May 4th - 6:04 pm
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is reportedly headed to Albany after being arrested on federal corruption charges in NYC earlier today. He will meet behind closed doors with members of his GOP conference, some of whom – Sens. John Bonacic and George Amedore – have said the Long Island lawmaker should relinquish his leadership post. Other senators are taking a more wait-and-see approach, so this meeting could take some time.
Over the weekend, according to multiple sources, Skelos made a round of calls to members, making the case as to why he should be allowed to continue as head of the conference. But now that the 43-page complaint laying out the alleged misdeeds of Skelos and his son, Adam, in gory detail has been made public, it’s hard to see how the senator will be able to continue as leader.
While we await word on Skelos’ future, here are some headlines from the day:
In his press conference unveiling a six-count criminal complaint against Skelos, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was a subdued version of himself, reciting the charges, taking a limited number of questions, and swiftly departing.
In addition to his passport and all travel documents, Skelos must relinquish the shotgun he uses for hunting, a federal judge informed him today. The senator also faces pretrial supervision. He will be permitted to travel in the continental US.
Sen. Richard Funke makes a cameo in the criminal complaint against Skelos, who allegedly altered the freshman lawmaker’s State of the State response to include a push for water infrastructure spending – just as Skelos’ son was being paid by an environmental firm that would benefit from it.
The Skelos complaint sheds new light on the senator’s call for rent regulations to expire every two years, ostensibly giving him additional leverage – and potential to personally benefit – from the process.
There’s also a fracking component to the Skelos scandal.
RIP Thomas Constantine, a former superintendent of the State Police, who died Sunday night.
RIP Brian Moore, the NYPD officer who was shot in the face over the weekend while attempting to stop a suspect, and died today after being taken off life support at a Queens hospital.
Cuomo issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Constantine’s passing, saying the former superintendent was “the embodiment of public service and commitment to others, and he is greatly missed.”
The governor is reportedly under fire from union leaders, law enforcement officials and relatives of slain officers for being a no-show at the state’s solemn police memorial services during his entire first term.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, are largely avoiding the NYC high society circuit.
In a move that surprised city officials, the MTA chairman said the de Blasio administration should significantly increase its contributions to the agency’s $32 billion capital plan.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano in recent years changed his government office’s official phone number to reflect his last name.
Paychex founder Tom Golisano is making an investment in Bak USA, the social enterprise company that makes affordable tablet computers for customers in developing countries at a factory in Buffalo.
Two more Republicans – former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – have joined the increasingly crowded 2016 field.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to testify on Capitol Hill later this month about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and about her email practices.
Comcast’s decision to back off of its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable was “a pretty responsible decision,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said.
US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a report that the Pentagon refused to provide her with all the information she requested about sexual assaults at several major bases.
Contrary to what you might read on the Internet, Cuomo passed the bar exam on his first try, though he didn’t sit for it immediately after graduating law school.
Vice President Joe Biden has high hopes about the outcome of last week’s historic Supreme Court hearing on marriage equality.
May 4th - 4:59 pm
Republican Sen. Rich Funke told reporters the allegations against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos are “disappointing” and stop short of backing him staying on as the head of the GOP conference.
“I think it would be very difficult at this point,” Funke, a Rochester-area lawmaker, said. “We’ve got work and we need to do it. We don’t need distractions.”
Skelos is expected to address the Republican conference this evening after appearing at a news conference in New York City.
At least one Republican lawmaker, Sen. John Bonacic, is calling on Skelos to step aside.
“We’ve got a lot of questions, we’ll ask him at the appropriate time,” Funke said.
Still, Funke shrugged off being named as “Senator-1″ in the federal complaint against Skelos and his adult son Adam Skelos, which alleged the majority leader edited portions of a script that Funke read as part of a GOP response to the State of the State.
Prosecutors allege in the complain the script was re-written by Skelos to be more favorable to sewer and water project investments, which would have benefited Adam Skelos’s company, AbTech.
“We all wanted the settlement dollars to go to infrastructure improvements,” Funke said. “There’s give and take and things of that nature. If it hadn’t been in there I think I would have inserted it.”
Focusing on the edited script was is “a bit of a red-herring” he added.
Still, Skelos’s position as the leader of the Senate GOP is extremely precarious as most lawmakers discussing the situation publicly declined to offer their full support for the Nassau County Republican.
“We’re going to continue for the next two months, who it’s under remains to be seen and that’s something we’re going to figure out this afternoon,” Funke said.
May 4th - 4:30 pm
Sen. John Bonacic became the first Republican lawmaker in the chamber on Monday to definitively call on Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to resign his leadership post.
“When any leader gets indicted and there a cloud over that person’s head, they have to resign and step down immediately, but remain a senator if so inclined,” Bonacic said. “As much as I have affection for Senator Skelos, that’s not going to change my mind that he should resign,” he added.
The position is in keeping with what Bonacic has said before: He had called previously on Skelos’s successor, Joe Bruno, to step aside after it was confirmed he was under federal investigation.
“Every individual has a presumption of innocence and I have found Senator Skelos over the 17 years I have known him to be a good man, he said.
Meanwhile, Bonacic in the interview said he does have a successor for Skelos in mind that he would support, but declined to say whom.
Skelos is expected to address his conference at some point following his arrest on a half dozen corruption and fraud charges. Skelos, in Manhattan to address the charges against him, is expected to return to Albany his evening to talk to the GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.
For now, Republicans have given varying degrees of support for Skelos to stay on as the leader of the GOP conference, which he has led since 2008.
His strongest supporter in public has been fellow Long Island Republican Sen. John Flanagan, who has insisted Skelos should remain in charge of the conference.
It was only a matter of days before Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was ousted from the post he had since 1994 following fraud and bribery charges.
Silver retained his seat in the Legislature.
Bonacic expects that Skelos will likely have to resign as majority leader at some point.
“With so much pressure building, it will just be a matter of time before he steps down,” Bonacic said.
May 4th - 3:06 pm
Most Senate Republicans sought to sidestep the issue of whether Majority Leader Dean Skelos should remain in power after he and his adult son were charged with six counts of corruption.
Only Sen. John Flanagan, a member of the so-called “Long Island nine” would insist that Skelos should remain in the leadership post.
“We’re going to have a full conference,” Flanagan told reporters. “I think he should stay on as leader, plain and simple.”
Senate Republicans are due to discuss Skelos’s legal troubles following this afternoon’s legislative session. For the most part, Republicans have avoided commenting to reporters.
The Nassau County Republican has led the Senate GOP since 2008. Over the weekend, multiple Republican senators expressed support for Skelos’s leadership after news broke that he would soon be arrested.
But after a 43-page complaint was released by the U.S. attorney’s office this morning, Senate Republicans began to digest the scope of what Skelos and 32-year-old Adam Skelos were accused of: Seeking to use the lawmakers’ official position to lean on real-estate developers and aid a company that employed his son.
“It’s too early to tell,” Sen. Michael Nozzolio told reporters when asked about Skelos’s future. “This was just put forward a few hours ago. The conference has a lot to discuss and I’m sure we’ll be discussing it in the hours to come.”
Asked directly whether Skelos should stay on as majority leader, Nozzolio said: “It’s difficult to say.”
Sen. George Amedore, a freshman Republican who comes from a district with active conservative grassroots organizations, was also unsure what would happen to Skelos’s position.
“I think these are some serious allegations and the conference has to decide what’s going to happen moving forward,” Amedore said. “I’m here to do the peoples’ work and that’s what my focus is right now before we have conference to discuss what leadership would look like.”
Amedore added he was yet to speak to Skelos today about the charges.
It would be difficult to change the Senate’s leadership structure right now: Skelos is not in Albany and it would require 32 votes to approve a new majority leader in the chamber.
May 4th - 2:51 pm
IDC Leader Jeff Klein, whose breakaway Democratic conference has a relationship – though no longer a power-sharing deal – with the Senate Republicans, issued a statement calling the corruption charges outlined today by the US attorney against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos “serious and distburing,” but did not join fellow Democrats in calling for the senator to give up his leadership post.
“Elected officials must be held to the highest standards of conduct if they are to effectively represent their constituents and the people of New York,” Klein said. “The burden now falls on the Republican Conference to determine if new Republican Leadership is warranted.”
“The Independent Democratic Conference believes that it is our duty to continue the people’s business in spite of these developments and regain the people’s trust.”
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris have both issued calls for Skelos to relinquish his majority leader post following his arrest – along with his son, Adam – this morning.
Two years ago, Klein denied the Democrats majority control of the Senate by entering into first-ever power-sharing deal with Skelos, which effectively allowed the Republicans to maintain control of the chamber. For two years, Klein and Skelos were co-leaders – a situation that so angered some Democrats (especially the left, who were infuriated by the lack of action on so-called “progressive” policy issues) that they mounted unsuccessful primary challenges against Klein and one of his fellow IDC members, Sen. Tony Avella, this past fall.
Both Klein, who was challenged by former AG Oliver Koppell; and Avella, who ran against former NYC Comptroller John Liu; survived their respective primaries. But the Republicans managed to win a clean 32-seat majority last fall, which was bolstered by Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder’s continued allegiance to the GOP conference.
Though he had appeared to pledge before the elections to return to the Democratic fold – an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo professed to support, in exchange for the Working Families Party endorsement – Klein decided against re-joining a minority conference, and he struck a deal with Skelos in which the IDC continued to exist as a separate conference, albeit with considerably less power than before.
As CapCon’s Matt Hamilton aptly points out, if the Senate Republicans decide to try to replace Skelos with another member of their conference, they’re going to have a bit of a tough time doing it, thanks to the ongoing illness of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, who is recovering in Florida from back-to-back surgeries connected to his fight with terminal cancer; and the absence of Sen. George Amedore, who have been recovering from back surgery.
The Republicans need 32 votes to elect a replacement for Skelos, and there’s nothing in the rules that addresses voting by proxy. Also, Klein & Co. have never voted for a Republican for leader. (NOTE: They did vote for Skelos as co-leader of the last session, in which he shared power with Klein). The last time out – this past January, that is – all five IDC members voted for Klein.
May 4th - 1:21 pm
In the wake of the arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on federal corruption charges this morning, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate, issued a statement expressing “confidence” that the Long Island lawmaker “will do the right thing and promptly resign his leadership position.”
“That is the noble course of action, and I know he will take it,” Astorino said. “Senator Skelos and his son, Adam, can then begin their vigorous defense against these charges, as is their right.”
This puts Astorino on the same pages as Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, which is kind of ironic. But it’s not at all surprising that the county executive has turned so quickly on his fellow Republican.
Astorino and Skelos didn’t really see eye-to-eye during last year’s governor’s race. The county executive’s wide-ranging reform plan for Albany, which included, among other things, term limits, did not sit terribly well with the Senate GOP.
Though Skelos formally endorsed Astorino, he didn’t really do that much to assist him, and also appeared numerous times – including on a late-in-the-campaign trip to Israel – with the governor (and then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, too). And many GOP senators followed their leader’s example, failing to go out of their way to assist Astorino’s long-shot bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with whom the Republicans had enjoyed a fairly good – and mutually beneficial – working relationship.
Astorino did not limit his criticism today to Skelos, basically going the pox-on-all-their-houses route in castigating everyone with any power in Albany.
“”Many call this year’s historic turmoil in Albany a distraction from the people’s business,” the county executive said. “I disagree.”
“I believe it is the eventual pathway to the people’s business, which has been hijacked for decades by self dealing and special interest dealmaking in the hallways and backrooms of Albany. If Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who is already under the spotlight for possible corruption, and the next Senate leader continue in that ignoble tradition, then they, too, must be excised from leadership.”
“…Governor Cuomo will answer for this, too. His J-COPE and Moreland announcements were a blue ribbon lie, despite the solid efforts of commission members. They were designed to make the ultimate Albany insider appear to be a reformer, while letting business-as-usual go on. Mr. Cuomo spoke in the poetry of ethics, while the dealmaking continued under his nose. He now shrugs, while explaining with a straight face that New York ‘always will have some level of corruption.”
Astorino’s 2014 running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, also issued a statement on the Skelos scandal, declaring himself “sick” of the endless corruption cases in Albany.
“It’s now clearer than ever that term limits are the most important ethical reform we need,” Moss said. “There’s a direct correlation between longevity and seniority and the power and greed that follows.”
“Most lawmakers probably don’t arrive in Albany intending to do wrong. But after decades in the mud, dining with lobbyists and wealthy donors, trading favors and compromising their values for political points, some can’t resist temptation.”
“The action against Skelos and Silver should be a wakeup call for the Governor, other legislators and the public. The time for term limits is now.”
Astorino has not ruled out a second run for governor in 2018, though he hasn’t spoken definitively about his political plans. He hasn’t yet committed to seeking a third term in 2017, though in January, he transferred the balance of his gubernatorial campaign account to his county executive account. In March, Moss launched a new statewide campaign committee, sparking speculation that he may have his eye on another run (for what, it’s unclear) in 2018, too.
May 4th - 12:56 pm
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in a statement released on Monday said he was innocent of the corruption charges leveled against him.
“I am innocent of the charges leveled against me,” Skelos said. “I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent. I fully expect to be exonerated by a public jury trial.”
The Long Island Republican, along with adult son Adam, surrendered to federal authorities this morning and charged in six-count complaint that he sought to “monetize” his office through campaign donations and favorable actions for an Arizona-based firm and New York developer.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara laid out the charges against Skelos and his son at a news conference at midday, saying Skelos “unlawfully used his position and power to influence” official actions.
Once again, Bharara said public corruption remains a broad problem in Albany.
“It is a problem in both chambers, it is a problem on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Bharara’s office in January arrested former Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges — a development that ultimately led to his ouster from the top post in the chamber. At the time, Bharara indicated more arrests were on the way.
This afternoon, Bharara once again suggested more was to come down the corruption pipeline.
“Implicit to any comments I make from this podium is you should stay tuned,” he said.
May 4th - 10:55 am
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his 32-year-old son Adam Skleos have been charged with six counts of fraud and extortion, according to a complaint released by federal investigators on Monday.
The 43-page complaint alleges the elder Skelos sought to “monetize” his official position in order to influence public policy on behalf of a company that employed Adam Skelos while also leaning on members of the real-estate community for campaign donations.
Skelos is accused of backing favorable legislation that benefited real-estate developers tied to the case as well as helping arrange for a favorable contract in Nassau County that was directed to AbTech, which employed Adam Skelos.
The charges outlined in the complaint come after Skelos and his son surrendered to federal authorities earlier this month. Both men are named as co-defendants in the case that comes just months after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges.
Senate Republicans are due to meet privately at the Capitol this afternoon, where the charges are expected to be discussed.
The case against Skelos, a Long Island Republican who has led the Senate GOP conference since 2008, relies on a cooperating witness identified as a developer and another is an executive at AbTech, the Arizona-based company that employed his son.
Investigators relied as well on wire tapped phone calls of both his phone as well as Adam’s cell phone.
Both men are accused of using a disposable or “burner” cell phone and used “coded language” in order to communicate.
At one point, Adam Skelos is overheard in a wire tap that “It’s like [expletive] Preet Bharara is listening to every [expletive] phone call.”
The investigation stretched back to 2010, just before Senate Republicans gained a full majority in the chamber, accusing Skelos of taking official action on votes as well as efforts to include favorable legislation into the state budget.
The complaint alleges Skelos directly asked to send its insurance title work to his son and alleges the lawmaker would “punish member of the real estate community” if they didn’t contribute enough campaign money.
Company officials at AbTech were under the impression that if they “took care” of Skelos, then he would “take care of them” in kind, according to the complaint.
In emails, Skelos directed witnesses cooperating with the federal government to direct where company money would go, which was funneled through various LLC subsidiaries.
Skelos was “personally lobbied” on the extension of rent control regulations by the company in 2011. Skelos, in turn, backed legislation that year that was considered “crucial” to the success of one of the developers involved, including the expansion of the 421-a real-estate abatement.
The developer, identified as “Developer-1″ in the complaint, is likely part of Glenwood Management, a firm that has significant investment in AbTech and has ties to prolific campaign donor Leonard Litwin.
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement called the charges “deeply disturbing.”
“I cannot imagine him continuing to serve as leader as he deals with the cloud of corruption now effecting the top two Senate Republican leaders,” she said in a statement. “There are many pressing issues that must be addressed during the remainder of the legislative session and the Senate Republican Majority must ensure that this body is not bogged down in scandal.”
Federal prosecutors are expected to outline the charges against Skelos and son later today at a news conference.
May 4th - 9:45 am
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son are turning themselves into federal authorities this morning, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Updated: Reports indicate that Dean Skelos and Adam Skelos are in custody at FBI headquarters in New York City.
Skelos, who is the highest elected Republican to hold office in the state, is the latest Albany politician to face federal charges brought on by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and his office. He and his 32-year-old son Adam have been at the center of a federal investigation for their ties to an Arizona-based company, AbTech, and its sewer project contract with Nassau County, where they both reside.
Last month, TWC News learned that eight of the nine Republican state senators who represent Long Island were subpoenaed regarding the case. Prosecutors were reportedly looking for a range of information, including documentation on the state budget.
Skelos becomes the latest in a string of high-ranking lawmakers involved charged in corruption related charges. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested in January for using his position to take financial kickbacks. Silver has since pleaded not guilty, and while he still holds his seat in the Assembly, he did have to give up his position as speaker.
The same fate could await Skelos, with potential successors already emerging in discussions among political insiders. Those include Tom Libous, who has legal and health issues himself, John DeFrancisco out Syracuse, as well as Cathy Young.
May 4th - 8:08 am
From the Morning Memo:
The state Capitol will likely be on edge for most of the day, if not the week, as Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his adult son Adam are about to be arrested on federal corruption charges.
The pending arrest of Skelos could very well throw the Senate Republican conference — a bedrock of relative stability this year following the arrest of Sheldon Silver in the Assembly in January — into a state of unusual flux.
The broader legislative session, too, is in peril. This is not so much a concern for Senate Republicans as it is a problem for Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who are pushing a variety of post-budget issues ranging from an extension of rent control, criminal justice reforms and curtailing sexual assaults on college campuses.
In short, there are some unanswered questions heading into this week of uncertainty. Here are few of them:
1. Will Skelos be replaced? That seems to be the questioned on everyone’s mind, though one with conflicting reports. Senate Republicans both on the record and privately over the weekend insisted Skelos could survive as leader and expressed varying degrees of support in him. Still, his future depends on the charges.
2. How severe will the charges be? One Republican operative on Sunday night suggested they may not be as bad as expected. The complaint against Silver — that he allegedly hid more than $4 million in illicit income — was tied both to his job as one of the state’s most powerful individuals and his role as an attorney. The charges stemming from Skelos and son’s arrest are expected to hinge on Adam Skelos’s employment at an Arizona-based firm that received a contract from Nassau County — Dean Skelos’s political backyard.
Severity, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But the GOP conference could ultimately deem the legal complaint a witch hunt being conducted by Bharara’s office — similar to how Republicans view the case against Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, who is accused of lying to the FBI in connection to his son’s own tax case.
The Republican operative was also skeptical of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office, noting the news of the pending arrests was leaked on a Friday night including a draft complaint, which could lead to broader questions about the prosecutor’s intentions among GOP conference members.
3. What will Senate Democrats do? If anything, lawmakers in the Senate minority conference will push hard to capitalize on the Skelos news politically. The Senate remains narrowly divided, with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference acting as a potential buffer zone for the Senate Republicans. If Skelos remains in power, the Senate Democrats will have a field day, at least for a few weeks.
4. What will Assembly Democrats do? The majority conference in the Assembly has lived this movie before, so they will likely want to keep their heads down as much as possible. Democratic lawmakers in that chamber already have a number of issues they have to get done: rent control, monitoring the regulations for the new teacher evaluation law and an extension of mayoral control for New York City schools and criminal justice reform, just to name a few. All of these are measures the Senate GOP after the budget could have been in the cat bird seat. Now, staying in Albany longer than necessary during such a toxic time does not behoove them.
5. What will Gov. Andrew Cuomo do? Is the governor presiding under a corruption crisis? Should there be new ethics reforms? Is U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara trying to dismantle state government’s top leadership? What can he say to the people of New York that assure them state government is still functioning? Can New Yorkers trust their elected officials?
Cuomo’s role in the next few weeks is clearly more complex than that of a normal legislator. In addition to a legislative agenda now in peril over potential dysfunction, the governor will be answering fresh questions about the way Albany does business and what, if anything, he can do to change the public’s perception of the Capitol.