Albany

A Not-So-Subtle Statement From Kaloyeros

Probably not the wisest thing to do when facing federal and state corruption charges, via the Facebook page of suspended SUNY Poly chief Alain Kaloyeros:

alain

Kaloyeros is known for having had a salty and irreverent presence on Facebook, posting jokes and memes about women and Darth Vader.

h/t due to Casey Seiler, who has an uncensored version of the Facebook status here.

Sliwa Elected Reform Party Chairman (Updated)

Updated: A source familiar with the rules of the Reform Party says Sliwa’s election is basically “illegitimate and fraudulent.”

Essentially, Sliwa is claiming he has the support from the party’s state committee, which the source says doesn’t technically exist, given the party is currently led by an interim committee.

“There is no way they came to close to filling two-thirds of men and women in every Assembly district in the state,” the source said, referring to the rules for forming the committee. “On the merits, it’s just nonsense.”

Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels founder and colorful radio show host, was elected chairman of the Reform Party on Monday, the ballot line formed by Republican Rob Astorino in 2014.

In a statement, Sliwa took direct aim at the latest corruption scandal to emanate from state government, which has ensnared a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the leader of SUNY Polytechnic and prominent upstate developers.

“Last week’s indictments and the recent convictions of our state legislative leaders demonstrate not only that we need to be ever vigilant in guarding against public corruption but that we need party leaders in this state who won’t fold like a cheap camera when the principles of good government are at stake,” Sliwa said in a statement.

The ballot line was formed during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign by allies of Astorino, the Westchester County executive. The line was initially called the Stop Common Core ballot line, intended to draw voters to the platform of pulling New York out of the controversial education standards.

After losing the election to Cuomo, Astorino announced the line would be reconstituted as the Reform Party in order to broaden its appeal.

Sliwa’s victory was announced in a press release by Frank Morano, a longtime political activist who has staged demonstrations to draw attention to the state’s election laws.

Most recently, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka won a write-in on the Reform Party line for a congressional seat.

Sliwa indicated he would continue to take the party into the direction of pushing for ethics reform in Albany, blaming both mainstream parties for failing to do so.

“The leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties has utterly failed not only the people of this state but even their own members,” he said. “While party bosses seem more concerned with being wined, dined and pocket lined by lobbyists and special interests, my hope is that the Reform Party will put the will of the voters first. We need a watchdog in this state to oust the crooked politicians and to keep the honest politicians honest.”

Dicker Leaves New York Post

Fred Dicker, one of the most recognizable and longest serving figures in the Legislative Correspondents Association, is departing The New York Post where he had an influential print home since 1982.

Dicker’s daily Monday through Friday am radio show on Talk-1300, however, will remain in place.

While it’s hard not to see this as anything other than the passing of an era in statehouse journalism for New York, the kind of insider-ish scoop-based reporting Dicker honed over his career will continue, even as it has migrated to blogs and Twitter.

Dicker’s column on Mondays was a highly anticipated read — filled with items geared for political insiders but widely distributed by a high circulation New York City tabloid. Other newspapers sought their own Monday scoop-based columns, including The Times Union and The Daily News to compete with Dicker.

But no other reporter in recent memory could wield the same level of power or influence as Dicker, who was a multimedia journalist before there was a term for it. Given the fragmented nature of the audience for consuming news, and the increasingly youthful press corps covering the Capitol, it’s likely no other reporter who covers Albany will ever again have as much sway over driving key stories at the Capitol as Dicker.

With a flare for language and a penchant for arched analysis, Dicker’s pen has made and broken governors.

Eliot Spitzer’s administration was hobbled by the “Troopergate” scoops generated by Dicker and The Post, leaving the governor with few legislative allies before his downfall in a prostitution scandal.

Later reporting during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration revealed the governor’s thinking on a range of issues. Dicker later became deeply critical of Cuomo following the passage of the SAFE Act, a package of controversial gun control measures.

A hard-charging reporter and columnist, Dicker takes no prisoners and never suffers fools or liars, be they press secretaries or elected officials.

The style, substance and institutional knowledge of the column lives on, however, with the radio show and Dicker’s Twitter feed remaining active with news and commentary.

Dicker has been critical of the governors he has covered over the years (dating back to Hugh Carey) including the incumbent, who once referred to the Post reporter as a “caged beast” who must be kept at arm’s length.

Bharara: ‘Systemic’ Corruption in Albany, Cuomo Not Implicated ‘At This Moment’

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara this afternoon outlined what he called a “network” of wrongdoers – both inside and out of state government – involved in two complex public corruption schemes that involved individuals close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including his former top aide, Joe Percoco.

Unlike in past press conferences, Bharara was careful not to go overboard in his excoriation of Albany. (He has been admonished by a judge in the past for saying too much, too soon).

He repeatedly stressed that the charges in the complaint unsealed this morning are “allegations,” though he also said that he hopes the eight remaining defendants – Todd Howe has already pleaded guilty, and is cooperating with investigators – end up going to trial, so New Yorkers “can see in gory detail what their state government has been up to.”

Bharara said the complaint outlines what he believes is a “systemic problem” in Albany – and he was also quick to note that when he uses the term “Albany,” he means the state government that is located there, and not the city itself, which he called a “wonderful town,” as Mayor Kathy Sheehan has told him “multiple times.”

Bharara was asked if Cuomo himself has any involvement in the case by a reporter who noted that he had once issued a statement absolving the governor of wrongdoing in connection with the early demise of the corruption-busting Moreland Commission. His reply:

“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”

When pressed on whether it’s “realistic” to believe that the governor, who has a reputation of being something of a micromanager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara said simply: “It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”

Bharara also said that this investigation, “as a general matter,” remains open.

The U.S. attorney was also asked if he believes that the corruption problem in Albany is getting better as a result of all the cases he has brought in recent years – including the successful prosecution of two men who were once among the state’s most powerful political players, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

“I presume some people have gotten the message and abstained from engaging in criminal activity,” Bharara said. “But we’re as busy as we ever were, in some ways busier…if that’s the metric you use then the assessment is not a positive one.”

Primary Day Winners And Losers

From the Morning Memo:

With the third primary of the year in the books for New York, the focus for battle of control of the Senate in Albany will turn toward the general election in November.

Though not surprising as a number of incumbent or establishment-preferred candidates won last night, the primary day results present a complicated picture going forward from now until Election Day.

Winners:

Incumbents. The power of incumbency is strong. In fact, it’s so strong a sitting legislator who took his own life amid mounting legal troubles was backed by Republican voters. The late Bill Nojay won his primary last night, a move that was urged by local Republican leaders who opposed his rival, Rick Milne. Elsewhere, incumbents in both parties in the Assembly and Senate largely turned back well-funded primary challenges save for a handful of races downstate. In the Assembly, Harry Bronson, the Rochester-area lawmaker who defeated Rachel Barnhart, a former TV reporter who was believed to have the advantage of name recognition and social media.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. This is the first election cycle for the top Senate GOP lawmaker and, broadly speaking, he got what he wanted as the GOP’s preferred candidates — Chris Jacobs, Jim Tedisco and Pam Helming — who notched victories in their primaries. Having candidates the conference’s political arm can work with heading into the general election doesn’t hurt in the effort to keep control of the chamber.

Adriano Espaillat and the IDC. Marisol Alcantara won her primary for the 31st Senate district, making her a shoo-in for the post in November. Alcantara’s win is a victory for the man she wants to replace in the chamber, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is running for congress. Espaillat has been seeking to build something of a power base in upper Manhattan and had endorsed Alcantara’s bid. It’s also a win for the IDC, which had backed Alcantara. Should she join the breakaway conference in the fall, Alcantara would bring diversity to the conference and give IDC Leader Jeff Klein more leverage in the coming leadership fight.

Losers

Super PACs. Independent expenditure committees backed by wealthy donors who support education reforms and charter schools sought to be major players in a range of Democratic primary campaigns. Their preferred candidates more or less lost last night. Not all super PACs were unsuccessful: A PAC aligned with the New York State United Teachers union shored up incumbents to provide a bulwark in the Assembly.

Assembly GOP Scores Highest In Unshackle Ratings

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Republicans scored the top ratings when it came to business friendly legislation, according to a report released Wednesday by the Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate.

The business-backed group gave 100 percent scores to eight members of the Assembly GOP conference in a report that considered legislation ranging from the 2015 and 2016 budget plans to bills like universal health care (the group is opposed) to eliminating the wage board and regulatory reform (both supported by Unshackle).

In the Senate, bills considered for scoring by Unshackle Upstate included measures such as the formal adoption of the state spending cap and labor reforms such as changing the Scaffold Law.

No Republican senator scored higher than 88 with Unshackle Upstate, but Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn received the highest rating of 90. Felder conferences with Senate Republicans in the chamber.

“As Election Day draws near, incumbent legislators will be talking about their efforts to promote job growth and boost the economy. Voters across the state deserve to know which legislators stepped up and which ones fell short,” said Greg Biryla, executive director of Unshackle Upstate.

“Our new legislative scorecards, which look back over the past two years, provide a comprehensive assessment of legislators’ actions in Albany. We urge all voters, regardless of location or party affiliation, to evaluate these scorecards before heading to the voting booth this fall.”

2016UUScorecardAssemblyRanking.pdf by Nick Reisman on Scribd

2016UUScorecardSenateRanking.pdf by Nick Reisman on Scribd

BOE Says Safeguards In Place To Prevent Election Hacking

From the Morning Memo:

From the top of the national Republican ticket, the concern that somehow the integrity of the outcome of the election should be questioned because of potential fraud persists.

Voter fraud in New York is not considered common or widespread, and New York officials at the state Board of Elections say those concerns don’t take into consideration the machines voters use to cast their ballot.

“By and large here in New York, the machines that are in use are pretty safe and provide a good amount of accountability to ensure New York’s elections maintain their integrity,” said Thomas Connolly, state BOE spokesman.

At the same time, voting machines would be difficult for, say, a hacker to break into.

“There is no ability for those machines to connect to the Internet or get into the machine without being made aware of,” Connolly said.

Nevertheless, after the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, potentially by hackers working for Russian intelligence, there have been conversations over whether voting machines in the United States can be hacked and the results tampered with.

“I think it’s just feeding this larger anxiety about whether or not the elections are being affected in any way shape or form,” said Connolly.

New York officials aren’t taking those safeguards for granted. This week, they’ve had phone conferences to discuss cybersecurity of elections with the Homeland Security department and the FBI.

“Obviously, everyone wants to make sure that the elections are being done in a way that are not compromised,” Connolly said.

Only four years ago, state elections officials had to grapple with a natural, not manmade problem that hampered voting: Hurricane Sandy’s devastation forced the enactment of emergency voting measures in some areas of the state.

Hochul Defends Biz Efforts In Albany

From the Morning Memo:

As the efforts to encourage job and business growth in Albany come under scrutiny from the latest ratings by the National Federation of Independent Business, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday defended those efforts.

Speaking with reporters in Syracuse, Hochul pointed to the heavy investment by the state in economic development projects.

“You need to look at the entirity. We have now spent over $4 billion on economic development projects,” she said. “That’s pro-business — over 4,100 positions created because of that. So, we have a lot of initiatives I woul say that are helping lift up the business community, investing in them, giving them the workforce development opportunities.”

Business groups have argued the state’s approach shouldn’t be on targeted investments or tax credits, but a broader effort to scale back the state’s regulatory environment as well as improve the tax climate.

The NFIB’s legislative scorecard this week showed most legislators received lower grades this past legislative session, too, due to the approval of measures such as 12 weeks of paid family leave and the approval a minimum wage set at $15 in the downstate region.

Upstate, the wage is due to reach $12.50, which an effort to hit $15 at some point, based on economic conditions.

Hochul cited the upstate wage provision as a sign that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking businesses’ concerns seriously.

“There are people who wanted a $15 minimum wage tomorrow here in upstate New York,” she said. “The governor listened to those concerns and there has been a slow ramp.”

And at the same time, Hochul defended the wage hike as well as the approval of paid family leave, saying those are measures improving New Yorkers’ lives.

“I would disagree with the premise that it’s anti-business,” she said. “It’s pro-people here in the state of New York.”

NYSUT-Linked PAC Gets A $4M Boost

A super PAC controlled by a top official at the statewide teachers union received this week a $4 million contribution from a separate committee that lists the union’s headquarters as its address.

A filing on the state Board of Elections website shows the committee, New Yorkers For A Brighter Future, transferred $4 million to the independent expenditure committee Fund For Great Public Schools.

The IE’s treasurer is Andy Pallotta, the vice president of the New York State United Teachers Union.

New Yorkers For A Brighter Future lists is address as 800 Troy Schenectady Road, the same as NYUST’s headquarters in the Albany suburb of Latham.

The Brighter Future group, first formed in 2010, has been funded through donations that appear to be in the $100 range.

The group this week reported $3.9 million in cash on hand.

The bolstering of independent expenditure committee for NYSUT comes as a range of groups funded by wealthy supporters of charter schools and the education investment tax credit have spent heavily on behalf of challengers to Democratic incumbents in upcoming Assembly and Senate primaries.

Those independent expenditure groups are expected to play a role in the broader fight for control of the state Senate this November.

NFIB: Pro-Biz Ratings Suffer After Tough Votes

From the Morning Memo:

A pro-business group’s legislative ratings for individual state lawmakers took a hit this year after a legislative session of difficult votes for businesses in New York, ranging from a minimum wage increase to 12 weeks of paid family leave.

The ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business especially hit the Republican-led Senate, where the GOP conference out of solidarity approved a budget bill containing the minimum wage increase after a contentious internal debate.

“The scores, particularly within the State Senate, trend significantly lower when compared to past sessions,” said NFIB state director Mike Durant.

A passing grade for the NFIB is 70 percent and the highest scoring lawmaker in the Senate was Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, a Democrat who sits with the GOP conference in the chamber. Felder scored an 83.

In the Assembly, the Republican conference generally scored best, with multiple members receiving a 100 percent score. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a western New York lawmaker, was the highest scoring Democrat in the chamber based on NFIB review.

In addition to the minimum wage provision, NFIB also considered bills aimed at strengthening the state’s cap on property taxes, a measure aimed at bolstering laws governing the employment of farm laborers and the bill to create universal health care among their criteria for the ratings.

But the $15 minimum wage, as pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year after he set the wage for fast-food workers through a Department of Labor board, proved to be an especially bitter pill for some business groups to swallow.

The wage increase set the minimum wage to $15 in New York City and the surrounding suburban counties, to be phased in over the next several years. North of Westchester County, the wage will hit $12.50 and then be subject to an economic review by the Division of Budget.

Both the wage hike and the paid-family leave program were included in the 2015-16 state budget.

Republicans in the state Senate were ultimately able to secure a sizable tax cut aimed at middle-income earners in the budget alongside the wage measure. Business groups opposed to the wage measure, however, insisted the tax cut did not offset the cost of the $15 minimum wage.

“When analyzing the legislative session from a macro perspective it is very clear that the high profile issues, like minimum wage and paid leave, negatively impact small business while there are limited efforts to enact real, meaningful reform,” Durant said.

“Frankly, small business in New York needs more than lip service from Albany. There needs to be a more concerted effort to not only promote Main Street, but to push for high impact legislative reforms to the cost drivers that already hamper job creators. Until then, small business in New York will only continue to tread water, at best.”

NY 2015-2016 Voting Record