Congress

Maffei Hits The Airwaves

Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei is out with what I believe is his first TV ad of this campaign cycle – a spot that tries to paint him as hardworking Syracuse East Side boy made good who’s in it to help constituents, not for the perks that come along with the title of “congressman.”

The ad, “Hard Work,” notes that Maffei refused “taxpayer-funded subsidy for health care” available to members of Congress under Obamacare, and also just last month introduced a bill – known as the “Members PLay by the Same Rules Act” – which prevent all his colleagues in both the House and Senate from accepting that benefit.

Maffei is enrolled in a co-op plan offered through the New York State of Health exchange, and, according to a recent press release, pays his premium out of pocket every month.

Maffei, who lost his Central New York seat to former Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle by 648 votes in 2010, and then won it back from her two years ago, this year is facing Republican former prosecutor John Katko, who is running on the GOP, Conservative and Independence Party lines.

This ad comes on the heels of the first publicly released poll of the NY-24 race, which showed Katko trailing Maffei by just seven percentage points. The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a top GOP firm, and was commissioned by the Katko campaign.

The NRCC didn’t think much of Maffei’s ad, issuing a statement that called it a “a laughable exercise in deception and hypocrisy,” from a “D.C. insider.”

“Maffei left out the fact that he still collected his paycheck after voting against every budget offered last year,” NRCC spokesman Ian Prior said. “He failed to disclose that he voted for first class airfare and taxpayer funded healthcare for life for members of Congress. And nowhere did Maffei mention that he passed out over $200,000 in taxpayer funded staff bonuses and supported requiring that those same taxpayers pay for his political campaigns.”

Bharara and Schneiderman Do Lunch

At the height of Moreland madness, two of the most high profile players in this seemingly never-ending saga – US Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – met for a very public lunch in lower Manhattan yesterday, multiple sources confirm.

The Democratic duo was spotted lunching at City Hall Restaurant – an eatery favored by members of the New York City political set due to its proximity to (you guessed it) City Hall. Schneiderman and Bharara have known each other in a professional capacity for the past several years, but aren’t personal friends, according to a source familiar with their relationship.

It’s worth noting that Bharara, who is investigating the demise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s now-defunct corruption-busting Moreland Commission, would probably not be seen in such a public place with Schneiderman if the attorney general was a target of that probe.

Given the role that Schneiderman played, however, through his agreement to deputize its 25 members to broaden their purview beyond the executive branch and loaning of top aides to staff the commissinon, it’s possible that he is providing information to the US attorney as the investigation progresses.

Schneiderman has been under fire – especially from his Republican opponent, former Pataki administration official John Cahill – for refusing to comment on the Moreland Commission and explain why he did not speak up when the Cuomo administration was, as has been exhaustively documented by the New York Times (and refuted by Cuomo himself) interfering with its work.

It’s no secret that the relationship between Cuomo and Schneiderman has been rocky, dating at least as far back as the 2010 Democratic primary to replace Cuomo in the AG’s office.

At the time, Cuomo was widely believed to prefer Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to Schneiderman in that race, due in part to her ticket-balancing capability (the Democratic slate that year was all white, almost all male – with the exception of US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – and all from downstate), but also because he felt Schneiderman was too liberal and, as a former senator, too tied to the scandal-scarred Legislature.

Now Rice is running for the seat of retiring Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and is trying to keep a low profile given her role as one of the Moreland Commission’s three co-chairs. (Unlike Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, whose public comments have provided considerable cover for Cuomo in the wake of the Times story, neither Rice nor the third co-chair, Milton L. Williams, Jr., have offered support of the governor’s position).

Rice may soon be forced to end her silence. Tomorrow, her Republican opponent in the NY-4 race, former Nassau County Legislator Bruce Blakeman, is holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon outside the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola to “to discuss his opponent’s role in the Moreland Commission and answer questions from the media.”

Gibson: ‘Common Sense, Not Common Core’

Rep. Chris Gibson may have taken a pass on running on the “Stop Common Core” ballot line being created by GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, but he’s doubling down on his opposition to the controversial curriculum with a new web video that touts a “common sense” approach to education reform.

The video, which the Republican congressman released earlier today, is light on details. It features Jennifer Pelesz, a parent from Valatie, who touts the fact that the congressman lives locally and understands her concerns about Common Core, and Gibson’s wife, Mary Jo, who says that testing kids as a means to evaluate teachers’ performance is “not an effective way to really evaluate.”

“As a parent of three children attending our local public school, I understand firsthand the necessity of ensuring local teachers and parents have input in our education system,” Congressman Gibson said in a statement. “Washington mandates, excessive standardized testing and New York State’s implementation of Common Core have significantly hurt the education of our students. I am proud to lead efforts in the United States Congress to reduce unnecessary standardized testing and will continue to fight to increase the influence local administrators, teachers, and parents have on their child’s education.”

Common Core has been largely a state-level issue, but Gibson has been voicing opposition to the standards – and to what he believes is over-testing of public school students – for some time.

Gibson is facing a challenge from Democratic political newcomer Sean Eldridge. In the most recent fundraising quarter, Gibson out-raised his opponent, who is relying heavily on his personal wealth to fuel his campaign.

Gibson Forgoes ‘Stop Common Core’ Line

…and Item III from the Morning Memo:

Rep. Chris Gibson, who is in the DCCC’s crosshairs again this fall, has been outspoken in his criticism of the controversial Common Core curriculum.

But don’t look for the Republican congressman to be joining up with the state GOP’s effort to create a “Stop Common Core” ballot line anytime soon.

In an email to supporters over the weekend, Gibson’s campaign manager Kevin Crumb announced the congressman had decided not to pursue the independent line “after consultation with our attorneys.”

“Our attorneys advised us that we will face significant legal hurdles as federal candidates,” Crumb wrote.

“First, case law is unclear regarding who is legally able to carry/witness petitions for us. Second, having already secured three ballot lines, we would have faced a challenge over our right to create another line.”

“Our volunteers will continue to carry petitions for state candidates because their legal case is much stronger and because this is such a meaningful issue at the local, state, and federal level,” Crumb continued. “This will remain a team effort to help us all win in November.”

Gibson already has the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines. He faces a challenge from Sean Eldridge, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.

Republicans Zeldin, Hayworth And Stefanik Reach ‘Young Guns’ Status (Updated X2)

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday advanced GOP House candidates Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin to “Young Gun” status.

Updated: Former Rep. Nan Hayworth, who is trying to win back the seat she lost in 2012 to Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, was also given the top-tier “Young Gun” status.

Updated X2: And John Katko, running for the central New York seat held by Rep. Dan Maffei, also received the distinction on Tuesday.

The bump for Zeldin and Stefanik — two Republicans who are running for Democratic-held seats at different ends of the state — come after they were successful in their June GOP primaries.

“The NRCC understands that the needs of our local communities are not being met by many of our current representatives,” Zeldin, a state senator, said in a statement. “By investing in a candidate with local roots who is much better in line with the values of the First Congressional District, the NRCC is recognizing that the voters of our Long Island community are ready to change Washington by changing the people we send there to represent us.”

Zeldin defeated George Demos in a heated Republican primary last month. He is facing incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop for Long Island’s First Congressional District.

In the North Country, Stefanik defeated fellow Republican Matt Doheny for the 21st Congressional district GOP nod. The district, currently represented by the outgoing Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, includes most of the state’s North Country region.

Stefanik faces Democrat Aaron Wolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello.

“Our job as a committee is to help elect Republicans to office that will serve as a check and balance on the Obama administration,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden. “Elise has outlined conservative principles that will grow jobs, stop the harmful effects of ObamaCare, and get Washington’s spending under control. Elise has met a series of rigorous goals that will put her in a position to win on Election Day.”

Of Hayworth, Walden said:

“Nan has outlined conservative principles that will grow jobs, stop the harmful effects of ObamaCare, and get Washington’s spending under control. Nan has met a series of rigorous goals that will put her in a position to win on Election Day.”

House Ethics Committee Delays Probe Into Threat To TWC News Reporter

The House Ethics Committee has deferred its investigation into Rep. Michael Grimm’s post-State of the Union threat to a Time Warner Cable News reporter at the request of the US Justice Department.

The committee announced its decision today, saying that it had received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics back in April that Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, may have violated House rules – or the law – when he threatened to throw TWC News Washington reporter Michael Scotto off the balcony during an interview after President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Scotto had been inquiring about the congressman’s fundraising, which has for several years been the subject of a federal probe. Grimm abruptly walked away from Scotto, but then returned and said: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony…I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Grimm, a former FBI agent and ex-Marine, has since been accused by federal prosecutors of underreporting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of employee wages and some $1 million worth of revenue while running an Upper East Side restaurant, essentially keeping two sets of records and fraudulently lowering his federal and state taxes. He also allegedly lied while under oath while he was a member of Congress.

The congressman, who has consistently maintained his innocence, has been charged with, among other things, perjury, wire fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, employment of illegal immigrants, obstructing and impeding tax laws, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The House Ethics Committee was asked by the Justice Department to defer consideration of Grimm’s threat to Scotto, and voted unanimously on June 18 to honor that request. At least annually, the committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on this matter.

Not long after the incident with Scotto, which made national headlines, Grimm apologized to the reporter and said he had “overreacted.” Grimm is seeking re-election despite his legal troubles. He is facing a challenge from former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia.

House Ethics Committee statement on Rep. Michael Grimm by liz_benjamin6490

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney Weds This Weekend

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and his partner of 21 years, Randy Gene Florke, will tie the knot this weekend at the Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands in their adopted home town of Cold Spring, the Hudson Valley Democrat’s office confirmed.

The Rev. Fr. Shane Scott-Hamblen will conduct the ceremony. The couple’s three children – Reinel (24), Daley (13) and Essie (11) – will undoubtedly be on hand.

Maloney and Florke, a real estate and design executive in New York City for The Rural Connection, Inc., got engaged this past Christmas Day at the urging of their kids – in fact, their youngest daughter had specifically asked Santa Claus to let her fathers get married. “They are a loving couple,” she wrote.

The couple had previously pledged not to wed until marriage equality was established at the federal level. New York legalized same-sex marriage in July 2011. They reportedly discussed marrying after the US Supreme Court  struck down a crucial section of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, but didn’t actually decide to take the plunge until their children made it clear how important it was for them to see their two dads marry.

The DCCC sent out an email earlier today alerting supporters to the impending Maloney-Florke nuptials, and noting that Maloney is one of just six LGBT members of Congress and the first openly gay member from New York.

“That Sean and Randy can marry is a reminder of what we’re fighting for! Love is love, and we want to celebrate these two and their AMAZING family,” the email reads. “We want to celebrate their marriage and wanted you to have an opportunity to join us! We’re going to present Sean and Randy with a guest book on their wedding day — full of your names and support.”

The email also includes a link to an on-line “guestbook,” which seems a lot like it might double as a campaign organizing tool. (It’s paid for by Maloney’s campaign).

Maloney is running for re-election to a second two-year term this fall. He’s facing the Republican he ousted in 2012, former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

Super PAC Poll Shows Hanna Widening Lead Over Tenney

A pro-gay rights Super PAC that has heavily invested in Rep. Richard Hanna’s re-election bid has released partial results of two polls it conducted of the NY-22 GOP primary, which show the incumbent congressman widening his already significant lead over his challenger, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney.

According to the polls conducted by Jan R van Lohuizen (former President George W. Bush’s pollster for his 2004 re-election) for the American Unity PAC, Hanna led Tenney by 52-31 among likely primary voters in early May, and by the end of the month was ahead 61-20.

In addition, Hanna’s favorability increased from 64 percent to 68 percent (within the statistical margin of error), while is unfavorability dropped from 23 percent to 14 percent. Tenney, on the other hand, saw her favorability decline from 41 percent to 26 percent, while the number of voters who had an unfavorably impression of her rose from 13 percent to 24 percent.

According to a source familiar with the results of these polls, Hanna’s numbers improved in the Binghamton and Utica portions of the district – two areas on which his TV ad buys have specifically focused, in part because the district lines changed significantly in the court-drawn congressional map used for the fist time in the 2012 elections.

NY-22 is a newly created district that stretches from Binghamton north to the Oswego area. Hanna is from the northern reaches of the district that was carved up in redistricting.

Tenney, who has considerably fewer resources than Hanna, is not on the air. But as she has moved around the district – and as the primary battle has taken on an increasingly negative tone, with the assemblywoman slamming the congressman, accusing him of being insufficiently conservative – her standing with NY-22 voters (according to these numbers) has dropped.

American Unity PAC, which supports both gay rights and “economic freedom,” recently dropped some $550,000 on an TV ad buy in support of Hanna – the largest independent expenditure to date in the NY-22 primary. The PAC plans to assist eight to 10 candidates in this election cycle, but the Hanna vs. Tenney fight is the only primary battle in which it is taking sides.

Hanna also has the Independence Party endorsement and ballot line, while Tenney has been endorsed by the state Conservative Party, but didn’t file enough signatures to get onto that party’s line in the general election. The Democrats are not fielding a candidate in Novemeber, so whoever wins the primary will effectively be the victor in the general election, too.

American Unity PAC poll, NY-22 by liz_benjamin6490

Hanna Touts ‘Conservative Solutions’

Rep. Richard Hanna, a moderate Republican who is facing a challenge on his right from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney in the June 24 NY-22 primary, is launching a new TV ad that focuses on his fiscal conservatism – most notably, his vote in favor of repealing “Obamacare” and dislike of so-called “big government.”

In the wake of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss to a little-known and under-funded Tea Party primary challenger, ostensibly because he was not conservative enough on key issues – particularly immigration – incumbent Republicans tryign to fend off more conservative primary opponents must be feeling a little nervous. (Or so the House Democrats hope).

Tenney doesn’t have anywhere near Hanna’s resources. (I believe she isn’t on the air yet, while he has had several ads running to date). But she does have the support of the state Conservative Party (albeit not its ballot line, due to her failure to file a sufficient number of signatures), and has been railing against Hanna for what she says are his insufficiently conservative positions on a host of policy issues.

The 30-second ad, which was filmed at the Sweet Basil Diner in Barneveld, hits the airwaves tomorrow. The script is as follows:

“Our $17 trillion dollar debt threatens our national security and our children’s future. So I voted for a balanced budget, for real spending cuts and I voted to repeal Obamacare. Bigger government is the problem – not the solution. When I ran for Congress, I promised you I’d fight for fiscal sanity and conservative solutions and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I’m Richard Hanna and I approve this message.”

Decorated Iraq War Veteran Calls POW Exchange ‘An Impeachable Offense’

Iraq War veteran and former Congressional Candidate David Bellavia has been a vocal critic of President Obama but Monday he took things to a whole new level.  The Silver Star recipient and author sounded off following the controversial prisoner of war exchange over the weekend.

“I mean let’s be honest. This is an impeachable offense,” Bellavia said. 

The Taliban released U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five of their members that had been detained at Guantanamo Bay.  Bellavia told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen he wasn’t exactly in favor of the move.

“What the Taliban just got was their version of MacArthur, Patton and the CIA director all in one,” said Bellavia.

Republicans in Congress have expressed concerns with the potential precedent the prisoner exchange could set.  Bellavia wasn’t the only one who echoed those concerns.

“It’s something we want to look at because obviously we want to make sure our men and women who are serving abroad are safe and are not being targeted as perhaps future hostages,” said Senator Kirsten Gillbrand, D-NY. 

Why Bergdahl disappeared in the first place is also being questioned.   After speaking with the Bergdahl’s squad leader and members of his company, Bellavia believes he not only deserted, he defected.

“He walked off the base. There’s no argument about that. There’s no debate. He learned Poshtu. He converted to the religion and this is not Stockholm syndrome. He did this beforehand,” said Bellavia.

Bergdahl is recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany; once his medical condition has improved U.S. Defense Officials hope to learn more about his disappearance. When he returns home, Bellavia said Bergdahl should be received as a criminal, not a hero.

“I hope that his parents get to see him but they should visit him in Leavenworth (Federal Prison)  because that’s where he belongs. Six men lost their lives trying to find this kid,” Bellavia said.

The White House pushed back claiming members of Congress had been well aware of the effort to recover Bergdahl for years describing the exchange as “entirely consistent with past practice.” Bellavia says the administration was caught off guard by the criticism. 

“I think he (Obama) expected us to have a parade for him (Bergdahl) and unfortunately it shows that these advisors that are around this President aren’t ready for primetime,” Bellavia added.