Last Night and What’s Ahead

It’s the Cuomo-Astorino ad war, and we’re in the middle of it, literally. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined us to talk about her work, and her future, and we talk state issues including medical marijuana and terrorism. Here’s highlights from last night and a look ahead to what’s coming up tonight:



Full Show – 9.29.14

State of Politics LIVE – 9.30.14

Empowering Women Through Words: Kirsten Gillibrand Interview

Pushing Pot: Drug Policy Alliance’s Gabriel Sayegh Interview

Talking Terrorism: Dr. Steven Leibo Interview



Fordham Law Prof. and erstwhile gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout has joined the board of directors of Mayday, a “crowd-funded” PAC that seeks to limit the influence of large donors.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t had a public event at he Capitol (or Empire State Plaza) for 103 days – a new personal best ! (Worst?)

Texas Gov. rick Perry went sneaker shopping on Long Island.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has made gun control one of his main issues, is the focus of a new advertising campaign by the NRA.

The FCC voted to eliminate its sports blackout rules, putting pressure on the NFL to do the same and open all pro football games to TV coverage even when they’re not sold out.

Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei kicked off a new initiative labeling his Republican challenger, John Katko, as “too reckless and radical” for NY-24 by criticizing Katko’s jobs plan.

JCOPE lost another commissioner.

Complete with a Dear Abby-style Q&A letters regarding government ethics, JCOPE is out with its first edition of The Ethics Review newsletter.

AG Eric Schneiderman is warning schools in New York to be on alert for a fake-invoice scam from a company called Scholastic School Supply.

Cornell University named its first woman president: Elizabeth Garrett, provost of the University of Southern California.

US Attorney Preet Bharara vowed to help compel reforms at Rikers Island, with or without the cooperation of the jail’s leadership.

Bharara is keeping mum on whether he’s interested in taking over for retiring US Attorney General Eric Holder.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito would like to see US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez tapped to replace Holder.

The US attorney on Rob Astorino’s “Daisy” ad: “I do find it interesting that a lot of people try to use the work done by my office or the work they presume my office is doing for their own purposes.”

Just in time for election season, the tax rebate checks tout the state’s “efforts to reduce taxes.”

Hillary Clinton will headline a New York City fundraiser this week for New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Onondaga County legislators have knocked more than $1 million out of the $1.246 billion budget proposed by County Executive Joanie Mahoney, lowering property tax bills a little bit more.

The chairman of the state and Region 7 Fish and Wildlife Boards wants Cuomo to veto a bill that calls for the protection of mute swans.

A longtime WNY town justice resigned after the state Commission on Judicial Conduct filed disciplinary charges against him for arraigning a woman on drunken driving and other charges and then giving her a ride home.

John Catsimatidis is not letting his failed NYC mayoral campaign water go to waste.

A lawyer for Bernie Fine’s wife asked a federal judge to force SU to turn over more documents from its investigation of molesting allegations against the former assistant basketball coach.

Just under half of the 66,000 children who entered the country unaccompanied frmo Central American and are now appearing before the New York City Immigration Court have no attorney.

De Blasio: Not So Dangerous

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brushed off criticism from Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos that his agenda is “dangerous” and that his support for a Democratic-controlled Senate would be problematic for the rest of the state.

Skelos, on The Capitol Press Room this morning, said de Blasio’s agenda passing a Democratic-controlled Senate would be “the worst thing” for the state.

“If you look at his agenda, I think it’s dangerous for this state,” Skelos said. “You have his candidates running for the Senate or running for re-election around this state.”

Obviously, de Blasio disagrees, saying full control of the Senate by Democrats would help middle-income people.

“I think helping working people reach the middle class is what the state needs,” he said according to a transcript. “So, if somehow, Senator Skelos thinks it’s dangerous that people would get better wages and benefits, I don’t understand that. I think we need to uplift our working people. They’re struggling. And right now, we have an opportunity to act here in this city, so we’re acting with every tool we have to help working families. We need to do that across the state of New York. And that’s why we need a Democratic state senate majority.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio insisted Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains on board with a plan to allow local governments to increase the state’s minimum wage on its own, based on a state formula even after the governor maneuvered to alter an initial proposal for pre-Kindergarten in New York City that took the idea statewide.

“The governor said very clearly this spring that he supports the minimum wage increase, he supports indexing, he supports local opportunity to adjust minimum wage within the context of the state law. He said it repeatedly. And I take him at his word, and I look forward to following through with a new Democratic Senate,” de Blasio said.

Not Exactly A Campaign Of Ideas

It’s been nearly a month since the general election season officially kicked off and so, far at least, there has been little airing from either candidate as to what they would do for the next four years.

Instead, both campaigns of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican rival Rob Astorino have traded barbs either through surrogates, TV commercials or in opposition research made to paint the other guy as corrupt.

Consider this chart from the brilliant Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group, showing how many words on the campaign websites are devoted actual policy ideas for the next four-year term:

At this point, the wonk of the race is Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

Cuomo in 2010 released volumes of policy books on everything ranging from ethics proposals to ideas to help revitalize New York’s agricultural sector.

After an eventful four years as governor, Cuomo is running on his record of accomplishments: A property tax cap, the legalization of same-sex marriage, a sweeping gun control law and enacted budgets that have kept spending increases under 2 percent.

But Cuomo has not laid out any grand vision for a second term. Instead, he’s hinted at proposals for economic development and strengthening security in New York City while also adopting the agenda of the labor-backed Working Families Party as he received their endorsement in May.

Cuomo at the Business Council’s annual meeting did lay out this month an outline for spending a $4 billion surplus that includes using it for encouraging local government shared services in order to reduce property taxes and infrastructure investment without many specifics.

The only legislation Cuomo has emphasized this election year has been one proposed in 2013: The 10-point women’s agenda.

Astorino, meanwhile, has made proposals on education issues, ethics and jobs. When it comes to the major education issue of the day, Astorino wants to end the state’s involvement in Common Core while replacing it with a new set of standards yet to be determined.

On issues like property taxes, Astorino wants to simply double-down on what Cuomo and the Legislature already have in place: Making the current property-tax cap permanent while also going after mandated spending, a perennial concern for local governments.

When his proposal to overhaul ethics at the state Capitol were met with shrugs by lawmakers, Astorino’s top advisor blasted them in a column for Newsday.

The bulk of the campaign up until this point has been about both candidates finding ways to beat the pulp out of each other in television ads or through surrogates.

Since May, Cuomo’s state Democratic Committee has served as the conduit for all things anti-Astorino: His fight with the Department of Housing and Urban Development over affordable housing, his conservative stance on abortion and a lawsuit filed against him stemming from the obscure battles within the Independence Party in Westchester County.

Astorino’s campaign, struggling to gain any semblance of traction in public polls, has resorted to what amounts to throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks, releasing mostly online-only videos critical of Cuomo’s handling of the economy and suggesting — without any context — that he could be in jail one day.

Astorino’s statewide ad is critical of the state’s economy and then pivots to the Republican gubernatorial hopeful promising undefined change if elected.

According to the Wesleyan Media Project, the race for governor in New York has been one of the most negative in the country, second only to the close battle in Wisconsin and ahead of a similarly close race in Connecticut.

Here in New York, Cuomo has a vast lead over Astorino.

Skelos Holding Out Hope For The IDC

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos isn’t ready to write off the coalition government with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference just yet.

In an interview on The Capitol Pressroom on Tuesday, Skelos pointed to successes of the Senate under coalition rule — ranging from on-time budgets to a property tax cap (a measure that came in 2011, before the formal governing agreement was actually in place).

“I can go on and on and on of all the accomplishments that we did have together and hopefully that will continue down the road,” Skelos said while adding, “The IDC and the Republican conference work very well together. We showed that bipartisanship could work. We worked with the governor.”

Even so, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, has made potential noise about trying to snag one of Skelos’ own, Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican who lost primary this month and retains the Independence Party line.

Klein and Grisanti reportedly met in Buffalo recently, fueling more intrigue over the Senate chessboard.

But Skelos shrugged at the idea of Grisanti, a former Democrat, defecting to the IDC.

“I don’t know if that’s just a news account that he reached out about joining the IDC or that he met with them,” Skelos said. “I don’t think that’s really unusual.”

Klein, along with the mainline conference, have promised to form a new coalition after Election Day, a deal that was brokered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor himself for the first time in office backs a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate by his own party, a pledge he made when receiving the endorsement of the Working Families Party.

“Right now the IDC is (five) members as I understand and we’ll see what post-November brings,” Skelos said.

But it’s de Blasio, not Cuomo, who has been cast as the villain for Republicans in state Senate races.

It’s a role reversal for Republicans in Albany, who previously had billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg donating to their soft-money account.

Now de Blasio, who wants to see his home rule legislation pass the chamber, needs full Democratic control of the Senate.

“If you look at his agenda, I think it’s dangerous for this state,” Skelos said. “You have his candidates running for the Senate or running for re-election around this state.”

A de Blasio-controlled Senate, Skelos said, “would be the worst thing that could happen to this state.”

NRCC Knocks Eldridge As A ‘Partisan Politician’

The ad wars continued in the 18th congressional district on Tuesday, with the National Republican Campaign Committee releasing a 30-second commercial knocking Sean Eldridge’s claim he’d be an “independent voice” in Washington.

“He isn’t independent, he’s a partisan politician,” the ad’s narrator says.

The NRCC is pointing to Eldridge’s fundraiser hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and his support for the Affordable Care Act, while also criticizing the Farm Bill.

“Sean, it’s okay to be partisan, but at least be honest,” the ad concludes.

The committee released this ad the same day Eldridge’s campaign unveiled a new commercial linking Republican Rep. Chris Gibson’s campaign donors to his support for hydrofracking and paring back financial regulations.

The Gibson campaign countered that Eldridge has invested in energy companies that would stand to benefit from natural-gas drilling.

A TWC News/Siena College poll showed Gibson leading Eldridge by 24 percentage points.

Updated: The Eldridge campaign issues some clarifying remarks, noting the candidate is concerned with food stamp cuts in the Farm Bill and points to the ACA helping to insure 15,000 families in the Hudson Valley district.

“With the NRCC’s most recent ad buy, Gibson has now had DC-based groups spend nearly $1,000,000 on his re-elect. For someone who claims to be playing for the home team, Gibson doesn’t have any problem with away team money pouring into New York. It really makes you wonder who he’s actually working for in Congress; his neighbors, or his big-money donors,” said Sophie Friedman, Eldridge campaign spokeswoman.

Haber’s First Ad Pledges To Back Women’s Agenda

Senate Democratic hopeful Adam Haber released his first TV ad of the campaign season with a 30-second spot that highlights his support for lower property taxes and the full 10-point women’s agenda.

“Property taxes are killing the middle class, that’s why I’ll fight any new tax increases,” Haber says in the ad. “I’ll work to cut red tape for small businesses, so they can grow and create jobs.

The Democratic hopeful also picks out two items from the 10-point package of bills that has stalled in Albany: Supporting pay equity and the codification of Roe v. Wade in state law.

The women’s agenda is one he and Sen. Jack Martins have already started to spar over.

Martins, a Nassau County lawmaker, has emphasized his support for aspects of the women’s agenda, especially those that have a chance of becoming law that Republicans in the Senate have approved as individual items.

But they have balked at the abortion plank, which opponents say is unnecessary and expands existing law.

Haber, however, makes a point in his TV ad of touting his support for the full agenda.

“I’ll support pay equity because women deserve to be paid the same as men,” Haber says. “And let’s be clear, unlike Jack Martins, I’m pro-choice and will stand up to the extremists who are blocking the Women’s Equality Act from becoming law.”

The Haber-Martins race is expected to be the most closely watched contests this year in a battleground Senate district that could decide who controls the chamber next yet.

Maloney Counters With A Veteran Ad Of His Own

Who is better for veterans?

That’s the argument being had today in the battle for the 18th congressional district with both candidates releasing ads touting their credentials on veterans services.

Earlier today, former Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican unseated 2 years ago, blasted Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for votes on veterans issues in a TV ad released by her campaign.

Now Maloney this afternoon has an ad released called “Ed Kackos” that focuses on a Sparrow Bush Vietnam veteran who was able to gain access to overdue compensation after Maloney intervened.

And the Maloney campaign is pointing to a assessment of past Hayworth claims on Maloney’s veterans record as being “shamefully misleading.”

Tying it all together is Republican state Sen. Greg Ball, who endorsed Maloney last week and is his Veterans for Maloney co-chairman.

“On many issues we disagree, but when it comes to fighting for our nation’s veterans I have found no stronger ally than Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney,” Ball said in a statement. “Nan isn’t fooling anyone. When fellow veterans needed Nan, she left us in the cold, voting in lock step with the extreme wing of her party, mindlessly and callously slashing PTSD and housing assistance, including for seniors and homeless veterans. When Nan was in office the only thing we could count on was a busy signal or no call back. Sad but true, and frankly its refreshing to have an independent minded Congressman who gets it and picks up the phone, whether you’re a vet or not.”

Ball’s endorsement of Maloney has sat well with some Republicans in the Hudson Valley House district, with Ball’s staff getting into a subsequent Twitter fight with Republican state Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor.

Democrats Charge Astorino With Pay To Play

Last week, the campaign of Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino released a 100-page report on the intersecting circles of donors to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who also happen to have lucrative state contracts.

The report showed $2.7 million in contributions over the years to Cuomo, with $7.2 billion in contracts from the state doled out.

Today, the state Democratic Committee showed Astorino’s donors have also benefited from the largesse of Westchester County.

Astorino, the county executive since 2009, has received $907,669 from donors with business before the county worth $709 million.

And Cuomo’s allies put Astorino’s opposition research in perspective: Cuomo’s donors with state contracts account for 3.4 percent of all contributions. Astornio’s donors with county contracts, meanwhile, account for 8 percent.

“From the perch of his glass house, pay-to-play Republican Rob Astorino likes to scold others about fundraising practices he has been the poster child for,” said Democratic committee spokesman James Freedland. “Now that he has been exposed, will Astorino return the nearly $1 million in contributions he received from corporations that have contracts with Westchester County? And will he apologize for being part of the ‘pay-to-play corporate cronyism machine’ he continues to express faux outrage about?”

Updated: Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud responds, noting the contracts cited by Democrats are competitively bid and approved by the Board of Acquisitions and Contracts.

“It’s not even an appropriate comparison. County contracts are competitively bid and selected unanimously by The Board of Acquisitions and Contracts with Democratic approval from the Chairman of the Board of Legislators. There is also a professional qualifications board that ensures all bidders meet the qualifications for the contract. The County Executive also increased transparency by posting all the contracts in full online and records the contract meetings.”

Astorino Pay to Play Report by Nick Reisman

State Democrats: Astorino’s ‘Oops’ Moment? (Updated)

Not surprisingly, state Democrats are zeroing in on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s support for Rob Astorino this evening in Buffalo, pointing to the possibly 2016 presidential hopeful’s stance on guns, abortion and same-sex marriage as not being in step with most New Yorkers.

In a statement from the party, which has been acting as an attack arm of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign, the party ties Astorino to Perry’s stances on a variety of issues that maybe play well in Texas, but not in a Democratic heavy state.

“When you look at their positions on cutting Medicaid, cutting education, opposing a woman’s right to choose, blocking marriage equality and repealing gun safety laws, there’s no daylight between ultraconservative Texas Governor Rick Perry and his ideological soul mate Rob Astorino. Just when Astorino might be hoping New York voters have an ‘oops moment’ and ignore his ultraconservative views, in comes Rick Perry to remind everyone,” former Gov. David Paterson, now the chairman of the state Democratic Committee, said in a statement.

Astorino this evening will attend a fundraiser being thrown by Carl Paladino, the party’s 2010 candidate for governor, with Perry headlining the event.

The event itself likely has more to do with maneuvering for 2016 on the Republican side than it does for the race for governor here in New York.

Perry’s arrival to New York comes after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said it was unlikely the group would provide financial assistance to Astorino, telling reporters this summer he didn’t want to “invest in lost causes.”

Update: Astorino advisor Bill O’Reilly responds with a zinger from Cuomo’s 2002 run for governor.

“The 2014 “Oops!” category closed when Governor Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission. When federal prosecutors are done investigating, it may prove to be the biggest “oops!” moment in New York history, even surpassing Andrew Cuomo’s “holding-Giuliani’s-coat” remark that sank his 2002 gubernatorial campaign.”