Nick Reisman

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Molinaro Unveils Cuomo Corruption Website

Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro on Sunday unveiled a website encouraging state workers to play the role of whistleblower in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

The website, called Cuomo Leaks, provides a place for potential whistleblowers to upload government documents and give tips to the Molinaro campaign.

“This is not how a state with proper checks and balances operates,” Molinaro said. “Government whistleblowers should be able to safely rely on enforcement agencies to pursue justice where it is due. But in Andrew Cuomo’s New York, in a New York with sham ethics agencies like JCOPE, power politics is valued over the truth. I send a message today to those brave voices on the other end of the line: what you are doing is right; what they are doing is wrong, and help is on the way.”

The website was created after a letter revealed the Thruway Authority had sought to encourage contractors working on the Tappan Zee Bridge project to finish by August. The opening of the second span of the Mario Cuomo Bridge was delayed by several days over concerns the old bridge had become destabilized. Cuomo had insisted the bridge’s opening and the problems with old bridge were coincidental.

“For months, my campaign has been receiving information from courageous state employees seeking to expose corruption and frustrated by the refusal of New York State law enforcement figures to act on what they view as clear illegalities,” Molinaro said.

The campaign Cuomo blasted the website, calling the move “desperate.”

“While Governor Cuomo works day and night on behalf of the people of New York, Marc Molinaro Works to financially enrich himself and his wealthy campaign donors,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith. “He can shed as many crocodile tears as he wants over transparency, but they mean nothing until he answers critical questions about his own troubling history of quid pro quo—answers he has willfully hid from the public by refusing to release his tax returns or properly file ethics disclosures.“

Both campaigns have traded charges of corruption. On Sunday, state Democratic Committee Vice Chairwoman Christine Quinn, a Cuomo ally, reiterated the push for an investigation into a Dutchess County contractor and donor to Molinaro hiring Molinaro’s wife.

“Marc Molinaro’s blatant attempts to hide his spouse’s job from the public and his failure to report this conflict represents a clear violation of the public trust,” she said.

Updated: The Thruway Authority in a statement also blasted Molinaro over the bridge issue.

“This letter proves Molinaro wrong and confirms what we previously said: TZC had a contractual obligation set more than a year ago to finish the second span by Aug 24,” said authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll.

“TZC stated they were unable to meet that contractual date-despite offers of help from the Thruway Authority-and instead they proposed the Sept 7 opening date. The contractors will be legally responsible for not meeting the original contract date. Molinaro should apologize for making another reckless, false political attack.”

Long Re-Elected Conservative Party Chair

Longtime Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long this weekend was unanimously re-elected to the post, the party announced on Saturday, giving him another two-year term.

The vote was held at the party’s bi-annual meeting in New York City.

“You are the pivotal part of promoting the Party, elected officials may come and go, but you and your support keeps the Party vibrant, strong and able to make a difference in New York State politics,” Long said in a statement.

The Conservative Party, while small, is seen as wielding considerable influence on Republican officeholders. The party’s endorsement is also considered key for any Republican running in a statewide election.

“Mike Long leads by example and while some call him a ‘Party Boss’ we know that is a role he has never played,” said the party’s vice chairman, Gerard Kassar. “Chairman Long listens and respects the leaders of the Party.”

Federal Labor Union Endorses Stefanik

The National Treasury Employees Union 138 Chapter on Friday endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik’s push for a third term to the 21st congressional district in the North Country.

The labor group is the largest independent union of federal workers, representing more than 150,000 employees across 33 government agencies.

“It is a pleasure working with Elise,” said NTEU 138 Chapter President Jamey A. Goheens. “Through the relationship we have formed, there have been many legislative issues addressed that truly have had a positive effect on federal employees and their lives.”

Stefanik this year faces Democrat Tedra Cobb in the November general election. Stefanik is seeking a third term.

“I am honored to receive this crucial endorsement representing the hard working men and women of our nation’s largest independent federal employee union,” she said. “I want to thank every Border agent, every Federal law enforcement officer and every Federal Government employee serving across the District and across our nation for their support and I look forward to working with them to strengthen our nation’s borders.”

Faso Ad Highlights Help For Vet

A TV ad released Friday by Republican Rep. John Faso’s campaign focuses on the story of the lawmaker’s office helping a constituent and veteran.

The ad is an example of bread-and-butter constituent services and is also in contrast to the spate of negative advertising seen on both sides from outside groups in the race.

“One of my most biggest priorities representing the 19th district is ensuring our veterans are treated with respect and have access to the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation,” Faso said. “We have an obligation to provide our veterans with the appropriate care but for too long; the VA has fallen short, leaving our veterans stuck in bureaucratic red tape without access to their benefits. Unfortunately Ron’s case is not unique and I am committed to finding solutions not only for individuals like Ron, but also to address the entire VA system.

Faso is a seeking a second term this year, facing Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado for the Hudson Valley House district that is seen as one of the most competitive races in the country this cycle.

Is State Government Learning Anything?

As a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a six-year prison sentence, it’s not clear what, if anything, state government can do to police itself.

And it’s likely the corruption cases won’t sway voters this fall.

“It’s hard to believe that Albany has learned anything,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “If they have, they’ve been keeping it a secret. There have no meaningful measures to reduce the corruption in state government.”

Good-government advocates have so far failed to advance bills that would better track government contracts and create more oversight of economic development spending in order to crack down on bribery and bid rigging. And it does not appear voters are corruption weary.

“I think the public has become increasingly cynical about what they think can happen in Albany and they’re not holding elected officials to the highest standard,” Horner said.

Cuomo has insisted safeguards have been put in place since the initial arrests to prevent fraud and abuse.

It has been a veritable parade of corruption scandals in the last decade, impacting every floor of the Capitol. This year alone, the former leaders of both the state Senate and the state Assembly have been convicted of corruption charges.

“They often say it’s not the crime, but the cover-up,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro. “In the case of this administration, it is the crime and the cover-up.”

Molinaro has sought to link Cuomo to the case of his former close aide Joe Percoco. Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing or implicated, but Molinaro insists the governor should have known.

“The governor, when caught, always responds by claiming to have no knowledge. Didn’t know Joe Percoco, didn’t know Joe Percoco was making calls in the governor’s office when the governor was there,” Molinaro said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s re-election campaign released a TV ad accusing Molinaro of the similar pay-to-play allegations leveled against the administration.

Molinaro has blasted the attack, calling it an attempt to distract.

NY-11: Biden Endorses Rose

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday endorsed Democratic congressional candidate Max Rose who is running to flip a New York City House seat.

“Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites deserve a representative who works as hard as them and that is Max Rose. After serving our country in Afghanistan, Max came home to help provide health care for those who needed it most – including those struggling with opioid addiction. Even in the middle of this campaign season, Max took two weeks off of the trail to train with his national guard unit,” Biden said in a statement.

“That is the kind of dedication to country and integrity that we need right now in Washington D.C. I am supporting Max Rose because understands that the stability and growth of our middle class is one of the most important challenges we face as a country today, and with leaders like him in Congress, we can improve the lives of middle-class families in New York and around the country.”

Rose is running for the House seat held by Republican Rep. Dan Donovan. The district has in the past been considered a potential swing seat for the two parties.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have the endorsement of Vice President Joe Biden,” Rose said. “His commitment to working Americans, our first responders, and putting party aside to solve problems is why he is one of the greatest public servants of our time. Once elected, I hope to serve my fellow Americans as honorably as he did as we seek to end our commuting nightmare, help those suffering from the drug epidemic, and ensure no child ever has to worry about being gunned down in school ever again.”

Stefanik Ad Calls Cobb A ‘Cuomo Clone’

An ad released Friday by the campaign of Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik calls her Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb a “clone” of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, linking her to the Democratic governor as he seeks a third term.

The spot points to Cobb’s appointment to the state Committee on Open Government, a panel that advocates for government transparency.

“Makes sense since Taxin’ Tedra Cobb wants a trillion dollars in new taxes,” the ad states. “We don’t need Cuomo clone Tedra Cobb in Washington.”

Cuomo has pledged to aid a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives this year, sending campaign money to Democrats running in key swing districts this November, including the 21st congressional district, where Stefanik is seeking a third term.

No Labels Action Endorses Suozzi, Reed And Katko

A super PAC that supports lawmakers with bipartisan voting records on Friday endorsed two Republicans and one Democrat from New York.

The group No Labels Action backed the re-election bids of Reps. Tom Reed and John Katko, both upstate Republicans, as well as Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Of those lawmakers, Katko’s central New York race remains the most closely watched. He faces Democratic candidate Dana Balter as he seeks a third term.

“Rep. Katko is one of the most bipartisan members of Congress and he is working day in and day out to forge solutions to our country’s toughest problems,” said No Labels Action Executive Director Margaret White.
“With No Labels Action, there is finally a robust campaign organization working to bring America and our leaders back together, and we’re proud to give Rep. Katko our strong endorsement.”

All three lawmakers are supporters of the No Labels proposal meant to change how Congress operates and make it easier for bipartisan bills to come to the floor for a vote.

When The WFP Played Spoiler

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party doesn’t want to play the spoiler role in the November gubernatorial election, its leadership has insisted, having Cynthia Nixon actively campaign to the detriment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and potentially to the benefit of Republican Marc Molinaro.

“In 20 years, the WFP has never played a spoiler role,” WFP State Director Bill Lipton told The Capitol Pressroom in April. “It’s not in our DNA.”

But Democrats have lost pivotal races in the past without the support of the WFP. It was 14 years ago, in 2004, when Republican Sen. Nick Spano was re-election with a razor-thin margin of 18 votes, defeating then-challenger Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

At the time, Spano had the WFP ballot, going 1,870 votes in the race.

Stewart-Cousins in a rematch two years later would go on to defeat Spano for the Westchester County seat and eventually become the chamber’s Democratic leader.

It’s not yet clear how the statewide ballot will sort itself out. The WFP endorsed Nixon and Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams in April over Cuomo.

Nixon’s camp has indicated it would want an apology for the actress over a mailer from the state Democratic Committee linking her to anti-Semitism.

The governor secured the Democratic nomination last Thursday, handily defeating Nixon. He has not given an indication as to whether he’d accept the ballot line.

The party has switched statewide before, backing Hillary Clinton after her primary victory in 2016 after endorsing Bernie Sanders.

But Cuomo carrying the WFP line, too, would potentially be beneficial to the WFP given the need for a ballot line to secure 50,000 votes in order to secure ballot status in the next election cycle.

Percoco Sentenced To Six Years In Prison

Joe Percoco, the former close aide and confidant to one governor and a “third son” to another was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday after he was found guilty of accepting kickbacks earlier this year.

Percoco was found guilty earlier in the year in his fraud trial of receiving bribes in exchange for using his influence to aid the development of the facility for Competitive Power Ventures.

Percoco and a range of prominent figures in New York politics had sought leniency for him during sentencing, but ultimately Judge Valerie Caproni determined the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo had sought to enrich himself through bribes and a “low-show” job for his wife.

The corruption trial for Percoco was just one of several this year highlighting the unseemly ways of doing business in state government.

In a parallel case, prominent upstate developers and the former president of SUNY Polytechnic were found guilty of bid rigging for contracts in the Buffalo Billion economic development program which has been backed by Cuomo as a way of reviving the western New York economy.

And the former top legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos, were both found guilty in their separate corruption cases that had been retried after the Supreme Court altered its theft of honest services definition.

Percoco had played a key and public role for Cuomo over the decades, working with him in the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office as well as a super-advance man on his campaigns. Percoco, while seen as an enforcer for Cuomo, was also a listener, serving as the eyes and ears for the governor with the Legislature. He was often spotted on the third floor of the Capitol speaking with lawmakers during budget or end-of-session negotiations.

In a 2014 memoir, Cuomo referred to Percoco as “my father’s third son” who also served as a sympathetic ear during his divorce from Kerry Kennedy following a disastrous run for governor in 2002.

Cuomo has expressed sadness at case of his former close aid, but has also insisted he was unaware of the outside work being done by Percoco at the time and that he should face punishment. Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“I was an Assistant District Attorney and Attorney General, and the rule of law is paramount,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Joe Percoco is paying the price for violating the public trust. And it should serve as a warning to anyone who fails to uphold his or her oath as a public servant. On a personal level, the human tragedy for Joe’s young children and family is a very sad consequence.”

Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro nevertheless has sought to link Cuomo to the scandals in the halls of the Capitol.

“Andrew Cuomo was sentenced today — he just doesn’t have to do the time,” Molinaro said. “He came into office promising reform and ended up turning New York State government into a corrupt, taxpayer-paid enterprise that works only to further his presidential ambitions”

Earlier in the day, Cuomo’s re-election campaign released a TV ad that sought to tie Molinaro to his own ethics issues and a contractor in Dutchess County who employed the GOP candidate’s wife and has received county contracts.