Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin


“New York doesn’t so much have a culture of corruption as an entire festival.”

After calling on then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to step down after he was arrested in January, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is staying out of the fight over whether Senate Republicans should oust their majority leader, Dean Skelos.

Sen. John DeFrancisco, a potential Skelos replacement, says he has “no idea” whether Skelos will still be majority leader next week. “There’s gotta be something that changes the mind of the conference,” he added.

Former Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, who’s currently under indictment, would not say whether he supported the forceful removal of Skelos, which his fellow Democrats tried – unsuccessfully – to do earlier today.

Sen. Jeff Klein said that had a vote on a motion by the Democrats to suspend the Senate rules and force a vote on Skelos succeeded, it would have suspended the IDC’s existence as a recognized conference.

In light of Glenwood Management’s role in both the Silver and Skelos scandals, Common Cause NY took a deep dive into the campaign contributions made by the luxury developer and its affiliates.

Bill Hammond: “Never mind greedy and unethical — the federal charges against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos make him look flat-out dumb.”

“It’s one thing to ask someone: ‘Would you take a call from my boy?’ You do that and then step back and hope your boy acquits himself well. It’s something else when you get involved thereafter on the substance.”

The state Senate this week quietly fast-tracked a bill that would lock in tens of billions of dollars of unfunded lifetime health insurance coverage for police and firefighters.

Tenant advocates are urging Cuomo to support Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to reform the NYC rent laws, but Skelos’ arrest is likely to preserve the status quo.

De Blasio critiques two of his predecessors – ex-Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg – as well as President Obama in a Rolling Stone interview.

Partnership for NYC President Kathy Wylde tentatively endorsed the credit check bill de Blasio signed into law today.

The state’s property-tax cap is set to expire next year, and upstate business groups today called on the state Legislature and Cuomo to make it permanent.

Cablevision C.E.O. James Dolan said he wants to strike a deal with Time Warner Cable to make New York City and the surrounding areas one big cable market.

The Buffalo School Board now appears headed toward a search for its next superintendent.

The AFT launched a substantial radio and online ad buy today in New Jersey, exposing Gov. Chris Christie’s “dishonesty around his state’s pension fund.”

Hillary Clinton is the favorite U.S. presidential candidate among millionaire voters and would win a head-to-head contest with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, according to the third CNBC Millionaire Survey.

A senior State Department official testifying at the first congressional hearing focusing on Clinton’s use of a private email account for official business called the arrangement “not acceptable” and said other employees have been warned against it.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a former state assemblyman, will seek re-election this fall.

Pete Donohue, the veteran reporter who spent more than 15 years covering transportation at the Daily News, is going to work for the TWU – a subway workers union he once covered.

A judge this week rejected the NFL’s request to dismiss the league as a defendant in a lawsuit by former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders against the Buffalo Bills and others over wages.

Here and Now

No word yet from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office on his public schedule for the day.

At 7:20 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears live on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

At 8 a.m., Rep. Joe Crowley speaks at the ABNY breakfast, discussing retirement savings proposals of his “Building Brighter Futures” plan and his other legislative priorities; Grand Central Ballroom, Westin New York Grand Central hotel, 212 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

At 8:30 a.m., former AG Bob Abrams and election law attorney Jerry Goldfeder moderate a forum where the campaign manager and legislative counsel of the Brennan Center’s “Democracy Program” DeNora Getachew, state Board of Elections Co-Chair Doug Kellner, and Rep. Jerry Nadler discuss voter turnout and the topic “Is New York Still a Democracy?”; 38th floor, 180 Maiden Lane, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., joined by relatives of city police officers killed in the line of duty in the past year, city officials including NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, participate in a second annual salute to mark the observance of “National Police Week” from Sunday through Saturday, beginning with a moment of silence in memory of Officer Brian Moore, near 7th Avenue and 46th Street, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., during a march from Battery Park and City Hall news conference organized by union officials from the NYC PBA and the UFA, city firefighters and police officers call for city officials to increase disability pension benefits for firefighters and police officers hired since July 2009.

Also at 10 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Queens BP Melinda Katz, and city and union officials publicize plans for apprentice painters to repaint the top of a structure from the 1964 “World’s Fair,” the New York State Pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow, as part of a union training program; Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, exit 9P of the Grand Central Parkway off the Long Island Expressway (Interstate 495), Queens.

At 10:45 a.m., Ken Pokalsky, the vice president of The Business Council of New York State, will appear on Binghamton Now with host Bob Joseph to discuss the organization’s opposition to the Assembly’s minimum wage proposal, passed this week.

At 11 a.m., dozens of tenants will rally in front of Cuomo’s office in Midtown to demand the strengthening of NYC rent laws, 633 3rd Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Rep. Nita Lowey joins local elected officials, law enforcement and environmental leaders to announce the introduction of new legislation that would immediately ban interstate shipment of high-volatility crude oil via rail, the railroad crossing at Pineview Road, West Nyack.

At 11:30 a.m., during a lobby day, senators, impacted New Yorkers, and advocates will hold a press conference to call for the immediate passage of the Paid Family Leave Insurance Act in the Senate, LCA Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At noon, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro makes a “major announcement,” Pleasant Valley Fire Department Station 1, 1619 Main St., (Route 44), Pleasant Valley.

At 1 p.m., IPPNY holds its 29th annual spring conference and showcase, the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, 600 Albany-Shaker Rd., Albany.

At 2 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is joined by Rep. Brian Higgins to announce the start of Phase III of the ongoing road improvements to Kenmore Avenue, the old Dash’s supermarket location on Kenmore Avenue, just west of Englewood, Buffalo.

At 4 p.m., de Blasio holds public hearings on Intros 261-A, 271-A, 211-A, 597-A, 433-A, 681, and 555-A, and then signs them into law, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Sens. George Amedore and Robert Ortt hold a town hall to examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse, St. John Fisher College, 3690 East Ave., Wegmans School of Nursing Building, Room 100, Rochester.


Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, a Republican best known for failing to secure an indictment in the Eric Garner case, won the special elution to fill former Rep. Michael Grimm’s seat in NY-11. Donovan had 60 percent of the vote to Democratic Councilman Vincent Gentile’s 40 percent.

The win makes Donovan the lone Republican from New York City in the House, like Grimm was before him. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who supported Gentile, said the new congressman “will eventually be held accountable for the miscarriage of justice he presided over in Staten Island. This conversation is not over.”

“You sent a message to President Obama, to Nancy Pelosi, and yes, even to Bill de Blasio that their policies are wrong for our nation, they’re wrong for our city and they’re wrong for the 11th congressional district,” Donovan said during his victory speech.

Diana Richardon, a Democrat running on the WFP line, won the four-way special election to fill former Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat. She received just over 50 percent of the vote.

Despite a growing call for him to step down from his leadership post, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos refused to do so, and continued to profess his innocence of federal corruption charges.

Asked about calls from fellow Republicans for him to step down, Skelos replied: “Sometimes, some Republicans have nothing to do but complain because they can’t do anything else.”

“Dean was pretty brazen when he met with the conference,” one source told the Daily News. “He said he is going to fight this. He said he’s going to win – that ‘we’re going to show Preet Bharara.'”

The list of potential replacements for Skelos as majority leader is growing longer, with Sens. Joe Griffo and Jim Seward added to the mix.

Skelos’ son, Adam, for whom the senator is accused of abusing his public post to assist, has held a string of jobs at politically-connected firms of with political allies of the majority leader – including former Gov. George Pataki and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

It emerged that the Tishman Speyer development firm is the company identified as “Developer-2” in the criminal complaint against the Skeloses. The company said it is cooperating with the feds.

Bill Samuels, a left-leaning gadfly who at one point served as the top fund-raiser for the Senate Democrats, said Cuomo should “lead by example” in returning his share of the $3.6 million Glenwood Management, which played a role in both the Silver and Skelos scandals, has spread around the Capitol over the past four years.

Tom Precious: “Times here have gotten to the point where reporters could, if they wanted, recycle stories about corruption just by changing the names, dollar amounts and perhaps a few juicy details.”

A relatively obscure tax break known as 421-a, which subsidizes real estate developers to the tune of $1 billion annually, has been at the hub of three investigations that have shaken up New York politics during the past two years.

More >


The likelihood that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos stays on as the head of the conference in the coming weeks amid corruption charges is less than 50 percent, according to former Gov. David Paterson.

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, a longtime ally of the Senate Republicans, joined the calls for Skelos to step down from his leadership post.

Freshman WNY GOP Sen. Robert Ortt says the state needs a Senate leader – not Skelos – “whose sole focus is on the needs of New Yorkers.” (That makes four Republican senators calling on Skelos to step aside).

Rep. Chris Gibson: “Look, in America, you’re innocent until proven guilty, but (what) really should be the focus of Dean Skelos’ activity right now is on preparing for a vigorous defense.”

Skelos insists his support among constituents in his Nassau County district is strong. “They know I’m honest,” he said.

Someone taped part of the federal complaint against Skelos to a utility pole in downtown Syracuse – about one block from Sen. John DeFrancisco’s private law office and down the street from the state office building.

The Auburn Citizen: “We encourage constituents in this area to call (Jim) Seward, (Michael) Nozzolio and DeFrancisco and tell them to demand that Skelos step down as Senate leader.”

Citizen Action is using the Skelos scandal to call for campaign finance reform (again) – specifically, creation of a publicly financed campaign system.

For you Game of Thrones fans out there: “(US Attorney Preet) Bharara is going Lord Baelish in the Five Boroughs. He knows where the bodies are buried. He’s the one burying them.”

Turnout in today’s NY-11 special election is expected to be low, as per usual.

Healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU slammed as fraudulent an email – purportedly from 1199’s political director Kevin Finnegan – that attacks the left-leaning Working Families Party and its candidate for Assembly in today’s Brooklyn special election.

Cuomo today ordered flags on all state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in memory of New York City police officer Brian Moore, who died yesterday. Flags will remain at half-staff until Moore’s burial.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch, who unloaded NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio after the December assassination of two officers, issued a more conciliatory message after the weekend shooting of Moore.

REBNY is working behind the scenes to defend the 421-a tax abatement program.

While acknowledging it’s far too early for endorsements, the Oneonta Daily Star urges Rep. Chris Gibson to run for governor in 2018, calling him the most “politically attractive” GOP candidate since ex-Gov. George Pataki.

New York state legislators collected $2.7 million in travel reimbursements and per diems in 2014 and an additional $1 million in the first quarter of 2015, according to new data released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Federal prosecutors can argue to a Brooklyn jury that Sen. John Sampson lied under oath to investigators when he claimed he “could not recall” in response to more than 100 questions about the bidding process for a racino at Aqueduct, a federal judge ruled.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched his Republican bid for the presidency today with a direct appeal to right-leaning Christians and a promise to bring the country “from Hope to higher ground.”

The Democratic National Committee has signed off on six primary debates beginning this fall – including one in each of the first four early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

In her most comprehensive comments on immigration reform as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton used a roundtable in Nevada to argue that the only “true solution” for reform is “nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship.”

Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that uses open-records laws to pry information loose, had filed a request to get a look at the emails of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin during her four years at the State Department.

New York State will join 15 other states in administering the Uniform Bar Examination, beginning in July 2016, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced.

A 1,700-acre wildfire stoked by strong winds jumped a highway in southeastern New York, forcing the evacuation of the hamlet of Cragsmoor in Ulster County.

The Suffolk Independence Party, which usually makes its endorsements last, has jumped out early to back Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone for re-election – a move which may make it even tougher for Republicans to find a serious contender.

NYCF to Senate: Reject Judge Grisanti

From the Morning Memo:

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a faith-based conservative group, is calling on members of the Senate to reject the nomination of their former colleague, ex-Sen. Mark Grisanti, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Court of Claims.

“Members of the New York State Senate should take seriously their responsibilities with regard to judicial nominees,” said NYFC Executive Director Rev. Jason McGuire said in a statement released late last night.

“While a certain amount of deference to the governor is appropriate, a rubber stamp is not.”

“Former State Sen. Mark Grisanti lacks the integrity and comportment expected of judges in New York courts. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms respectfully calls for the rejection of this nomination.”

Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who lost his seat to Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto last fall, is one of a handful of politically connected individuals tapped by Cuomo to sit on this bench – a post that pays $174,000 a year (considerably more than the $79,500 starting salary for a state lawmaker).

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol today to consider 14 Court of Claims nominees.

Also on the list: Former JCOPE Executive Director Ellen Biben and former DMV official David Sampson, both of whom worked with Cuomo in the governor’s office and also when he was AG; and Robert Schwartz, bother of Cuomo’s ex-top aide, Larry Schwartz.

In an open letter to senators, NYCF says Grisanti isn’t worthy of a judicial post offered as a “reward” by Cuomo when the former senior’s “most significant act was breaking a campaign promise made to his constituents.”

When he ran for the Senate in 2010, Grisanti said he was opposed to gay marriage and successfully sought support from conservatives. A former Democrat, Grisanti ran that year on the GOP line, and after his victory, switched his party affiliation to Republican.

Last fall, Grisanti was the last of four Republican senators who voted “yes” on same-sex marriage in June 2011, earning Cuomo’s praise and support, still in the chamber. The others had either been defeated, thanks in part to challenges from the right, or retired.

Grisanti, who lost the Conservative ballot line due to his gay marriage vote, also lost the GOP primary to attorney Kevin Stocker. He remained in the general election on the Independence Party line, but was ousted by Panepinto, who got a big assist from NYSUT.

Panepinto’s victory was one of the rare bright spots in an otherwise dismal election showing for the Senate Democrats.

Though he had pledged in exchange for the Working Families Party endorsement to help the Democrats with their quest to win back the Senate majority, Cuomo did not endorse Panepinto.

In its letter, NYCF also reminds senators of the 2012 incident at the Seneca Niagara Casino, during which Grisanti and his wife were involved in a fight.

“No charges were filed in connection with the altercation,” the letter notes, “but troubling questions were left unanswered.”

The former senator’s involvement in the “brawl” raises “serious concerns about his ability to act in a manner that promise ‘public confidence’ in the judiciary,” McGuire concluded.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen at City Hall. This meeting will be closed press.

Polls open at 6 a.m. in the special elections to fill the vacant seats of former Assemblyman Karim Camara (Brooklyn) and former Rep. Michael Grimm (Staten Island/Brooklyn).

Members of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis will be in Albany for their annual lobby day. Issues on their agenda include: GENDA, the gay conversion therapy ban bill, access to condoms, HIV prevention education in prison and more.

The SUNY Board of Trustees kick off a two-day meeting, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

Also at 6 a.m., approximately 30 AARP members from Long Island board a bus for Albany to lobby the Assembly to pass CARE Act for family caregivers.

From 8 a.m. to noon, health care executives discuss a transition from “fee for service” payments to “value-based payments” during an event presented by news organization Crain’s New York Business; Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul and Rep. Nita Lowey hold a Westchester roundtable with students and administrators to combat sexual violence on college campuses, Pace University, Kessel Student Center, 861 Bedford Rd., Pleasantville. (A media availability will follow at 9:45 a.m.)

Also at 9 a.m., Staten Island DA Dan Donovan votes (presumably for himself) in the NY-11 special election, PS 13, 191 Vermont Ave., Staten Island.

At 9:30 p.m., Donovan’s Democratic challenger, Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile, votes (also presumably for himself) in the NY-11 election, Fort Hamilton High School, 8301 Shore Rd., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., advocates from across the state will be in Albany to call on lawmakers to fix the state’s broken public defense system during the first annual NYCLU Lobby Day, the largest ever gathering of NYCLU members and supporters, West Capitol Park, Swan Street steps, Albany.

At 11 a.m., FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro leads a graduation ceremony for 305 probationary firefighters; Christian Cultural Center, 120-20 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet to consider gubernatorial appointees to the Court of Claims, including former Sen. Mark Grisanti and two former Cuomo administration officials – Ellen Biben and David Sampson – Room 123, state Capital, Albany.

Also at 11:30 a.m., DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky will deliver remarks at an event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, announcing the return of a painting lost as a result of Nazi persecution to its rightful heir, 36 Battery Place, Manhattan.

At noon, health care professionals, patients, small business owners, and representatives of organized labor rally for the “New York Health Act” universal healthcare bill, West Capitol Park, Albany.

Also at noon, advocates hold press conference on the Child Safe Products Act, Million Dollar Staircase, Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, during a City Hall rally co-sponsored by a public transit initiative of the New York Public Interest Research Group or NYPIRG, the “Straphangers Campaign,” and the Riders Alliance, advocates call for increased city government funding for bus and subway systems; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at noon, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and IDC Leader Jeff Klein will host a reception for the President of Albania H.E. Bujar Nishani and photographer Norman Gershman, Assembly parlor, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, advocates mark Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Huxley Auditorium, New York State Museum, Albany.

Also at noon, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman delivers the final Law Day speech of his career as leader of the high court, Court of Appeals, Albany. (AG Eric Schneiderman is scheduled to attend).

At 12:45 p.m., National Alliance on Mental Illness officials, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray and others flip a switch to illuminate the Empire State Building’s tower lights in green to mark May’s national observance of “Mental Health Month” and publicize a $75,000 grant from the initiative to the alliance; lobby, 350 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., a remembrance ceremony for police officers killed in the line of duty is held, Empire State Plaza Police Memorial, Albany. Hochul, not Cuomo, will attend and speak.

At 3:05 p.m., Hochul speaks at NARAL Pro-Choice NY’s lobby day event, Meeting Room 7, Concourse, Empire State Plaza, Albany,. (This event is closed to the press).

At 8 p.m., Donovan will receive returns in the NY-11 special election at the Donovan for Congress Election Night Victory Party, Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 South Ave., Staten Island.


Despite calls from some of his members that he resign in the wake of corruption charges, Republicans in the state Senate backed embattled Majority Leader Dean Skelos after a long closed-door conference last night, and did not ask him to relinquish his leadership post.

This conference strongly believes in that (presumption of innocence),” said Sen. Kenneth LaValle, a Long Island Republican (like Skelos), after Republicans concluded their late-night meeting. No time frame was given for how long Skelos will stay and it’s not certain the support will hold.

Sen. John DeFrancisco, chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, confirmed he wants the majority leader’s job, “if and when there is a vacancy.”

Tom Precious: “Noticeably not commenting: Cuomo. Bharara, who brought the Skelos case, still has an open probe looking into how the Cuomo administration shut down an anti-corruption panel last year.”

The criminal complaint against Adam Skelos, 32, and his father, the 67-year-old senator, paints a portrait of a good-for-nothing son whose dad bent so far backward to help him that they both broke the law. One leading Long Island Republican with close ties to the Skeloses described Adam as a “troubled kid” who has “had problems with alcohol.”

Politicians and their staff members at the Capitol pored over the 43-page complaint released by US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office — an often titillating document that included references to burner phones, secretly taped conversations and strong-arm tactics that were on display even during the wake of a slain police officer.

“I know that I will be found not only not guilty, but innocent,” Skelos said after he and his son emerged from court Monday afternoon. “I will be found innocent and my son will.”

If the Skeloses are convicted of all six charges against them, they face up to 20 years in prison for each of four of the six counts and up to 10 years for the remaining two.

Michael Goodwin: “Albany’s three most powerful men often met there, and Cuomo once called himself, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos ‘the three amigos.’ Now Cuomo is the only amigo still standing.”

No sooner had Bharara announced the charges against Skelos than people began to speculate who could be next. Lawmakers and lobbyists don’t know who to talk to for fear they are being recorded.

Long Island-based Glenwood Management, a luxury apartment developer headed by 100-year-old Leonard Litwin, one of the biggest campaign contributors in New York, is tied up in the Skelos scandal.

Glenwood’s payments to another top lawmaker, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, played a major role in this year’s other major ethics scandal. As lawmakers deal with the renewal of rent laws and real estate tax breaks in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, they may feel pressure to distance themselves from the powerful firm.

The NY Post calls for Skelos to give up his leadership post. Ditto, the NY Daily News.

The NY Times agrees, and urges voters to start thinking about the next elections, when they’ll have an opportunity to elect new representatives in Albany.

The Syracuse Post-Standard also thinks Skelos should relinquish his majority leader job, adding: “(I)f there are any lawmakers left with something to hide from Bharara: Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

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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.

Klein Stops Short of Calling for Skelos’ Ouster

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.

Astorino: Skelos Should Be ‘Noble,’ Step Down As Leader

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.

Here and Now

As Albany holds its collective breath, waiting for the reported imminent arrest on corruption charges of yet another legislative leader (this time, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) – perhaps as early as today – Senate GOP conference members are scheduled to meet behind closed doors at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.

President Obama is in NYC today to attend a variety of DNC fundraisers and a public event in the afternoon. He’ll also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. His visit will likely cause traffic problems in the already-congested city.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is holding its annual lobby day in Albany, with 150 students from NYC boarding buses early in the morning to travel up the Thruway to participate.

At 7:30 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will greet morning commuters starting at Tottenville Train Station. He’ll then ride the train and greet commuters at the ferry terminal.

At 9:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at Bridgeview Diner, 9011 3rd Ave., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at La Bella Marketplace, 7907 13th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 937 76th St., Brooklyn.

At 1:00 p.m., Donovan will be a guest on Davidzon Radio 620AM.

At 2 p.m. in the Assembly and 3 p.m. in the Senate, UAlbany’s basketball teams are scheduled to be honored.

At 2:30 p.m., Donovan will greet voters outside PS 36, 255 Ionia Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., NYC elected officials and transit advocates from throughout New York to rally for advocated for an extensive and expansive federal transportation funding bill, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the Capital District Working Families Party announces its support for a slate of candidates for Troy city government, Top of the Approach at RPI, near 110 8th Street, between Sage and Congress streets, Troy.

Also at 11 a.m., Family Planning Advocates members will hold a second day of action, rallying in favor of “comprehensive” reproductive health care, joined by a variety of elected officials – including Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – Meeting Room 6, Empire State Concourse, Albany.

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where he will deliver remarks and participate in a conversation with technology journalist Kim-Mai Cutler, Manhattan Center, 10th Floor, 311 W 34th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., elected officials and advocates will gather to urge the Senate to pass a resolution that condemns actions of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court, which stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Michelle Schimel, and Brian Kavanagh will join approximately 150 students from New York City who will travel to Albany to express their desire for enhanced gun legislation, LOB, Hearing Room B, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 1:30 p.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina visits the Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to make an announcement, 800 Home St., the Bronx.

At 2:30 p.m., President Obama will speak at Lehman College for the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization, 250 Bedford Park Blvd,, the Bronx.

At 6 p.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 82 Westcott Blvd., Staten Island.


A full-blown battle to succeed soon-to-be-arrested Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got under way this weekend, Fred Dicker reports, as Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, who had planned to retire next year, signaled he wanted the job.

As of yesterday, it was unclear if Skelos would attempt to retain his leadership post if charged, but some of his colleagues said they would support him if he wanted to remain at the chamber’s helm.

Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, a Queens Democrat, skirts on the edge of scandal while her fellow pols have been hauled off to prison. She also racked up thousands in per-diem expenses, including one 12-day stretch in 2010 when she said she was in Albany but didn’t attend any legislative sessions.

Struggling and underfunded NYC schools will get an additional $33.6 million under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget for 2016. The budget will be formally unveiled Thursday.

The NYT re-reports our past reporting that the hold-up in the Assembly on the pension forfeiture piece of the ethics reform package negotiated as part of the budget is being caused by labor unions.

De Blasio called the shooting in the head of a plainclothes NYPD officer “an unconscionable act of violence” and an attack “against the values we hold dear.”

The man accused of shooting the officer, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, is a repeat felon.

After a series of unfortunate events for the Democratic organization, the party’s line in tomorrow’s special election to fill former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat is vacant. Three Democrats are jockeying for votes in the special election Tuesday on party lines that include the Working Families Party, the Independent Party and the newly formed Love Yourself Party.

The Assembly Republicans received four Chevy Impalas paid for by the state. Assembly GOP spokesman Michael Fraser said the $24,000 cars will replace older, high-mileage vehicles.

The governor’s sister, cancer doctor Margaret Cuomo, previews the first ever NYS Cancer Prevention Summit, being sponsored by the state Health Department in NYC on May 20.

Manhattan Democratic District Leader Paul Newell said he is “very seriously considering” taking a second shot at the seat of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces federal charges of extortion and mail and wire fraud. Newell ran an unsuccessful primary challenge to Silver in 2008.

A fund-raiser for President Obama happening blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the annual Costume Institute Gala kicks off tonight could wreak havoc on drivers shuttling fashion insiders uptown.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Following a report that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, will be arrested on corruption charges sometime this coming week, talk has turned to whether someone in the GOP conference will try to replace the Long Island lawmaker as leader, or is he’ll step aside.

Pros and cons of some of the frontrunners to replace Skelos as leader.

A New York City police officer in plain clothes, Brian Moore, 25, was shot in the face and critically wounded on Saturday in Queens after driving up in an unmarked car to question a man on the street.

The man who shot Moore, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, was charged with one count of attempted murder, one of assault and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The Republican candidate in a special election to fill New York’s 11th congressional district pledged today — just two days before the race — to “untax” constituents.

The Staten Island Advance endorsed Donovan over his Democratic opponent, Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile.

The Clinton campaign is advertising a Mother’s Day call from the candidate for the winner of an online contest.

As First Lady Chirlane McCray pushes to improve NYC mental health services, Mayor Bill de Blasio has quietly cut funding for the internationally known Samaritans suicide hotline.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she’s working with her staff, not Cuomo, on Buffalo mayoral control legislation that she plans to introduce tomorrow.

In the current year, 112 local governments borrowed $346 million to cover retirees’ pension costs – a drop of 27 percent from 2014, records from the state Comptroller’s Office said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week dined with the executive director of JCOPE, the state ethics commission that oversees his administration, at a restaurant in upstate Saugerties owned by her extended family.

Now that the budget’s done, the governor and legislative leaders must address property tax relief, which didn’t end up in the final spending plan, the Poughkeepsie Journal says.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langowrthy says the party’s challenger to Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Assemblyman Ray Walter, will have “the necessary resources” to run a competitive campaign. Walter’s first test will be the July 15 campaign finance filing is due at the state Board of Elections.

By blaming teachers for some students’ poor academic performance, Cuomo has ignored the troubling racial segregation and socioeconomic inequity in New York’s public schools, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

Weingarten also said she regrets supporting Cuomo’s LG running mate, Kathy Hochul, in the 2014 elections. The former UFT president recorded a last-minute robocall for the former congresswoman that irked some union members.

Darius G. Pridgen, a pastor and Buffalo Common Council president, headed to Baltimore today with plans to join a peaceful rally and make a statement on the importance of government listening when residents feel aggrieved.

Fred LeBrun says the state has been dragging its heels on criminal justice reform.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recently flipped the switch on a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at Fort Niagara State Park. The solar energy system is expected to save $9,100 annually and bring a clean, modern source of energy to the park.

Bernie Sanders’ nascent presidential campaign announced that it raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted in their first day.

New York Times Co. shares leaped 10.7 percent in after-hours trading after Fox Business Network reported billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg had expressed renewed interest in buying the paper.

AG Eric Schneiderman really isn’t running for governor in 2018.

Puerto Rico’s governor signed an executive order authorizing the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory in an unexpected move following a lengthy public debate.