Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

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.

NRCC Keeps Heat on Woolf

Another day, another TV ad from the NRCC attacking on-the-ropes NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf.

The newest spot again highlights the troubles Woolf has experienced with his Brooklyn food store and restaurant.

A Siena poll released earlier this month found Woolf trailing his GOP opponent, Elise Stefanik, by 13 percentage points, with Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello receiving 10 percent of the vote and 11 percent of those polled saying they remain undecided.

The Republicans smell blood in the water as the Democratic establishment appears to be giving up hope that Woolf could somehow pull out a victory in the November election.

Funiciello has added to Woolf’s stress by calling for the Democrat to drop out of the race and clear the field for the Green Party contender, insisting that he can make a stronger campaign against Stefanik. Woolf has said he has no intention of quitting the race.

Here’s the script of the NRCC’s latest salvo against Woolf:

Announcer: Meet Aaron Woolf, millionaire filmmaker from Brooklyn.

Aaron tells us he’s a champion of small business. But his Brooklyn grocery store failed to pay over one hundred thousand dollars in state taxes.

And Woolf’s employees? They sued him for stiffing them out of their overtime pay. Not paying his taxes, stiffing his employees.

Aaron Woolf, that may work in Brooklyn, but not for us.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

Eldridge Paints Gibson As Handmaiden of His Donors (Updated)

Democrat Sean Eldridge is continuing his negative assault on his GOP opponent, Rep. Chris Gibson, in the wake of a TWC News/Siena poll that found him trailing the incumbent congressman by 24 percentage points.

The first-time and largely self-funding candidate is poised to hit the airwaves with his fourth TV ad – a spot in which Eldridge tries to wrest the “independent” mantle from Gibson by accusing him of voting with the interests of his donors, not his constituents, in mind.

This comes on the heels of a radio ad that sought to link Gibson to the conservative Koch brothers, who have become the boogeymen of choice for Democrats this campaign cycle.

“Whether it’s his vote to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or his pledge to the Koch Brothers to take no meaningful action on climate change, Congressman Gibson has shown time and time again that he’s siding with his corporate donors instead of us,” Eldridge said in a statement.

“I’m not accepting a dime of corporate PAC money, so I’ll be accountable only to families in our region. I’ll stand up to the Big Banks and Big Oil and fight for badly-needed campaign finance reform in Washington.”

Eldridge’s campaign also noted that nearly $1 million worth of outside money has already been spent in support of Gibson in this race, including by the NRCC, which considers protecting the congressman a top priority, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Gibson has consistently sought to cast himself as a pragmatist who often votes independently from the House GOP leadership and works across the aisle with his Democratic colleagues.

Eldridge’s campaign has been the focus of negative press for several months now, as he has struggled to find his footing in the race for the 19th Congressional District. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race as “Tilts Republican.” UPDATE: Actually, Rothenberg has more recently ranked this race “leans Republican,” as Gibson’s campaign points out

Also, Gibson’s campaign is calling Eldridge a hypocrite for dinging Gibson on fracking when his husband, Facebook cofounder and New Republic editor Chris Hughes, owns stakes worth as much as $1.35 million in oil companies that employ the practice. Also, on the limiting big money in politics front, the congressman’s campaign notes that he proposed a mutual finance cap for this race, but Eldridge rejected it as a “phony, election-year device” and not true campaign finance reform.

Here’s the script of Eldridge’s latest ad, which goes up on the air tomorrow:

“Eldridge: I’m Sean Eldridge, and I approve this message.

I won’t take a dime of corporate PAC money. I’ll be an independent voice in Washington and I won’t represent anybody but you.

Narrator: Chris Gibson? He’s been siding with his campaign donors, not us.

He’s taken thousands from Wall Street, then voted to weaken regulations on big banks.

Gibson’s taken money from gas drillers then supported fracking, which could pollute our drinking water.

Chris Gibson’s looking out for his campaign donors. Isn’t it time someone was looking out for us?

Here and Now (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

UPDATE: Shortly before 9 a.m., Cuomo’s press office released an event the governor will be attending in less than two hours. At 10:45 a.m., he will appear at a reception for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at The New York Palace Hotel, 455 Madison Ave., Manhattan.

At 7:20 a.m., Cardinal Timothy Dolan blesses rescue animals to mark the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi; Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets, Manhattan.

At 8 a.m., US Attorney Preet Bharara speaks at the Crain’s breakfast forum, moderators for the event include NY1′s Errol Louis, New York Athletic Club, 180 Central Park South, Columbus Circle, Manhattan.

At 8:35 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on Long Island News Radio with host Jay Oliver.

At 9:15 a.m., US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Brian Higgins and David Goodfriend, chairman of the Sports Fans Coalition, will host a telephone conference call with reporters ahead of the FCC’s 10:30 a.m. vote to lift an FCC rule on sports blackouts.

At 10 a.m., the state Association of School Business Officials and the Rockefeller Institute host the Second Annual School Finance Symposium, 411 State St., Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., JCOPE meets, 540 Broadway, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins will be holding a media conference call to discuss the status of the negotiations over proposed debates.

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an announcement, St. Mary’s Playground West, 450 St. Ann’s Ave., the Bronx.

Also at noon, Astorino will attend and deliver remarks at the Nesconset/Kings Park Chamber of Commerce Joint Meeting, Watermill Inn, 711 Smithtown Bypass, Smithtown.

Also at noon, the Binghamton Rotary Club #64 will be hosting a debate between GOP Sen. Tom Libous and his Democratic challenger Anndrea Starzak, The Terra Cotta, 81 State St., Binghamton.

At 12:30 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss makes an appearance to discuss the so-called “SAFE” Act at Avon Gun & Hunting Supply, 259 E Main St., Avon.

Also at 12:30 p.m., the state Gaming Commission meets, with multiple video conferencing locations. The meeting agenda can be found here.

At 1:30 p.m., Astorino holds a press conference with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Runner’s Edge, 242 Main St., Farmingdale.

At 3 p.m., de Blasio holds hearings on, and signs into law, 104-A, 137-A, 187-A, 48-A, 129-A, 371-A, 472-A and 474, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 3 p.m., Hawkins will be speaking at a rally with students, faculty, and community members on the steps of Hendricks Chapel in support of fossil fuel divestment, Crouse Drive, Syracuse.

Also at 3 p.m., “billionaire” protestors hold a “tea party” outside NY-18 GOP candidate Nan Hayworth’s campaign HQ, 55 Brookside Ave., Chester.

At 4 p.m., Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, the GOP state comptroller candidate, meets with the Syracuse Post-Standard editorial board, 220 South Warren St., Syracuse.

At 5:30 p.m., Astorino and Moss attend a reception/fundraiser headlined by Perry, Grand Court of the Ellicot Square Building, 295 Main St., Buffalo.

Headlines…

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs has decided to keep embattled Nassau Legislator David Denenberg on the ballot in the race for state Senate against his GOP colleague, Legislator Michael Venditto, even though Denenberg has technically quit the race.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign an executive order significantly expanding the city’s living wage law, covering thousands of previously exempt workers and raising the hourly wage itself, to $13.13 from $11.90, for workers who do not receive benefits. He will lobby in Albany next year for the power to set a citywide minimum wage.

PEF President Susan Kent shielded a downstate council leader – and key ally – from potential prosecution after she allegedly used a union debit card to make at least $20,000 in questionable purchases — including liquor, restaurant bills and home improvement items.

Oprah Winfrey is donating $100,000 to a youth center on the south side of Syracuse. She made a surprise stop yesterday at the Mary Nelson Youth Center and said she was writing out the check on the spot.

There are currently 30 prime-time episodic television shows filming in the city, according to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. This is a substantial uptick from previous years 0 in the 2002-03 season, only seven were based here – thanks in part to a 30 percent tax credit offered by New York state.

In a highly unusual legal decision published on Monday, Tynia Richard, an administrative law judge, recommended that six Rikers guards be terminated for their role in a brutality case.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has created a unit dedicated to investigating hate crimes, coinciding with a steep rise in reports of racially and religiously motivated attacks across the borough.

A Brooklyn judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the New York State Nurses Association that was seeking to block the redevelopment of Long Island College Hospital, paving the way for NYU Langone Medical Center to return to the table.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined New York State’s effort to obtain a waiver from the U.S. Department of Justice allowing the state to import medicinal marijuana to treat children who suffer from rare and deadly seizure disorders.

A Republican-aligned outside group is airing a TV ad slamming Long Island Rep. Timothy H. Bishop on his support for the Affordable Care Act.

The NYT on GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s “Daisy” remake: “The suggestion that Mr. Cuomo is at imminent risk of going to jail is misleading at best…Suggesting Mr. Cuomo could be prison-bound shows the lengths Mr. Astorino will go to cast the governor in a negative light.”

and on Cuomo’s “let them eat soup” ad: “Throughout the campaign, Mr. Cuomo has tried to make Mr. Astorino seem as menacing as possible. In this case, with an ill-advised quip, Mr. Astorino did the job for him.”

More >

Extras

The knife-carrying man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known.

The healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU has endorsed Brooklyn GOP Sen. Marty Golden for re-election, in spite of a vow earlier this year to work exclusively toward helping the Democrats win the majority.

An independent expenditure group recently set up by education reform advocates has raised $1.75 million over the past week and will likely spend to help the Senate Republicans.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio dodged questions on Staten Island Chuck’s untimely demise. “I would just refer questions to the Staten Island Zoo, he said. “They’re the experts.”

De Blasio claimed his decision to retain Rachel Noerdlinger doesn’t contradict his blocking of Lis Smith from joining his administration after it was revealed she was dating former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Randy Credico is assisting – and influencing – Howie Hawkins’ campaign.

In response to a call from Citizen Action of NY, GOP AG candidate John Cahill’s campaign says he’ll be release his taxes in the coming days.

Former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn on whether she’ll get a job with the Cuomo admin: “I’ve not talked to anybody in the Cuomo administration – not the governor or anybody else – about a job.”

Republicans are hammering NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf for saying that when he decided to run, he did “not comprehend the enormity of the task.”

Pinny Ringel, a well-known Jewish community activist, has been hired by the de Blasio administration.

CNBC has a list of 10 reasons why US Attorney Preet Bharara should succeed outgoing US AG Eric Holder.

Former Democratic LG candidate Tim Wu is doing a little house (car?) cleaning.

Frank Max, who unsuccessfully challenged Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, is out as Cheektowaga Democratic chairman.

Zellner issued a statement thanking Max for his service.

Woolf said he’s “not intending” to heed his Green Party opponent Matt Funiciello’s call for him to drop out of the race.

The anti-frackers want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tour Pennsylvania.

Actress Vanessa Williams and her Buffalo boyfriend are engaged.

AG Eric Schneiderman was in Colonie today, but took no questions from the press.

Rep. Joaquin Castro is endorsing Hillary Clinton through an email sent out by the low-dollar super PAC looking to galvanize support for a candidacy in 2016.

Clinton is taking time off from grandmother duty to campaign for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn next week.

The NYC-based consulting firm BerlinRosen Public Affairs is establishing a new digital practice headed by former Obama campaign staffer Josh Cook.

The New York League of Women Voters has launched Vote411.org, an electronic voter guide, for statewide and congressional, Assembly and Senate races in the general election.

Martins Ties Haber to NYC Dems (Updated)

GOP Sen. Jack Martins has released a new TV ad that attacks his Democratic opponent, businessman Adam Haber, for his connection to the New York City-dominated Democratic Senate conference.

The battle for Long Island’s 7th SD was always one of the top races as the Democrats and Republicans fight for control of the majority, but it has taken on heightened importance since the implosion last week of Democratic state Senate candidate Dave Denenberg’s campaign in the adjacent 8th SD.

The Senate Democrats had high hopes for Denenberg and viewed the race for former GOP Sen. Chuck Fuschillo’s seat as their most likely pick-up on the island, which is currently controlled (Senate-wise, that is) by the Republicans.

But Denenberg’s demise due to a lawsuit by his former law firm partners that accused him of defrauding a client of more than $2 million by billing for “fictitious” services that he never performed has more or less written off this seat for the Democrats, though they are reportedly seeking a replacement candidate – potentially former Suffolk County executive and ex-Assemblyman Patrick Halpin.

The Republicans are running Michael Venditto, an attorney and the son of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was unanimously nominated by local Republicans back in March over veteran Assemblyman Joseph Saladino.

Denenberg’s implosion has eased the pressure on the Senate GOP, and allowed more resources and attention to be dedicated to protecting Martins as he fights Haber, who largely self-funded a failed run for Nassau County executive last fall. Haber los the Democratic prmiary to former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who went on to lose his comeback bid to the man who had unseated him four years earlier, Republican Nassau County Exectuive Ed Mangano.

The Democrats have been hammering Martins over his opposition to the 10-point Women’s Equality Act due to the abortion-rights plank that the GOP has refused to let come to the floor for a vote.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are still pushing the “New York City-controlled Senate is bad for areas outside the city” theme, as evidenced by this ad. The script appears below, and the campaign didn’t provide any details as to the size of the buy or how long this will air and where.

UPDATE: Gaber campaign spokesman Jacob Tugendrajch sent the following response:

“This ad is made up entirely of lies because Jack Martins can’t run on the truth, which is that his record consists of raising taxes in Mineola and voting against women every chance he gets. Adam Haber is adamantly against the MTA payroll tax and is running for Senate to lower taxes for Nassau residents and replace the school funding we’ve lost since Martins has been in Albany. It’s sad that Jack Martins has to base his campaign on baseless lies, but that’s what happens when the truth is against you.”

And here’s the ad script:

“Do we want to go back to New York City politicians treating Long Island like an ATM? Bring back the MTA payroll tax? Go back to double digit higher property taxes? And back to our schools being shortchanged?”

“That’s where Adam Haber wants to take us. Haber opposed the property tax cap. And with Haber in Albany, our schools would get less, and New York City’s would get more. Adam Haber, good for New York City, not us.”

Here and Now

It’s National Coffee Day.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Afghanistan, Washington, and the New York City area.

At 8:30 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill appears on “Good Day” on Fox with Greg Kelly and Rosanna Scotto.

At 9:30 a.m., the NYLCV stands with Sen. Mark Grisanti in his re-election bid, discusses his “green” record, 77 West Huron, Buffalo.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will hold a press conference at the Federal Courthouse, 300 Quarropas St., White Plains.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an announcement, Outdoor Tennis Courts at John F. Kennedy Campus, 2975 Tibbett Ave., the Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement while delivering the Pattern for Progress housing summit keynote address, 2975 U.S. 9W, New Windsor.

At 10:45 a.m., Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul takes an economic development tour with Genesee County Economic Development Center President & CEO Steve Hyde, 5140 Ag Park Drive W., Batavia.

At 11 a.m., Lawmakers will stand with religious and labor leaders, and members of a Bronx grassroots group, to demand legislative changes that would prevent prosecutors from withholding evidence gathered against those accused of a crime, Bronx County Courthouse.

At 11:15 a.m., officials including Manhattan DA Cy Vance, US Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Arizona Task Force on Human Trafficking co-Chair Cindy McCain take part in panel discussion on human trafficking; Grand Hyatt New York’s Empire Ballroom, 109 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

At 11:05 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with host Susan Arbetter.

At 11:15 a.m., Astorino will tour the Arlington Business District with Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, starting at Zimmer Brothers, 39 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie.

At noon, Astorino will greet voters at the Tri-Town Senior Center, Arlington American Legion Post #1302, 55 Overlook Rd., Poughkeepsie.

At 12:30 p.m., Schneiderman makes an announcement while delivering the keynote address at the annual conference of the Center For Excellence In Homeownership Education, Best Western Albany Airport Inn, 200 Wolf Rd., Albany.

Also at 12:30 p.m., Astorino will host a luncheon with Dutchess County business leaders and County Executive Molinaro, Mill House, 289 Mill St., Poughkeepsie.

At 1 p.m., Oprah Winfrey speaks at the Goldstein Auditorium of the Schine Student Center, Syracuse University.

At 1:30 p.m., the NYLCV and Sen. Ted O’Brien discuss proposed legislation regarding the management of hazardous fracking waste in New York, Durand Eastman Beach, Parking Lot A, Rochester.

At 1:45 p.m., Hochul tours the Erie Canal by boat with community leaders, Midlakes Erie Macedon Landing, 1125 Marina Pkwy., Macedon.

At 2 p.m., Astorino will greet voters at the Catherine Street Community Center, 69 Catherine St., Poughkeepsie.

Also at 2 p.m., NYRA’s reorganization board of directors meets, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, 767 Fifth Ave., conference Room 25-K, Manhattan, and state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 2 p.m., Winfrey attends a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the new Waverly Avenue entrance to Newhouse 2, Syracuse University.

At 2:30 p.m., Hochul tours downtown Palmyra with local community leaders, Muddy Water Café, 100 Division St., Palmyra.

At 4 p.m., Astorino will meet with the Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial Board.

At 5:30 p.m., Cahill appears on “The Ride Home” with Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby, 77 WABC AM 770.

At 6 p.m., Hochul attends the 2015 UJF campaign community kick-off dinner, Hyatt Regency Buffalo, 2 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo.

Headlines…

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is asking US Attorney Preet Bharara — already probing Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Moreland Commission scandal — to widen his investigation to include a widespread “pattern of fraud” involving Cuomo’s newly created Women’s Equality Party.

While in Afghanistan, Cuomo, who is not known to mingle with strangers in New York, made a concerted effort to project a relaxed image among the soldiers, who met him over a barbecue in a garden at the heavily secured headquarters of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Astorino vowed Sunday to repeal Cuomo’s chief gun control initiative – the SAFE Act – as he spoke to a pro-gun conference in Hauppauge – one of several visits on his Long Island itinerary.

Cuomo is expected to nominate a judge this week to the state Court of Appeals – his third selection for the highest court in the state.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, head of the RGA, travels to Wisconsin today to help Gov. Scott Walker there in his tough re-election fight, an appearance that will pair two possible 2016 Republican hopefuls.

Less than a year after he opposed the use of medical marijuana, Cuomo is now asking the U.S. Justice Department for a waiver to permit the state to import limited amounts of marijuana for the treatment of seriously ill children and young adults who suffer from rare seizure disorders.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Some photos from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Afghanistan trip can be found here.

Cuomo said he decided two weeks ago, in the days following President Barack Obama’s declaration that the U.S. would pursue the destruction of the Islamic State, to participate in the trip because “it is now abundantly clear that this terrorist threat, even though it has been quiet for 13 years—that this is the new normal.”

Hillary and Bill Clinton are grandparents. Their daughter, Chelsea, gave birth to a baby girl: Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky.

A “longtime friend” says NJ Gov. Chris Christie respects Cuomo’s “political savvy and has no desire to spar with him.” The two governors have forged an extraordinarily close and politically useful partnership, both in public and private.

Public advocate Letitia James is often absent from the office for hours to attend personal appointments and political events, according to seven months of her schedules reviewed by the Daily News.

The botched WEP petition drives for upstate Senate Democrats was bankrolled by Cuomo 2014.

Families for Excellent Schools, an organization that supports charter schools and has become a critic of New York City’s public education system, is launching a weeklong television ad campaign beginning tomorrow as it gears up for a rally this week.

The NYPD has a chokehold problem, the Civilian Complaint Review Board claims in a shot-across-the-bow report ordered by the agency’s new president, civil-rights attorney Richard Emery.

There continue to be divisions within the Erie County Democratic Party, and they might worsen after the November elections.

The DN wants AG Eric Schneiderman to come “completely clean” about his office’s dealings with his ex-wife/Democratic consultant Jennifer Cunningham.

A top official in Israel reportedly tried to intimidate the rabbi who claims Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm shook him down for donations.

Registered lobbyists in New York are now able to take an online ethics training course that was mandated in the 2011 law that created the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York commissioned a secret internal investigation of itself in 2009, uncovering a culture of suppression that discouraged regulatory staffers from voicing worries about the banks they supervised.

India’s new prime minister, once shunned by Washington, appeared before an enthusiastic crowd in a famed New York sports arena today where he appealed for help from Indian-Americans to help develop his country’s economy, vowing that under his leadership, the South Asian nation wouldn’t look back.

A $45 million discrimination lawsuit filed by a Nassau correction officer against his employer is headed to trial after a federal judge last week denied parts of the county’s request to dismiss it.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s re-decorated Gracie Mansion features $63,155 worth of new furniture, according to records obtained by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute.

Approximately 300 police department supporters turned out by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk in Staten Island Saturday morning for what is intended to be an annual “Honor Our Police” rally to commemorate the lost lives of officers native to the borough.

With SolarCity’s massive solar panel factory now expected to fill the entire first phase of the RiverBend complex, New York State officials need to find a new home for Soraa, a small company from Fremont, Calif., that is developing a line of LED, or light-emitting diode, lights.

Cuomo Agrees To Two Debates (Updatedx2)

Moments after news of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s surprise trip to Afghanistan broke, the governor’s re-election campaign announced that he has accepted to invitations to debate before the Nov. 4 general election.

Cuomo has agreed to one debate upstate, and one in New York City. The upstate debate will be sponsored by The Buffalo News and WNED-WBFO (not, it is worth pointing out, TWC News, which did issue an invite and also tried without success to get the governor to debate his primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, but to no avail).

NOTE: WNED is a public TV station, and WBFO is its radio partner. This post has been edited to reflect that fact.

The Astorino campaign, as evidenced by its statement below, appears to believe that these debates will not be televised. The Cuomo campaign’s statement about accepting the debates makes no mention of how they will be aired. This post will be updated again when more information is available.

The downstate debate will be sponsored by WNYC New York Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal. Both debates will be held in mid-October, though no specific dates were given.

The NYC debate will be a standard one-on-one format with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, according to the Cuomo campaign.

The Buffalo event will be a bit more of a free-for-all, with Cuomo, Astorino, Green Pasrty gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and the Libertarian Party’s Michael McDermott, a Long Island realtor.

“Governor Cuomo is looking forward to a robust discussion of ideas at both debates and we want to thank the sponsors for making these events possible,” said Cuomo campaign spokesman Matt Wing.

There is no word yet from the Astorino campaign, which has been hounding Cuomo on the debate issue. The county executive had called for eight regional debates, and criticized Cuomo for refusing to engage in a pre-primary head-to-head with Teachout.

UPDATE: The Astorino campaign has released a statement from its spokeswoman Jessica Proud, and, not surprisingly, they are not at all satisfied with the governor’s radio-only debate plan.

“This is more games from Andrew Cuomo,” Proud said. “Despite their claims, there have been no negotiations between the campaigns. We have called for at least one televised debate between the two major party candidates, as is custom in every election from President of the United States on down.”

“It’s clear Governor Cuomo is terrified to go one-on-one with County Executive Astorino on television. Is it because he doesn’t want people to see his face when he’s asked about his role in the Moreland corruption scandal? The people of New York deserve better.”

UPDATE2: When questioned about the TV issue, Astorino campaign advisor Bill O’Reilly reiterated: “The voters deserve a one-on-one televised debate with the two principal candidates.”

The fact that the four-way debate is the only one that will be on TV is what the Astorino folks have a problem with.

Cuomo Takes Surprise Trip to Afghanistan

With just six weeks remaining before the November general election, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Afghanistan with a bipartisan delegation of governors at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Defense, which is sponsoring the visit, his office announced this afternoon.

As is fairly standard with these sorts of overseas trips to high security zones, the governor’s office did not provide any advance notice of his plans. The first word of his trip came via the governor’s twitter account – @nygovcuomo – which announced at 12:52 p.m. that Cuomo had arrived safely in Afghanistan. This was followed by a public schedule announcing the governor is in Afghanistan (with no public events planned), and a press release including some details of his itinerary.

Cuomo was invited on the trip by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and is also joined by Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson, Tennesee Gov. William Haslam, Missouri Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other DoD officials.

While in Afghanistan, Cuomo will receive security briefings on on counterterrorism issues, the evolving global threats that affect New York’s safety at home, and other matters, according to a press release put out by his office.

He’ll also meet with New York and other American troops who are currently stationed in Afghanistan – including those from Fort Drum, New York’s 10th Mountain Division – to thank them for their service.

Approximately 270 members of the New York National Guard are currently deployed in Afghanistan, the bulk of which are based in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Additionally, approximately 900 members of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division are in the country.

Cuomo departed the US from Washington, D.C. last night after receiving a security briefing from. He left from Andrews Air Force Base and traveled to Ramstein Air Base in Germany en route to Afghanistan.

Cuomo arrived in Germany this morning, and while there, he visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where he met with hospital staff and wounded servicemembers. Cuomo’s office posted photos of the visit on the governor’s Flickr page. He then continued on to Afghanistan, arriving Saturday evening local time.

A Cuomo spokesman said the governor is due back in New York at the end of the day on Monday. (Presumably, this means LG Bob Duffy is in charge until then).

Over the past several weeks, Cuomo has been intensely focused on terrorism, holding four events related to keeping New York safe as members of the Islamic State (AKA ISIS, or ISL) ramp up their activities overseas. Two of those events were held with Nwe Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has agreed to partner with Cuomo on anti-terrorism efforts.

On Thursday afternoon, Cuomo and NYC Mayor bill de Blasio took separate trips on the NYC subway system after the Iraqi prime minister warned of Islamic State plots to attack it. Both Democrats downplayed the reports, saying there was no knowledge of any specific threats made.

Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, suggested there was a political motivation behind the governor’s newfound focus on terrorism. Cuomo, in turn, characterized Astorino’s comments as “irresponsible,” saying the “essence” of his job is to keep New Yorkers safe.