Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is holding a closed-press meeting at City Hall with Sen. James Sanders Jr. today. This evening, he’ll speak at the speak at the Los Angeles Universal Preschool Dinner in Manhattan – another event that is closed to reporters.

At 9:30 a.m., Rep. Jose Serrano kicks off the 6th annual Runyon 5k and runs in the event, Yankee Stadium, One E. 161st Street, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement on public safety, Rochester Public Safety Building Auditorium, 185 Exchange Blvd, Rochester.

Also at 11 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes announce sentencing of former Altmar Village Clerk Margaret Baily, Oswego County Public Safety Center, 39 Churchill Rd., Oswego.

At 12:30 p.m., Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul attends “Taste of Williamsville” with Councilmember Mark Manna, Island Park, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.

At 1 p.m., the Audit Committee of the SUNY Construction Fund board of trustees meets, University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., LG Bob Duffy delivers remarks at ITT Corporation’s High-Energy Testing & Packaging Facility Grand Opening, ITT Goulds, 240 Fall St., Seneca Falls.

Also at 1 p.m., Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and AG candidate Ramon Jimenez hold a press conference on the Moreland Commission, public corruption, minimum wage and the death of Eric Garner, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m. Schneiderman makes another announcement on public safety, Main Place Tower, 350 Main St., Suite 300A, Buffalo.

Also at 1:30 p.m., Cardinal Anthony M. Dolan ordains three auxiliary bishops to serve in the Archdiocese of New York, as Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, presides during a Roman Catholic religious service where Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., will read an official “papal bull” letter from Pope Francis; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., Rep. Dan Maffei meets with constituents, Fulton Public Library, 160 South First St., Fulton.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s highest-ranking aide, Larry SChwartz, has agreed to meet with federal prosecutors this month as their investigation into the disbanding of the Moreland Commission intensifies.

Cuomo, “crazed with anger” and increasingly abusive to those around him, fears the first round of public polling since the “Morelandgate” scandal will take a major toll on his — until-now — sky-high popularity, administration insiders tell Fred Dicker.

Cuomo’s decision to pay a white-collar attorney to serve as outside counsel for the executive chamber in the Moreland probe puts the governor at odds – on paper at least – with members of his own party in the Legislature.

Before the Moreland Commission was mothballed this spring, the panel’s staffers pressed Albany County District Attorney David Soares to pursue their investigations and leads.

“If the legal ramifications intensify for Cuomo, it could upend his political future as a national candidate, but while the scandal is being picked up by national news outlets, it still reads as “inside baseball” to voters in far-flung parts of the country.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout reiterated her call for Cuomo to resign if the allegations of his administration’s interference into the commission are true.

Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, one of three former commission co-chairs and a congressional candidate, is “assisting” a federal probe into the governor’s handling of the panel. She has met multiple times with US Attorney Preet Bharara.

A special prosecutor has begun issuing subpoenas in the long-stalled investigation into the 2009 campaign activities of the Working Families Party, with a grand jury scheduled to be impaneled next month.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Jon Bon Jovi, facing credibility issues over his intentions for the Buffalo Bills, has emerged via a letter to The Buffalo News to declare his group’s commitment to keeping the team in Western New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has been in touch with all potential buyers of the Bills, and that he has emphasized the importance of keeping the team in place in Western New York.

One day after the New York City medical examiner ruled that a Staten Island man’s death resulted, in part, from a chokehold applied during an arrest, the family of the man, Eric Garner, called for the police officer involved to be held accountable.

“It’s a strange use of campaign contributions, even by New York standards,” NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said of Cuomo’s plan to use political cash – not taxpayer dollars – to pay for outside counsel to represent the executive chamber in the Moreland mess.

The DN opines: “Where Gov. Cuomo went wrong — and where many associated with his disbanded ethics commission went wrong — was in mixing law enforcement with hardball Albany gamesmanship.”

AG Eric Schneiderman says he hasn’t hired a lawyer to represent him in the burgeoning Moreland controversy, and his office is “offering our assistance” to the US attorney.

A frequent critic of local election law enforcement says the latest scrutiny of Cuomo’s Moreland Commission underscores Erie County’s lack of an independent prosecutor to root out public corruption, and wants the US attorney to expand his investigation to include WNY cases.

In an echo of 2008 — when Ted and Caroline Kennedy backed upstart Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton — members of the Kennedy clan have reportedly been quietly wooing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and encouraging her to throw her hat in the ring.

In Clinton’s absence, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been cultivating close connections with Democrats in Iowa’s presidential testing grounds.

The Metropolitan Opera and two of its unions have agreed to hire an independent financial analyst to assess the company’s finances, postponing a threatened lockout by another week.

The president of the Greater Cicero Chamber of Commerce says a $70,000 fine levied against it by the state Workers’ Compensation Board is the result of a mixup.

A nonprofit launched by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio accepted money from at least two donors that his mayoral campaign had rejected because they had city contracts.

Leafly, a website that reviews cannabis and lists where to buy it, may be the first marijuana business to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times.

A staffer for Queens Councilman Daneek Miller sent political fund-raising e-mails while working on the taxpayer dime.

Cheryl Hines and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. were married Saturday at the home of the groom’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, in Hyannis Port, Mass. The Rev. William F. Schulz, a Unitarian Universalist minister, officiated.

Extras

The NYC medical examiner ruled Eric Garner’s death a homicide. The Staten Island man died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer.

Rep. Charlie Rangel broke with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio by declaring he is positive race was a factor in Garner’s death.

De Blasio extended his “deepest sympathies” to Garner’s family.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie, when asked to comment on the Moreland mess, said: Come up with another question; you’re wasting your time.”

Christie doubled down against GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, saying: “I don’t have the juice to make a 37-point race a competitive one.”

Erie County DA Frank A. Sedita III, a Moreland commissioner, defended commision co-chair, Onondaga County DA, Bill Fitzpatrick, calling him an “incorruptible public servant.”

GOP state comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci has officially been approved to participate in the state’s pilot program for public campaign financing.

“Andrew Cuomo couldn’t get 30 people to come see him in Poughkeepsie.”

A former Washington Redskins player is furious at Hillary Clinton for calling the football team’s controversial name “insensitive.”

The AG’s office is investigating the founder of a Manhattan-based charity that claimed to help the storied Fighting 69th Regiment.

Cuomo’s recent request to expedite a new medical marijuana program is a direct reversal of the position he took as the law creating the program was being crafted.

Assemblyman Steve Katz, ticketed in March 2013 for pot possession, will be a keynote speaker at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s lunch in Manhattan next month.

So-called “revenge porn” is now illegal in New York.

Assemblyman Denny Farrell Jr., a longtime Rangel ally, endorsed Rangel’s vanquished primary foe, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, over ex-NYC Councilman Robert Jackson.

Sen. Lee Zeldin, who’s running for Congress in NY-1, would have voted in favor of authorizing House Speaker John Boehner to sue President Obama.

Astorino: ‘Mr. Cuomo’s Morelandgate’

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino has released a web video chronicling the developments to date in the scandal he has (not-so-creatively) dubbed “Morelandgate.”

The video features clips of coverage of the Moreland mess since the New York Times story that shined a light on the Cuomo administration’s extensive efforts to interfere with the work of the now-corrupt commission – particularly when it trained its sites on his own considerable fundraising operation.

The clips are mostly from national shows, which – with the rather glaring exception of CNN, which employs the governor’s brother, Chris Cuomo, picked up on this story since the Times report last week – followed by US Attorney Preet Bharara’s sharply-worded warning about witness tampering and obsctruction – really kicked things up a notch.

The trouble for Astorino, of course, is that this would be a heck of a lot more effective if it were airing as an actual ad (in a shorter version, of course). But putting an ad on TV requires cash, and that’s something the Westchester County executive doesn’t have much of on hand.

So, he has to resort to earned media, of which he has been receiving quite a bit of so far. But the reach of blogs, tweets and even A-1 newspaper stories is limited. Meanwhile, the governor and the state Democratic Party, with millions of dollars to play with, have been hammering Astorino on the airwaves.

Mr. Cuomo’s Morelandgate from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Here and Now

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

At 10:30 a.m., state Senate candidate John Liu unveils his Community Education Reform Plan, 3224 Corporal Kennedy St., Queens.

Also at 10:30 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will announce the beginning of the applications process for his office’s second round for funding for land banks statewide, 5 Lander St., Newburgh. (Also attending: Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, Assemblyman Frank Skartados and Madeline Fletcher of the Newburgh Land Bank).

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a hurricane preparedness event, Red Hook Initiative, 767 Hicks St., Brooklyn.

Also at noon, the state Board of Elections meets, 40 North Pearl St., Fifth Floor, Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., Schneiderman makes his Land Bank announcement at 722 Eastern Ave., Schenectady. (Also attending: Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara).

At 2 p.m., Sen. Tony Avella holds a press conference urging Cuomo to sign the Briarwood train station re-naming bill, 137-65 Queens Blvd., Queens.

At 4 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends a meet-and-greet event at Belmont Town and Village Hall, 1 Schuyler St., Belmont.

At 5 p.m., former Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz will be the maitre d’ the restaurant Noodle Pudding to promote “staycations” and tourism in Brooklyn, 38 Henry St.

At 6 p.m., Moss attends and speaks at the Wyoming County Republican Committee Steak Bake and Picnic, Liberty Street, Warsaw.

Headlines…

The executive chamber has lawyered up, hiring white-collar criminal defense attorney Elkan Abramowitz as US attorney Preet Bharara threatens to broaden his probe into the demise of the Moreland Commission.

It was Joseph Percoco, a longtime political aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who contacted several members of the now-shuttered commission in the past week and encouraged them to make public statements supporting the governor and affirming the panel’s independence. He even offered to provide drafts.

Trying to influence the commissioners while Bharara’s investigation is underway “put the governor is at risk in ways he was not before,” writes legal ethics Prof. Stephen Gillers. The US obstruction statutes are incredibly broad.”

Bharara’s investigators had already questioned delays in receiving thousands of emails and other documents they had subpoenaed from the panel more than two months ago.

Cuomo acknowledged having discussions with “relevant parties” about inaccuracies in news reports about his office’s involvement with the commission.

“Andrew Cuomo is having the roughest stretch of his political career since flaming out of the New York governor’s race in 2002,” POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman writes. “…The mess is almost entirely of his own making.”

In short: “Cuomo is in hot water for allegedly micromanaging his response to a scandal based on his own micromanagement.”

Regina Calcaterra, the commission’s executive director who is accused of reporting its every move to Cuomo aides, is reportedly in line for a cushy landing at the State Insurance Fund.

The AP tried to contact all 25 commission members yesterday. Several did not return messages. Some declined to comment when asked if they had been contacted recently by a Cuomo representative.

Even if the Moreland fallout isn’t felt at the polls this fall, it could make for a difficult second term for Cuomo, as it has somewhat eroded the “fear factor” he wielded over people, which helped him get his way.

The state Authorities Budget Office, an independent body, is examining allegations the Environmental Facilities Corporation board, largely made up of Cuomo appointees, rushed through a $256 million loan that raided the state’s clean water funds to pay for a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York ranked ahead of all other U.S. senators in tax dollars spent on charter plane flights last year.

More >

Extras

“There’s this pathological need on the second floor for exact control – control  at a level that’s not really achievable, and not even healthy, over the  long-term.”

The Moreland mess was again addressed on ”Morning Joe,” with MSNBC host Ari Melber remarking on the “serious cloud hanging over the governor’s mansion.”

Mediaite notes that CNN, which employs Cuomo’s brother, Chris, has avoided the Moreland scandal, even as other national outlets have picked it up.

A timeline of all Cuomo’s public comments about Moreland, compliments of the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Rocland County DA Thomas Zugibe confirmed he was contacted by Cuomo’s office about issuing a Moreland statement, but didn’t feel pressured to do so.

This exists.

Here’s a headline Cuomo will probably like, all things being equal.

Common Cause NY wants Cuomo to continue “public dialogue” on Moreland – just not with former commissioners.

Senate Investigations Chairman Carl Marcellino says the GOP has “batted around” the possibility of a Moreland probe, but will wait until the US attorney finishes his work.

Hillary Clinton is leading potential Republican challengers in the key state of Ohio in 2016 matchups, according to a new Q poll.

REBNY President Steve Spinola, who is normally forthcoming, hasn’t given an interview since news of his retirement broke last month.

The Rev. Al Sharpton claimed Dante de Blasio would be a candidate for an NYPD chokehold if he were not the son of the mayor.

Rep. Charlie Rangel dismissed rumors that he will try to designate a chosen successor before he is re-elected in an uncontested general election vote.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is worried about all the “dark money” flowing into NY.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton sat down with NY1′s Errol Louis for his first “Inside City Hall” interview since taking office.

HBO has given a green light to a six-hour David Simon miniseries about race relations and poverty-stricken low-income housing in 1960s Yonkers.

A popular Southampton restaurateur, whose brother-in-law is Rep. Tim Bishop, has been accused of sexual harassment.

Bon Jovi should not play Buffalo any time soon.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie is in New Hampshire for the second time in two months.

Albany will serve as a backdrop for yet another Hollywood movie.

George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has authored a personal biography of his father, George H. W. Bush, the 41st president.

Here and Now

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

At 7:35 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on WIBX 950 First News with host Bill Keeler.

At 9:30 a.m., RACC holds a golf outing, Wiltwyck Golf Club, 404 Stewart Ln., Kingston.

At 10 a.m., the SUNY Board of Trustees hold a special meeting with a likely executive session, Multipurpose Center, SUNY Global Center, 116 East 55th St., New York.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, the Rev. Al Sharpton and clergy and community members from Staten Island host a roundtable on police-community relations, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., CSEA and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli make an announcement, the Desmond Hotel, Colonie.

At 11:04 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

At 11:45 a.m., NY-4 GOP candidate Bruce Blakeman will hold a press conference to discuss the role of his Democratic opponent, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, in the Moreland mess, Nassau County Supreme Court Building, 100 Supreme Court Dr., Mineola.

At noon, GOP state Senate candidate Sue Serino holds a press conference to “set the record straight” on the Dutchess County energy tax, Dutchess County Office Building, 22 Market St., Poughkeepsie.

At 12:47 p.m., Astorino will be a guest on WVOX with host Denise Ward.

At 1:30 p.m., directors of the Statewide Local Development Corp. meet, Empire State Development, 633 Third Ave., 37th Floor Conf. Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1:30 p.m., Astorino will conduct a NY Rising Buy Out Tour with Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, 47 Terry St., Sayville.

At 2:30 p.m., de Blasio will honor firefighters and EMS workers who saved the lives of three young children from a fire on Loring Avenue in Brooklyn, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., Astorino will conduct a roundtable discussion and tour with Sandy victims and Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi, Mastic Beach Firehouse, Neighborhood Road, Mastic Beach.

At 3:30 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss tours local business district in the Village of Catskill, departing from 411 Main St., Catskill.

At 4:15 p.m., Moss visits the Matthew 25 Food Pantry, 8 Union St., Catskill.

At 4:30 p.m. Moss visits the Catskill High School Digital Media Center and Distance Learning Program, 341 W. Main Street, Catskill.

At 5 p.m., Moss attends the Catskill Fire Department Chicken BBQ, Long River Shopping Plaza, 170 W. Bridge St., Catskill.

At 5:30 p.m., Moss attends Meet & Greet event with voters at the Creekside Restaurant, 160 W. Main St., Catskill.

At 6 p.m., during a forum coinciding with the Police Reform Organizing Project’s release of a report titled “Broken Windows: A True Tale of Two Cities,” advocates and scholars criticize court and law enforcement practices during the six months since Bratton and de Blasio took office; New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 W. 64th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilwoman Inez Dickens and supporters attend a political fundraiser marking the councilwoman’s birthday, presented by Rep. Charlie Rangel and hosted by Assemblyman Keith Wright; My Image Studios Inc.’s MIST Harlem cultural center, 46 W. 116th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Moss delivers remarks at meeting of the Hudson Valley Americans for Freedom, Churchtown Fire House, 2219 County Route 27, Hudson.

Headlines…

In an escalation of his investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission, US Attorney Preet Bharara issued a sharply worded letter to the governor, threatening to investigate his office for either obstruction of justice or witness tampering. The letter came a day after several commissioners issued statements praising the governor – apparently at the administration’s request.

During an event on Long Island, Cuomo continued to be dogged by questions about the Moreland Commission and its demise.

In response to questions about Moreland-related attacks by his GOP opponent, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, Cuomo replied: “Yeah, that’s entertaining.”

Cuomo never actually rescinded the executive order that established the Moreland Commission, leaving the panel in limbo and maintaining 23 of its 25 members as deputy attorneys general. A Cuomo spokesman said the administration believes doing so wasn’t necessary.

Columbia University Law Prof. and LG candidate Tim Wu said members Cuomo’s administration may have violated four different state criminal laws by interfering with the operations of the now-defunct commission. Wu is an expert in state criminal law.

The fallout from the Moreland mess has now extended to impact Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, one of the commission’s three co-chairs who has remained quiet about its demise. She’s running for Congress, and her GOP opponent, Bruce Blakeman, has seized on this issue.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted he’s not paying much attention to the Moreland Commission scandal, but defended Cuomo, calling him an “agent of reform.”

Only days before U.S. authorities reached a landmark $8.97 billion settlement with BNP Paribas over the bank’s dealings with countries subject to U.S. sanctions, Cuomo reportedly intervened to ensure the state government got a much bigger share of the proceeds.

A top executive at two nonprofit organizations founded by the Rev. Peter Young was charged with stealing more than $1 million in state money and approving a no-show job for ex-Assemblyman William Boyland Sr.

A U.S. District Judge denied motions by NYC’s five police unions to be treated as defendants in the landmark stop-and-frisk lawsuit.

More >

Extras

The Westchester County DA’s office is reviewing a request for an investigation of Rob Astorino in connection with the Independence Party endorsement in his 2013 re-election campaign.

…The headline of this POLITICO story initially referred to the Westchester county executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful as ”Ray Astorino.”

Sources tell the NY Post that former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has declined to endorse Astorino and will sit out the governor’s race.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s been too busy to focus on the Moreland mess, but knows the governor is a ”person of high integrity.”

Hillary Clinton says she regrets saying that she and husband Bill Clinton left the White House “dead broke” in 2001.

The Moreland Commission scandal has upended Cuomo’s long-held strategy of avoiding the national media.

Post-Star editor Ken Tingley: “It is obvious that Gov. Cuomo doesn’t work for the people, he is working only to benefit his own ambitions.”

Tom Golisano is absent from the bidding on the Bills – for now.

Jimmy Kimmel: “If the Bills go to Toronto, we’re going to war with Canada.”

The de Blasio family redecorated the private spaces of Gracie Mansion with donations from the modern funiture chain West Elm.

NY-21 Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf was “caught off guard” by a reporter’s question about his personal wealth.

The Jewish Voice wants former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to run for president.

So-called “dark money” spending nearly eclipsed candidate spending in the June 30 GOP NY-21 primary.

The AFT posts a list on BuzzFeed of nine fim and TV teachers who “deserved due process.”

Former Gov. David Paterson has yet another gig.

The AFL-CIO endorsed Pete Sikora, a lobbyist for the CWA, to replace retiring Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman.

The National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation praised Hillary Clinton for supporting the campaign to change the Redskins’ name.

Congrats to Bob Freeman, executive director for the state Committee on Open Government, on his award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Happy birthday Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

Bharara and Schneiderman Do Lunch

At the height of Moreland madness, two of the most high profile players in this seemingly never-ending saga – US Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – met for a very public lunch in lower Manhattan yesterday, multiple sources confirm.

The Democratic duo was spotted lunching at City Hall Restaurant – an eatery favored by members of the New York City political set due to its proximity to (you guessed it) City Hall. Schneiderman and Bharara have known each other in a professional capacity for the past several years, but aren’t personal friends, according to a source familiar with their relationship.

It’s worth noting that Bharara, who is investigating the demise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s now-defunct corruption-busting Moreland Commission, would probably not be seen in such a public place with Schneiderman if the attorney general was a target of that probe.

Given the role that Schneiderman played, however, through his agreement to deputize its 25 members to broaden their purview beyond the executive branch and loaning of top aides to staff the commissinon, it’s possible that he is providing information to the US attorney as the investigation progresses.

Schneiderman has been under fire – especially from his Republican opponent, former Pataki administration official John Cahill – for refusing to comment on the Moreland Commission and explain why he did not speak up when the Cuomo administration was, as has been exhaustively documented by the New York Times (and refuted by Cuomo himself) interfering with its work.

It’s no secret that the relationship between Cuomo and Schneiderman has been rocky, dating at least as far back as the 2010 Democratic primary to replace Cuomo in the AG’s office.

At the time, Cuomo was widely believed to prefer Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to Schneiderman in that race, due in part to her ticket-balancing capability (the Democratic slate that year was all white, almost all male – with the exception of US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – and all from downstate), but also because he felt Schneiderman was too liberal and, as a former senator, too tied to the scandal-scarred Legislature.

Now Rice is running for the seat of retiring Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and is trying to keep a low profile given her role as one of the Moreland Commission’s three co-chairs. (Unlike Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, whose public comments have provided considerable cover for Cuomo in the wake of the Times story, neither Rice nor the third co-chair, Milton L. Williams, Jr., have offered support of the governor’s position).

Rice may soon be forced to end her silence. Tomorrow, her Republican opponent in the NY-4 race, former Nassau County Legislator Bruce Blakeman, is holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon outside the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola to “to discuss his opponent’s role in the Moreland Commission and answer questions from the media.”

Moreland = Troopergate?

From today’s Morning Memo:

A former top Senate GOP aide says there are uncanny parallels between the infamous “Troopergate” scandal that bedeviled former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Moreland mess that is now causing headaches for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

John McArdle, who served as spokesman for Joe Bruno when the then-Senate majority leader was the target of Spitzer’s botched political hit job, made the connection during his appearance on the “Insiders” segment of last night’s CapTon.

“Governors have tried this in the past – one in particular – Governor Spitzer, who, I think, used an entity – the State Police to try and force something,” McArdle said.

“…Here’s the parallel: That something was done in an attempt to force using an entity – whether it was Moreland or the state troopers – and you had it backfire.”

“I think the Moreland Commission, which is an executive entity – the statute says Moreland exists to investigate the executive, not the Legislature, that is the statute – so I think what happened with this is that by deputizing the members and making them deputy attorney generals, it was an effort to go after the Legislature,” McArdle continued.

“I think that was the intent all along. And using the commission as a vehicle, was, I think, the wrong vehicle, since they in turn started looking at the governor.”

(Interestingly, McArdle’s partner on “Insiders” last night was Democratic consultant Bruce Gyory, who worked for the Spitzer administration – albeit after Troopergate. Gyory declined to comment on McArdle’s theory).

Troopergate, as you’ll recall, involved Spitzer’s effort to use the State Police to report on Bruno’s travel and try to catch him violating the rules of mixing politics and state business while traveling on state aircraft.

Bruno at the time was Spitzer’s main political nemesis, and the governor was intent on trying to flip the Senate into Democratic hands.

The whole thing backfired, in no small part due to the NY Post’s Fred Dicker, who broke the story and furiously fanned its flames, but also because of an investigation conducted – and bombshell report issued – by none other than one Andrew Cuomo, who at the time was state attorney general (not to mention governor-in-waiting and a longtime political rival of Spitzer’s).

Troopergate sparked numerous probes – including one by Albany County DA David Soares, who, ironically, was also a member of the now-defunct Moreland Commission, and complained (according to the New York Times’ opus) about not receiving any case referrals before the governor shut the commission down.

No charges were ultimately brought against Spitzer for his role in Troopergate, but several of his top aides were slapped with charges by JCOPE’s predecessor – the State Commission on Public Integrity.

Also, Troopergate didn’t bring Spitzer down, though it did tarnish his reputation considerably. The former governor orchestrated his own demise with his penchant for pricey prostitutes.

McArdle didn’t mention another parallel between Spitzer and Cuomo – both are ambitious and aggressive, which led to complicated relationships with the Legislature.

But Cuomo has a deeper well of support than the self-professed “steamroller” Spitzer – even though some are now crowing over his current Moreland troubles. (Whether that support is motivated by fear of reprisal from the powerful governor is another story).

Cuomo has also been in office much longer than Spitzer was at the time Troopergate broke, and he has had far more success in office than Spitzer, passing four on-time budgets and numerous pieces of high-profile legislation (the SAFE Act, gay marriage etc.) through the Legislature.

So far, there’s just one probe – conducted by US Attorney Preet Bharara – into the Moreland scandal.

GOP AG candidate John Cahill is slamming his Democratic target, AG Eric Schneiderman, for remaining silent to date on the matter. But Schneiderman is in a bit of a bind, having deputized the Moreland members to give them investigatory powers outside the executive branch and providing top staffers to assist the commission.

Watch Here >>