Albany

POW/MIA Flag Raised For McCain

powThe POW/MIA flag was raised at the Empire State Plaza in Albany on Tuesday in honor of the late Sen. John McCain.

The flag was added the American flag on the pole, flying at half-staff, across the street from the state Capitol.

McCain, a Navy pilot, was a prison of war in Vietnam for five years.

The tribute was added to the state effort honoring McCain after President Donald Trump was criticized for initially raising flags to full staff on Monday. After an outcry, the flags were returned to half staff until McCain is interred.

“This week America lost one of her greatest warriors,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Senator McCain was a war hero who endured an extraordinary ordeal as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and who then dedicated his life to continuing to serve this nation with honor and integrity. In honor of Senator McCain, and all those heroes who have been POWs or who have yet to return home, we raise the POW/MIA flag beside our nation’s flag. They will all be forever in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.”

NFIB Names New Assistant State Director

From the Morning Memo:

Ashley Ranslow has been named the assistant state director for New York by the NFIB, the small-business advocacy group said Tuesday.

“Ashley brings years of business advocacy and association management experience to NFIB and possesses a keen understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities small business owners are facing across New York State,” said Greg Biryla, NFIB’s state director in New York. “Ashley’s skill set and passion for NFIB’s mission are the perfect fit for our organization and its members.”

Ranslow previously worked on issues impacting the lumber industry, working for the lat five years as a manager of government affairs for the Northeast Retail Lumber Association. She’s also worked for Capital Region-based public affairs firm J Strategies.

“From my experience, I understand the challenges New York’s small businesses face on a daily basis and look forward to continuing to advocate for the independent businesses that drive and grow our economy and support our communities,” she said. “I am thrilled for the opportunities and challenges ahead and am ready to represent NFIB members as we advance the small business legislative agenda in Albany.”

Cohen Issued Subpoena In NY Trump Foundation Probe

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney was issued a subpoena by investigators in New York as part of a multiple-agency state probe into the charitable organization run by the president’s family.

Cohen entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors on Tuesday admitting to multiple violations of the campaign finance law related to payments of two women in order to keep them from publicly disclosing an affair with Trump.

The subpoena was issued by the Department of Taxation and Finance, which is leading the investigation that has drawn in other arms of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The agencies are also working with Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office as well as Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office.

Cuomo on Wednesday at the State Fair outside of Syracuse pointed Cohen attorney Lanny Davis suggesting his client knew more about potential wrongdoing by the Trump Foundation, according to NBC News.

The subpoena was first reported by the Associated Press.

Cuomo on Wednesday said a Trump pardon of Cohen would be an impeachable offense if it were part of an effort to silence a witness.

Miner Joins Call For Hearings On Sexual Misconduct

Independent candidate for governor Stephanie Miner on Monday endorsed the call for public hearings on workplace sexual assault and harassment.

The push is backed by a committee of former state legislative aides who are victims or survivors of harassment and assault, known as the Sexual Harassment Working Group. The panel has called for hearings, saying the provision in state budget this year meant to make it easier for people to report sexual misconduct in state government fell short.

“It’s long past time for women to be heard on the issue of sexual harassment in Albany,” Miner said. “We must listen to victims and protect future victims. I stand ready to work with this courageous group of women.” She noted that the New York State Legislature’s recently passed legislation “was negotiated by four men in a room, one of whom is under investigation himself for sexual harassment.” Miner also emphasized the need for an independent investigatory process that protects victims.

Miner, the former Syracuse mayor, is running for governor on the Serve America Movement ballot line.

Previously Democrat Cynthia Nixon and Republic Marc Molinaro have called for the hearings as well.

Kauffmann Public Affairs Gets A Rebrand

The public affairs and communications firm founded by longtime New York political consultant Peter Kaufffmann has rebranded, the company on Friday announced.

Kauffmann Public Affairs will now go by Bluejacket Strategies and is expanding its services to full campaign management and digital advocacy services along, complimenting the work it already does on strategic communications and public affairs.

“It’s no secret that digital advocacy has become a core element of public affairs. By expanding our portfolio of services, we can provide clients with the integrated solutions they are looking for – solutions that meet any and every communications need,” Kauffmann said. “The name Bluejacket embraces our identity as a veteran-owned, mission-driven company that actively supports candidates and causes that share our values.”

Mark Skidmore will be joining the firm as a strategic advisor as part of the expansion into the digital media world.

Kauffmann, a Navy veteran, has worked for a variety of officials and entities over the years, including the super PAC Priorities USA, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and as a senior advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaigns while also working for Democratic gubernatorial administrations in New York.

James Releases Five Years Of Taxes

Democratic attorney general candidate Letitia James on Friday released five years’ of her tax returns and challenged her Democratic opponents in the upcoming Sept. 13 primary to do the same.

“New Yorkers deserve to know how and where candidates’ money comes from — that was true during the Presidential election, and it’s true in this Attorney General race,” James said in a statement. “As New Yorkers go to the polls to elect an Attorney General who will stand up to the Trump Administration and defend them from bad actors, transparency has never been more important. Every candidate running for Attorney General should release five years of tax returns.”

James reported earning about $170,000 in income, including money from rental properties she owns. She has served as the New York City public advocate since taking office in 2014.

Her full tax returns can be found here.

The release of the tax returns comes as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has pushed her Democratic primary rival Jumaane Williams to release more than a year of tax information as well as a precursor to agreeing to a debate.

James faces Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Leecia Eve and Zephyr Teachout in next month’s Democratic primary. The winner faces presumptive Republican nominee Keith Wofford.

Board Of Elections Reins In Enforcement Counsel

The state Board of Elections voted Wednesday to scale back the power of Risa Sugarman, the enforcement counsel who is in charge of investigating campaign finance law violations.

The rules adopted by the Board of Elections give the board’s Republican and Democratic commissioners oversight of subpoenas issued by Sugarman’s office. And the board is setting a six month time limit on investigations.

Sugarman blasted the new regulations, calling them a recipe for partisan gridlock that has engulfed the board.

“If these rules go into effect, the division’s investigations will be severely impaired,” she said. “Politically partisan intrusion into the investigatory process will increase substantially. And election law violations will go unchecked.”

But commissioners also argued that Sugarman is operating with little transparency and has failed to oversee cases in which candidates do not file financial reports.

“Enforcement is not neat and simple,” Sugarman said in her remarks defending her office’s work. “And it is not readily reduceable on numbers on a spreadsheet or in columns on a quarterly report.”

The changes to campaign finance enforcement also come amid a parade of corruption scandals in New York state politics that have touched both the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s own administration.

Hours before the vote, Cuomo in a statement said he opposed the changes. The enforcement counsel was created in the wake of a 2014 ethics law that also triggered the shutdown of the Moreland Commission investigating legislative corruption. Elections Co-Chairman Douglas Kellner insisted the vote was not a matter of Cuomo versus the board and the commissioners recommended by the Legislature.

“Gutting the Enforcement Counsel’s authority and independence will only serve to encourage more corruption in New York,” said Attorney General Barbara Underwood.

“Our partnership with a strong, independent Enforcement Counsel has allowed us to hold public officials to account for breaking campaign finance laws and cheating New Yorkers. With today’s vote, that work is jeopardized by potential political interference in law enforcement investigations. My office will continue to do everything in its power to uphold New York’s election law—but we need our elected officials to provide the tools to root out the rot in State government.”

Lawmakers have chaffed at the creation of the enforcement counsel, who is nominated by the governor. The sole commissioner to vote against the enforcement counsel changes was Andrew Spano, the former Westchester County executive and a Cuomo appointee on the board.

The other commissioners are recommended by the Legislature and nominated by the governor.

“The commissioners are also the governor’s appointees,” said Douglas Kellner, the Board of Elections Democratic co-chairman. “We’re here to provide for good, bipartisan election administration and I think that’s the way to accomplish it.”

League of Women Voters legislative director Jennifer Wilson said the board has a point about the lack of enforcement by Sugarman’s office.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to water it down,” she said. “To the commissioners’ point, only a handful of cases have been pursued, so it really can’t get any less than that.”

Airbnb’s PAC Has Questions For Candidates

From the Morning Memo:

Airbnb’s political action committee this week has released a questionnaire to candidates for office amid a renewed push to regulate listings and online rental advertising.

The questionnaire queries candidates on their views when it comes to regulations for online rentals as well as an Airbnb-backed bill sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat.

Airbnb has come under increasing regulatory scrutiny from both the state and city level. The questionnaire asks candidates for office whether they would support additional regulations that apply to large-scale 24-hour hotels as well as apply occupancy and sales taxes on short-term rentals.

“There’s no doubt that home sharing has become an economic lifeline here in New York. That’s why the future of home sharing is such an important issue for so many, including the State’s nearly 60,000 hosts, the small business owners and communities who depend on twenty-first century tourism to thrive, and our growing tech industry,” said Josh Meltzer, the head of New York policy for the company.

“New Yorkers believe it’s time for our State to enact fair and comprehensive rules for home sharing — and we look forward to letting our community of hundreds of thousands of Airbnb hosts and travelers know where their state representatives stand on these important issues.”

The PAC has $8.8 million in cash on hand.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, an Airbnb critic, knocked the questionnaire.

“Airbnb should have called its PAC ‘Exploiting Neighborhoods’ because that’s what it does in an endless quest to increase its own bottom line,” she said.

“I’ve also got a much better use for the $8.8 million: as we’ve been asking Airbnb to do for years, it should use that money to educate its hosts about how to use the site legally, in a way that doesn’t drive up rents, speed up gentrification in their communities and increase the likelihood that they get evicted. Airbnb’s political playbook is like a broken washing machine: lie, sue, threaten, rinse and repeat. New York’s elected officials will not be stopped from protecting our affordable housing or our neighborhoods.”

DEC Denies Permit Renewal For CPV

Competitive Power Ventures, the company that was heart of the bribery and fraud case against a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has had its request for an air permit renewal for its natural gas and diesel be denied by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency on Friday confirmed.

The move is a victory for environmental groups who had pushed back against the plant’s operations in Orange County.

The license for the air state facility permit was formally denied on Wednesday in a letter to CPV by DEC Kelly Turturro, according to a copy released by the agency.

The company played a key role in the trial of Joe Percoco, a former close aide and confidant to Cuomo, who was found guilty of bribery and honest services fraud.

In the case, the company had paid Percoco’s wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco to teach develop a curriculum about energy for schools, referred to by prosecutors as a low-show job. She had been given the job by CPV executive Peter Galbraith Kelly, who was one of Percoco’s co-defendants.

The payments came as the company sought to build a facility in the Hudson Valley.

The DEC said in a statement that CPV’s permit request did not meet current regulatory standards.

“Facilities of this size and nature must be subject to the most rigorous air pollution controls to ensure the public is protected, and Title V permits provide for greater transparency and community input prior to authorization, ” the DEC said in a statement.

Environmental groups that had opposed the permit being renewed praised the decision.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for standing up for the health of all New Yorkers and for protecting the environment of New York State,” said Ramsay Adams, the executive director of Catksill Mountainkeeper. “This is the kind of leadership we need as we march toward our renewable energy future.”

4610_001 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

NYCLV Gives Perfect Scores To 47 Lawmakers

The New York League of Conservation Voters on Friday released its annual scorecard assessing the votes taken by lawmakers on environmental issues, finding 47 lawmakers in the 213-seat Legislature have perfect scores.

The organization used more than 30 bills to grade lawmakers on the 2018 session, including issues like clean energy, public health and transportation.

Of the bills used in the scoring, five were approved in the Republican-led Senate and seven passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

“New York’s environment and public health are under assault from a hostile federal government and we need our legislators to fight for robust protections,” said Marcia Bystry, the group’s president. “This scorecard is a reflection of who prioritized our environment and who put personal quarrels first. Unfortunately, legislative leaders often put partisan brinkmanship ahead of protecting their constituents this session and killed multiple bills that would have easily passed had they been given a floor vote.”

Overall, the Senate Democratic conference earned a 92 percent grade, with the Assembly Democratic conference backed bills supported by the league by 83 percent.

Among the GOP conferences, the Senate Republicans received a 60 percent grade; Assembly Republicans received a grade of 59 percent.

In the Senate, lawmakers with a 100 percent grade were: Marisol Alcantara, Jamaal T. Bailey, Neil D. Breslin, John E. Brooks, Martin Malavé Dilan, Jesse Hamilton, Brad Hoylman, Todd Kaminsky, Liz Krueger, Shelley Mayer, Velmanette Montgomery, Jose Peralta, Roxanne J. Persaud, Luis R. Sepúlveda, Jose M. Serrano, Toby Ann Stavisky

And in the Assembly: Thomas J. Abinanti, Charles Barron, Michael Blake, David Buchwald, Robert C. Carroll, William Colton, Steven Cymbrowitz, Anthony D’Urso, Harvey Epstein, Patricia Fahy, Sandy Galef, Richard N. Gottfried, Ellen Jaffee, Charles D. Lavine, Donna A. Lupardo, William B. Magnarelli, John T. McDonald III, Yuh-Line Niou, Steven Otis, Amy Paulin, Christine Pellegrino, Dan Quart, Linda B. Rosenthal, Nily Rozic, Angelo Santabarbara, Rebecca A. Seawright, Jo Anne Simon, Michaelle C. Solages, Phil Steck, Fred W. Thiele, Jr., Carrie Woerner

“Our economy, health, and quality of life all rely one clean natural resources, beautiful beaches, and environmental conservation,” Brooks said.

“I am proud to have my efforts to protect our environment be recognized and noted by the New York League of Conservation Voters. I will keep fighting to ensure our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy the natural beauty and clean water that make Long Island a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”