Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Defends His Liberal Credentials

He’s liberal enough.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a defense of his progressive credentials on Wednesday after he was asked about a potential challenge from a liberal gubernatorial candidate this fall.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot of space to my left,” Cuomo said.

He cited the legalization of same-sex marriage, along with the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act as examples of Democratic base-friendly measures he has successfully pushed through the Legislature which both times was partly controlled by Republicans.

“I think we’ve accomplished more progressive measures than this state has accomplished in decades and decades and decades,” he said while adding, “We have a phenomenal record of accomplishment.”

A Siena College poll this week found a candidate running on the union-backed Working Families Party ballot would receive up to 24 percent of the vote, with Cuomo scoring only 39 percent.

The same poll, however, showed the governor remains popular among liberals, New York City residents and black voters.

Cuomo with reporters on Wednesday suggested the noise that the WFP may not grant him the ballot line this year is more than just political philosophy.

“Politics is politics and people do what they do in politics for a lot of different reasons beyond just ideology,” he said.

Support for gun control and same-sex marriage aside, liberal advocates have been upset that Cuomo’s fiscal agenda doesn’t necessarily line up with the liberal faction of the Democratic Party.

Cuomo has sought and successfully won a cap on local property taxes as well as tax cuts aimed at businesses, most recently a reduction in the corporate tax rate in last month’s budget.

Liberals continue to push for a statewide system of public financing as well as the DREAM Act, which provides state tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants.

The budget included a public financing program with a small-dollar match for the state comptroller’s race only, while the DREAM Act vote failed in the Senate, which is under a coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

Cuomo insisted it’s the Senate that remains an impediment to those measures.

“The problem is not that I don’t support, the problem is I can’t get it passed because we don’t have a Senate who supports it,” he said. “So that answer would be elect people to the legislative body that support the initiatives you want passed.”

Public financing, he added, was a not a “slam dunk” even with voters across the state and remains controversial.

In sum, Cuomo said those goals failing wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“You know me, I punch until I hear the bell,” Cuomo said. “I’m still working on these issues, but it’s not for want of my support or effort. I have worked harder on these issues than I have on many of the issues were we actually succeeded.”

Cuomo On Perry Debate: ‘I Don’t Think So’

Don’t expect the great Perry-Cuomo debate on jobs and the economy any time soon.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday declined an offer made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a debate on their approaches to economic development.

“I don’t think so,” Cuomo said with a smile when asked about the proposal made by Perry.

The Texas Republican is in New York this week to meet with business leaders in order to draw them into setting up their businesses in his state — the second such trip Perry has made to the Empire State, which is part of an economic development campaign.

The push from Perry comes as Cuomo and state lawmakers approved a package of tax cuts aimed at businesses, including a reduction of the corporate tax rate and a property tax rebate program.

Cuomo and state lawmakers last year approved a plan that would set up tax-free zones around state land and public college campuses for new businesses.

“I think I’m going to let the numbers speak for the state of New York,” Cuomo told reporters. “We have start up zones that are zero tax zones — zero taxes for 10 years. I believe it makes it the least expensive state to site a business.”

Perry derided the latest tax efforts in New York as “small ball.”

“I will say, in New York’s credit, they’ve moved in the right direction,” Perry said in a radio interview. “Of course there was only one direction you could go in New York.”

Cuomo brushed this off, suggesting Perry was envious.

“I understand if other states are jealous about what we are doing, but that’s what it is,” he said.

So will he go to Texas and try to bring jobs to New York?

“I’m staying here,” he said.

Senate GOP Happy To Tout Siena Poll (Updated)

Most voters don’t want the Senate Republican conference to take over the chamber.

Then again, most voters are thrilled with the idea of a Democratic takeover.

And given the option, yesterday’s Siena poll found voters preferred the idea of the majority coalition — a mix of Republicans and five independent Democrats who control the chamber.

Of course, the composition and nuances of the Senate majority coalition are lot more complex than the question might suggest.

Mainline Democrats have charged the coalition essentially bottles up or waters down measures that could pass if they had majority control — an argument they say is bolster by the fact that Democrats are in a numerical majority in the chamber (Senate IDC and GOP officials scoff at this notion).

Nevertheless, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement released on Tuesday the poll shows the coalition is working.

“Today’s Siena poll proves that New Yorkers want Democrats and Republicans to work together to achieve bipartisan results, which is exactly what we’ve been doing over the last four years. By partnering with the Governor and members of the Independent Democratic Conference, we’ve reduced income and property taxes, brought spending under control and made real progress in creating a climate where businesses can create new jobs for hardworking people,” Skelos said.

Touting this poll comes after NY1′s Zack Fink reported IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, had planned to meet to discuss a potential reconciliation of the two factions. The meeting was ultimately called off after it became public.

Update: Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy responded in a statement.

“Any question that simply asks if people want bipartisanship will always yield a positive response. What we have in the Senate, however, is not bipartisan but the empowerment of a Republican minority that stymies progressive ideals for which the people voted. Among the list of failures due to this backroom deal is the Women’s Equality Act, the DREAM Act, a higher minimum wage and real ethics reform including public financing. Had the poll question made that clear, the result would have been much different.”

Demos Radio Ad: Zeldin Is Being ‘Weird’

The battle for the Republican primary in the NY-1 in Suffolk County is taking yet another turn with a 60-second radio ad from George Demos.

The spot was deployed this morning to push back against Zeldin’s own TV spot knocking Demos for his father-in-laws ties to Democratic contributors and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“If George’s in-laws are Democrats, so what? Lee, you won’t win by being weird. And you won’t win attacking his in-laws. Seriously, Lee? George Demos would never attack your family. You shouldn’t be attacking his.”

Demos and Zeldin have traded a variety of barbs and questionable claims during the primary campaign for Rep. Tim Bishop’s seat.

Demos has charged Zeldin supports the Affordable Care Act, given that he has approved state budget bills that included funding for the law in New York.

Zeldin, meanwhile, has charged Demos has taken money from Pelosi-backing contributors.

Astorino To Headline PAC Fundraiser

From the morning memo:

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will headline a fundraiser for the Maverick PAC, a political action committee that has aided rising GOP stars across the country.

Maverick PAC’s chairman emeritus is George P. Bush, the nephew of Bush 43 and grandson of Bush 41.

The event, to be held April 29, will take place at the Union League Club in New York City. Tickets are $25 to the event.

Bush is not expected to appear at the event, according to an invitation released by the New York GOP on Tuesday afternoon.

In other gubernatorial campaign related news, Astorino on Tuesday released his latest online video that claimed Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo’s reported interference in the Moreland Commission is under investigation by the U. S. Attorney’s office.

At best, this is an unsubtantiated claim that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is formally probing any gubernatorial meddling in the commission’s proceedings (In a much discussed radio interview with Brian Lehrer, Bharara was not definitive in the least as to whether Cuomo’s office was under investigation).

“I’m not going to pre-judge what we are looking at, what we will be investigating and where the facts will lead,” Bharara said.

At the very least, the episode is a sure sign that Astorino will continue to press the Moreland Commission situation in his case against Cuomo — and it’s more evidence that Bharara isn’t doing the governor any favors in assuming control of the panel’s documents.

Rapfogel Enters Guilty Plea, Faces Up To 12 Years In Prison

Willie Rapfogel, the once influential and politically connected former head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, enter a guilty plea on slew of felony charges for siphoning funds from the charity.

He faces up to 10 years in prison, and a dozen if he fails to pay $3 million in restitution by his sentencing date.

Rapfogel was arrested last year and cahrged with siphoning $9 million in a sweeping, 20-year kick-back scheme.

Rapfogel has admitted that between 1993 and August 2013, he received more than $1 million in illicit payments from the Met Council while working a Long Island-based insurance broker, Century Coverage Corporation.

Among the charges the 59-year-old Rapfogel pleaded guilty to in state Supreme Court: first-degree grand larceny, second-degree money laundering, third-degree criminal tax fraud and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

“These defendants abused positions of trust to steal millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded charitable organization — one that is dedicated to serving New York City’s poor,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “Those who rip off taxpayers and charitable organizations will be prosecuted. While New York has the greatest nonprofit sector in the country, this case reminds us that we must vigilantly protect it. I want to thank Comptroller DiNapoli for his continued partnership in our mission to root out public corruption and ensure that taxpayer money is protected. I also thank the Met Council board of directors for bringing this activity to light and cooperating with our investigation.”

Rapfogel’s arrest was an intriguing one for New York political circles, given his status as an influential power broker in city and state politics.

Rapfogel was considered a longtime ally of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose wife Judy works as one of the speaker’s top aides.

Lalor Comes To Zeldin’s Defense (Updated)

Republican Assemblyman Kieran Micahel Lalor endorsed state Sen. Lee Zeldin in his congressional primary versus George Demos, and knocked the former SEC prosecutor for ties to Nancy Pelosi.

Demos has knocked Zeldin for approving state budgets that have included money for the state to create the health exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act — a charge the Zeldin campaign says is unfair and also not true.

Update: Lalor was responding to a video released this morning by the Demos campaign, not a video from earlier this week as an older version of this post indicated. The video shows Lalor announcing his vote against the budget because of spending in favor of Obamacare.

“Now Assemblymen Al Graf and Corporal Kieran Lalor are both on video confirming Obamacare funding is in the budget.

“Will Zeldin say Assemblyman Kieran Lalor is lying too?

“It must be strange to be Senator Zeldin these days.”

Lalor — who does not represent an area that includes the Suffolk County congressional district — nevertheless pushed back against the Demos claim.

“George Demos should be ashamed,” Lalor said in a statement. “The fact that he is using my name and Marine rank trying to ruin the reputation of my colleague in Albany and military brother is nothing short of despicable. Demos says he is a conservative, but the truth is he is bought and sold by the same special interest money that props up Nancy Pelosi and her liberal agenda.”

The Pelosi charge stems from Demos’s father-in-law’s ties to California donors; Demos himself has not taken any money directly from Pelosi.

Hawkins Says Siena Poll Affirms His Campaign

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins was heartened by a Siena College poll on Tuesday that found a liberal, Working Families Party-backed candidate would garner up to 24 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo and Republican Rob Astorino.

Nevertheless, Hawkins questioned why he was excluded from the poll, which showed Cuomo beating Astorino in a head-to-head matchup 58 percent to 28 percent.

“The poll confirms what I heard from voters as I went around the state last week announcing my campaign. Voters are upset with Cuomo’s rich man’s budget that pays for tax cuts for the very wealthy by underfunding schools, transit, and aid to municipalities that is needed to pay for state mandates and relieve property taxes. They are angry about Cuomo’s education agenda of high-stakes testing linked to Common Core and of aiding private charter schools over public schools that now must cut more staff and programs due to funding shortfalls. Environmentalists who want to ban fracking don’t trust him. Unemployed and low-wage voters feel Cuomo can’t even see them,” said Hawkins in a statement.

Hawkins has said he would accept the WFP line if they chose to not endorse Cuomo in 2014, though the move would likely require a change to the Green Party’s governing rules.

The labor-backed party has never run a candidate of its own for governor, but advocates within the organization remain upset over Cuomo’s push for business friendly tax cuts as well as the lack of a statewide public financing program in the state budget.

The Siena poll also found that Cuomo remains broadly popular with self-identified liberals as well as New York City residents.

The WFP itself released a decidedly vanilla statement in response to the poll.

“Most people are decent, and they want decent, progressive policies from their government. That’s why the Working Families Party was originally formed, and it’s what we’re fighting for today,” said Dan Cantor, Executive Director for the Working Families Party.

Astorino: Cuomo’s Mission Is ‘Accumulating’ Power (Updated)

A web video released on Tuesday by Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino charges Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s main goal is to accumulate power and that he runs a “cover-your backside administration.”

He also makes the unsubstantiated — if not outright false — claim that Cuomo’s reported involvement in the Moreland Commission is under federal investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

In the video, Astorino says the various Cuomo-led initiatives from the START-UP NY tax-freeze program, the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and a property-tax rebate program “all ties together.”

“It shows what Andrew Cuomo has sadly always been about: Power. Accumulating it, keeping it, meting it out to punish, intimidate, and reward,” Astorino says in the video. “That’s the Andrew Cuomo insiders have always known and feared, and the public is now getting a peek for itself. It will get more if the press keeps digging. There’s no vision or ideology here; it’s all about power, which has never been a formula for good.”

The video, in short, is Astorino tossing the kitchen sink at Cuomo.

And while the claim that Bharara has launched an “investigation” isn’t the case at least publicly, the mere mention of it shows that Astorino will use the news that the federal prosecutor is looking taking up where the Moreland Commission left off will continue to be a matter the Westchester County executive will raise during the campaign.

Updated: The anti-Astorino Truth Squad responded to the video.

“Perhaps it’s all that altitude sickness from the jet setting Mr. Astorino does outside of Westchester County that prompted this latest angry little tirade,” said Mike Morey, spokesman for the Truth Squad. “Or perhaps it’s just that Mr. Astorino doesn’t much care whether people realize what we already know in Westchester: he’s an untruthful, non-credible, angry man.”

Power Corrupts from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Perry Invites Cuomo To A Jobs Debate (Updated)

As he prepares another trip to New York City to draw businesses back to his home state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to a debate on economic development and taxes.

In an interview on Talk-1300 with Fred Dicker, Perry said he would be “happy to sit down and have a thoughtful conversation, a debate” with Cuomo on the different economic politics between the two states.

“I think that would be not only interesting and fun, but a thoughtful way for us as a country to have a discussion between two of the major states in America, talking about which one of these policies are actually better for our people,” Perry said in the interview.

Cuomo has spent the last three-plus years of his administration emphasizing New York as a better place to do business, pushing through a new tax-free zone program called START-UP NY, and proposed and won a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

The Washington-based Tax Foundation announced last week that if the corporate tax rate structure had been changed last year, the state’s ranking on tax climate would have moved from last to 48th nationally.

Perry, however, derided that accomplishment as “small ball” and damned Cuomo’s efforts with some faint praise.

“I will say, in New York’s credit, they’ve moved in the right direction,” Perry said. “Of course there was only one direction you could go in New York.”

Cuomo’s efforts to make the state more business friendly have angered liberal advocates as well as some in the labor movement.

Perry, meanwhile, credited Cuomo for his efforts to protect charter schools, another aspect of the Democratic governor’s 2014 agenda that have annoyed liberals.

“Gov. Cuomo understands that to be competitive in the world and prepare these kids in New York City for the jobs of the 21st century, you’ve got to be competitive and have these schools performing at a higher level. He understands that, I think instinctively, that we compete against each other–not just state against state, but the United States against other counties–and to be at the top of our game, we’ve got to have a skilled workforce, and that comes from accountable schools,” Perry said.

The Texas Republican was less complimentary of Cuomo’s stance on hydrofracking, which the state is yet to make a decision on, comparing it to President Obama’s hesitation to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Perry, a potential 2016 candidate for president, said he would make a decision on a White House run sometime next year.

He dismissed a question from Dicker as to whether the debate challenger was precursor to a presidential match up between him and Cuomo.

“I don’t know about that,” he said with a laugh.

Updated: Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governor’s Association (and formerly of AG Schneiderman’s press shop) had this to say in response to Perry’s debate challenge, referencing his infamous gaffe from 2012.

“A little free advice for Rick Perry: the fewer debates with anyone, the better. Oops!”