Extras

AbTech Industries, the company at the center of the reported federal investigation of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, has strong connections to an environmental group headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the governor’s former brother-in-law.


AbTech says
it’s not a target in the Skelos probe, and is cooperating with federal investigators.

Former Gov. David Paterson criticized U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for publicly promoting his case against former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, saying: “(T)he line of respect, I think he went over that line.”

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox slammed NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his “magical mystery tour” to the Midwest.

Bloomberg LP terminals, widely used by traders to access real-time financial data, went down globally for a few hours this morning, disrupting a bond sale in the UK.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a $565 million five-year contract to Xerox to redesign and operate the information system for the state’s vast $50 billion-plus Medicaid program.

Former Florida Governor and potential 2016 contender Jeb Bush called on his fellow Republicans to stop stalling and confirm New York US Attorney Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to be the next US AG.

Less than a week into her presidential campaign, Clinton has the largest New Hampshire operation of any candidate – 19 staffers.

Romulus town board members have backed Citiva Medical’s proposal to install a medical marijuana growing facility at the former Seneca Army Depot, which was a U.S. Army installation from 1941 to 2000.

The requirements to become a NYS teacher vs. the requirements to become a NYS governor – in song.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, the Republican NY-11 candidate, may be breaking Federal Election Commission law with his campaign signs, which lack a required disclaimer.

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver did not want his photo taken today.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney raised $609,942 in the first quarter of 2015 – the most of any incumbent Democratic representative in the country.

US Sen. Charles Schumer accused House Republicans of passing an estate tax loophole that would benefit only a few thousand of America’s wealthiest families.

Cuomo today proclaimed April 19-25 Earth Week, emphasizing the administration’s environmental commitments to New York’s natural resources, as well as promoting cleaner and healthier communities that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

State Police are targeting speeding and aggressive driving in a campaign that runs through Wednesday.

Cuomo’s office declined comment on the WikiLeaks emails’ revelations that the governor’s close friend and former boss, Andrew Farkas, tried to arrange private jet travel for Cuomo after movie industry moguls threw him a $25,000-per-person fundraiser last year in Hollywood.

The South Street Seaport Museum has picked a captain – literally – to lead it through some very challenging waters.

Schneiderman: Cuomo ‘Same Guy He Was Six Months Ago’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brushed off a question on Friday about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s upstate favorability rating and potential future as a candidate for re-election in 2018.

“We just got through running for re-election,” Schneiderman said during a news conference in Syracuse. “I just ran as a runningmate with the governor six months ago. He’s the same guy he was six months ago. Ups and downs in the polls don’t effect my thinking about this. I’m looking forward to working together for the next four years and as long as we’re working together after that.”

Cuomo is yet to declare whether he will run for a third term, though his campaign committee this month was renamed Andrew Cuomo 2018.

At the same time, his former top aide, Larry Schwartz, said in a statement sent to Capital Tonight shortly after that he expected the governor to run again.

Still, Schneiderman is seen as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination in his own right and has staked out a more assertive posture when it comes to the governor on a variety of issues, ranging from the mass deletion of emails to increasing the state’s minimum wage through the Department of Labor.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has a difficult year both with the state budget and continued estrangement from the political left in the state. A Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll released this week found 61 percent of upstate voters have an unfavorable view of the governor. Statewide, his favorable rating is much higher, standing at 58 percent.

Schneiderman is due to speak before the Democratic Rural Conference this evening, a key upstate constituency for any statewide Democratic official. The DRC backed Cuomo’s unsuccessful 2002 run for governor.

Cuomo Huddled With WFP Leadership In December

Gov. Andrew Cuomo met privately with the leadership of the Working Families Party about a month after Election Day, newly released public schedules show.

Cuomo met with Co-Chairs Bill Lipton, Karen Scharff and Executive Director Dan Cantor on Dec. 4, according to the schedules posted on Cuomo’s open government website.

The meeting came after significant election-year friction between Cuomo and the Working Families Party.

WFP leaders had accused Cuomo of creating the Women’s Equality Party ballot line last year as a way to potentially undermine the left-leaning, union-backed party. Cuomo and his allies had gone as far as urging voters to cast votes on for the new ballot line.

At the same time, the WFP had blasted Cuomo on the night of Election Day for not doing more to help Senate Democrats, who did not gain full control of the chamber after a trio of freshman lawmakers lost their seats to Republicans.

Cuomo received the WFP’s ballot line after intense negotiations and a challenge from Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout, who would go on to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary.

Cuomo’s girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee and New Yorker scribe Jeffrey Toobin were among Cuomo’s passengers on state aircraft that month as well in separate trips.

Records show Toobin was a passenger on state aircraft with Cuomo, Communications Director Melissa DeRosa and aide Stephanie Benton on a flight from Albany to Westchester County Airport. Toobin, who was writing a profile of Cuomo that would be published in February, is shown to have reimbursed the state for the trip.

In a separate trip, Lee and Cuomo took the state helicopter from Albany to New York City on Dec. 31. Cuomo was sworn in the next day in lower Manhattan for a second term.

An opinion from the ethics and lobbying regulators at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found Lee would not have to reimburse the state for rides on state aircraft as long as it is being used for state business.

December 2014 by Nick Reisman

Citizens Union: Budget Contains Nearly $3B In ‘Lump Sum’ Funds

The 2015-16 enacted state budget includes $2.9 billion in discretionary spending funds without a clear idea of how that money will be spent, Citizens Union found in a report released on Friday.

The report is actually a follow up from a report released by the good-government organization last month that found $2.6 million in discretionary “lump sum” funds were included in the proposed budget.

In the agreed-to spending plan, that sum has grown to include $2.3 billion for the governor, $1.2 billion for the Senate, $989 million for the Assembly and $82 million for the attorney general.

The unitemized spending, of course, makes it difficult to track just where these dollars are going.

“More than ever, spending decisions must be made more transparent as an integral part of the comprehensive ethics reforms that New Yorkers deserve,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “As long as lump sum and discretionary funds persist that are unaccountable and spent in the shadows, there is a risk of corruption.”

Meanwhile, the budget contained $350 million community project funds spending items, including $330 million that have not been itemized. That fund includes re-appropriated spending items scuh as $285,336 went to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a base of support for former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week announced 184 different line-item vetoes.

CitizensUnion Addendum SpendingInTheShadows April 2015 by Nick Reisman

Assembly To Review Transparency Rules

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday announced the formation of a 12-member committee to review thee chamber’s rules and operations in order to promote both transparency and broader public participation.

Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, had pledged to strengthen the Assembly’s open government regulations after he was elected speaker in February, replacing Sheldon Silver, who is under indictment.

The working group will be led by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow and Assembly Brian Kavanagh, Heastie’s office said.

More broadly, Heastie had promised to democratize the chamber and give individual lawmakers are great voice in the operations of the chamber.

“Since becoming Speaker, I have made a special effort to create issue specific workgroups and a new subcommittee structure that promotes member participation while exploring new ideas to move New York forward,” said Heastie in a statement. “Members have a lot of great ideas, and the creation of this new workgroup is an opportunity for us to build on the strong processes already in place that promote transparency and accountability.”

Assembly Republicans have pushed Heastie and the Democratic conference for reforms that would impact the minority as well, including a great allocation of office resources and making it easier for their sponsored bills to come to the floor, which so far have not been taken up.

Senate Rs To Goo-Goos: ‘Get A Life’

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are pushing back on any inference they sought to block reclassifying limited liability companies in order to restrict their political giving.

Closing the so-called LLC loophole on Thursday was put to a vote at the state Board of Elections, with the proposal to reclassify them as partnerships.

The commissioners deadlocked, with the two Republican commissioners not supporting the move.

The newest co-chairman of the board is Peter Kosinski, a former counsel to the Senate Republicans, who was appointed only this week.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif in a statement, however, noted there are plenty of other areas in which campaign donations have flooded into candidates’ campaign coffers — with some help from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“As soon as the so-called good government groups have anything to say about the unlimited money that unions pump into the coffers of Democrats or the dollars that Mayor de Blasio funnels to Upstate County Democrat Party Committees, we may start taking them seriously,” Reif said. “Until then, they should get a life.”

The statement comes as Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is facing an investigation from federal prosecutors over potentially placing undue influence on an Arizona company that employed his son Adam.

Skelos in a statement released yesterday said he was cooperating with the investigation, which is being led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

The debate and vote at the board came after a sustained push from good-government advocates as well as left-leaning organizations like the Working Families Party to raise the issue of having a non-legislative solution to the LLC issue.

LLCs have been used to funnel millions of dollars into campaigns, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as one of its top beneficiaries.

Cuomo has said in the past that the method of LLC donations is “not a loophole, it’s the law.”

On Thursday, his office expressed disappointment the board failed to reclassify the entities in order to prevent the unlimited donations.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leaving Des Moines, Iowa to return to NYC. He has no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC EDC head Kyle Kimball, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura and other business, community and government officials discuss efforts to support businesses and employment in Brooklyn, during the business organization’s “Economic Development Exchange Forum”; courtroom, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 8:45 a.m., the NYC Bar Association holds its 25th annual program on “Current Issues in Insurance Regulation,” New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation holds its monthly meeting, 10th-floor conference room, Edward A. Rath county office building, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Also at 9 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson speaks at the Institute for Disaster Mental Health Conference: “Preparing for the Health and Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change”, SUNY New Paltz.

At 9:30 a.m., the mother of Eric Garner, who lost consciousness and died during an attempted arrest on Thursday, July 17, Gwen Carr, and a co-director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, discuss human rights in the U.S. during a forum presented by the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at CUNY’s Hunter College and the US Human Rights Network in anticipation of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s in-person “Universal Periodic Review” of U.S. human rights scheduled in Geneva on Monday, May 11; 47-49 E. 65th St., Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras delivers an opening keynote speech during CUNY’s 27th annual “Big Apple Job & Internship Fair”; Galleria and River Pavilion, The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan.

At 10:10 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci hosts LG Kathy Hochul on his monthly edition of the “Albany Report,” WRCR1300 AM.

At 1 p.m., former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean delivers keynote address during a “Tackling Economic Inequality” symposium presented by NY Law School’s Center for New York City Law and the law school’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, featuring panel discussions with city officials, family, housing and legal advocates, legal professionals and scholars; auditorium and event center, second floor, 185 W. Broadway.

At 2 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes remarks in Syracuse, 707 First North St. (Rain location: Syracuse City Hall, 233 East Washington St.)

Also at 2 p.m., Assemblyman David Weprin, NYC Councilman Rory Lancman and city transportation officials and community leaders unveil the fully converted 168th Street, which now only runs one-way, Jamaica Muslim Center, 8537 168th St., Queens.

At 2:45 p.m., Hochul tours NYSERNET construction and expansion of the data center, 300 South Salina St., Syracuse.

At 8:30 p.m., Schneiderman attends the Democratic Rural Caucus dinner, Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Parkway, Liverpool.

Headlines…

A corruption unit of the Nassau County district attorney’s office will open a review of county contracting practices, in response to revelations that a federal investigation into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, is focused in part on a county storm water contract.

Nassau County legislators who approved the contract in question with an Arizona company that employed Adam Skelos, AbTech Industries, said that they did not know the senator’s son worked there.

Skelos confirmed the existence of the federal inquiry and said he is cooperating – a switch from months ago, when he attacked a report about the existence of the probe as “a thinly sourced” story that did “not meet the standards of journalism.”

A source who recently met with investigators for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicated that about half the questions focused on the lobbying arm of the law firm where Skelos is of counsel, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, and if there was any direct or indirect interaction with the senator.

County Executive Ed Mangano and nearly all of Long Island’s senators have been subpoenaed in connection with the Skelos federal grand jury probe.

Adam Skelos, the 32-year-old son of Sen. Skelos, appears to have benefited from his dad’s position with a series of jobs at GOP-wired entities, according to campaign finance and payroll documents and public information provided by firms that employed him.

Should Skelos be indicted and forced to step down, as happened to Silver, no seamless replacement strategy is in place. That is because his second-in-command, Sen. Tom Libous, of Binghamton, faces a federal trial this summer on charges of lying to FBI agents who were investigating the financial activities of him and his son.

Barbara Bartoletti, of the NY League of Women Voters, sees no reason for Skelos to give up his leadership post right now. “There is a presumption of innocence, and we should at least wait until federal authorities have finished with their investigation,” she said. “We should all just be aware that the culture of corruption in Albany has very long tentacles.”

Bharara, one of the most acclaimed prosecutors of his generation, is locked in what seems to be an escalating war of words with the federal judiciary — one that some judges fear could influence important rulings.

The state Board of Elections declined to change a longstanding ruling that critics say has allowed millions of dollars to flow, virtually unchecked, into campaign coffers across New York. The board’s four commissioners deadlocked 2-to-2 on the issue of whether to rescind its own 1996 opinion that found limited-liability companies should be treated like individuals when it comes to contributions.

Emails between Sony executives and Cuomo’s campaign staff leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack and published in full by WikiLeaks Thursday appear to show Sony executives believed donating to the governor was a good idea because he is a “strong protector” of New York’s film tax credit.

Though his focus was national during his brief Midwest trip, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio could not entirely escape local issues, as a Nebraska rancher and radio host showed up to question the mayor’s proposal to take horse carriages out of Central Park. Also, de Blasio brushed off questions about whether he wants to run for president.

More >

Survey: New York Most Corrupt State

When it comes to the perception of political corruption, New York is number one, according to a poll conducted by Monmouth University.

The poll found 12 percent of Americans surveyed believe New York to be the most corruption state, followed by California at 11 percent and 9 percent for Illinois. Neighboring New Jersey tied with Texas for five percent.

New York ranking first on the list — which isn’t meant to be a scientific distillation of which state is actually the most corrupt, but a measure of perception — comes after the arrest and indictment of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Long Island Republican confirmed earlier today.

A parade of state lawmakers and politicians have been arrested in recent years, ranging from Sen. Malcolm Smith for seeking to bribe his way onto the New York City mayoral ballot, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson for accepting bribes in exchange for writing favorable legislation, Sen. Shirley Huntley for steering member items to a non-profit she controlled, Sen. Pedro Espada for embezzling funds from a health-care network he controlled, Sen. Vinnie Leibell for kickbacks and Sen. Nick Spano for tax evasion.

In addition to Silver, three other rank-and-file members of the Legislature — Sens. Tom Libous, John Sampson and Assemblyman Bill Scarborough — are under indictment for unrelated corruption charges.

At the same time, there is the ongoing probe in the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption’s closing down following an agreement on ethics reform.

Just to a name a few examples.

“When it comes to political corruption, it seems the entire country is in a New York state of mind,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. “Monmouth makes no claims as to the accuracy of these perceptions, but this is how the American public sees it.”

Extras

Writing for TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list, Hillary Clinton called US Sen. Elizabeth Warren “a special kind of leader” and said the Massachusetts Democrat is holding her feet to the fire.

Clinton will make her first trip as a presidential candidate to the early voting state of New Hampshire next week, participating in small events Monday and Tuesday with students and small business employees.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a big fan of actress/advocate Julianna Margulies, whom she calls a “kindred spirit” in TIME.

Republican state senators are saying nothing – for now – about a NYT report that federal prosecutors have Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, in their crosshairs.

The acting Nassau County district attorney said she will review county contracting procedures after reports of Skelos’ influence on a $12 million local stormwater systems contract the Arizona-based company that employed his son, AbTech Industries.

“If Skelos were to step aside, either temporarily to fight any changes or permanently if the charges turn out to be severe, the top contenders to replace him could be Syracuse’s John DeFrancisco and Suffolk County’s John Flanagan.”

On the heels of snubbing Clinton, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared in Iowa (right as she was leaving the early presidential voting state) to preach his tax-the-rich message.

“After 25 years in the public eye, Mrs. Clinton has suddenly developed the capacity to surprise.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo departs for Cuba on Monday, April 20. He’s due to speak at a Food Bank for NYC gala Tuesday night (April 21) where the company of his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee-Simply Living Publishing, will be honored.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s top executive will join Cuomo on his trip to Cuba, home to a state-sponsored biopharmaceutical industry.

Sen. Diane Savino, never one to be shy about sharing her opinion, bashed de Blasio on Facebook for traveling to Iowa and Nebraska, saying: “Dude, you do have a city to run.”

According to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Clinton still “loves” de Blasio, even though he hasn’t endorsed her.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island GOP freshman, released a video to mark his first 100 days in office.

Another GOP freshman from New York, Rep. Elise Stefanik, marked her first 100 days with an OpEd in the Denton Republican.

Meet the “everyday people” who work at the Ohio Chipotle where Clinton ordered a chicken burrito bowl and went unnoticed.

Following Clinton’s lead, former Gov. George Pataki, a potential 2016 GOP contender, ate lunch at a Chipotle with is wife, Libby. (Neither wore sunglasses).

The state Senate Democrats believe having a “rock star” like Clinton atop the 2016 ticket will help them retake the majority.

Cuomo announced the craft beer industry in New York State grew 59 percent from 2013 to 2014, with a total economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion.

After Cuomo’s budget proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage failed earlier this year, AG Eric Schneiderman has taken up the cause – and then some. He wants the hourly wage to increase to $15 an hour.

There may be more than 155,000 students opting out of state exams this week, but the state Education Department says they’ll still have enough results to evaluate the performance of students and teachers.

It wasn’t your imagination: A plane marked like Air Force One was doing touch-and-go landings at Albany International Airport today.

Buffalo school leaders must figure out how to cut roughly $10 million from their budget for the next school year, something that could lead to contractual changes or staff reductions.

The University at Buffalo has turned to a nationally known branding company for help, hiring Ologie of Columbus, Ohio, to work on its new “brand identity.”

Cuomo Admin: ‘Incredibly Disappointed’ BoE Didn’t Act On LLCs

The Cuomo administration expressed disappointment with the Board of Elections choosing to not approve a reclassification of limited liability companies that would restricted how much they can give to political campaigns and causes.

In a statement, the governor’s office reiterated their support for closing what good-government advocates have said is tantamount of a loophole in the election law.

“We commend Commissioners Kellner and Spano for advancing this reform and are incredibly disappointed their fellow commissioners did not follow suit,” said Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The Governor has repeatedly introduced legislation to close the LLC loophole and he will continue to fight to make it a reality.”

Cuomo in 2013 had declared the LLC classification as “not a loophole. It’s the law.”

Cuomo himself has benefited from LLC contributions in the last election cycle, though he is hardly alone among the state’s politicians.

The board on Thursday was deadlocked on the question of whether to reclassify LLCs as partnerships, having the effect of limiting how much their ownership can contribute through the entities to political candidates.

The board’s Republican commissioners argue the state Legislature should be charged with changing the classification, not elections regulators.

Currently, individual donors can give well above the legal limit through LLCs, based on a 1996 rule first implemented by the Board of Elections.

While good-government groups and left-leaning organizations criticized the board for not acting, the Business Council, which had urged against reclassification, backed the decision.

“We concur with the outcome of today’s Board of Elections review of campaign contribution limits for limited liability companies,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State.