The Weekend That Was

A group of former state lawmakers-turned-cons – ex-Sens. Efrain Gonzalez, Shirley Huntley, Pedro Espada Jr. and ex-Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. – offer advice to their onetime colleagues now awaiting sentencing on corruption charges. Not one of them is terribly contrite about their misdeeds.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver might leave town in disgrace when he is sentenced to prison Tuesday, but he won’t have to leave his wife in the cold. Federal prosecutors have backed off a request to make Silver forfeit his Lower East Side co-ops and his upstate home as part of the financial penalties.

Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo now under federal investigation, might have pocketed as much as six figures from entities with business before the state.

Bob McManus: “Gov. Cuomo had seven days of smug last week, all at Mayor de Blasio’s expense — but that changed Friday when it developed that Andrew himself may be back in corruption-buster Preet Bharara’s cross hairs.”

Longtime de Blasio pal Kevin Finnegan — a former political director of the powerful SEIU 1199 hospital-workers union — found ways for labor groups to funnel cash to the mayor’s campaigns and causes in amounts above legal spending limits, a source tells the NY Post.

As Mayor de Blasio grapples with five separate investigations into his team’s fund-raising efforts, potential challengers who might have been scared to take on a sitting mayor – including Bronc Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, – are now rethinking staying on the sidelines.

The mayor visited two Queens churches today to tout what he said were improvements his administration had made on snow removal, policing and other services for those communities, and making no reference to his campaign finance scandal.

President Obama took some satirical swipes at GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and, more surprisingly, his ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and ended his final White House correspondents’ dinner by literally dropping the mic and departing with the words: “Obama out.” More here.

A remarkable range of leading Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, have been emphatic publicly or with their advisers and allies that they do not want to be considered as Trump’s running mate.

Malia Obama, the older daughter of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, plans to attend Harvard University beginning in the fall of 2017, the White House announced, waiting until her father leaves office to begin her college career.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulled out a strategic victory at Saturday’s Arizona Republican Party state convention, nailing down a large majority of delegates to the national convention amid cheating accusations from Trump backers.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made a pitch to win over Democratic super delegates today by arguing that polls show he is a stronger candidate than frontrunner Clinton in the November presidential election against Trump or any other Republican.

Clinton drew ire from Native Americans on Saturday over her use of the phrase “off the reservation” in a CNN interview.

In another sign that Clinton is setting her sights on the general election, her campaign is preparing to hire staffers in some of the battleground states that will be most competitive in November.

City of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren campaigned over the weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana for Clinton.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton stressed that collaboration between the NYPD and counterparts overseas is key to keeping New Yorkers safe from terror attacks. “The world is getting smaller,” he said on John Catsimatidis’ radio program. Clinton, in a separate interview, echoed that sentiment.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who decided against a White House run himself, denounced what he called the “demagoguery” in the Republican and Democratic Parties in a commencement speech delivered on Saturday at the University of Michigan.

Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner: “Unfortunately, much of the scrutiny trained on de Blasio feels selective — because the aggressive fundraising tactics of other politicians, particularly Gov. Cuomo, paralleled and in many ways paved the way for what the mayor would go on to do.”

De Blasio read from the illustrated children’s book “Secret Pizza Party” at the Woodside branch of the Queens Library Saturday alongside library boss Dennis Walcott and Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. The story follows the exploits of a wily raincoat-clad raccoon who is overly enthusiastic about keeping secrets and stealing pizza.

As de Blasio begins his bid for re-election next year, he will almost certainly be challenged on his record of police reform. As long as a culture in which obfuscation is regarded as an entitlement continues to dominate the department, he is vulnerable to the accusation that little has changed.

The mayor said he’ll back a 5-cent fee on shopping bags to reduce waste a day after NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito endorsed the controversial bill.

Brian Sampson of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter: “The governor is making a mockery of competitive-bidding laws. His blind loyalty to big union bosses is irresponsible. Further, it’s killing affordable housing and good jobs, both of which are desperately needed in New York.”

Cuomo issued an order saying state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman does have the authority to investigate a local officer involved shooting of Edson Thevenin, a Troy man who died earlier this month.

New York is facing the pros and cons of a natural gas glut.

Retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel blessed Assemblyman Keith Wright’s bid to succeed him Saturday, slamming one of Wright’s primary opponents, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who opposed Rangel two years ago, for not resigning his state Senate seat to fully commit to the race.

Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat, has emerged as the winner of the race for ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ seat on Long Island, although as of Friday, his Republican opponent, Chris McGrath, had still not conceded.

A growing group of state legislators and the New York Racing Association Board are urging Cuomo to support a proposal that would transition NYRA to private, not-for-profit status and create a new Board of Directors that will include host community representatives from Queens and other respective track communities.

A super PAC with ties to the Oneida Indian Nation formally launched a campaign today against Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney and her Republican primary campaign in NY-22.

Move over pizza rat, Splinter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are New York City’s new official family ambassadors for 2016. The city’s tourism agency NYC & Co. announced that the sewer-dwelling, pizza-chomping reptiles will star in ads to encourage families to explore the city.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, reiterated that he’s “one-quarter Coca-Cola” because he drinks at least five 12-ounce servings every day. He is unabashed about his love of – and investment in – junk food.

Cuomo has appointed Queensbury at-large Supervisor Ron Montesi, a Republican, to the New York State Soil and Water Committee, a panel that advises state government on water and soil conservation issues.

The family of a woman shot and killed by Syracuse police in February has filed a notice of claim against the city that alleges, among other things, that Sahlah Ridgeway was taken to a far-away hospital instead of the one closest, allowing her to bleed to death en route.

Henry Kissinger’s favorite banquette, the chairs that guests sat on when President John F. Kennedy celebrated his 45th birthday and even the pots and pans will go on the auction block when the Four Seasons closes in July.

Amid Legal Challenge, Cuomo Reaffirms AG’s Special Prosecutor Power

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend reaffirmed the power of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate and prosecutor cases in which civilians are killed during interactions with law enforcement.

The move comes as Schneiderman’s office is suing Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, who is accused of moving forward on his own with a case involving the April 17 death of Edson Thevenin.

The reaffirmation is an amendment to the initial executive order issued by Cuomo last year in which he gave the attorney general the power of special prosecutor to pursue cases in which police kill civilians to specifically include the Thevenin case.

Abelove had presented evidence to a grand jury after Thevenin was killed following a chase with police in Troy. The grand jury ultimately declined to indict police officers involved in the shooting.

Schneiderman was granted the special prosecutor status last year after a series of incidents in which civilians died during interactions with police, but grand juries in certain cases chose to not indict law enforcement officers involved.

Cuomo has said giving Schneiderman the authority to pursue the cases removes concerns locally elected district attorneys are to close with police officers to investigate and prosecute such cases.

Schneiderman by Nick Reisman

Teachout: $418K Raised In April

Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, even before April, was raising a staggering amount of money.

But in the last month alone, her campaign says she’s raised $418,000 — a large haul for an upstate House race.

“This month we set an almost impossible to reach $400,000 April goal,” the fundraising email sent to supporters on Saturday says. “Yesterday, we hit our goal! That’s right — we’ve raised $418,000 in April.”

The email calls for more donors to send them $25,000 before midnight.

Teachout has proven her campaign to be something of a fundraising behemoth, leading the 76 congressional candidates in New York who filed financial reports with the Federal Elections Commission so far this year. Between the reporting period of January through March, Teachout received $530,732 in contributions.

Most of those donations to the campaign have come in the form of small dollar amounts.

Teachout is running for the Democratic nomination in the 19th congressional district against Will Yandik.

On the Republican side, three candidates are vying for the GOP line: former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, businessman Andrew Heaney and Bob Bishop.

The district is being vacated this year by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who is considering a run for governor in 2018.

The Hudson Valley House seat is accustomed to attention and well-financed campaigns, having been a battleground district since 2012.

City Of Buffalo Budget Proposal Includes School Attendance Incentives

The City of Buffalo may be resorting to literally paying its students to go to school. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, D, proposed $60,000 in funding to provide incentives to students and families with good attendance including tablets and $150 gift cards.

“We have seen some troubling stats that in some grades we do have high absenteeism so this is a strategy to partner with our Buffalo Public Schools,” Brown said.

It’s just one of the initiatives the mayor proposed as he presented his budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. It also includes the third $200,000 installment of a four-year pledge to Say Yes to Education.

Another eye-catching proposal, Brown plans to spend $500,000 to equip every on-duty Buffalo police officer with an iPad. He said Buffalo would be the first large city in the country to do this.

“The iPad has dozens more features that the police officers can utilize, GPS is one of those features, the ability to take crime scene photos and immediately load those into reports,” he said.

The administration also plans to start a Lead Awareness Education Program. Although the county is responsible for abatement, high lead levels in blood has become a major area of concern, particularly in the city.

The mayor’s budget also focuses on helping Minority and Women owned businesses and provides $500,000 to run a small business resource center on the city’s east side. He said he will be making a series of executive orders to continue to support those business owner’s soon.

“When you talk about having a center that’s there not just for women and minority businesses but also for small business that are based in the city of Buffalo, to me that speaks volumes of the direction of this city,” Common Council President Darius Pridgen said.

The budget represents less than a 1-percent increase from last year and there would be no increase in property taxes. The common council still needs to approve it.

After Subpoena, Cuomo Orders Review Of Economic Development Spending

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday afternoon ordered a “full review” of his key economic development program for western New York after news broke the administration had received a subpoena related to the federal investigation.

A former longtime aide to Cuomo, Joe Percoco, along with nanotech czar Alain Kaloyeros and lobbyist Todd Howe and Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli are the apparent focus of the probe after the administration was issued the subpoena, according to The Daily News.

Cuomo himself has not been issued a subpoena, nor have his top aides.

Soon after the News posted its story, Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David announced in a statement the review of the economic development program would be led by Bart Schwartz, an independent investigator who had served as chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Any grants made by this program will be thoroughly scrutinized – past, current or future,” David said in the statement.

“This investigation has recently raised questions of improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest by some individuals which may have deceived state employees involved in the respective programs and may have defrauded the state,” he added.

In the same statement, Schwartz suggested there was “reason to believe” programs and regulatory approvals were “defrauded.”

“The state has reason to believe that in certain programs and regulatory approvals they may have been defrauded by improper bidding and failures to disclose potential conflicts of interest by lobbyists and former state employees,” Schwartz said. “The U.S. Attorney has an ongoing investigation that has revealed important information in this regard.”

While it is not clear what role Percoco, now an executive at MSG, had in the Buffalo Billion program, the Daily News reported he may have received unreported income from Howe.

Percoco is a longtime confidant of the Cuomo family, having worked for the current governor’s late father. He has served as an advance man for the governor and political fixer before leaving last year. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week Percoco had continued to appear at Cuomo appearances, including the Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn.

“I will conduct my review commencing immediately and report any information I find to the U.S. Attorney and the administration,” Schwarz said. “The administration has made it clear to me that they have zero tolerance for any violation of the public trust from any actor or entity and I should follow the facts.”

The news comes as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is conducting a separate investigation into the fundraising activities of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Bharara had previously investigated the circumstances surrounding the shuttering of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, but ultimately cleared the governor and his aides of any wrongdoing.

Extras

A former top aide (Joe Percoco) and several others close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being probed for potential improper lobbying and “undisclosed” conflicts of interest having to do with the governor’s signature “Buffalo Billion” economic development program.

In a statement, Cuomo counsel Alphonso David said the governor has appointed Bart Schwartz, former chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District, to conduct an “immediate full review” of the Buffalo Billion program, including all grants – part, current or future.

“Ensuring the integrity of the contracting process for this program is paramount, so that the Buffalo Billion and Nano program can continue creating new jobs and revitalizing upstate’s economy,” David said.

In a separate statement, Schwartz said the governor has made it clear he has a “zero tolerance” policy “for any violation of the public trust from any actor or entity,” and he has been told to “follow the facts.”

The attorney for Republican election officials in Nassau County said that Christopher McGrath, the party’s candidate in the special election in the 9th state senate district, had been “mathematically eliminated” in his race against Democrat Todd Kaminsky.

Dean Skelos’ attorneys have asked a federal judge to reject prosecutors’ proposed $500,000 – a sum that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office has argued would serve as a just counterweight to the fact that the former Senate Republican leader will continue to receive a public pension valued at $955,000.

Though it has been suggested her actions against NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio were politically motivated, state Board of Elections enforcement counsel Risa Sugarman has sounded the alarm over similar behavior in the past – and the targets of her previous efforts were not enemies of the governor.

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show — a frequent venue for de Blasio — became hazardous territory this morning, with Lehrer and his callers subjecting the mayor to an onslaught of uncomfortable questions about the whirlwind of investigations enveloping his administration.

Scott Rechler said he has begun talking to Gov. Andrew Cuomo about “transitioning off” the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board, where he’s served as vice chairman since 2011.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has hired a pricey pair of high-profile Manhattan attorneys to fend off subpoenas from Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick. The lawyers are each charging the city $850 an hour – more than three times what Syracuse officials typically pay for outside legal help.

Three teenage interns were among those exposed to a suspicious, white powder Thursday night at the Manhattan headquarters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, authorities said.

Hillary Clinton tread carefully on the controversial subject of education reform during a fundraising appearance on behalf of the Eagle Academies network of all-boys public schools in New York City today.

Cuomo wants New York to be the first state in the nation to extend Medicaid coverage to inmates who face serious health challenges immediately before they’re released from prison, which requires federal approval.

The number of $1 million earners in New York dropped for the first time since the recession in 2009, state records show.

Mark Green, NYC’s first public advocate, has written an autobiography, which The Times deems “reflective” and “frank (if sometimes defensive).”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer says Syracuse should be given a chance by the federal government to revive a program that for 20 years removed hazardous lead-based paint from city homes.

Lakewood, Colo., which has already surpassed Syracuse in terms of annual snowfall this year, is about to up the ante.

A new study says no traces of pesticides were found in lobsters collected in Long Island Sound in late 2014, boosting the belief that warming water temperatures is the main culprit in a huge lobster population decline.

Patrons at soup kitchens and food pantries probably don’t realize it, but depending on the day, they may be dining on some of the region’s most expensively produced fare – meat and vegetables from Dan Colen, an artist and Hudson Valley farmer who donates his entire output to several local food banks.

Cuomo: Give Medicaid Coverage To Soon-To-Be-Released Prisoners

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to seek federal approval that would provide Medicaid coverage to prisons who have severe behavioral and physical health problems before they are released.

Cuomo’s office in a statement said providing those prisoners with coverage would help them transition back into society and reduce recidivism among former inmates.

“We know that many people leaving our jails and prisons have serious mental health and substance use problems,” Cuomo said in the statement. “It makes little sense to send them back into the community with our fingers crossed that they will be able to find the help they need. This initiative bridges the gap, providing essential transitional health services while also ensuring a smooth re-entry period and increasing public safety in communities statewide.”

Department of Health is already in the process of finalizing a waiver request with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. If approved, New York would use Medicaid money to help pay for services 30 days before release.

The move is meant to address what the administration called a “critical gap” in coverage for those incarcerated in either jail or prison as well as health coverage for those who are leaving incarceration.

In prison, inmates receive medical care through the facility. Upon release, many inmates are left without coverage.

If approved, New York would be the first state to have a coordinated continuum of care for those who have access to health coverage through their re-entry.

The Medicaid coverage is expected to impact thousands, and will address issues such as mental health and prescription drug addiction.

While it’s not clear how much the coverage would cost, the administration said the move would save money in the long run by ensuring greater continuity of care and less emergency admissions.

The move would come as New York and most of the nation continues to battle what public health officials say is an epidemic of heroin and opioid addiction, an issue that has especially ravaged parts of upstate New York.

Cuomo has sought during his time as governor to close prisons and reduce recidivism through providing college-level courses, a proposal that was met with opposition from Republicans in the Legislature.

De Blasio Continues Defense Of Fundraising Activities

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in an interview on WNYC this morning reiterated his defense of his fundraising activities, which have fallen under the scrutiny of state and federal investigators.

At the same time, de Blasio suggested there was a political motivation behind the recommendation by the prosecution referral made by the chief enforcement counsel at the state Board of Elections. Risa Sugarman, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, concluded in a memorandum de Blasio’s political team violated campaign finance laws when aiding Senate Democrats’ efforts in taking over the chamber in 2014.

“Everything was done very carefully, meticulously, with legal guidance all along the way, and consistent with what so many other people have done,” de Blasio said. “So that’s why I’m saying it’s very interesting that now it becomes a subject of these questions.”

De Blasio has been at odds with both Cuomo as well as Senate Republicans since taking office in 2011.

Aides to the mayor, in aiding Democratic candidates, directed large-dollar contributions to county Democratic committees in upstate races, which then turned around and transferred the money to individual candidates.

The practice is a commonplace one, but de Blasio’s push was done a large-scale project that hadn’t been seen before.

“I think we have to figure out some of the motivations behind it, because if we specifically followed every step along the way — legal guidance — and did what other mayors and other leaders have done for years and years under the laws of this state, following the letter and spirit of the law,” de Blasio said. “Well, that is how we are supposed to comport ourselves.”

Subpoenas have been issued to the mayor’s top political advisor, Emma Wolfe, as well as his campaign fundraiser, Ross Offinger, as well as outside political consultants with ties to de Blasio.

Amid Fundraising Investigation, de Blasio To Make Albany Appearance

Amid an ongoing investigating into his fundraising activities, Mayor Bill de Blasio will face his staunchest institutional critics next week in person as Senate Republicans hold a hearing on the future of mayoral control of New York City schools.

NY1’s Zack Fink on Friday confirmed de Blasio will appear in Albany for the hearing, which was called earlier this year by Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino, a Nassau County Republican.

Mayoral control of city schools is due to expire at the end of June. Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a 12-month extension of the program, while de Blasio had sought a permanent extension of the control.

De Blasio faces multiple inquiries into his efforts in 2014 to help Democrats take full control of the Senate as well as his relationships with donors to the Campaign For One New York.

Scrutiny has been placed in particular on the funneling of campaign donations from donors to county Democratic committees that ended up backing individual candidates. The county committees were able to transfer the funds well above the individual donor contribution limits.

De Blasio last testified in Albany in February to discuss the proposed state budget. At the time, Senate Republicans grilled him over whether New York City should be subject to a cap on property tax increases.

Senate Republicans plan to cover a range of issues with mayoral control, including student performance, graduation rates, and “the effectiveness of having a single person accountable for the public school system as compared to the previous community board system.”

A second hearing is scheduled for May 19 in New York City.

NY-3: Martins Elevated In NRCC’s “Young Guns” Program

From the Morning Memo:

Republican congressional hopeful Jack Martins was among the 11 GOP House candidates this week elevated in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.

Martins, a state senator seeking the GOP nomination in the 3rd congressional district on Long Island, was designated with the “contender” status by the committee.

Reaching the status in the program requires candidates to reach certain fundraising and organizing benchmarks in a campaign in a show of candidate strength and viability.

“While our Republican majority continues to work hard to move our country forward, we know there is still more to be done,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden.

“These 11 candidates have proven themselves to be exemplary leaders in their communities and they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in Washington. I am confident these candidates will continue to run strong campaigns as they spread the message and values of the Republican party across the country.”

Martins is one candidate in a crowded race to succeed Democratic Rep. Steve Israel.

Three Republicans are competing for the GOP nomination in the district, including Philip Pidot and Martins.

Five Democrats are also running for what is shaping up for a battleground race, including former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

The primary is a closely watched one for Senate Democrats in Albany, given the potential pickup opportunity they would have with the western Nassau Senate district if Martins wins the June primary.