democrats have been trying to convince the public that they are remaking their conference, have gotten rid of the worst apples among them and deserve another shot at the majority. The recent developments here at scandal central have undercut that argument considerably, however – especially since they have been concentrated in the Democratic conference.
(That is not to say that corruption is a Democrat problem, however. To the contrary, a number of names on the bad actors list belong to Republicans).
Anyway, it turns out Latimer was wrong in his claim, because Queens Sen. Jose Peralta, who replaced former Sen. Hiram Monserrate – the long former member with the distinction of having been expelled from the chamber by his colleagues – back in 2010. Monserrate subsequently ran for Peralta’s old Assembly seat and lost to now-Assemblyman Francisco Moya.
Lasy year, Monserrate was sentenced to two years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to charges he used funds and workers from a nonprofit to finance his Senate run. The start date of that sentence was recently delayed to allow Monserrate to get some much-needed dental work done.
May 6th - 12:21 pm
ICYMI, this was today’s morning memo:
Et Tu, Shirley?
Since the revelation that former Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro had been working as a double agent for federal prosecutors for almost the entire duration of his four years in office, the most popular political parlor game in Albany has been trying to guess who else might be wearing a wire.
Queens Assemblyman David Weprin even joked to the New York Times that it had become de rigueur upon meeting colleagues to “feel them up and down” – in a joking sort of way, of course.
Little did he know.
Last week, we learned Castro was not alone in his undercover activities. Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, also of Queens, had also been working for the feds after discovering she would be slapped with corruption charges.
It looks like prosecutors hit pay dirt with Huntley – netting a much bigger fish than the one Castro managed to reel in (freshman Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who is scheduled to be indicted in federal court today).
Former Minority Leader John Sampson turned himself in this morning to the FBI to face corruption charges in connection with a bribery deal that also involved Huntley and his own embezzlement of some $440,000 from the foreclosure sales of four Brooklyn properties for which he was the court-appointed referee.
Court documents reveal that Huntley, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January, recorded meetings with nine different people, seven of whom were elected officials and two others who had previously worked as a consultant or staff member to a public official.
It turns out that Sampson is the lawmaker identified in those documents as “Senator #1,” who sought help from Huntley for a businessman who was offering bribes in exchange for help to expand his business at Kennedy International Airport, which is in Huntley’s district.
Sampson set up a meeting between Huntley and the businessman, and Huntley subsequently contacted airport authorities on his behalf over the next two months, receiving $1,000 for her efforts. The money was ill spent, however, because despite the bribe, the businessman did not receive a lease for additional space from the Port Authority.
This is not the only incident involving Sampson that has caught the interest of federal investigators. They’re also reportedly looking into the Brooklyn Democrat’s relationship with Edul Ahmad, a Queens real estate broker whom Sampson represented as a client through his legal practice.
Ahmad pleaded guilty in federal court in October to a mortgage fraud scheme and has been the focus of a loan scandal involving Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks.
It’s ironic that Huntley is the one to take Sampson down. Back in 2010, he defended her against LGBT advocates who were furious that he agreed to support her and other Democrats who voted “no” on the gay marriage bill.
At the time, Huntley was facing a primary challenge from gay-marriage supporter Lynn Nunes. Sampson gave Huntley $9,500 from his own campaign cash and tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest LGBT organization, from endorsing Nunes.
Nunes was not successful at ousting Huntley in the September primary. She won roughly 70 percent of the vote in that race.
Unlike with Castro, whom the feds allowed to stand for election three times, knowing all the while he was 1) a crook, and 2) splitting his time between representing his constituents and trying to catch fellow crooked colleagues in the act; Huntley only ran for re-election once, and was defeated in a primary by former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen. James Sanders.
It’s unclear if there will be more charges stemming from Huntley’s work on behalf of the US attorney’s office, but most observers agree this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s certainly bad news for the Senate Democrats, who have been trying to argue since last year’s elections that they are no longer the dysfunctional and trouble-ridden conference of the past.
And it’s especially bad news for those who are close to Sampson and might have something to hide. Sen. Malcolm Smith, the Queens Democrat who replaced Sampson as conference leader during the infamous 2009 coup, is battling his own corruption charges.
But there are one or two others – elected officials and former Senate staffers – who must be pretty darn concerned these days.
May 1st - 4:53 pm
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn doesn’t think scandal-scarred Councilman Dan Halloran’s decision not to seek re-election this fall goes far enough, and is urging the Queens Republican to consider giving up his seat altogether.
“I urge Council Member Halloran to think hard about whether he should go further and step down immediately,” the speaker and Democratic NYC mayoral frontrunner said in a statement released late this afternoon.
“The constituents of Dan Halloran’s district deserve to have a Council Member who is full time, 100 percent focused on representing them. Clearly, with the outrageously unacceptable allegations that are pending, both as they relate to the federal indictment and to recent allegations of sexual harassment, he is far from 100 percent focused on his constituents.”
Through a spokesperson, Halloran indicated earlier today that he has no intention of resigning.
Quinn’s tough talk is no surprise. She has been publicly lambasting Halloran for days now and ordered an ethics probe into his extramarital affairs with two young women – one a Council intern, the other his former deputy chief of staff.
But the speaker’s zero tolerance approach has not shielded her from criticism from her mayoral rivals, who have used Halloran’s corruption scandal to recall the slush fund mess that occurred on Quinn’s watch.
May 1st - 12:54 pm
Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, who has been charged with participating in Sen. Malcolm Smith’s scheme to bribe his way into the NYC mayors race, announced this afternoon that he won’t seek re-election this fall so he can devote his time to “clearing my name and restoring my reputation.
“It has been the greatest honor to serve this beautiful district, in which I am proud to have lived my entire life,” Halloran said in a statement.
“For these last four years, our community has been fortunate to have had my incredible Council District 19 staff working hard to resolve issues between the citizenry and their City government. We owe them a great debt. They continue work diligently in the people’s interest, and it saddens me that these dedicated public servants have suffered along with me.”
“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council. After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not to pursue another term in the Council.”
Halloran said he looks forward to his day in court and remains confident that he will be vidicated. He thanked his supporters and said he’ll be “forever grateful” to them.
The corruption charges Halloran faces are not the only scandal he’s dealing with at the moment.
The embattled councilman was recently revealed to have had not one, but two extramarital affairs with young women - one a Council intern and the other his former deputy chief of staff. NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn has taken a zero tolerance approach with Halloran and has ordered an ethics probe into his conduct.
Another former Halloran employee, his ex-Chief of Staff Chrissy Voskerichian, has filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board to run for his seat this fall. She’s reportedly running as a Democrat. And the Queens GOP has already dumped Halloran from its line, backing attorney Dennis Saffran instead.
Also running as a Democrat is former Cuomo administration aide Austuin Shafran, who released the following statement on Halloran’s announcement:
“Councilman Halloran’s decision to not seek re-election is the right one for the people of our district. They deserve a full-time Councilman who is focused on working for the people of Queens, not his own legal defense. It’s time we put this stunning lack of integrity behind us and rebuild the public’s trust through effective, honest and dedicated service.”
Apr 30th - 2:43 pm
Sen. Ted Cruz, the controversy-courting, Tea Party-backed conservative from Texas who is starting to get mentioned as a potential 2016 contender even though he has only been in office since January, will headline the state GOP’s annual dinner in New York City next month.
The $1,000-a-head event will be held on May 29 at the Grand Hyatt. (That’s actually the entry-level ticket cost; $5,000 gets attendees a photo-op, and $10,000 buys two photo-ops plus two tables of 10).
Cruz was most recently in the news for threatening, along with his Kentucky colleague Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee to filibuster the gun control bill. The filibuster failued, but so did the bill, much to the consternation of New York’s senior senator Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was instrumental in putting the bipartisan measure together.
Cruz is a good headliner for state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, since he’s the sort of red meat-throwing speaker that the grassroots of the party tends to like, and since he has been in the news lately, he might help generate interest and sell tickets.
Given the fact that New York was the first state in the nation to pass a gun control bill (the controversial SAFE Act) in the wake of the Newtown massacre and is headed by a Democratic governor who is also mentioned as a possible 2016 candidate, I imagine Cruz will have plenty to talk about.
NOTE: I have to give an H/T to POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman, who had this item first. Also, Reid Pillifant notes Cruz voted “no” on Sandy aid, which I imagine might not make him so popular among some New York Republicans.
Apr 25th - 1:15 pm
The National Federation of Independent Businesses today filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit to toss the ban on large surgary drinks in New York City.
“NFIB has filed an amicus brief to protect the right of small business owners to freely provide goods and services without the government infringing upon their economic liberties. We believe that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed law is overreaching, unfair to small business owners and ignores the individual rights of consumers to make their own choices. NFIB’s brief argues that small business owners have a right to make an honest living by providing consumers with products and services that they desire, and that consumers should be allowed to make their own lifestyle choices with the products they consume. By joining this lawsuit, NFIB will continue to ensure that the voice of small business is heard.”
The Bloomberg administration is appealing a decision by a state Supreme Court judge that quashed the ban last month just a day before it was set to take effect.
The city Department of Health had originaly sought to restrict the sale of soda containers larger than 16 ounces in restaurants and movie theaters.
The ban wouldn’t apply to larger chain stores that are regulated by the state — an aspect the NFIB says it will seize when supporting the suit.
Apr 22nd - 12:02 pm
I received an email on Saturday – one day after the successful capture of suspect No. 2 in the Boston Marathon bombing – from NYC Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign with the subject line: “It’s a Marathon!”
Curious, and expecting yet another statement from an elected official praising law enforcement for a job well done, I opened the email, which read as follows:
If you’ve already signed up, join Team Liu as we walk, run and bike One City. Because 2013 ain’t a sprint — it’s a marathon!
* Sunday, April 21 – 9/11 Memorial 5K Run/Walk and Family Day
Starting Point: Pier 57 in Hudson River Park at 15th Street in Manhattan.
* Sunday, May 5 – 2013 Five Boro Bike Tour
Starting Point: Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
See you on the trail!”
It’s arguably commendable that Liu is trying to get people out there engaged in physical fitness in connection with his mayoral bid. And it’s not like marathoning suddenly ceased as a result of the Boston tragedy. In fact, the London Marathon went off this past weekend without incident – thankfully.
It just struck me as a little tone deaf to use this kind of political pitch so soon after the bombings. But, maybe it’s just me?
Apr 19th - 2:42 pm
In the latest salvo in the ongoing intra-party battle between downstate GOP leaders that started in the wake of Sen. Malcolm Smith’s arrest, Manhattan Chairman Dan Isaacs is threatening to sue Sen. Marty Golden for slander if the senator won’t stop making “false statements” about the chairman’s potential involvement in the ballot line-for-sale scandal.
Isaacs said as much in a letter to Golden, which he released to members of the media. An excerpt:
“As an initial matter, it boggles the mind that you, as a former New York City police officer, would continue to interject yourself into what is an ongoing Federal criminal investigation and interfere with that investigation by spreading false statements.”
“Indeed, your recent attempt to question the integrity and oust my colleague, Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton – whose honesty is unquestioned – was universally seen for what it was: A crass attempt by you to further your own political ends to the detriment of the Brooklyn Party and indeed the City Parties in general.”
(In case you aren’t aware of Golden’s effort to oust Eaton, click here).
Isaacs defends himself against Golden’s allegations, (which, for the record, I personally have neither heard nor read), insisting that he never accepted any bribes as his fellow GOP leaders – Bronx Chairman Jay Savino and Queens Vice Chair Vince Tabone – were accused of doing by the US attorney.
Apr 16th - 11:30 pm
In the first poll released since Anthony Weiner confirmed he is mulling a potential entry into the New York City mayor’s race, the former congressman demonstrates he could still be a contender – or, at the very least, complicate things considerably for already-declared fellow Democrats.
Among registered Democrats questioned in the NBC New York-Marist poll, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Weiner received 15 percent of the vote, placing his second to the Democratic frontrunner, NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn, who gets 26 percent.
NYC Comptroller John Liu comes in third with 12 percent, with Bill Thompson and NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio hot on his heels with 11 percent each. That’s essentially a statistical dead heat for third place because the margin of error for the Democratic portion of the poll is 4.2 percent. Twenty-two percent of voters are undecided.
“Right now, a Weiner candidacy attracts double-digit support in the Democratic primary,” said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff. “He makes it even more difficult for any of the Democratic contenders to reach the needed forty percent to avoid a run-off.”
Without Weiner in the race, Quinn nets 30 percent of the vote, while de Blasio comes in second with 15 percent, following by Thompson at 14 percent and Liu at 11 percent. In this scenario, 26 percent of voters said they were undecided.
When Marist last reported this question in February, 37 percent of Democratic voters – including those who were undecided yet leaning toward a candidate – supported Quinn, while 13 percent backed Thompson, and 12 percent were for de Blasio. Nine percent supported Liu.
As Weiner continues mulling his options, 40 percent of registered Democrats say they want him to seek the mayoralty, while 46 percent do not want him to run and 14 percent are unsure. 14% are unsure. Citywide, only 37 percent want him to run, while 47 percent do not want to see him become a candidate for mayor this year.
These numbers have improved for Weiner since a Marist poll released last October. At that time, only 28 percent of registered Democrats wanted Weiner to throw his hat into the ring, while 57 percent did not, and 14 percent were unsure. Among all registered voters, only one in four – 25 percent – wanted Weiner to enter the contest for mayor and 58 percent did not want him torun.
Weiner’s favorability has also improved. He now has a net positive rating – 45-41 – among registered Democrats. Two months ago, his rating was upside down. Only 34 percent of Democrats viewed Weiner favorably at that time, and 43 percent had an unfavorable impression of him.
Of course, Weiner is the flavor of the month at the moment. And though the scrutiny of him has been high, thanks to lingering questions about the sexting scandal that forced him from office, it’s sure to become even more intense should he actually throw his hat into the ring, and then who knows what his numbers will do.