May 3rd - 2:09 pm
The Senate Republicans have seized on yesterday’s conviction of two former aides to NYC Comptroller/Democratic mayoral hopeful John Liu on charges of campaign finance fraud as proof that a publicly financed system is “an invitation to more corruption and wrongdoing, and will only result in politicians taking taxpayers for a ride.”
“Under this system, state taxpayers would be forced to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for negative television commercials, glossy mailers and the robocalls people hate,” said Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos in a statement released this afternoon.
“I believe we should use that money to invest in our schools, provide property tax relief or restore the Governor’s cuts to programs that affect the developmentally disabled.”
“We need additional disclosure and more transparency, but the abuses that took place in the Liu campaign and in countless others which received public matching funds make it increasingly clear that we don’t need taxpayer-funded political campaigns.”
The GOP is really digging in its heels on this one, which presents a problem for IDC leader Jeff Klein, since he is propsing a public matching system much like the one that currently exists in New York City as part of his omnibus campaign finance reform bill. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reform proposal also has a matching component, as does the plan floated by the Assembly Democrats.
UPDATE: Citizens Action’s Charlie Albanetti sent the following statement on behalf of the Fair Elections for New York campaign:
“Yesterday’s convictions prove that strong enforcement works. Both Oliver Pan and Jenny Hou face a maximum of a combined 80 years plus behind bars – that’s hardly an ‘an invitation to more corruption and wrongdoing (sic) which will only result in politicians taking taxpayers for a ride,’ as the Senate Republicans claim.”
“The Campaign Finance Board realized something was wrong when the hand writing on Liu’s donor cards was the same, the FBI investigated, the United State Attorney prosecuted, and a jury convicted.”
“Senator Skelos and his conference don’t want comprehensive campaign finance reform because they’ve figured out a way to collect tons of campaign cash from a wealthy few with very little oversight or accountability. It’s clear the public is demanding action in response to corruption in the Capitol, and the Senate Republicans are the only ones in Albany who want to keep the status quo.”
May 3rd - 11:32 am
New York City Republican Mayoral Candidate George McDonald has lost his legal challenge to the city’s limits on contributions.
McDonald argued that the city’s cap on individual contributions at $4950 was in contrast to the state law which allows $19,700 for mayoral primaries and up to $41,000 for general elections. He accepted 11 donations for more than $5000 dollars earlier this year and then challenged the city campaign finance board in court.
McDonald recently discussed the case on Road to City Hall with Errol Louis, expressing frustration that it took so long for the court to rule on his case. His spokesman echoed those comments in a statement.
“It’s disappointing that it took 147 days to ‘just say no’ in long form. Further, it’s simply incomprehensible that such a decision would take this long and smacks of the kind of crony politics that New Yorkers have grown tired of seeing,” said Dave Catalfamo, McDonald Campaign spokesman. “Given this decision, the NYS Board of Elections should immediately clarify its website to make apparent New York City’s primacy on election law. We are considering our options on appeal.”
McDonald’s campaign said earlier this year that they will comply with the current campaign finance laws.
May 3rd - 11:13 am
For the past few days we have seen dueling press releases from the state Democratic Party and the State Republican party over the announcement that conservative Texas US Senator Ted Cruz will be headlining the State GOP’s annual fundraiser.
First the Democrats, in a statement by Party Executive Director Rodney Capel, blasted Cruz as anti-New York because he voted against the Sandy Relief Bill. He went on to also say he is anti-women, anti-gay rights, and anti-immigrant, and they called on Republicans to boycott the fundraiser. State Democratic Party Co-Chair Keith Wright echoed those comments on the show last night.
The State GOP fired back calling this hysterics. And taking a chance to attack Cuomo for his push to pass the Reproductive Health Act.
“Mr. Capel’s hysterics notwithstanding, the truly extreme position is the one taken by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address, where he called for passage of the so-called “Reproductive Health Act,” which would expand late-term abortions in New York, even up to the day of a baby’s birth,” NYS GOP Chairman Ed Cox said in at statement.
Now often outspoken Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey is getting in the fray. He just fired off this statement accusing Democrats of creating a distraction from the governor’s record on the upstate economy.
“Whether it’s Keith Wright, Rodney Capel or Governor Cuomo himself, New York Democrats have no business choosing who speaks and who doesn’t speak at the State GOP’s annual dinner,” Dadey said. “This attack is designed to distract from their failure to turn around the Upstate economy. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Dadey goes on to attack Cuomo for his failure to green light high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State.
“The Governor should stop hiding behind the endless studies and approve hydrofracking, just like President Obama’s EPA and the State of Pennsylvania have already done. It’s governmental malpractice to let another generation of Upstate New Yorkers leave this state in search of a job and the opportunity that comes with it when the potential for an economic resurgence is right at our fingertips,” Dadey said.
This type of back and forth between the state political parties has been pretty rare in the past two years. The state Democratic party, which is historically and for all intents and purposes controlled by the Governor, has generally avoided direct confrontations with their Republican counterparts.
Meanwhile the Republican party and Chairman Ed Cox only started attacking Governor Cuomo on a consistent basis in the past few months – focusing heavily on the upstate economy.
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 22nd - 11:18 am
Republican Sen. Greg Ball isn’t changing his tune when it comes to suggesting the 19-year-old suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon should be tortured.
Indeed, he’s booked several interviews to double down on his tweet that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be tortured in order to extract information, following a statement on Sunday that wouldn’t back off from an initial tweet.
Ball, who will be a guest on Capital Tonight, appeared on Fox News, saying he would be “first in line” if it meant to gain needed information that could prevent another attack.
“I think at the end of the day a lot of politicians are full of crap,” he said. “They’re scared to say how they feel. I think I’ve said what a lot of red blooded Americans felt and it comes down to this: When you talk about terrorism, information matters. If getting that information including torture and if getting that information saves one innocent life, including children, I would be first in line.”
For anyone who has followed Ball’s career, the comments aren’t too surprising.
Ball has been known for saying pretty much whatever he likes and then maximizing the publicity in the wake of the comments.
The chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, Ball has garnered controversy on a range of subjects, including a hearing on terrorism that featured a witness critical of Islam.
But Ball, who was not the first choice of Senate Republicans in a heated 2010 primary, has not sought to rock the boat within the GOP conference and has an extensive constituent services operation melded with an energetic GOTV program for general elections.
Ball has in the past eyed the Hudson Valley Congressional seat now held by Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, but so far has not given any indication he will run for the House in 2014.
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 10th - 2:36 pm
In a letter to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara today, Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden called on him to release the name of the person identified in a federal complaint as “county chairman #1″ in the Sen. Malcolm Smith bribery scandal.
Smith, along with City Councilman Dan Halloran, had allegedly considered bribing the unnamed Republican chairman in order for the Queens Democrat to gain access to the GOP mayoral ballot in New York City.
According to the complaint, Smith and an undercover witness discussed paying the unnamed chairman less than Queens Vice Chairman Vicent Tabone and Bronx Chairman Jay Savino because the person would have the fourth to sign the Wilson Pakula waiver and the certificate only needed three signatures.
Smith, City Councilman Dan Halloran, Tabone, Savino and two others were arrested last week by federal law enforcement in the alleged bribery plot.
In his letter to Bharara today, Golden writes that GOP voters and activists need to know who that unnamed chairman is in order to determine whether they are fit to remain in charge of the local party.
“Descriptions within the sealed complaint raise serious questions concerning the integrity of saidCounty Chairman. Although this individual has not been indicted, I believe the 300,000 plus members and hundreds of activists within the City’s Republican Party require the publication of such information to allow them to determine if said individual should remain a leader within theRepublican Party.
Based on the descriptions in the complaint, I believe, once revealed, County Chairman #1 should, if he has not already, resign his party post.”
Both Tabone and Savino have resigned their posts.
Apr 10th - 12:36 am
On the eve of President Obama’s budget presentation, a Western New York Republican joined the AARP in criticizing an expected decrease in the amount paid out in Social Security benefits by restructuring cost of living adjustments. Chris Collins says the move would hurt seniors and veterans.
“If you change the calculation of the consumer price index and how you calculate inflation, that’s going to continue to pinch our seniors who, come the end of the month, the stories I hear, are having trouble putting food on the table,” Collins said.
According to the AARP, changing the way the consumer price index is calculated would cost seniors and veteran pension recipients in Erie County $476 Million in future benefits. An AARP representative told YNN’s Ryan Whalen Tuesday, the “Chained CPI” expected in the President’s budget would hit Erie County harder than originally expected.
“It does not take into account the fixed costs that the seniors or all of us have, such as utilities, your healthcare costs, prescription drugs, gasoline. You can’t make a substitution for those. So that will make it even more difficult, particularly for those who are struggling to begin with,” AARP advocate Dave Hollen said.
Collins says this proposal impacts Western New York more than other parts of the country because there are more seniors.
“We’re not a wealthy community. So many of our seniors, I think the number is 75 percent of the average senior’s lifestyle, is supported by Social Security. They don’t have pensions and other savings,” Collins said.
The Clarence Republican is one of only a handful of GOP lawmakers criticizing the “chained CPI.” The inclusion in the President’s budget is seen as an olive branch to Republicans, many of whom seem optimistic about the plan.
“I’m frankly very disappointed that he (Obama) is focusing on seniors,” Collins said.
Collins says there are other, more obvious cuts in spending that could be made. Collins expects his GOP colleagues to join him in opposing an expected call from the President for increased tax revenue and spending.
“He doesn’t think we have a spending problem. He thinks we have a revenue problem and the cuts he’s making are on the backs of our seniors,” Collins said.
The AARP recently polled its members in New Yorkand found most oppose benefit decreases. In this case, Collins agrees.
“If you look at what you would call the Ryan Budget; that budget was balanced without taking things away from seniors,” Collins added.
Apr 4th - 2:01 pm
Republican NYC candidate George McDonald is sticking by his claim in the wake of the ballot bribery scandal that all five of the city’s GOP chairmen – including Manhattan’s Dan Isaacs – were looking for “somebody who had a big pile of money” while interviewing potential contenders for their ballot line in the upcoming election.
McDonald told the New York Times he had met four of the county chairs and Queens GOP Vice Chair Vince Tabone at a restaurant in East Harlem last August in hopes of (ahem) selling them on his candidacy.
Two attendees at that dinner – Tabone and Bronx GOP Chairman Jay Savino – were arrested this week in connection with Sen. Malcolm Smith’s effort to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot in the mayor’s race. Three others – Isaacs, Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton and former Staten Island GOP Chairman Robert Scamardella insisted they knew nothing about the bribery scheme and were never contacted by the feds about it.
Yesterday, Isaacs sent an email to Manhattan Republicans in an attempt to reassure them of his innocence and insisting that there is no other “shoe to drop.” Last night, at his “spring fling” fund-raiser, Isaacs lit into McDonald, (who wasn’t present), insisting his story is “absolutely categorically untrue.”
“The only questions that were asked of him that night was, ‘Do you have the money to dependably run a race for the mayor of the City of New York?’” Isaacs told City&State’s Nick Powell. “That was it, and it was absolutely a legitimate question for any party leader to ask somebody who’s running for office. What he said was absolute BS and I’ll tell him so.”
Isaacs also said he has long supported John Catsimatidis to get the GOP nod.
Even though McDonald and unnamed sources cited by City&State say Isaacs was one of the few insiders pushing for Smith to run on the GOP line, he did tell me back in August 2012 that he was not open to Smith’s candidacy, despite the fact that the Queens Democrat was having talks about running with state Chairman Ed Cox.
McDonald, however, is sticking by his story. He issued the following statement this afternoon:
“I stand by my statement to the New York Times. The fact is despite Senator Smith’s clear history of ethical lapses and blatant disregard for the law, Chairman Isaacs was one of Malcom’s biggest early boosters.”
“Moreover, in one of the wealthiest places in the world, Dan has somehow managed to oversee a local party bankrupt both ideologically and financially. But for the largesse of another billionaire benefactor, also running for Mayor, Dan wouldn’t have a party apparatus to run.”
“The Republican Party deserves better, our city deserves better. From day one, I have been running for Mayor as an outsider. As Mayor, I will serve the people and won’t be beholden to party leaders for patronage, donations or favors.”
“No more bribes. No more scandals. No more patronage. No more sellouts. Personal responsibility is the Republican credo and I will honor it not just in words, but in actions. We welcome anyone to our campaign who is tired of the status quo and will support a candidate who is willing to stand up against a dysfunctional system that is prone to corruption and favors the super wealthy or career politicians.”