Zack Fink

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Silver Seat Race May Come Down to Deal

The Working Families Party has endorsed Yuh-Line Niou to fill the Assembly seat vacated by former Speaker Sheldon Silver who was convicted of federal corruption last year and forced to resign. In a statement, WFP’s Bill Lipton said,

Yuh-Line Niou’s story is the story of New York. While this was a tough decision, a majority of WFP leaders decided this morning that she is the right choice to provide the strong, progressive leadership the working families of the 65th district need. New Yorkers can count on Yuh-Line to be a strong advocate for affordable housing, for immigrants and seniors, and for efforts to clean up our corrupt campaign finance system.We proudly support her.

Tomorrow the 180 or so members of the New York County Democratic Committee for the 65th Assembly District  will gather on East Broadway to pick their candidate for the April 19 special election called by Governor Cuomo last Saturday.

That basically gave the interested candidates 8 days to run one of the shortest campaigns in recent memory to succeed Silver who held the seat since 1977. Not the most democratic of processes, most people would seem to agree. The main candidates are Niou who is Chief of Staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, Chair of Community Board 3 Gigi Lee, District Leader Paul Newell and Shelly hanger-on Alice Cancel.

Because the district is heavily Democratic, whoever gets selected by the Committee tomorrow is likely to win the special. However, there will be a normal September primary no matter what, which means Democrats who lose out tomorrow could get another crack at it in 7 months. According to one prominent Democrat,

The district has changed, but most of the County Committee hasn’t. WFP will be very important in September so their endorsement is crucial now.

This week, insiders began a whisper campaign that Alice Cancel had the most votes from the committee going into tomorrow’s (S)election process in which new votes are taken over and over again until a candidate reaches 50%. But it’s not one committee member one vote ( which would make too much sense ). The vote is weighted to favor Committee members who hail from Assembly Districts that had the highest vote turnout for Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 ( I’m actually not kidding ). So, Cancel was the choice of the vestiges of the old Shelly machine on the Lower East Side. People like Rosa Silver ( Shelly’s wife ) and Judy Rapfogel ( shelly’s former Chief of Staff ) still have votes, and more importantly, control votes within the Lower East Side portion of the district. The 65th also includes Chinatown, Battery Park and the Financial District.

So, a deal needed to be cut between the Shelly people and the current reform minded elected officials. The person they appear to have settled on is Niou, who lives in the Financial District, even though some say may have a residency issue. How anybody could want to deal with Silver’s faction at this point is anybody’s guess, but this is politics after all. And sometimes people hold their noses to make deals for what they consider the greater good. I should also note that the vote is still tomorrow, so nothing is final. I have covered enough of these (S)elections to know that anything can happen when the consummate back-room-deal-people all end up in the same room together. So, we shall see. The good news is that Yuh-Line does seem to be a solid candidate who is young, energetic and committed to moving a district forward that has been ruled by an iron fist for longer than she has been alive.

The April 19 Special

The race to replace Dean Skelos in the New York State Senate could determine who controls the Upper House. By now, Democrats have settled on Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, who received the endorsement this weekend of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Kaminsky is a solid candidate for a lot of reasons. First off, he is a former federal prosecutor, so if the idea is to send a public interest crusader to replace Skelos, who was convicted of federal corruption last year, Kaminsky is probably the right guy. Kaminsky is also good because he looks a little bit like a Prince in a Walt Disney Cartoon. All he is missing is a crown, scepter and crushed purple velour cape with a gold neck clasp.

If Kaminsky wins, on paper at least, Republicans lose their majority in the State Senate. It would be a 31-31 tie counting the Jeff Klein-led Independent Democratic Conference. The deciding vote would then be Senator Simcha Felder. Sources say Felder is likely to remain in the Republican Conference. And his recent hiring of longtime Republican Senate Counsel Robert Farley as Albany Chief of Staff would seem to demonstrate his commitment to the current Republican-controlled configuration. But he might face enormous pressure to switch sides from labor unions, Mayor de Blasio and others. Felder won his last race running on the Conservative line where he receicved 8,105 votes. But the most votes he received were on the Democratic line – 21,384. So, bottom line is Democratic voters still determine his fate in Brooklyn. And a Kaminsky victory could raise the specter of Democrats holding enough votes to bring all the Democrats – even those in name only – under one umbrella ( ella-ella-ella-ey-ey-ey ).

Republicans have selected Christopher McGrath to run against Kaminsky on April 19, who Fred Dicker astutely points out, is not very well known. The rumor ( or conspiracy theory ) in Nassau County is that Republican Party Leaders, including Al D’Amato have more or less conceded the Senate race. They’d rather make peace with Kaminsky now recognizing that the writing is on the wall, and Democrats will inevitably take control of the Senate. Whether it happens in April or in 2017 is anybody’s guess. Or more accurately, is Felder’s guess.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan talked up McGrath in a radio interview with Susan Arbetter this morning. Asked by Reporters if he is confident Felder would stay with Repubs even if Kaminsky wins, Flanagan said,

Simcha has proven to be an extraordinary ally. I believe he feels he is more comfortable in a variety of ways including with a lot of different stances we take with our conference. I adore him.  I think he is a fantastic public servant and based on the relationship we have, and based on my own with him, would put us in good standing.

As for the Sheldon Silver seat, there is still no obvious favorite. County Committee Members will select the candidate who is virtually guaranteed to win April 19 in the overwhelmingly Democratic District. I’m told that meeting could take place as early as Saturday night at Pace University in Lower Manhattan. If it doesn’t work out they are even looking at Sunday night as a possibility, but Monday begins the Chinese New Year, and the Chinatown portion of the district will not want it then. By statute, the meeting must take place within ten days of Cuomo declaring the special, which he officially did on Saturday. The major candidates still very much in the mix for that seat are District Leaders Jenifer Rajkumer, Paul Newell along with Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim, Yuh-Line Niou. Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Li is also getting into the race and has sent around fundraising requests to local community leaders.

More About That Special Election…

Earlier this month, it came to our attention that the New York City Board of Election might have some difficulty holding a special election for the three open Assembly seats in the city on the same day as the Republican and Democratic Presidential primaries, which is April 19.

Late last year, Governor Cuomo said,

I am looking at calling a special election for the Sheldon Silver seat as well as two other vacancies that exist now for April 19. I believe that is within the legal deadlines and that is the date we are looking at.

( The other two seats btw, are for Joe Borelli on Shaolin, and Roxanne Persaud in BK )

But since Cuomo said those words on December 1st, there has been virtual silence on the issue. Not a peep from the Governor, and we hadn’t heard much from the administrators at the Board of Elections who would need to pull it off. So why is that?

Initially, I chalked it up to one of those great New York mysteries – Kind of like how no one has ever actually seen a baby pigeon. I mean, we know they are reproducing, right?!? There certainly are enough of them. Flying rats as far as I’m concerned. Although I still maintain that squirrels are at the top of the animal kingdom in the urban concrete jungles of NYC. Rats scurry underground, and pigeons fly away. Squirrels gotta keep in real in plain view. Don’t let those adorable whiskers and fluffy little tails fool you. Squirrels are large and in charge.

Anyway, it turns out there are, in fact, some “logistical concerns” about holding the special on the same day as the national primaries. According to Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the NYC Board of Elections,

If we went with the consolidated ballot solution, then we have ballot distribution issues. We need to make sure that folks who are not eligible to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary only vote in the special. And if we go with the additional deployment of machines then essentially people would have to go to one location and vote twice.

So why not move the special to June to line up with the new date for Congressional primaries? Apparently that presents the same set of logistical obstacles. This is partly due to the newfangled voting machines recently adopted by the city and state. Say what you will about those old lever machines, you could at least line up the candidates for every race in columns on a paper ballot. Now, the software on the newer machines is more limited. And local Boards of election are not allowed to mess with the configuration of the software, even if the aim is to enable them to handle a local election and a national one simultaneously.

Oy, gevalt.

Ryan concludes however, that if Cuomo goes forward and calls the special, they will make it work.

I have every reason to believe that if the Governor calls the special on this date that we would meet the challenges that were necessary to accommodate the voters.

Elections used to be something we took for granted, like the inevitability of a long sax solo in an 80s song. But apparently new attempts to modernize the voting process have introduced a whole new set of issues.

The Real Reason There May Be No Special Election on April 19

Vacancies, vacancies, vacancies. Every year it feels like there are a bunch of open seats in the Legislature, and so begins the long dance over when (or if) to call a special election. This year there are two quite notable open seats: Those once held by Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that he would call a special election on April 19, which would line up local races with New York’s presidential primary. He hasn’t officially done so yet, and he has until early February to make a final decision. That gives the governor some leeway, although not a ton.

Some had suggested that Democrats on Long Island had asked him to hold off. They have selected Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky as their candidate to run for the Skelos seat, and as Jimmy Vielkind astutely pointed out, Democrats have fretted that a fluid national Republican Primary could boost Republican turnout on Strong Island.

But here is another reason I was recently told April may not work. According to a source, the New York City Board of Elections simply cannot handle it. Apparently, there are separate computer programs for local races and national races, and holding them simultaneously that day would be too much for the board. I mean, let’s face it, competence was never their strong suit. Silver’s seat is in lower Manhattan, so the NYC Board would be in charge of holding the election for the Silver seat that day.

That leaves two other possibilities.

1) Cuomo could call the special to line up with that new, weird congressional primary day that takes place in June. June 28th is the day this year.

2) Cuomo could push it to Sept. 7th, which is the day of the state primaries. Whichever date is picked will greatly affect the race for Silver’s seat. Yesterday, Manhattan Democratic leaders had been scheduled to meet to discuss who they might endorse for the seat, but the meeting was cancelled due to all the uncertainty surrounding the date of the election. If the April 19 date were to work, then the local Democratic committee in the financial district would choose who gets the seat. In that case, New York County leaders would likely get involved.

Full disclosure before I go any further: I actually live in Lower Manhattan so this race is my district. So, not only did I have the privilege of covering Shelly Silver, he was also my assemblyman, and I should say that I found him very responsive to my constituent needs. (I’m just kidding about the last part).

So far there are at least three candidates who are looking to run for the seat – Jenifer Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader; Paul Newell, who is also a Democratic district leader and has the distinction of losing to Silver in a 2008 primary – the first the then-speaker had faced in two decades; and Yuh-Line Niou who is chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim.

According to one insider, Rajkumar and Newell seem to be splitting the vote, since they are trying to lock up committee support from the same committee they both represent as district leaders. Also, some Chinatown leaders don’t like Rajkumar because she ran against NYC Councilwoman Margaret Chin. Niou seems to be getting much of that critical Chinatown political support, even though she doesn’t live there. She actually lives in a more fancy shmancy part of the district further downtown.

If the election is held in June, it will also be a committee selection, but if it’s pushed to September there would be an open primary. There will actually be a primary regardless, so even if a candidate is chosen, he or she would still potentially have to fight off challengers in September. Obviously, if someone is already sitting in that seat they have the advantages of incumbency going into that primary. So, now it really comes down to which date will be selected.

ted knight

Fight for $15’s Offer That Cannot Be Refused

At a union hall rally today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the official kickoff of the “Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice,” or as the twitter handle calls it, “@Fightfor15NY.” Cuomo first vowed to support a $15 an hour minimum wage this past fall, but now the movement has serious union funding, dedicated staff and of course, a social media profile.

According to advocates, there are roughly 3 million New Yorkers who make minimum wage. That’s roughly, 37% of the workforce, which they say is an astoundingly high figure. This year, the Governor took the recommendation from the state wage board he created to establish a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. That is already in motion, which means 300,000 fast food workers are on a schedule to make $15 by 2018 in New York City, by 2021 everywhere else in New York State. Then in November the Governor took executive action to raise wages to $15 for state workers, followed by his announcement today that 28,000 workers in the State University, or SUNY system would be the latest beneficiaries of the rising tide that lifts all boats.

The biggest hurdle here, however, is the remaining 2.6 million private sector workers currently making a $9 minimum wage. Senate Republicans have been reluctant to support increases, with former Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos famously calling the last minimum wage increase passed in 2013 a “job killer.” ( Just a side note…I am truly going to miss those Dean witticisms around the Capitol, how ’bout you? Although I gotta admit, This was my personal favorite. )

What’s interesting this time around though is that the true believers in $15 per hour think they may already be very close to winning this fight. Some believe they “have put Republicans in a box.” Some of the biggest supporters of Republican political campaigns for example, are either agnostic, or mildly supportive. As one insider put it, “what do they care? It doesn’t affect their core business before the state, so they might as well support the Governor on this.” That makes it harder for Republicans to build a coalition against it, even with the business groups behind them.

At least one Republican responded by saying, “I don’t think anybody feels boxed in.” Senate Repubs will hold a legislative hearing in Albany this Thursday on the issue as an opportunity for them to “take a look at it.” But it’s interesting to note that “no one has definitively ruled out an increase.”

What’s going to be very interesting is when the reported campaign finance filing is due next week. If the usual suspects pushing for $15 flood the campaigns of Senate Democrats, it’s an indication that up until now Republicans haven’t been very cooperative. If they don’t, it might be a sign that Republicans are willing to play ball on this, to avoid looking like this:

Tom hanks

 

Skelos and Campaign Finance Reform

Now that Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been convicted of corruption and will spend the next several years either on appeal or in prison, calls for some of the big ticket policy items he scuttled over the years have been renewed. Chief among them is campaign finance reform where the State could adopt a system similar to New York City’s taxpayer funded public matching program ( “sure, you wanna run for public office? No, please…allow us to pay for that” ).

I liken Skelos’ role in this whole debate to that of “Shorts Guy.” You know who I’m talking about. That guy who wears shorts a little too early on the first warm day after a long winter when it’s only like, 58 degrees. You wanna be like, “c’mon, dude. It’s not that warm outside yet.” Skelos just always seemed to be the guy everyone was pointing at. He was for it, then he wasn’t for it. It was an endless back and forth over whether Governor Cuomo could twist his arm back far enough that he might relent. Often, Skelos would say, “uncle” only to then renege. Much of this was already written about, including by the great Ken Lovett.

But perhaps unburdened by the death of Skelos’ political career, sources are coming forward to offer more detailed accounts of what exactly happened in those critical years of 2013 and 2014 when campaign finance had one of it’s best chances of actually getting approved in both houses. in 2013 both Cuomo and IDC leader Jeff Klein were under tremendous pressure to get some form of campaign finance reform. Klein was in the first year of his coalition with Skelos, and good government groups were demanding that he and the Governor get something done. Skelos promised to support an amendment that would go to voters in a referendum, but then sources say he changed his mind. By the end of the session in June, nothing had been voted on by the upper house so Cuomo created the now infamous Moreland Commission to “use as a hammer” against the legislature. Primarily to force Skelos’ hand on campaign finance reform.

Fast forward to 2014, when Skelos, Cuomo, Klein and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were negotiating the budget. Skelos again promised to deliver, but then did not. Ultimately he agreed to a pilot program of public financing that would be relegated just to the State Comptroller’s race. This was lauded as a huge accomplishment by Cuomo, who then agreed to un-sic the dogs by disbanding Moreland. More promises were made about revisiting the issue in June.

On June 8th 2014, Klein, Skelos and Cuomo held a private meeting in Manhattan where once again Skelos agreed to bring a bill to the floor. Cuomo, who was in his re-election year, was coming under increasing pressure from the left. Just a few days earlier he had pledged in that hostage video to fulfill the progressive wish list in exchange for the endorsement of the Working Families Party. Cuomo reached out to developer Rob Speyer to apply pressure on Skelos. A tacit agrement was starting to take shape whereby Republicans would vote for public funding of elections, and Speyer and his fellow developers could stop spending all this money to keep people like Skelos and other Senate Republicans in office ( So, you know, everybody wins ).

A meeting is set up among Klein, Speyer and Skelos. But while the parties were literally en route, Skelos cancelled the meeting and never rescheduled. Campaign finance reform was officially dead.

So, the question now is…will Republicans support it this time around? Cuomo announces it as a priority every year in the State of the State message, and will presumably make a case once again now that Skelos and Silver have both been convicted of federal corruption and the public may genuinely want to see the deleterious effect of big money in politics finally come to an end. But, the short answer is probably not as long as the Senate remains under Republican control. Democrats may finally get their chance if they can win control of the Senate next year. If that happens, it will be very interesting to see how committed the Democrats are to passing a non-watered down bill. But Unlikely that will happen before 2017.

Cuomo to Hold FOIL Summit

In the 1980s There was Geneva. And there was Reykjavik. The topic? Disarmament to avert mutually assured destruction with an armageddon-like nuclear holocaust.

In Cuomo’s New York in the 2010s, it’s a very different type of summit. First it was Yogurt, then Beer and Wine, and lets’ not forget Tourism. Adding to the list tomorrow will be a FOIL summit, according to sources.

You probably followed the recent dust-up over two bills intended to improve Freedom of Information Law requests, or FOIL. One bill would have sped up the timetable for requests to be met, another would have allowed reimbursement of attorneys fees in cases where groups or individuals requests were initially delayed. Governor Cuomo vetoed both late friday night, which led to an outcry from good government groups.

The next day Cuomo signed an Executive Order which Cuomo said in a press release (a press release which btw, does not seem to be available on the administration’s website, but I still have in my inbox from Saturday):

This Executive Order is a strong, sensible step to increase transparency in state government. It expedites the FOIL appeals process, but does so without incentivizing irresponsible litigation by ensuring  state agencies are not forced to pay attorney fees regardless of a case’s outcome.

***UPDATE*** The Cuomo Administration says waiting until Saturday was “strategic,” since they wanted the EO to ensure that the spirit of the bill take effect immediately, but the larger goal is to draft more comprehensive legislation to make the legislature subject to FOIL, which it currently is not.

Cuomo was asked about the vetoes Sunday at an unrelated press conference in Battery Park, and he replied:

I want the legislature to know that we are serious about reform. Legislators voted for reforms to FOIL. You know what they left out? That the FOIL should cover the legislature. The legislature exempts themselves. That’s the number one reform.

One good government insider dismissed extending FOIL to the Legislature as “something no one cares about.” Obviously, with the Skelos verdict coming earlier in the day on Friday, and people lamenting the lack of transparency in Albany as part of a “culture of corruption,” the timing of the vetoes could not have been worse.

Sources say Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David began working the phones this weekend, reaching out to various good government groups. They agreed to meet at the governor’s 3rd Avenue office in Manhattan for the summit tomorrow at 3p.m. The idea is to try and build consensus and get input from reformers before the governor goes public with his reform agenda at the State of the State/budget address on Jan. 13th.

A Cuomo insider downplayed the notion that this was any kind of “summit,” saying it was a simple check-in with good government groups, which is routine.

No word yet on whether they’ll serve yogurt.

A postscript from Liz B. to this excellent report by Mr. Fink…remember the last FOIL summit – into which the governor was more or less forced due to the uproar over his email deletion policydidn’t go so well. Perhaps this one will be better attended, though it doesn’t sound like members of the Legislature, who are again the intended target of reform here, are invited to participate.

The Christie Surge

I had drinks with some old Jersey friends this past summer and I asked them about Chris Christie’s game plan when it comes to running for President. Apparently, there was never any other option but to run. As for his sagging poll numbers at the time, I asked how the Christie insiders justified moving forward on such an expensive and time consuming endeavor. The answer his handlers were floating was apparently, “Well, perhaps he’ll catch lightning in a bottle.” Forgive me, but I didn’t really find that to be all that confidence inspiring. It fact, it sounded like a rather weak and desperate campaign slogan.

Picture This: “Chris Christie! He may catch lightning in a bottle! So, you and all your friends should vote for him!!”

No, there was a period there when a national campaign looked like it was going to end in a shipwreck. Something Gordon Lightfoot would have to write a song about. Christie himself is a music lover, of course. Having copped to attending more than 100 Bruce Springsteen shows in his lifetime. To which my cousin Joe recently said is “reason enough never to vote for him.” I mean, we all love The Boss, but as they say in Jersey, “Gimme a friggin’ break.”

But here is why this is interesting…for a campaign that once seemed barely able to get off the ground, suddenly there is new life. Yup, what could once be summed up by the Springsteen lyrics, “My tires were slashed and I almost crashed, but the Lord had mercy. My machine she’s a dud, I’m stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey” is now a potential force to be reckoned with.

Polls show Christie pulling into fourth place in New Hampshire. That’s a big improvement from ninth, where he was a few months ago. And Christie’s campaign has always been all about New Hampshire. Christie is a law-and-order guy, and recent terrorist acts correctly scare the public. That works in Christie’s favor.

Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger also had an interesting take on the Christie surge, which included an endorsement from New Hampshire’s largest newspaper. Moran concludes that one only need to watch the ascent of Donald Trump to understand that this Presidential contest ( at least on the GOP side ) is all about performance this year and not about substance. Otherwise people like Ohio Governor John Kasich, who actually has a record to run on, would be doing much better in the polls.

New Hampshire is still two months away, and a lot can transpire between now and then. Lest we forget that Pat Buchanan won New Hampshire 20 years ago. But what often unfolds in this business seems to be happening with Christie. Once dismissed as ineffectual with no chance of winning, he has now emerged as an interesting alternative. Christie is like some character in an inspirational 80s movie. One where he is inadvertently forced to adopt say, a bunch of wayward kids who very much need his guidance. But then we realize by the end of the movie, that he needs those kids just as much as they need him, by golly. It’s a coming of age story. A comeback story. One that’s about a personal journey. And it’s one we can all relate to. Even if Christie doesn’t end up winning, it’s fun to watch. Some might even be rooting for him.

Matt Katz recently had a very good take on the moment the Presidency might have come out of reach for Christie. But I always had a different take. And it was this scene from the boardwalk in Seaside Heights a few years ago when Christie yelled and screamed at a guy who had made a snide comment. Now officially, the Christie people had said that the passer-by called Christie a “fat expletive.” But I was told that the guy had actually said something much worse. Something about Christie’s kids attending private school while the Governor was viciously attacks public school teachers. As someone who covered Christie for almost ten years, the latter explanation makes much more sense, knowing his personality. But I don’t think Christie losing his temper is necessarily what would prevent him from being President. I think it’s the fact that while he is yelling? He is holding that tiny little ice cream cone in his hand. Just brilliant.

Another Shelly Sidebar

Earlier this month, Lobbyist Brian Meara testified for the government in the federal corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Meara has known Silver for more than 40 years. He was compelled to testify by trial subpoena. At one point Meara was asked if he remembered the 1997 fight over the rent laws. Meara claimed he did not. Tenant Advocate Michael McKee ( who was right in the middle of that fight ) calls Meara’s assertion “absurd.”

Let’s go back in time.

1997 was the year a newly minted Joe Bruno as Majority Leader declared that the rent protection laws should be permitted to sunset. It was a very contentious session. And on Sunday, June 15th at midnight, the laws expired. Two hours later Sheldon Silver and Governor George Pataki issued a joint press release saying they had reached an agreement in principle. This being Albany of course ( some things never change ), the bill language had yet to be finalized which led to days of advocates on both sides of the issue shuttling between Silver’s outer office off the floor and the Senate lobby where the real estate lobbyists hung out.

The way McKee describes it, that was the year “Silver gave away the store,” and essentially “gutted the system.” In exchange for a 6-year extension, Silver agreed to a number of provisions that greatly weakened the rent laws and tenant rights. That included requiring tenants to pay rent into an escrow account during disputes with landlords, making it easier for tenants to get evicted and perhaps most significantly enshrining into State law vacancy deregulation. That was what one Democrat once described as the “original sin.” While it’s true vacancy decontrol actually began in 1993 ( before Silver was Speaker ),  1997 made it a permanent state of mind. Rent protections would eventually be phased out, it was just a matter of how quickly. Even when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2009, that was not something they rolled back.

Meara was lobbying at the time for the Rent Stabilization Association, which wanted the laws weakened. And according to McKee, he counted Meara walk between Silver’s office and the Senate lobby 17 times to make sure Silver’s proposal would be palatable to the real estate industry. In the end, the deal was cut. The advocates were never shown bill language before the bill went to print. “Silver,” McKee says, “sold us out.”

Supporters of the former Speaker remember it differently. For starters, you had a Republican Governor and a Republican Senate. So, “all hopes were pinned on Shelly.” At the end of the day, he had to cut a deal, despite the loud kicking and screaming from pro-tenant advocates who were “not living in reality.”

I’m not generally someone who likes to poke at old wounds. But some of these older battles may need to be revisited as Silver’s fate goes to the jury. If that jury fails to come back with a conviction ( which I think is possible ), one Albany insider explained that the government is going to try to get him again. That means more pressure on the same witnesses to recall things a little bit more clearly so they can be put back on the stand for a second trial.

It really could go either way for Silver, but what this trial seems to have demonstrated, regardless of Silver’s guilt or innocence, is that he had longstanding relationships with developers. He back channeled with those interests over critical pieces of legislation like the rent protections and 421-a while claiming publicly to be 100% pro-tenant. He also collected referral fees for bringing Glenwood Management’s business to a downtown law firm, Goldberg and Iryami. Silver doesn’t even deny this fact, which is at the heart of the government’s case that Silver engaged in illegal kickback schemes for personal gain. The trial may determine guilt, or it may not. But what it has succeeded in doing is showing where Silver was compromised, making it very tough for him to ever go back and try to be part of leadership in the Assembly. And it might even portend the end of his time as an elected official.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

From the Morning Memo:

As the cases in the Bridgegate matter move forward on the other side of the Hudson River, more information is becoming available about who knew what about the scandal and when they knew it.

While the focus understandably has been on the actions of New Jersey Chris Christie, the legal digging may also reveal how much Gov. Andrew Cuomo knew about the scandal before the average New Yorker.

After all, it was Cuomo’s hand-picked executive director at the Port Authority, Pat Foye, who first recognized what a disaster deliberate lane closures were on the Fort Lee side of the George Washington Bridge in September of 2013.

This week even more evidence became available that suggests that some on the New York side were not only aware of what was going on, but also taking pains to avoid fanning the flames or exposing the matter publicly. Attorneys for former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who is under indictment for the lane closures and is expected to stand trial next year, have filed discovery motions that resulted in hundreds of pages of documents being made public.

As Brian Murphy reports, there is information in those documents about discussions that took place among Cuomo’s appointees including Commissioner and Vice Chairman Scott Rechler.

According to an e-mail written by David Garten, a former staffer for the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and now Chief of Staff for Rechler, there was at least a discussion about trying to avoid a subpoena with the internal inquiry they were conducting on the lane closures. Garten writes to Rechler on Oct. 22, 2013,

“I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to talk to Pat yet, but if he is so focused on documenting everything then how about the following – he types a detailed memo that he produces on his home computer, gives a hard copy to the 2nd floor to keep and use, and then type up a general memo for his files at the PA.”

The email then spells out the reason for proposing creating two memos when Garten writes,

“…in case we get subpoenaed.”

“Pat” in this email is a reference to Pat Foye. And the “2nd floor” is a reference to Cuomo’s office on the second floor of the State Capitol. Rechler then responds to the e-mail a couple of hours later writing,

“I spoke to pat this evening and gave him my thoughts on the memo as we discussed earlier. He seemed to agree with the same. I am going to call HG to make sure he is on the same page ( Pat said he didn’t speak to HG about the memo yet ).” More >