Nick Reisman

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Loeb’s Contributions Show Focus On State Senate

Daniel Loeb has been a prolific donor not just to Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the years, but has backed a variety of Republican candidates running in battleground state Senate races as well as a GOP-aligned super PAC.

Loeb’s donations in since 2014 have totaled well over $4 million, including millions donated to New Yorkers For Balanced Albany, an independent expenditure committee that has supported Republican candidates.

Loeb has also given $50,000 to the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which supports the Independent Democratic Conference in the chamber.

His donations are under scrutiny now as he faces criticism for writing in a since-deleted Facebook post that Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has done more to harm people of color than anyone who has worn a hood — an allusion to the Ku Klux Klan. Loeb in a statement apologized.

The comments have been repudiated by a Cuomo spokesman as well as IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heasite on Twitter called Loeb’s comments “offensive and wrong.”

“This is backward thinking which has no place in today’s world,” he said.

Loeb has been a prominent benefactor of charter schools, a politically contentious issue for Albany and state lawmakers. His donations have shown a keen interest in who controls the state Senate, backing the eight-member IDC, a key bloc of lawmakers who have been allied with Republicans.

Loeb, too, has sought to aid GOP candidates running in hotly contested Senate races. Over the last three years, he’s given $226,600 to the Senate Repulican Campaign Committee. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan received $11,000 from Loeb in 2015 as have fellow Long Island Republican Sens. Kemp Hannon and Elaine Phillips.

Since 2014, Cuomo’s campaign has received $85,000 in donations from Loeb.

Senate Republicans have generally been supportive of expanding and strengthening charter schools in New York state with measures opposed by the state’s teachers unions.

Cuomo, too, has embraced charter schools over the years, though after several contentious fights with the Assembly he has de-emphasized so far this year.

Klein: Loeb’s Remarks ‘Have To Be Repudiated’

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Friday issued a terse statement in response to the since-deleted Facebook post from Daniel Loeb, a wealthy political donor and backer of charter schools.

“The statements are wrong and have to be repudiated,” Klein said. “I dissociate myself from such statements.”

Klein is the latest elected officials to criticize the racially charged remarks by Loeb, a wealthy hedge fund manager who wrote on Facebook that Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has done more to hurt people of color than a person in a hood — a seeming allusion to the Ku Klux Klan.

The Loeb remarks, which he apologized for, add a new element to an already inflamed situation within the state Senate, where liberal activists are trying to push Klein’s eight-member bloc back to the mainline Democratic fold in the chamber.

State GOP Chair Talks Up Miner for Governor

From the Morning Memo:

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox yesterday touted soon-to-be-former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner as a potential Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year, saying he believes she is well positioned to take the governor on. 

“You have the former co-chair of the Democratic Party, who was the mayor of this city; she is a great candidate to take him on, and she’s saying, ‘Governor, you haven’t been doing the job,'” Cox told me during a CapTon interview from our Syracuse newsroom. 

When asked if he’s endorsing Miner’s potential candidacy, Cox replied: 

“I’m saying that she is a candidate who can really take (him) on from a position of being a former co-chair of the Democratic Party appointed by Cuomo, (who) is saying now, ‘Governor you didn’t do the job you should have done, and I’m going to take you on.’ That is formidable.”

To be clear, Cox is getting a little ahead of himself here.

Miner has not actually said she’ll be taking the governor on in 2018, but rather that she has been asked to do so and is thinking about it. So are several other of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats, including former Hudson Valley state Sen. Terry Gipson, and NYC-based actress Cynthia Nixon. 

The mayor, who is blocked by term limits from seeking re-election to her current post, has not been afraid to challenge Cuomo publicly on a range of topics, from infrastructure investments to pension reform.

That led to her resigning, (really, she didn’t have much choice), in April 2014 from the post of state Democratic Party co-chair, for which the governor tapped her two years earlier. 

Cox isn’t really doing Miner any favors here, and it’s unclear what his motivation might be – maybe he doesn’t really think she’s strong enough (from a money and name recognition standpoint) to take Cuomo on, and so is trying to tank her candidacy before it gets off the ground to make room for someone else? 

Getting praised by the state GOP chairman is something akin to a kiss of death for a would-be Democratic primary candidate, who would need to rally the sort of true believing liberal voters who tend to come in these sorts of intra-party battles. 

Cox again insisted that Cuomo is beatable next year in the general election, citing the downstate subway crisis that has eaten away at the governor’s approval ratings in his key base of NYC.

But the GOP is far from coalescing behind a candidate at this early date, through Cox did name drop Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo in 2014; and also the 2010 Republican state comptroller contender Harry Wilson. 

Senate Dems Condemn Cuomo Donor’s Remarks

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats late Thursday evening condemned racially charged comments posted to Facebook by a wealthy donor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In the since-deleted post, Daniel Loeb seemingly makes a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, writing that Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”

The comment came in response to a New York Times story Loeb shared that reported a tense exchange between Cuomo and Stewart-Cousins last month in which she accused the governor of not seeing as anything but a black woman.

“In 2017 it is outrageous and offensive that this type of language is used by someone with such wide political influence,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “There is no place in our discourse, political or otherwise, for these dangerous words. Daniel Loeb should be utterly ashamed of his disgusting statements. This whole episode speaks volumes about the state of our politics right here in New York.”

A Cuomo spokesman also criticized the remarks by Loeb to the Times saying, “We have no connection with these comments whatsoever, and in our opinion they are entirely inappropriate and have no place in the public discourse.”

Loeb is a prominent backer of charter schools and the education reform movement, which the governor has embraced, much to the chagrin of public teachers unions and their allies in public education advocacy organizations.

In recent months, Cuomo has not emphasized charter schools as much, setting aside a contentious issue that roiled the Legislature and budget talks.

Loeb has been cast a villain, too, by these organizations when demonstrating the influence of money in politics.

But the tensions with activists who have pushed for increased public education spending remain. Cynthia Nixon, an actress and public education advocate who has criticized the governor’s record on the issue, is being discussed as a potential candidate for governor.

Martins Campaign Releases Poll Showing Lead In County Exec Race

From the Morning Memo:

The campaign of Republican Jack Martins on Friday released a poll that showed him leading Democratic candidate Laura Curran, 45 percent to 37 percent in the race for Nassau County executive.

Martins is a former state senator who is running for the post after unsuccessfully seeking the congressional seat vacated by Democrat Steve Israel. Curran is a member of the Nassau County Legislature.

The poll, conducted by Clout Research, found Martins has a 5-percentage point lead over Curran in favorability. Martins is strong with Republican and Conservative Party voters, winning 77 percent of the vote.

Curran doesn’t do as well with Democrats, Greens and Working Families Party members, earning 72 percent of the vote, according to the poll.

Martins is also running strong in his former Senate district, with a 65 percent favorable rating.

Incumbent Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is declining to run for re-election as he faces corruption charges.

The poll found 60 percent of likely voters — including a majority of Democrats — were more likely to back Martins due to his public call for Mangano to resign.

NY – Nassau County Survey Polling Memorandum 8-10-2017 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Niou Says She’s ‘Speaking With Community Leaders’ On Open Senate Seat

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in a statement did not rule out a campaign for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Squadron.

In a statement, Niou said she is “speaking with community leaders about who is best suited to follow in his footsteps” and thanked those who have reached out to her to discuss their support.

“Part of my role is to provide lower Manhattan the stability and transparency that it needs, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure local projects and constituent casework are not interrupted,” she said. “In this age of Trump, we face unprecedented challenges. Our next Senator must be a principled reformer who will unite our diverse communities, defend our values, and meet any challenges head on.”

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a fellow Democrat from Manhattan, was the first declare his campaign for the seat.

With Squadron’s departure in an off-cycle year, his successor in the Senate will likely be chosen by county Democratic leaders.

In a statement on Wednesday, Squadron said it’s a process he wants to change.

“I have worked hard to represent every of part of the 26th Senate District. Every neighborhood, including those in Brooklyn, where I live, should have a say in choosing a nominee,” he said. “To disenfranchise Brooklynites would be unfair and undemocratic. I strongly urge you to make this process as democratic as possible: to allow a full vote of the County Committee across both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and to be bound by its result.”

Gillibrand Sidesteps On Whether Cuomo Should Push Senate Dems Together

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday at a town hall would not say whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo should work to bridge the differences between Democrats in the state.

“I can tell you my view,” she said at Hudson Valley Community College in East Greenbush. “This state elected a Democratic state Senate. It should be led by a Democrat and it should be controlled by the Democrats.”

A working Democratic majority in the Senate would lead to the passage of liberal measures she supports, Gillibrand said.

“I support a Democratic Senate because that’s who the voters elected,” she said.

Republicans maintain a governing majority in the chamber with the help of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the GOP lawmakers. But Cuomo is under increasing pressure to push the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference — a key bloc of lawmakers who have been aligned with Republicans — to ally with mainline Democrats.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is facing potential primary challenges from Democrats next year, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, former Sen. Terry Gipson and actress Cynthia Nixon.

Asked if Gillibrand was ready to endorse Cuomo’s re-election, she said: “I support Gov. Cuomo. He’s working really hard on the economy. He’s doing a lot of things I appreciate like having a paid leave in this state. Having paid leave for all New Yorkers is really significant. Having a $15 minimum wage is very significant. So, I support him for the work he’s done and the values and the issues he’s advocating for.”

Ex-City Councilman Sentenced To 2 To 6 Years For Theft

Ruben Wills, the former New York City councilman convicted of siphoning $30,000 to a non-profit he controlled, was sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison.

The Queens Democrat will also be required to pay back $33,000 in restitution as well as a $5,000 fine.

The investigation of Wills was conducted by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“New Yorkers deserve elected officials whose priority is the needs of their constituents, not lining their own pockets. Instead of spending taxpayer money on projects to help his community, Ruben Wills betrayed the public trust by stealing tens of thousands for himself – and he’ll now pay the price,” Schneiderman said. “We will continue to ensure that public officials who act as though they’re above the law are brought to justice.”

Wills was found guilty in July of directing thousands of dollars in public matching funds and grant money to a shell company that was meant to distribute campaign literature. Instead, Wills was found to have redirected the money to an entity called NY 4 Life, which Wills controlled.

He would withdraw the money for purchases, including a shopping spree at Macy’s that included a $7,500 Louis Vuitton handbag.

“Ruben Wills stole money meant to benefit the community he was sworn to serve. Thanks to my investigators and auditors working with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Mr. Wills has been brought to justice,” DiNapoli said. “We must have a zero tolerance for public corruption and we will continue to partner with law enforcement to root out fraud and protect the taxpayers.”

DiNapoli Won’t Say If He’d Vote For Cuomo Or Cynthia Nixon (Updated)

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in a radio interview on Thursday would not say if he’d vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo or actress and education advocate Cynthia Nixon in a hypothetical primary.

“It’s a secret ballot,” DiNapoli said with a laugh during a Talk-1300 interview with Fred Dicker.

DiNapoli added he believes Cuomo would likely be the stronger candidate against Nixon, who would be launching her first bid for public office. He did acknowledge Nixon would potentially have a leg up in the “post-Trump era” of celebrities running for office.

For now, a candidacy by the former “Sex and the City” star seems unlikely. It’s being boosted in part by public education advocates who have pushed Cuomo to spend more money on high-needs school districts.

DiNapoli and Cuomo have been locked in what is considered to be at best a frosty relationship.

Updated: Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responding, taking aim at Dicker in a statement.

“I didn’t know Dicker still had his show,” he said. “That’s adorable.”

Reached by email, Dicker responded, “Cuomo’s notoriously nasty messenger boy may claim he’s not aware of my radio show but then again didn’t Cuomo claim not to be aware that he was responsible for the New York City subway and commuter rail system?”

Legislative Leaders Criticized For Opposing Con Con

From the Morning Memo:

A Democratic political activist is criticizing two of the top legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate for opposing the passage of the upcoming constitutional convention referendum.

Bill Samuels in a statement being released Thursday knocked Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein for opposing the convention, calling it an effort to “preserve the status quo.”

Both Klein and Heastie are Bronx Democrats.

“Despite all of the corruption and dysfunction in our state government, the bosses in Albany, like Heastie and Klein, have consistently killed any chance of real reform to our system,” Samuels said.

“The automatic Constitutional Convention referendum was put in place to empower the people of New York to fix our government when our leaders refuse to do so. That’s why Heastie and Klein are so afraid of it and have teamed up to yank away one of the greatest powers the people of the Bronx and New York possess: the power to vote ‘yes’.”

Heastie has expressed concerns with holding a convention — referred to by its shorthand in Albany as a “con con” — given the potential for wealthy outside interests to unduly influence the process of selecting delegates and amending the existing constitution.

Labor unions, environmental organizations and a host of disparate organizations have also voiced misgivings of holding a convention, concerned it could impact hard-won protections.

Samuels, however, is pushing a campaign for approval, saying the convention is the best route to overhauling state government, creating firm protections for women and LGBT New Yorkers and reforming the state’s campaign finance laws.

New Yorkers decide every 20 years whether to hold a convention through a ballot referendum. The last several referendums have seen the convention voted down.