Nick Reisman

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Cuomo: ‘Not Of The Question’ For Israel Trip

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning in Buffalo indicated he was considering a trip to Israel, but called it “premature” to suggest it was imminent.

Cuomo’s comments come after The Wall Street Journal reported Cuomo was planning a trip to Israel, his first since 2002 and his first out-of-the-country visit since taking office as governor in 2011.

Cuomo, who rarely leaves the state, said he has been corresponding with Israeli officials about the current conflict.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for Israel and standing in support of Israel is incredibly important,” Cuomo said.

He added that a visit wasn’t being planned just not, but it remained a possibility.

“I have not yet set a plan to visit, but it’s not out of question,” Cuomo said, adding, “It’s basically a day by day situation… as soon as I know, you’ll know.”

Erie County DA Says Cuomo’s Office Backed Off On Interference

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita in a statement on Monday said no one, to his knowledge, threatened to quit the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption over concerns of gubernatorial involvement.

Sedita, in his statement, said the commission wouldn’t stand for any interference from the governor’s office and resignation was discussed as possibility.

But after the governor’s office agreed to not interfere with the work of the panel, the resignation talk stopped.

“In the summer of 2013, rumors began to circulate that members of the Governor’s Office sought to veto the issuance of subpoenas for those with political ties to him,” Sedita said. “Although we recognized our statutory duty to regularly report to the Governor and to the Attorney General, we would not stand for any interference, and discussed a number of options, including resignation. The Governor’s Office, through our commission chairs, agreed not to interfere with our work. No one, to my knowledge, threatened to resign.”

Cuomo commented publicly for the first time on The New York Times extensive report on the Moreland Commission that detailed his office’s efforts to direct or block subpoenas.

Cuomo insisted that while his office provide advice to the panel, it remained independent of his office.

Today included a parade of statements from commission members, starting with co-chairman Bill Fitzpatrick, who stressed the panel remained independent of the governor’s office.

The statement dovetails with similar comments made by Broome County DA Gerald Mollen, who told Gannett’s Albany bureau he never threatened to resign from the commission, contrary to what was reported in The New York Times.

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe was also moved to comment on the Moreland mess despite declining to give any statements to the press last week.

Joint Landowners Coalition Seeks Appeal In Fracking Lawsuit

A coalition of organizations that support high-volume hydrofracking announced Monday plans to file an appeal in their effort to force the state into making a decision as to whether to allow the controversial natural-gas extraction process.

The lawsuit, brought by the Binghamton-based Joint Landowners Coalition of New York in February, argued Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has wrongly delayed making a decision on hydrofracking.

“The denial of due process and the erosion of landowner rights should be of concern to all New Yorkers,” Joint Landowners Coalition President Dan Fitzsimmons, a resident of Conklin, Broome County, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo and our New York agencies cannot be shielded by our courts when they fail to follow the law.”

New York has been operating under a defacto fracking moratorium since 2008 after Gov. David Paterson ordered the state Department of Environmental Conservation to review the impacts of fracking.

The state Department of Health started its own review of the health impacts by Cuomo, and there has been no indication when that review will be completed.

Democrats Knock Astorino’s ‘Mafia Boss’ Comparison

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acted like a “mafia boss” when his office sought to provide input on the directions of subpoenas from the Moreland Commission, GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino said in Syracuse.

“The public deserves straight-up answers,” Astorino said. “To suggest — he was suggesting to the commission members where they should go with an investigation is like a mafia boss coming forward and saying he wants to make a suggestion — an offer you can’t refuse. That clearly is intimidation and that’s what he and his staff did.”

The remark drew a swift rebuke from Democrats, who said the comparison was an offensive one to make toward an Italian-American officeholder.

Joe Morelle, the Democratic Monroe County chairman and Assembly majority leader who has close ties to Cuomo, blasted the comments, saying Astorino should be “ashamed of himself.”

“His comments are insulting and degrading to both the Governor and a state that boasts a proud Italian-American heritage. New York’s Italian-American’s are good, honest, working citizens who have contributed immensely to the cultural, social and economic development of our state,” Morelle said in a statement.

The comment is also a sore, personal subject for the Cuomo family. The governor’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was dogged by unfounded rumors of ties to the Italian mob. In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton made a similar jibe at Mario Cuomo which was said in private.

Asked about the mafia comparison, Astorino said it was a joke, and noted he’s also Italian.

“It’s a typical joke,” Astorino said. “I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse, right? He’s saying he made an offer to help. I think they would say that’d be intimidation. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a direct threat or an order to do that.”

Cuomo today in Buffalo insisted his office did not interfere in the Moreland Commission’s work, but acknowledged his top aide to offer “advice” to the anti-corruption panel.

Teachout Wants AG To Investigate Cuomo’s Moreland Involvement

Fordham Law professor and Democratic candidate for governor Zephyr Teachout wants Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to continue the Moreland Commission’s anti-corruption investigation and expand its scope to include probing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role in the panel.

Teachout sent a letter to Schneiderman asking him to continue Moreland’s work, noting the panel may not have officially ended since no executive order was issued to do so.

“This was a referral to the Attorney General’s office, not just a Moreland Commission.” Teachout said. “The Executive Order changed the nature of the investigation. Counter to what the Governor may say or want, he can’t just declare an Attorney General investigation over.”

Schneiderman granted commission members the power of deputy attorneys general, an added component to the panel that, in theory, gave them the ability to investigate the Legislature and removed separation-of-powers concerns.

But the deputizing of the commission has led some to question whether Cuomo and his office’s efforts to direct or block subpoenas may have abused that power from the attorney general’s office.

Cuomo today in Buffalo insisted the commission was independent and that his office offered “advice” to the commission that wasn’t picked up on.

“The Governor has refused to explain why the actions of his aide were in the public interest, he has not fired that aide, and he has not resigned,” Teachout said. “A continued investigation by the Attorney General is essential for restoring public trust at this point.” Teachout said. “We cannot be entirely dependent on federal prosecutors to protect New Yorkers from corruption in state government.”


Comptroller Candidate: Why Is Moreland Director Still On Payroll?

Republican candidate for state comptroller Bob Antonacci is pushing Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli to stop paying Regina Calcaterra, the executive director of the now-defunct Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

Calcaterra, who earns $175,000 a year, is still on the executive chamber’s payroll, though the commission ended in April following an ethics agreement in the state budget.

Antonacci said DiNapoli should stop approving checks to Calcaterra.

“Every two weeks, the Executive Director of the now-defunct Moreland Commission receives a check for nearly seven thousand dollars courtesy of state taxpayers for work she is no longer doing. The Governor should either show her the door or Mr. DiNapoli should refuse payment on those checks. It’s an insult to hardworking taxpayers that she continues to be paid,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci, the comptroller of Onondaga County, previously called on DiNapoli to launch an audit of the Moreland Commission’s spending.

DiNapoli’s office has said it won’t get in the way of any federal review of the commission’s work that may be going on.

Hochul: Moreland Concerns ‘Hard To Fathom’

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul on Monday said it was “hard to fathom” why observers would find it improper that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office sought to play a role in the work of the subpoena-empowered Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

Hochul, in Lake George earlier this morning to meet with local officials, told Time Warner Cable News that Cuomo wanted to tackle corruption in Albany when he took office in 2011 in order to turn around state government’s poor reputation.

She reiterated much of what Cuomo has said: He created the commission, and it reports back to him.

“He created a commission to start tackling these challenges because when he came to Albany, it had such a negative reputation for all these ethical violations and he felt he needed to do something about it. I admire that,” Hochul said. “The commission functioned, it reports to the governor, it was created by the governor. So any thought that involvement with the governor’s office or conversations is improper, it’s really hard to fathom where that comes from to be honest with you.”

Cuomo, in Buffalo this morning, gave a lengthy defense of the Moreland Commission’s work, insisting that while his office sought input on the panel, the commission’s members demonstrated independence by not heeding the request from secretary to the governor Larry Schwartz to claw back a subpoena.

Cuomo: Moreland Was Never Interfered With

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday took more than 15 minutes worth of questions in Buffalo insisting the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was not interfered with by his office, though he acknowledged conversations were had with his office and the commission’s leadership.

Cuomo, appearing in public for the first time since The New York Times’ extensive review of the commission’s work was published last week, said the conversations the panel had with his top aide, Larry Schwartz, were not tantamount to interference because the commission never acted on them.

The Times reported Schwartz emailed the commission’s leaders to claw back a subpoena that was to be issued to Buying Time, a media-buying firm that counted Cuomo among its clients.

Cuomo, speaking at SUNY Buffalo for an economic development announcement, today pointed to the commission not heeding Schwartz’s advice as a sign of independence.

In essence, Cuomo defined undue interference as the commission acting on input from his office, but just the opposite occurred, he said.

“As a matter of fact, the best evidence of independence is when someone from the second floor says well why don’t you do this? The chairman says let me think about and the chairman says I disagree, I don’t want to do that,” Cuomo said. “That’s not a sign of interference. That is demonstrable evidence of independence.”

The governor has come under fire the role his office played in attempting to direct or block subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel formed last year, with both his Republican opponent Rob Astorino as well as Democratic primary foe Zephyr Teachout knocking his handling of the commission’s power.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has taken possession of records generated by the commission and is reportedly investigating the governor’s office’s role in the panel’s work.

Throughout the question-and-answer session, Cuomo said the incident with the commission not heeding Schwartz’s ask to pull back a subpoena was a sign of how it was a separate entity.

“It’s proof of the exact opposite,” Cuomo said. “It’s total independence and it verifies the exact point: We will talk to everyone, but at the end of the day we make our own decisions.”

Cuomo leaned heavily on a lengthy statement released earlier in the morning by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, one of three co-chairs of the commission, who insisted that while the governor’s office had input on the panel, the final decision rested with Moreland’s members.

“Of course, there were going to be conversations,” Cuomo said. “Of course there was dialogue. It would have been unintelligent for there not to be.”

A 13-page response from the Cuomo administration to the Times’ reporting, however, said the commission was never meant to be an independent entity and that was a creature of the executive branch.

Cuomo’s office said that any investigation of the governor or the attorney general, who granted the commission members the power of deputy attorneys general, would not have “passed the laugh test.”

Left unsaid is what impact the deputizing of the commission’s members could have any further investigation from federal prosecutors.

Cuomo, who had previously said the commission could investigate anywhere it wanted to, said today the panel could have done so, found nothing to investigate with his campaign activity.

The governor once again pointed the commission’s main objective was to get a new ethics measure approved in the Legislature, which was ultimately done so through the budget.

Good-government groups are not enamored with the ethics package, and Cuomo admitted more needed to be done, including the passage of public financing of political campaigns.

“The Moreland Commission was a vehicle to get the law passed,” Cuomo said. “We got the law passed and upon passing the law the expiration and termination of the Moreland Commission was done because it accomplished the purpose. The purpose was pass the law.”

Astorino Spot: New Yorkers ‘Burned Again’ By Cuomo

A 30-second advertisement released online this morning by GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino blasts incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo for his meddling in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

The ad is the latest sign Astorino, who is behind in both public opinion polls and fundraising, is trying to gain some traction and capitalize off of Cuomo’s troubles with the commission.

In the ad, a narrator cites The New York Times story last week that detailed the level of involvement from Cuomo’s office, including his top aide’s efforts to direct subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel.

“New York voters trusted Andrew Cuomo to clean up Albany,” the ad says. “Now he’s at the center of the biggest corruption scandal in years.”

The spot seems to go after Cuomo’s biggest perceived strength heading into his re-election — namely that he was a different kind of politician when he was elected in 2010.

Andrew Cuomo: Another phony. Another Albany politician in the cross hairs of federal prosecutors,” the ad says.

Burned again – 30 Sec from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Fitzpatrick Acknowledges Schwartz’s Role In Moreland, Insists Panel Was Independent

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick released a lengthy statement on Monday insisting the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption made decisions independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, though he confirmed a top aide to the governor sought input on the panel.

In the same four-page statement released on his office’s letterhead, Fitzpatrick said the commission “was not an independent prosecutorial agency” that couldn’t make arrests or convene grand juries.

The statement comes as Cuomo continues to face questions stemming from his office’s involvement in the commission’s work and the efforts to block subpoenas from the panel to politically sensitive areas for the governor.

Interest in the commission was sparked again last week by an extensive New York Times story that detailed the extent of the role Cuomo’s office, along with that of his top aide, Larry Schwartz, played in shaping the direction of the anti-corruption body.

Fitzpatrick, a co-chair on the commission and a Cuomo appointee, reiterated as he has in previous public statements about his work that the panel was composed of independent-minded prosecutors, law professors and judges.

“We had total investigatory decision making authority and we used it,” Fitzpatrick added.

He acknowledged, too, the role Schwartz played in attempting to have the commission not issue a subpoena to a media-buying firm that counts the governor among its clients.

As the Times revealed last week, Schwartz wrote in an email, “This is not right. Pull it back.”

But Fitzpatrick contends that while Schwartz concerns were initially considered, the subpoena was eventually issued anyway.

“I am not a rigid person,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “and I prefer to absorb as much advice as I can before making major decisions.”

Fitzpatrick called any implication that the commission was compromised because it considered Schwartz’s concerns “absurd” to anyone who knows him.

Nevertheless, Cuomo’s 13-page response to the Times story suggests the commission wasn’t as independent as Fitzpatrick claims or thought.

Cuomo’s office insisted in its response to written questions from the newspaper that the commission needed a guiding hand from Schwartz because of its lack of knowledge of state government.

At the same time, Cuomo, who had previous declared the commission could investigate him or any other statewide elected official, now says the panel’s investigation of his office would not have passed the “laugh test.”

The statement from Fitzpatrick today come as Cuomo is due to appear in Buffalo this morning to make an unrelated economic-development announcement.

The appearance by Cuomo in public is the first the governor has made since The Times story broke last week.

Republican Rob Astorino, meanwhile, will be touring upstate cities with his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, to call on Cuomo to make a public explanation of his office’s role in the commission.

For Immediate Release From Da Fitzpatrick 7-28-14 by Nick Reisman