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.”

Nixon’s Bloomberg Comments Raise Eyebrows

From the Morning Memo:

Cynthia Nixon and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg never saw eye to eye on education issues during his time in office and her work as an education advocate in the halls of the state Capitol.

So Nixon’s comment to The New York Times Magazine that she would not be running against Bloomberg if he were the governor raised eyebrows this week — suggesting a personalization of a race that has drawn pointed rebukes from both campaigns.

“Let me put it this way: If Mayor Bloomberg was our governor, I would not be running,” she told The Times.

But faint praise aside, Bloomberg’s reputation among progressives who have sought to influence Albany over the years.

Cuomo has been accused by his liberal critics of aiding Republican control of the state Senate. But Bloomberg put his considerable wealth toward that effort, including cutting a $1 million check to the Senate Republicans’ soft money account.

One Democratic insider called the whole thing “a joke” a “clueless” comment from Nixon.

“She wouldn’t run against Bloomberg? Forget that he fought with the teacher union every year, opposed taxes, and fought for stop and frisk — he single handily bank rolled the Senate Republicans for over a decade to keep them in power,” the insider said.

Lobbying Regulators Clarify Rules For ‘Grassroots’ Influencing

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Monday reiterated a package of clarified lobbying regulations that included rules for how so-called “grassroots” lobbying on social media should be disclosed and how coalitions of organizations should report their backers.

The regulations have been previously adopted. The announcement from JCOPE on Monday sought to clarify them.

The regulations are part of a long-standing push by the panel to police and oversee what has become an evolving form of lobbying and influencing not just state elected officials, but also public perception on key issues as the battles over policy move from the statehouse and TV to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The previously adopted require that direct lobbying on social media should include the “tagging” or linking of public officials. At the same time, so-called “grassroots” lobbying must be treated like any other social media communication and reported to JCOPE.

“In either case, the attribution of personal social media activities of an individual to an organization only occurs when those activities are conducted in the course of such person’s employment,” JCOPE stated in rules announced Monday.

Meanwhile, coalitions of groups — a popular form of pooling groups and organizations to push a shared policy concern or issue — are also coming under new rules, allowing the coalitions to either file as an entity or have member contributions be disclosed in the filing of that consortium member’s filing.

“Regardless of whether a Coalition elects to file as a distinct, separate entity, or how a member reports its contribution to the Coalition, if applicable, all Coalition members who spend more than $5,000 on lobbying in a year are considered Beneficial Clients which may trigger source of funding disclosures for those member organizations,” JCOPE stated.

More information is expected in the coming months through a series of emails and alerts from the commission.

NY-19: GOP-Aligned Super PAC Releases Radio Ad

From the Morning Memo:

The super PAC aligned with the House Republican leadership will release a new radio ad Friday criticizing rap lyrics written by Democratic congressional candidate Antonio Delgado recorded in 2006.

The spot from the Congressional Leadership Fund will air in the Albany and Poughkeepsie media markets in the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley.

The ad isn’t the first effort by the group to draw attention to the lyrics, which take critical views of how the Bush administration handled Hurricane Katrina and uses racial epithets.

“AD the Voice’s out-of-touch liberal views are too extreme for New York’s 19th Congressional District and his own words prove it,” said Michael Byerly, CLF spokesman. “These explosive and divisive views would sit well with the liberal resistance, but not with voters in New York’s 19th district.”

The radio ad claims Delgado supports the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, though he has said he does not.

Earlier this month, Delgado responded to a question about the agency, saying, “Spoiler alert: I do not support abolishing ICE.”

The spot also takes issue with lyrics describing sexual acts and women the ad calls sexist.

“So radical,” the ad’s narrator says. “So offensive.”

Delgado has defended the lyrics, telling The New York Times they were used in “different contexts, different tactics, but same desires and same outcomes.”

“Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change — these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about” as a candidate,” he told the newspaper.

Delgado’s campaign earlier this month also highlight a Times editorial critical of the attention paid to the music.

“It puts to bed the disgusting smear campaign that John Faso has been running against Antonio in order to avoid debating the issues that matter most to the people here in Upstate New York,” he told supporters in an email.

Delgado is running to unseat first-term Rep. John Faso in a contest that is expected to be among the closely watched in the country for control of the House of Representatives this year.

Updated: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect for when Delgado’s album was recorded.

Play The ‘Anger Video Game’ On Twitter And Lose

On Wednesday, out of some pique, I tweeted some criticism of an edited “interview” that featured congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying uninformed and silly things.

My concern was that, at first blush, a person could reasonably confuse this with being a real interview.

I’ve also been somewhat emotional over the layoffs at The Daily News, a newspaper I interned at 11 years ago. I was sad to see so many reporters, competitors and friends lose their jobs and, coupled with my father losing his job a little while ago in the newspaper industry, the cuts have made me question the viability of a profession I hope to spend my entire adult life in.

So, with that in mind, I tweeted this:

“The same week real journalists get laid off at The Daily News, social media lets fake interviews like this one spread with zero disclaimer it’s a joke. Even if you are skeptical of Ocasio-Cortez or don’t even like her, you should be bothered by this.”

The account I linked to was that of Allie Beth Stuckey, the host of a podcast, commentator and writer who appeared in the doctored version of the interview.

In moments, through the strange osmosis of Twitter, my tweet had been found by actor Adam Baldwin, who subsequently took me to task.

Shorter @NickReisman: “I just don’t get it!”

What followed next was a cascade of Internet bile and bilge — a pile-on in which I was called the “r” word, various swear words, on the receiving end of memes about how dumb I am and how I can’t take a joke.

A few folks sought to point out that Stuckey is a well-known satirist, someone who has done these kinds of parody videos before. After all, some argued, doesn’t Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show or Sasha Baron Cohen do the same thing to conservatives? Where was my outrage for that?

As of this writing, the tweet has more than 700 responses to it — a seemingly disproportionate response to a guy who largely covers a comparatively small corner of the world that is New York state government.

The angriest tweets were like getting yelled at from a moving vehicle: Confusing, disorienting, a little scary and ultimately kind of pointless.

Twitter, as The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman wrote in an essay last week, has indeed become an “anger video game” — a platform in which perfect strangers yell at one another and say things to people they would never say to their faces.

The episode made me question the utility of Twitter and of interacting on a platform that has so much free-floating rage. It made me wonder what actually counts for parody these days. Was I betraying myself for being in a bubble for not knowing about Stuckey? At my most paranoid, I began wondering if the edited interview was a honey pot trap set for mainstream journalists to debunk, only to be mocked for not getting the joke.

What counts as parody or an actual intent to deceive? Alex Jones of the fringe kook site InfoWars considers himself a performance artist. Facebook calls InfoWars a “news & media website.”

But it also made me stop and consider my own behavior on the site.

Back in 2011, before the use of Twitter became a widespread necessity for political reporters at all levels, people became confused by a parody account for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo had just taken office and his press team was yet to even set up an account. The Twitter account tweeted a few things about the governor’s love of muscle cars and the like. It caused some confusion and was quickly labeled a parody account.

Things soon became a lot less quaint.

In 2014, there have been fraudulent claims made on the Internet that Cuomo was eminently facing indictment, an easily debunked story that nevertheless fooled journalists and spread on Twitter.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s remarks about upstate New York were taken out of context, provoking a fury of Twitter responses.

Some on Twitter questioned on Wednesday whether I thought people were dumb for potentially believing what should be an obvious parody. Well, there are elected officials who believe falsely that vaccines cause autism. One man was so convinced Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria basement that he opened fire on the establishment. Smart people can be duped.

This, of course, is a two-way street: Cuomo, like any politician, has said things that are just patently false and untrue. I’ve made note of those questionable claims and debunked them when I can.

Nevertheless and regardless of your politics, Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon, Marc Molinaro, the state Legislature and everyone else who is trying to get a word in on our noisy and messy democracy deserve to be fairly covered. Unfairness and bullying bother me.

Back to my own Twitter usage on Wednesday. Before I was piled on, the Stuckey interview had been piled on itself, by mainstream reporters who also saw it as their duty to debunk it.

What did my tweet add to the conversation? Not much, other than to have strangers, the vast majority of whom do not follow me, watch Spectrum News or read the State of Politics blog, digitally yell at me.

It was a pointless, nihilistic exercise all around born in part by my own well intentioned narcissism. There’s a dopamine high you get from Twitter. The Twitter piled on Wednesday just added to my already anxious demeanor.

Journalists are encouraged to show their personality on Twitter, but the categories are carefully selected: Be passionate, not angry. Be fun, not mean. There’s a surprisingly thin dividing line between these.

To be clear: I don’t get much crap on Twitter. Most of tweets go by without much engagement. I don’t get the same level of hatred women or people of color or Jews have gotten from the site’s darkest corners that Twitter seems at best reluctant to punish or pursue.

At any rate, I went home last night exhausted from the whole episode. I saw my neighbor on her porch and realized I had barely said a single word to her since they moved in a few weeks ago.

“Hi, how are you?” I asked.

“Fine, thanks,” she said. “How are you?”

NYC’s Speed Camera Program Likely To Lapse

A program that has set up speed cameras near schools in New York City in order to curtail pedestrian deaths and crashes is likely to lapse on Wednesday as no agreement is in place to have it extended.

The Democratic-led Assembly has approved bills extending the program, but the state Senate left town without doing so.

“We wanted to cover every issue before we left,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in an interview on Tuesday. “So, there really is no need for the Assembly to come back. The Senate can just come back and act.”

The Assembly, he said, has no reason to return to Albany for a special session.

“God forbid there’s some emergency in the state, I don’t think the Assembly will be coming back,” Heastie said.

The ball is in essence in the court of the Republican-controlled state Senate and Majority Leader John Flanagan for not taking up either an expansion or a straightforward extension at the conclusion of the legislative session in June.

“It’s really up to John Flanagan to tell the children of the city of New York that he cares about them,” Heastie said.

In a statement, Flanagan blamed both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats.

“Tomorrow, 120 of 140 speed cameras in New York City schools zones will go dark as a result of Governor Cuomo and the Assembly’s unwillingness to engage senators with a larger vision for street safety to protect children,” Flanagan said. “Instead, these politicians shamelessly mug for the press as they blame others. They should look no further than within.”

One of Flanagan’s own GOP conference members, Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn lawmaker, had called for the Senate to return to Albany to resolve the issue.

But it was unlikely the Legislature, or one chamber for that matter, was truly going to meet in the middle of a summer at the height of an election year, making the issue especially nettlesome.

Cuomo has called for a special session, but has not used his power as governor to force lawmakers to return. He cannot force them to take a vote on a specific bill, however.

“This is not an ideological issue — Senator Golden and his conference are playing politics with the lives of children, and it’s transparent,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I have said for weeks, there is no need for me to call a special session as the Assembly has already passed the bill during session — all that is left is for the Senate Republicans to act.”

Working Group Calls For Change In Albany’s Culture Of Sexual Harassment

Attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout on Monday said she would seek the power of criminal and civic referrals from the governor to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual misconduct in state government.

“This is an emergency,” Teachout said. “This is a TimesUp emergency in New York state.”

Teachout at the Capitol on Monday with sexual misconduct victims who have worked for and been victimized by some of state government’s most powerful men over the years called once again for public hearings on how best to tackle the issue. A measure that passed earlier this year sought to address sexual harassment in state government, but they say it has fallen short.

“We stand here before everybody who is watching near and far asking the Legislature and the governor to hold public hearings,” said Erica Vladimer, a former legislative staffer who has accused of Sen. Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her, an allegation Klein has denied. “What was passed in April was a step in the right direction, but there’s so much that can be done.’

The agreement earlier this year also sought to limit confidentiality agreements in sexual harassment cases pending approval of the victim. But a working group composed of women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment in Albany say the process for holding powerful people accountable remains flawed.

“The legislation that was passed would not have changed that happened to any of us in the working group,” said Elizabeth Crothers, a former aide to the state Assembly who had accused the then-counsel of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of rape. “It made for a better press release than legislation.”

Before the TimesUp and MeToo movements created a national reckoning on sexual misconduct and abuse, a range of powerful figures at the capitol were accused of wrongdoing. Teachout says the process for investigating claims through the Joint Commission on Public Ethics helps protect the guilty.

“After all these scandals that New York has not fixed its own problem is a total shame and disaster and suggests that the old boys’ club isn’t only covering up corruption, but also covering up sexual misconduct,” Teachout said.

Teachout is one of four Democrats seeking the nomination for attorney general in a September 13 primary. The office was vacated in May by Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of domestic violence.

The working group on Monday received the support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

“I stand with the Sexual Harassment Working Group to demand public hearings on sexual harassment in Albany,” she said.

“It’s unfathomable that when the Governor convened a meeting to develop new sexual harassment policy this year that he included a state senator accused of sexual misconduct, but not one single female legislator. We’ve got to do better. The Governor has again and again turned a blind eye to sexual harassment committed under his watch. Having three daughters doesn’t make a man a feminist anymore than ignoring women who’ve been bold enough to come forward to improve our anti-sexual harassment laws. We need a governor who will make protecting workers from harassment a priority and when I am her, I will.”

County Execs Team Up On Shared Services Push

County executives later this month will team up to discuss shared services effort with a panel discussion led by Suffolk’s Steve Bellone.

The panel, due to include Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen Odell, as well as Albany’s Dan McCoy, Nassau’s Laura Curran and Westchester’s Goerge Latimer, will discuss efforts to consolidate government functions such as procurement, purchasing and other municipal functions.

“Here is Suffolk County we are always examining how we can make government more efficient. This first of its kind conference on Long Island is the first step in the process and will bring together both government officials and field experts to share ideas and insights,” Bellone said. “I look forward to working with my fellow County Executives from across New York State to find new and innovate ways to implement best practices and save our taxpayers money.”

The conference will be held July 24 and will feature Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as a keynote speaker.

The effort to share and consolidate services has been a long-standing one in New York on the local government level as well as a pet project of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who sought to devise various carrot-and-stick approaches to the issue, which he’s linked to the property tax burden (though fiscal experts point out the real cost-drivers for taxes on the local level are not layers of government, but mandated spending costs such as Medicaid administration, pension payments, etc).

In Suffolk County, the Bellone-backed plan is expected to save $37 million over the next two years.