2014

Astorino Blasts Jobs Report

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino in a video release knocked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for this week’s Department of Labor jobs report that showed a 0.1 percent increase in the March unemployment rate.

For Astorino, the report went to the heart of his “winning or losing” argument he’s been using on the campaign trail.

“You don’t need yesterday’s jobs numbers to understand the answer. You just have to ask your neighbors wherever you live in New York. They know and so do you probably,” Astorino says in the video.

Astorino also seized on an Empire Center analysis that showed 90 percent of the jobs created in the last month came in the downstate region.

The Department of Labor said the uptick in the unemployment rate was due in part to a “growing labor force.”

The state’s unemployment rate is at 6.9 percent, while the national rate is 6.7 percent.

The Westchester county executive also knocked Cuomo’s touting of a Tax Foundation report that was complimentary of a reduction and overhaul of the corporate tax rate, nudging New York from 50th to 48th nationally in terms of tax climate.

“Maybe his book will have a chapter on that,” Astorino says sarcastically.

Astorino on NY’s Job Growth Crisis from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Miner: No Plans To Run For Governor

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who stepped down from her post as Democratic Party co-chair, will not accept the Working Families Party line for governor if offered by the union-backed organization.

Miner resigned as co-chair on Thursday following a publicly rocky relationship with her patron, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The resignation, a month before Democrats meet in Suffolk County for their state convention, fueled talk among Cuomo’s liberal critics that she could potentially challenge the governor with the WFP line, which has not ruled out granting the spot to someone other than Cuomo.

In an interview with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom on Friday morning, Miner laid that theory to rest.

“I’m a Democrat, I have great friends in the Working Families Party,” she said. “But I’m a Democrat.”

A spokesman for Miner went further with Time Warner Cable News’ Bill Carey, telling him of a potential run for governor by the mayor “No. It’s not happening.”

While advocacy groups with a liberal bent as well as unions remain restive over Cuomo’s fiscal policies, most self-identified liberal voters tend to give the governor high marks, polls have shown.

At the same time, Miner’s qualms with Cuomo don’t match up with what critics on the left have lobbed at Cuomo.

Miner’s original foray into criticizing Cuomo was leveled at his pension-smoothing proposal, which she didn’t go far enough in combating the financial woes of upstate cities. In other words, her issues stem from relieving local governments from Albany mandated cost drivers.

Lately, she had been clashing with the state, as well as Cuomo ally Joanie Mahoney, the Onondaga County executive, over a new sports arena in her city.

Liberals, on the other hand, remain upset over Cuomo’s tax policies, specifically those aimed at businesses.

Miner in the radio interview added that she remains focused on the job of being Syracuse’s mayor, calling it a 24-7 job.

“You don’t have the luxury often of thinking five years down the road,” she said.

“No. It’s not happening.”

Spano’s Board of Elections Appointment Raises Eyebrows

To fill a vacancy on the state Board of Elections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned to an old foe of his likely Republican opponent this fall: Former Westchester County Executive Andy Spano

It’s an appointment that is raising eyebrows from both Rob Astorino, who unseated Spano in 2009 for the county executive post, as well as good-government advocates.

“It’s just another one of the many political tricks and gimmicks that this governor does,” Astorino said in a radio interview this week on Talk-1300.

Spano will have a vote on a board that regulations how elections are conducted.

The appointment is the all more intriguing, given that Spano’s former deputy is now a top aide to Cuomo, Larry Schwartz. At the same time, Spano has said he hopes Astorino is defeated this year against Cuomo.

“Clearly even in his public comments that I hope I lose then he needs to recuse himself from the Board of Elections decisions on anything that comes before him in the governor’s race,” Astorino said in the interview.

Good government groups have long derided the Board of Elections for having an equal number of Republicans and Democrats for calling the shots and failing to promulgate any meaningful regulations. Governor Cuomo says that could ultimately change with the creation of independent enforcement counsel. The counsel would be appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate and Assembly.

“We passed the Public Trust Act that accomplished what we set out to accomplish last year: Real enforcement at the Board of Elections, change the bribery laws so the district attorneys have a tool to enforce, more dislcosure laws, etcetera,” Cuomo said after the budget was approved.

But ethics reformers say tapping Spano for the post only confirms their criticism of the Board of Elections.

“I think it continues what we’ve seen at the Board of Elections. It’s a partisan entity that’s designed to protect the political parties and protect many of the incumbents who are currently in office,” said NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney.

And it’s not just Democrats that try to stack the Board of Elections, Mahoney points out. Republicans, too, install their own people at the board, but the effect is the even number of party members cancel each other out.

“People who are there are there because they’re party loyalists,” he said.

Astorino On BOE Appointment: Cuomo Couldn’t Find Anyone Else?

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino questioned on Wednesday the appointment of his former rival, Democrat Andy Spano, to the state Board of Elections by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Honestly, in a state of 18 million, you couldn’t find a more qualified Democrat?” Astorino said in the radio interview with Fred Dicker on Talk-1300.

Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, unseated Spano in 2009 following three terms.

Spano this week was appointed to fill a Democratic vacancy at the BOE.

“It’s just another one of the many political tricks and gimmicks this governor does,” Astorino said.

Astorino added that Spano should recuse himself from any votes at the Board of Elections involving the governor’s race this year.

“Clearly even with his comments that he wants me to lose, he needs to recuse himself on board of elections decisions on anything that comes before him with the governor’s race,” Astorino said. “That’s the obvious.”

In announcing the appointment, Cuomo praised Spano, and said the recommendation for the appointment came from Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright.

“By agreeing to join the Board of Elections, Andy will carry on his long career in public service and uphold New York State’s commitment to fair and responsible elections,” Cuomo said in the statement. “I want to thank Assemblyman Keith Wright for his recommendation on this appointment and welcome Andy Spano to the State’s Board of Elections.”

Nevertheless, Cuomo has ties to Spano, not the least of which is his top aide, Larry Schwartz, who was deputy county executive under Spano.

“Obviously there’s the love triangle,” Astorino said.

A New Election Cycle, A Different Approach Toward Cuomo

From the morning memo, the first item:

Back in 2012, Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti aired a TV ad for his re-election campaign that lashed himself to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The 30-second ad gave Cuomo starring role, featuring the governor giving credit to Grisanti for the long-sought UB2020 program at SUNY Buffalo.

The ad emphasized Grisanti as an “independent” in the state Legislature — a label that was sure to help a Republican in a newly redrawn Senate district that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Grisanti wasn’t the only Republican in that election cycle to tie himself to Cuomo. Several Senate Republicans found ways to incorporate the popular governor in their election-related media that year.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos went as far as to say he wouldn’t mind it if Cuomo introduced some of his members for re-election.

Cuomo — who did not endorse a full Democratic takeover of the chamber in 2012 — did not dissuade GOP lawmakers from using his likeness or words in their ads, as long as they remained accurate.

But oh, how things can change in Albany.

Grisanti’s re-election machinery is kicking in early this year, and he’s already up with a new TV ad for his 2014 campaign as he faces a potential primary.

Needless to say, the commercial doesn’t show Cuomo or mention him.

Instead, Grisanti’s campaign chose to highlight his opposition to a trio of policies Cuomo and Democrats support: the Dream Act, the public financing of political campaigns and a program that would allow prison inmates access to higher education courses.

“He led the fight to block taxpayer funded tuition for illegal immigrants and he won,” Grisanti said. “He’ll keep fighting the New York City liberals — opposing their plans to use tax dollars to pay for college for prison inmates and political campaigns.”

Ultimately, there is not much tonal difference between the two ads (Grisanti’s even using the same narrator!).

The Cuomo-centric ad in 2012, too, aired after Grisanti’s September primary, when he dispatched a Carl Paladino-backed challenger and faced a split ballot challenge from a Democratic and Conservative Party candidate.

In other words, tying himself so closely to a popular Democratic governor in a Democratic district during a presidential election year just made political sense.

But the 2012 Grisanti versus 2014 Grisanti highlights a potential shift in how Republican lawmakers, especially in the state Senate, will use Cuomo this election cycle.

Senate Republicans have not granted Cuomo a major legislative victory since the SAFE Act, a gun control measure that the governor pushed through last January, and remains deeply despised by gun-rights advocates.

Since then, the Senate GOP has largely backed Cuomo on his fiscal agenda, especially his property and business tax approach.

But the bread-and-butter issues supported by Democrats — many of which Grisanti mentioned in the TV ad — haven’t seen any key victories since.

Paladino Drops Draft Trump Movement

The Draft Trump movement as led by Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino is officially over.

Paladino, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, had carried the Trump-for-governor banner even as the mogul and reality-show host said he would not seek the GOP nomination this year to take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Paladino had gone as far as distributing flyers at an anti-SAFE Act rally calling for a Trump candidacy.

But on Tuesday in an open strategy memorandum addressed to Republican Chairman Ed Cox, Paladino said he is dropping the pro-Trump effort and pledged to help Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s campaign.

“Rob convinced me that to further support a draft Trump campaign while saying that Rob can’t raise money and doesn’t have the name recognition was hurting him, so I am dropping the Trump initiative and I will be quiet on and support Rob’s ability to raise money,” Paladino wrote in the email.

Trump had spent a good portion of early 2014 traveling the state and appearing at a variety of county Republican fundraisers, usually drawing record crowds, but always stopped short of formally announcing his candidacy.

In the end, he chose to focus on other endeavors, he announced via Twitter. Trump is reportedly interested now in purchasing the Buffalo Bills.

Paladino added in the memo to Cox he hopes Astorino takes a harder line on Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who he has blasted for being a “Republican In Name Only.”

“Denouncing Skelos and the RINOs, will establish Rob as a leader of Republican/Conservative principles and values for the future,” Paladino said. “It will give the ranks a reason to rally behind him as a leader who will be different and clean up the Albany cesspool.”

Demos Knocks Zeldin For Tax Code Overhaul (Updated)

The tax code overhaul of 2011 was a compromise that defused a difficult political decision for both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers who were under pressure to keep a surcharge on those earning $250,000 and more.

But now the congressional campaign of Republican George Demos is trying to turn the deal into a liability for his GOP primary opponent, state Sen. Lee Zeldin.

Demos in a statement on Monday knocked Zeldin for approving the tax code changes, noting that at the time Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long deemed the move a tax increase.

“Everyone knows Lee Zeldin has voted twice to implement and fund Obamacare in New York,” Demos said. “Now we are learning Zeldin has a long record of voting for higher taxes. On December 7, 2011, Zeldin voted to increase New York’s top marginal income tax rate from 6.85% to 8.82%, an increase of 28% that made New York one of the highest taxed states in the nation.”

This is playing with the numbers on the part of Demos.

The tax code changes came as the so-called “millionaires tax” on those earning $250,000 was set to expire.

If state lawmakers and Cuomo had done nothing, the tax rate for those earning $40,000 and more would have reverted to 6.85 percent at the end of the calendar year.

In the end, the Cuomo-engineered agreement resulted for those earning $2 million and more a year to receive a rate cut from 8.97 percent to 8.82 percent.

A complete chart of the changes, via the Empire Center, is here:

The agreement was approved 55-0 in the Senate, which at the time was controlled by a Republican majority.

Cuomo himself has simultaneously solid the agreement as both a middle-class tax cut and one that satisfied the calls for a millionaires tax because it partially kept high rates in place.

Updated: The Zeldin campaign responded by defending the tax code overhaul and noting the lawmaker supports the repeal of the MTA payroll tax.

“Every single New Yorker has a lower income tax rate since the day Senator Zeldin was elected in 2010. George Demos may not have realized that because he hasn’t earned $1 of income from a job since 2010,” said campaign manager Chapin Fay. “The same vote that set the current income tax rates in New York is the same vote that repealed the MTA Payroll Tax for 80 percent of employers, including 34,000 employers in Suffolk County alone. This vote also reduced middle income tax rates to the lowest level in 60 years. It’s incredible that George Demos is so out of touch with the needs of the hard working taxpayers of the First Congressional District.”

It’s Official: Democratic Convention To Be Held In Melville

New York Democrats will hold their state convention in Suffolk County on Long Island on May 21 and 22, the committee on Monday announced.

The convention, to be held at the Hilton Long Island/Huntington hotel in Melville, will potentially fuel discussion as to who Gov. Andrew Cuomo will select for his running mate.

Newsday reported that Kevin Law, the president and CEO of the Long Island Association, a business group, is being eyed for the number two post.

Another potential running mate could also be Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a first-term Democrat who has worked closely with Cuomo.

Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy told reporters on Friday an announcement on his future on the Democratic ticket will be announced in May, potentially coinciding with the state convention.

Duffy and Cuomo both have said they have a good working relationship, but have not confirmed the former Rochester mayor will run with Cuomo yet again.

Republicans will hold their state convention a week earlier, on May 14 and 15, in Westchester County.

Cox: Cuomo ‘Corrupted His Own Anti-Corruption Commission’

The end of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption — and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara subsequently assuming documents generated by the panel — could have political ramifications down the road for Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he runs for a second term.

And his Republican antagonists already started making it an issue over the weekend.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino knocked Cuomo for involving himself in the commission which, to be clear, is already a creature of the executive branch to begin with.

In Buffalo, Astorino said the end of the commission’s work so soon after the budget agreement, plus the reported involvement of Cuomo’s office in directing subpoenas, raises questions.

“I think what we’ve seen is Andrew Cuomo misusing a commission to be set up, which is supposed to weed out corruption and ethics violations, and he dangled that over the legislature’s head, and he admitted it to get what he wanted in the budget, and once he had that deal done, he stopped it,” Astorino told reporters.

Astorino added that Bharara “rightfully so” is picking up the investigations started by the commission.

Without outright accusing the governor’s office of wrongly interfering with the panel’s work, he said the complaints from commission members and staff that subpoenas were directed at times by Cuomo’s top aides.

“Was Andrew Cuomo excluding himself, were they interfering in subpoenas that may have been issued or investigations that may have been taking place with his friends or the executive branch? That is what we need to know. I hope this was not an abuse of power but clearly, absolute power corrupts absolutely and that’s what we’ve seen in this country,” Astorino said.

State Republican Chairman Ed Cox, who appeared alongside Astorino for a screening event in Buffalo, went further.

“The U.S. Attorney has now asked for all the papers, all the documents from the Moreland Commission, not only to continue the investigations that were started by the Moreland Commission, but to investigate the potential interference by the Governor of New York, with his own anti-corruption commission,” Cox said. “He corrupted his own anti-corruption commission.”

The chairman is straying outside of the lines here: There is no investigation of Cuomo or his office as indicated by Bharara, who told WNYC radio he was taking control of the documents from the commission to see where things he led. Bharara was asked if he was looking into Cuomo’s reported interference, but would not confirm that.

Still, the comments from Cox and Astorino show Republicans will likely continue to use the Moreland news to question not only Cuomo’s commitment to changing Albany’s ethical morass, but whether the governor overstepped his bounds to the point a federal prosecutor has become involved.

Cuomo has defended the decision to close the commission following an agreement in the state budget that includes new anti-corruption and anti-fraud measures, including a new independent counsel in the state Board of Elections to oversee campaign finance law violations.

Cuomo has said he did not want to create a “permanent bureaucracy” through the Moreland Commission, adding he had always made clear he would conclude the panel’s work once an ethics agreement was reached.

Astorino: Investigate Silver

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino in an online video Thursday reignited a GOP-backed call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

At issue for Astorino is the series of sexually harassment scandals that have plagued the state Assembly under Silver’s leadership.

In the video, Astorino says the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was “doomed” from the start because it wasn’t going to investigate Silver’s handling of the harassment cases.

“The Silver ‘story’ has supposedly moved on. But it remains a cancer eating at the soul of New York,” Astorino said. “Until a special prosecutor is appointed to investigate Sheldon Silver’s action, Albany will remain unethical to its core.”

Silver and his office came under criticism for approving more than $100,000 in confidential settlement money to women who were sexually harassed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Silver has apologized for his handling of the case, but says no laws were broken by him or his office.

Astorino to Cuomo: Clean Up Albany; Appoint a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Silver from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.