May 8th - 11:12 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, initially criticized and questioned last month over why he wasn’t introducing actual bill language on his anti-corruption fixes, is now on something of a tear of submitting bills to the Legislature for consideration.
The latest today, following measures to repeal Wilson-Pakula and strengthen anti-bribery laws, is another electoral reform bill aimed at providing greater access to the ballot for state offices, provide for timelier voter registration while also creating a more simplified ballot and allow for “pre-registration” of 16 and 17-year-old future voters.
In the governor’s accompanying bill memo, the measure is touted as a way to restore trust in government — something of an overarching theme for Cuomo in the wake of the public corruption scandals.
“The bill would further reform the State’s antiquated provisions regarding the appearance of ballots used in state elections to enahcne their usability,” according to the memo. “Together, these reforms will improve New York’s voter participation and election process and, as a result, improve public confidence in the state’s elected officials.”
The bill comes a day after the latest corruption scandal has rocked Albany: Sen. John Sampson was taken inton custody on Monday and accussed of embezzling more than $440,000 to help fund his Brooklyn district attorney campaign.
Meanwhile the Capitol is expected to become all the more scandalized when later today a federal judge unseals a document that includes the names of up to seven elected officials who were caught on a federal wiretap and are under criminal investigation.
May 8th - 10:46 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the face of his own cleanup Albany campaign in a 30-second TV spot that is airing statewide.
The spot features the governor looking into the camera and touting the progress he’s made since 2011 with three on-time budgets in a row.
But Cuomo says “there’s more to do” on overhauling ethics laws and he touts his own proposals on tightening anti-bribery laws and giving more power to district attorneys around the state to tackle corruption.
“It empowers our district attorneys, it increases criminal penalties and it reduces the influence of money in politics,” Cuomo says in the ad. ”Tell your legislators it’s time to clean up Albany, because we all deserve a government we can trust.”
The TV ad, paid for by the state Democratic Committee, comes as lawmakers are balking at a variety of Cuomo’s efforts.
Senate Republicans oppose the public financing of political campaigns (an effort was going to be made on that issue even before the first of the scandals hit in April) and Assembly Democrats are questioning the anti-bribery measures.
Another trouble spot for Cuomo will be repealing the Wilson Pakula law of 1947, a measure that allows party bosses to allow non-party members to run on their ballot lines. The move, which would not end fusion candidates, is still seen as a blow to the influential minor parties in New York.
Cuomo’s former top aide, meanwhile, has not ruled out the governor using a Moreland Act Comisssion to investigate legislative wrongdoing or performing a broad inquiry into structural corruption in both chambers.
May 8th - 10:34 am
It’s not so much a threat, but a warning.
That’s according to Steve Cohen, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who sat down with Liz on Capital Tonight Tuesday evening to discuss the governor’s push to overhaul ethics in Albany in the wake of a stream of public corruption cases.
Cohen, who maintains close ties to Cuomoland despite being out of public life for nearly two years, said in the interview that a Moreland Act Commission continues to be a sword of Damacles the governor holds over the Legislature.
I think what the governor could easily do is impose a Moreland and not just look at the current situation, but look back, put people under oath and have them testify.
“If I had to guess right now, we haven’t heard the end of a Moreland Commission and we might as well see a Moreland Commission at some point,” Cohen said. “I think what the governor could easily do is impose a Moreland and not just look at the current situation, but look back, put people under oath and have them testify.”
Ostensibly, the commission would be granted subpoena power to investigate wrongdoing in the Legislature. The possibility of a Moreland commission is nothing new from the administration.
In 2011, Cuomo pushed an ethics overhaul measure that included greater disclosure of outside income and the creation of a new watchdog entity, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Cuomo used the threat of the commission to get the bill passed.
Whether this is a matter of Cuomo crying wolf and lawmakers will be able to call him on a potential bluff is another matter (Cuomo did pull the trigger on a Moreland Commission last year to investigate the utilities’ responses and preparation in the lead up to Superstorm Sandy). Cohen said the panel isn’t even a threat at this point, but a tangible mechanism for Cuomo.
“It is certainly a credible and very real threat,” Cohen said. “Frankly at this point I wouldn’t even call it a threat. I think it is a legitimate warning that either the leg is going to correct the problem itself by passing legislation or the governor is going to conduct a large-scale inquiry into what is going on in the Legislature.”
But we are now more than two years into the governor’s first term and he has a re-election campaign to consider in 2014. A Moreland panel would be the nuclear option with the Legislature, which would likely close ranks once under a true siege from Cuomo.
After all, Cuomo still has one more budget to pass before facing voters next year. For the governor bent on showing how smoothly Albany is operating under his stewardship, passing spending plans on time has been a hallmark for him.
Cohen dismissed the idea that a broad investigation into legislative wrongdoing was somehow an ultimate weapon, however. That could be realized in the form of anti-Albany campaign, Cohen said.
“I don’t know if it’s an ultimate threat,” he said. “The ultimate threat is probably a political one, how you conduct your campaign vis-a-vis the Legislature.”
In the wake of the latest corruption scandals, Cuomo is pushing a variety of overhaul measures, including an end to Wilson-Pakula waivers, the public financing of political campaigns, great ballot access and a provisions designed to strengthen penalties for bribing and defrauding the government.
But Cuomo appears most interested in putting an independent enforcement office in the state Board of Elections. The governor seized on a report issued Tuesday by NYPIRG that found more than 100,000 campaign-finance violations go unenforced by the board, which is considered a paper tiger.
Cohen said the independent counsel, nominated by Cuomo and subject to Senate confirmation, is a relatively easy lift for the Legislature.
“All of these problems begin with the election process itself. If you engage in fraud at the inception, it’s a pretty good idea of how you’re going to behave when you’re elected,” he said, adding, “That is one of the things that frankly is an easy thing for the Legislature to do if it’s so inclined and my sense the Legislature isn’t interested in doing anything.”
May 8th - 7:04 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany
At 10:30 a.m., Cuomo hosts the state’s first-ever tourism summit in the Hart Lounge at the Egg Center for Performing Arts.
At noon, Gay and transgender rights advocates including Empire State Pride Agenda members and city and community officials call for state lawmakers to pass GENDA during the current legislative session, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 1 p.m., LG Bob Duffy (a former police chief) delivers remarks at the Police Officers’ Memorial Remembrance Ceremony, Empire State Plaza, Albany.
The NYC Council will hold a long-awaited vote on paid sick leave legislation at 1:30 p.m., Council chambers, City Hall, Manhattan. The vote will be preceded by a rally with advocates, and business and labor leaders on the City Hall steps.
At 2 p.m., a judge will release documents revealing the names of six lawmakers caught on the ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley wiretap – unless prosecutors appeals.
The IDC is holding an ethics and campaign finance reform hearing in Rockland County (home turf of Sen. David Carlucci) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Valley Cottage Library, 110 New York 303, Valley Cottage.
At 6 p.m, the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee holds a fundraiser, Tuscana West, 1300 I St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is now a Buffalo school board member after winning 79 percent of the vote in yesterday’s elections.
“Something was missing at a public hearing held by the State Senate on Tuesday to examine New York City’s campaign finance system: the public.”
Stunned by the indictment of state Sen. John Sampson, charged with embezzling $440,000 from sales of foreclosed properties, the state Office of Court Administration launched a review of how foreclosure sales are handled.
Sampson’s mole in the US attorney’s office, exposed.
Bob McManus believes corruption in Albany starts at the top, and calls out Cuomo for his taxpayer funded pro-business ad campaign.
Sen. James Sanders, who replaced Huntley in the Senate, slams elected officials who “snitch” on their colleagues.
The state Department of Financial Services has begun an investigation into pension advance firms, the lenders that woo retirees to sign over their monthly pension checks in return for cash.
The Senate GOP’s casino plan, which is still being drafted, protects the Seneca Nation of Indians’ three casino investments in the region by honoring a decade-old compact between the state and tribe to keep new Las Vegas-style casinos from locating in a large portion of the region.
May 7th - 11:40 pm
Former New York Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino was elected to public office, even if it is on a smaller scale. Paladino was elected to the Buffalo Public School Board of Education winning 79 percent of the vote in Buffalo’s Park District.
“Today the children of the City of Buffalo won a big, big battle,” Paladino told supporters at a rally Tuesday Night.
Despite being slammed by inflamatory mailers, Paladino defeated his opponent in the race by a 4-1 margin. More than 3,200 people cast ballots in the South Buffalo district Paladino was running in.
The increased media attention pushed voter turnout in Paladino’s race to an unoffical 14 percent. Voter particpation was literally 10 times higher than it was in the last school board election three years ago.
May 7th - 6:50 pm
Is Gov. Andrew Cuomo working on an end-of-session surprise?
Legislative leaders met with Cuomo this morning in private talks.
They emerged after roughly an hour to say little, but again hinted that Cuomo was turning his attention to a possible economic development proposal.
“The focus of this meeting was really about jobs,” said Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein. ”I think we have to be very clear there are people around the state who are hurting and we have to be creative in creating new jobs.”
That could tied to enabling legislation to build non-American Indian casinos, along with second passage of a constitutional amendment to expand gaming in New York.
Silver told reporters after the meeting the talks were focused on a variety of end-of-session issues, but the nebulous jobs proposal is hanging out there.
“One of the things we always have in mind is job,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “One of the things we always have in minds is the casino resolution needs second passage and what do we have to do to accomplish that in order of enabling legislation.”
Cuomo has a number of balls in the air at this point, including a push for publicly financed campaigns and strengthening abortion laws through a codification of Roe V. Wade. Cuomo also wants to pass a series of ethics reforms in the wake of a trio of corruption scandals that have hit Albany like a plague.
All of those measures face varying trouble in passing the Legislature.
A jobs program, meanwhile, could stand a more favorable chance of passage. A jobs program would come, too, as Cuomo faces criticism for not making the state friendly enough for businesses, despite an expensive TV ad campaign boosting the state’s economic climate.
As Klein was speaking with reporters on the jobs discussion of the meeting, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos joked, “See, I knew I’d make Republicans out of them eventually.”
“Everyone’s in favor of jobs,” Klein said with a smile.
May 7th - 5:37 pm
The Clintons are regular passengers on John Catsimatidis’ Gulfstream IV.
Bill Clinton thinks all the obsessing over his wife’s potential 2016 run is “the worst expenditure of our time.”
At Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction, DFS today sent subpoenas to ten companies engaging in pension advances.
Here’s the Citizens Union report on the undisclosed campaign activity of political clubs in New York. (This was featured on last night’s CapTon).
Catsimatidis’ mayoral campaign was endorsed by the Liberal Party.
The recent spate of Capitol scandals, which hit the Democrats particularly hard, could help the Republicans in the 2014 election cycle.
House of Cupcakes is opening a New York City location Thursday with a giant 25-pound, 35,800 calorie-cupcake named “The Mayor.” Mayor Bloomberg’s response: “Oh, come on!”
President Obama says his daughters “have taught me a pretty good ‘Gangnam Style.’”
The Donald is launching a crowdfunding site.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand expressed her frustration at the reported rise in sexual assaults in the military, released less than 48 hours after the head of prevention efforts for the Air Force was himself arrested for sexual assault.
Democratic NYC mayoral hopeful Sal Albanese accused two of his rivals – Council Speaker Chris Quinn and NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio – of hiring political operatives at taxpayer expense as they readied their campaigns.
Marc Ambinder, who had weight-loss surgery, congratulates “the most famous American” to do the same: NJ Gov. Chris Christie.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s sixth annual report examining IDA performance found improved reporting of data, but recommended that IDAs do more to objectively weigh incentives against economic benefits.
“The Senate now has four conferences: Republican, Democrat, Independent Democrat – and indicted.”
Sen. John Sampson’s seat in the Senate chamber was moved, but he’s not sitting next to his scandal-scarred colleague, Sen. Malcolm Smith.
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. suggests lawmakers of color are being targeted in corruption investigations.
New York finished 49th in CEO Magazine’s 2013 ranking of states that are “best for business,” behind California.
Andrea Catsimatidis (daughter of John Catsimatidis and wife of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox’s son Chris Cox) is an Internet sensation in China.
May 7th - 4:45 pm
The names of those who spoke with ex-Sen. Shirely Huntley on a federal wiretap should not be revealed as eight of them remain under criminal investigation, federal prosecutors wrote in a letter to Judge Jack Weinstein that was released this afternoon.
At least six, possible seven, of the people Huntley, a Queens Democrat, spoke to are elected officials.
Weinstein ordered the names be released in a document on Wednesday unless the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District appeals the move.
The names are of those who Huntley spoke to while cooperating with federal investigators for own her own public corruption case. She is due to be sentenced on Thursday.
If the names are eventually released — two are believed to be non-electeds and one is not under criminal probe — the season of corruption that has hit the state Capitol and New York politics would take a new, more intense dimension and scruinty of those identified.
Already three corruption cases have landed in April and May, ensaring Sens. Malcolm Smith and John Sampson and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson.
Prosecutors say releasing the names could compromise their ongoing investigations. Attorneys also argued that releasing the names of those under investigation could attach an “unfair stigma” to officials.
A primary purpose of that rule is to allow law enforcement authorities to use specific, powerful investigative techniques, while simultaneously safeguarding the subjects of those techniques from the public stigma and opprobrium, with resulting negative personal and professional consequences, which often result from being identified as merely the subject of a criminal investigation, even if no charges are ultimately brought. Such stigma could be particularly damaging to an elected official for whom reputation is of grave professional importance.
But in his ruling to release the doucment with the names of those who Huntley spoke to, Weinstein argues that with being in public life comes scrutiny.
The argument that some may avoid lending their talents to public life in order to avoid itsslurs has slight weight. Since this country’s beginning, when Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, andothers began developing the art of American politics, anyone who entered the arena of government has understood that his or her good name may be unfairly sullied. Yet, the honorand excitement of serving the public has not inhibited our best people from entering the fray of politics. To paraphrase President Harry Truman, “those who cannot stand the heat should stayout of the kitchen.” Decent public servants can stand the heat.
As for spoiling ongoing investigations, Weinstein writes that “there will be no surprises” for those who are named.
Every legislator who has conversed with this defendant will necessarily assume that he or she wasrecorded under the supervision of the FBI. There will be no surprises to the potentially accused by the revelations of their names. Interference with ongoing investigations will be of almost nosignificance.
May 7th - 4:14 pm
As good-government advocates complain they were not allowed to sit through today’s public proceedings on the New York City public financing system, Senate Elections Committee Chairman Tom O’Mara said there wasn’t enough time to hear all takers on the topic.
The hearing, which featured witnesses critical of public financing along with some supporters, lasted most of the morning and into the early afternoon.
“We couldn’t have everybody here,” O’Mara said in an interview. ”We’ve been here for over four hours already as it is with the witnesses that we’ve had.”
O’Mara pointed to additional public hearings being held on the topic by the Independent Democratic Conference.
“They don’t need to be heard at every forum and there’s just not enough time in the day to accommodate all those groups,” he said.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif was more pointed in a statement earlier this afternoon, saying the room was filled to capacity and that not everyone could be let inside. The hearing was webcast online, he added.
But officials were clearly cautious about who was let into the hearing room, which was held in the Capitol and not the Legislative Office Building, where there are larger meeting rooms that could handle a larger audience.
Reporters who arrived after the meeting began were told the room was at capacity, with sergeants-at-arms even questioning whether they were members of the press. After Reif appeared, the reporters were let inside.
May 7th - 3:48 pm
IDC Sen. David Valesky sat down with Liz on Capital Tonight on Monday to discuss the latest reform proposal: divorce lawmakers from their political consultants once they are in office.
Valesky proposed the bill after The Daily News reported this week that 29 political consultant firms charged with running campaigns have turned around and lobbied the very candidates they helped elect.
The marriage of political consultant firms with officeholders is part of a growing trend at the Capitol for both political parties and all conferences in the Legislature.
“There is a time for politicking, a time for campaigning, and then there’s a time for governing. It doesn’t seem to make a whole of sense and it seems to invite trouble so I thought let’s have that fire wall to separate politics and government,” Valesky said.
The move comes as a variety of reform proposals are being pushed at the Capitol in the wake of three corruption scandals to hit Albany in the last month.
Though the members of the Independent Democratic Conference aren’t immune to hiring consultants of their own, Valesky said it’s another practice that has to end at the Capitol.
“It is commonplace here at the Capitol and the time for that sort of thing I think is over,” he said. ”I think they see certainly all four of us understand the time for that has to end.”
The measure is expected to discussed at the IDC’s latest hearing on overhauling campaign finance laws, due to be held in Rockland County on Wednesday.