Jul 25th - 12:14 pm
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart last night skewered the controversy over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s involvement in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, pointing to the governor’s contradictory comments about the panel and responding, “You know that’s f— ridiculous, right?”
“You know the I-made-it, I-can-do-what-I-want-with-it excuse only works for George Lucas, right?”” he added.
Stewart’s bit also highlighted how Cuomo campaign as governor on an effort to clean up corruption in Albany, but mocked his office’s efforts to steer subpoenas from the anti-corruption commission away from politically sensitive areas.
“It turns out Gov. Cuomo may be like the boss at work that says, ‘Yeah, no, we’ll play hoops at lunch. You can go hard.’ And then when Jimmy from accounting blocks his shot and drives the lane, he’s like, ‘Hey, you’re not allowed to touch the ball because I started the game,’” Stewart joked.
Also, watch for a brief cameo — at least vocally — from our NY1 colleague, Zack Fink.
Jul 25th - 9:27 am
From the morning memo:
It’s probably too early to determine whether the ongoing controversy surrounding the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption will be a scandal of Spitzer-esque proportions.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino certainly hopes that will be the case.
Astorino has been quick to capitalize on the latest revelations this week reported extensively in The New York Times and elsewhere that Cuomo and his office meddled in the anti-corruption panel and the direction of its subpoenas.
Indeed, for a week that began with Cuomo holding a 37-percentage point advantage in the poll as well as $33 million more in campaign money, the swing at the outset seems dramatically to be in Astorino’s favor, who is calling the story a “game changer.”
Cuomo is yet to make any public appearances this week to address the matter — a fact Republicans are pushing with gusto.
But consider a few things:
1. The same Siena College poll taken before the Times published its story showed most voters list jobs, taxes and education as top concerns for them in this election season. Corruption came in at 1 percent. For any of this to matter, voters are going to have to care that Cuomo and his top aide pressured state lawmakers into passing a compromised ethics package through the use of an otherwise esoteric lever of power at the governor’s disposal. The story dropped in the middle of the summer, right as voters head to the beach or go on vacation. Parsing through stories about political heavy handedness is one insiders tend to eat up. But it’s also not easily translatable to, say, a governor soliciting high-end prostitutes or aides closing down bridge lanes to exact a measure of political revenge.
2. We don’t know — yet — if any laws were broken. All of this could change as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office digs into Cuomo’s handling of the commission. For now, the question remains whether Cuomo’s office illegal abused power after commission members made deputy attorneys general. If no laws were broken, there’s a lot of smoke, but not necessarily any fire.
3. Through all of this, Cuomo still maintains nearly all of the advantages of being a Democrat in a Democratic state. He has $35 million in the bank. He has higher name recognition than Astorino. He has all the trappings afforded to an incumbent. Astorino, meanwhile, has bounced from media appearance to media appearance, ranging from Fox and Friends (hello, Republicans!) to MSNBC (hello, Democrats!), but is still likely be heavily outspent by Cuomo and the state Democratic Committee.
That being said, here are three reasons why all of this could matter:
1. Let’s give voters some credit! The saga could very well count against Cuomo as more than just a black-eye, but as Josh Benson wrote in Capital, an administration-defining moment for a governor who is known by insiders to twist arms in order to get what he wants. Yes, The Daily News’ Ken Lovett reported a broad swath of the blocking of the Moreland subpoenas last year. But splashing the dirty laundry of the Moreland Commission all over A1 of the Times and in such depth is the first exposure many casual observers will get to Cuomo’s way of using power.
2. Even no indictments are made, having an ambitious and dogged U.S. attorney look into the Moreland mess is not a good thing for Cuomo, who relished his role as a corruption-buster as attorney general for four years. A drip-drip-drip of subpoenas and grand jury testimonies or interviews will keep Astorino, Democratic hopeful Zephyr Teachout and reporters busy through the summer.
3. If the odds hold and Cuomo is re-elected, he will likely face a vastly altered landscape in Albany come 2015. Republicans — including lawmakers he’s very closely with in the state Senate — may be out of power. An emboldened Democratic majority that has much to owe to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio could be in place, and the moderate governor may have to alter his calculations when it comes to what he can get accomplished in term two. Lawmakers in Albany have an increasingly short end of the stick when it comes to leverage and budget-making in recent years. The Moreland Commission morass could be the first, tangible diminution of power for Cuomo at the Capitol.
Jul 24th - 11:25 am
The state Department of Labor on Thursday was directed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to convene a wage board in order to recommend potential changes to the state’s minimum wage for tipped workers.
“When the legislature enacted my proposal to increase the minimum wage, thousands of New Yorkers saw their economic prospects improve,” Cuomo said. “Now, to build on that momentum I am directing Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera to call a Wage Board and hold public hearings to ensure fairness and determine if changes need to be made to the regulations that govern the rates paid to service workers.”
The minimum wage at the end of last year increased by 75 cents to $8, the product of a 2013 agreement that will phase in the minimum wage to $9 by the end of 2015.
Advocates for increasing the minimum wage were not pleased with the compromise, however, pointing to a lack of protections in the legislation for tipped workers such as waiters, who often make less than minimum wage as base pay.
The wage board will be tasked with review current regulations for tipped workers earning less than the wage, the governor’s office said.
Cuomo, under pressure from liberal advocacy groups, labor unions and the Working Families Party, agreed in May to support an even higher increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 in addition to local control for hiking the wage based on a state formula.
The wage board is due to include Business Council President Heather Briccetti, Hotel Trade Council President Peter Ward and former Broome County Executive Timothy Grippen.
The governor’s power to convene the board is one that minimum wage supporters have long pointed to as a way for Cuomo to shore up the current wage laws.
Jul 23rd - 1:47 pm
CBS Corp. will receive a combined $16 million package of tax credits and grants from the state over the next five years to keep the Late Show in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday announced.
The money to keep the late-night talk show in New York comes after the state lured NBC’s The Tonight Show franchise to the city.
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert will be taking over as host from the retiring David Letterman next year.
The incentives for CBS include $11 million in Excelsior tax credits over the next five years to offset the company’s investment and “job commitment” in the show, and a $5 million grant to renovate the existing Ed Sullivan Theatre.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that the ‘LATE SHOW’ will stay in New York, where it belongs. New York has long been an international entertainment leader, and with this commitment from CBS we are beginning the next chapter in that proud history,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The television and film industries are thriving in the Empire State – creating jobs and fueling dozens of other sectors across the state. Les Moonves and CBS have made the right decision in choosing to continue investing in New York, and as David Letterman passes the baton to Stephen Colbert, I look forward to watching “The Late Show” from the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre for years to come.”
Critics of the state’s generous tax breaks for the entertainment industry have questioned whether the incentives actually create a lasting economic impact or if they’re needed in the first place. The Late Show with David Letterman is currently filmed in New York, as is Colbert’s Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.
California made an aggressive play to push CBS to bring the new, Colbert-helmed version of The Late Show to Los Angeles.
But states have entered into an increasingly competitive contest to draw or retain TV and film productions close to home.
Cuomo’s office points to the entertainment industry spending more than $2 billion in the state, along with the hiring of 126,301 actors and crew for 181 projects.
Jul 23rd - 1:12 pm
Today’s New York Times story on the Cuomo administration’s extensive meddling in the now-defunct Moreland Commission is exhaustive and comprehensive, laying out in detail the (successful) effort by the governor’s top aide, Larry Schwartz, to derail any lines of investigation that might expose or embarrass the executive.
But while the piece notes that US Attorney Preet Bharara is now investigatig the commission’s demise – shut down by Cuomo in exchange for agreement on an ethics reform package by legislative leaders – it does not directly address the question of what laws may have been broken during this entire mess, and by whom.
The governor, both in interviews following the commission’s shuttering and in his 13-page response to the Times, has insisted that this body was never independent of the executive branch – despite his initial claims to the contrary – and therefore any interference by his office could not possibly be considered meddling. In late April, Cuomo told Crain’s New York Business:
“It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”
But as former Assemblyman (and attorney) Richard Brodsky noted when the commission was first created last summer, a Moreland Commission – by its very definition – does not have the power to investigate anything other than the executive branch.
However, when the commission members are deputized by the state attorney general’s office, their powers are expanded and they are able to investigate the Legislature, which was, of course, the real reason Cuomo wanted to create this commission in the first place – no matter what he publicly claimed about it being independent and free to follow the money trail wherever it lead.
That model was employed by the governor’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, when he set up what came to be known as the Feerick Commission, created – ironically – to investigate the state’s campaign finance system, which was ultimately deemed to be “an embarrassment and a disgrace.”
Ultimately, the commission’s findings fell on deaf ears, however, since state lawmakers weren’t inclined to change the system that benefitted them. Hence, the need for what was ostensbily to be a robust and no-holds-barred probe into the loophole-riddled campaign finance system by the current Gov. Cuomo’s commission.
I spoke briefly with Brodsky this morning, and he reiterated that Schwartz – acting alone or at the governor’s direction – would have “every lgeal right” to interfere with a Moreland Commission – if that’s what this commission was. But, since all 25 commission members had been deputized by the AG’s office, Brodsky says that this commission was actually a more powerful hyrbid. And if Schwartz, or anyone else on the Capitol’s second floor, interfered with the deputy AGs, well, that appears to be a different legal story altogether.
Brodsky stressed that he won’t opine on whether the law was broken based on the NYT’s reporting, saying: “That’s for law enforcement to do.”
“What you can say without a doubt, however, is that it was the attempt to investigate the Legislature through a referral that raises the hard legal questions,” Brodsky said. “The governor has the unfettered power to investigate the executive branch in any way he wants – or doesn’t want to. The problem arises when the governor’s office interferes with the attorney general’s office.”
Presumably, Bharara knows this, too.
AG Eric Schneiderman has so far not commented on the NYT story, and he won’t be saying anything any time soon, according to his press office.
But he was asked back in May about the subpoena sent by Bharara’s office to the defunct Moreland Commission’s chief counsel, Kelly Donovan, who just so happens to also be the AG’s executive deputy for criminal justice.
“I’m not going to comment on this,” Schneiderman said at the time. “I can’t comment on investigations arising out of the Moreland Commission whether they’re being conducted by my office or other prosecutors.”
“…I deputized (commissioners) as special deputies so they would have authority to look into branches of government other than the executive branch, but the commissioners – none of them were employees of my office. None of the staff that was hired was hired by my office. The only people we had around were folks who had full-time jobs who were detailed to help the commission, and whatever directions there were for them to take actio – they were directed to stand down, essentially, on the subpoenas – and that’s it.”
Schneiderman’s GOP opponent, John Cahill, so far hasn’t issued any statements in response to the NYT story, but he is scheduled to hold a press conference outside Schneiderman’s Manhattan office at 2:30 p.m., at which he presumably will be addressing this issue.
Jul 23rd - 11:32 am
Good-government advocates on Wednesday called The New York Times examination of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s involvement in the Moreland Commission deeply disturbing and pressed him to give a full accounting of the anti-corruption panel.
The story tied together a number of threads regarding the commission’s direction of subpoenas, finding the governor’s office sought to direct any investigation away from politically sensitive areas for Cuomo.
The New York Public Interest Research Group in a statement raised concerns with a number of issues reported in the Times, including the excising of any references to the Committee to Save New York and the blocking of any subpoenas directed at the state Democratic Committee.
“NYPIRG urges that the governor immediately release all relevant documents relating to its interactions with the Commission and hold an in-person news conference to respond to the Times’s reports. New Yorkers have a right to expect that public officials meet the highest ethical standards,” the group said.
Common Cause’s Susan Lerner pointed to the story revealing a “stark contradiction” in Cuomo’s insistence the commission would remain independent while in reality his office was deeply involved in its actions.
“In an open society the rules apply to everyone, especially those entrusted to public service. The details outlined in the New York Times are a shocking rebuke to the principles of our democracy. Instead of restoring the public’s faith in government, the circumstances surrounding the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption confirms the public’s cynicism and distrust of government,” she said. “It is now up to the Governor to restore the voters’ trust with actions, not ads. Enacting the full range of the Moreland Commission’s recommendations is the right place to start.”
Jul 23rd - 10:27 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s multiple opponents and critics didn’t not waste any time in seizing on this morning’s bombshell report in the New York Times about the administration’s extensive meddling in the now-defunct Moreland Commission.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout was the first to release a statement, calling the revelations in the paper “deeply disturbing.”
The Fordham Law professor said that if Cuomo directed or even knew of efforts by his top aide, Larry Schwartz, to obstruct and interfere with the commission’s work than he should “immediately resign.”
“When a private indiscretion became public, Governor Eliot Spitzer quickly resigned from office,” Teachout said.
“The Cuomo administration’s indiscretions – public acts that violate the public trust – are far worse. The administration’s direct obstruction of Moreland suggests there is deep corruption within the Governor’s office.”
“…The Cuomo administration’s handling of the Moreland Commission distills what plagues our democracy: a special class of insiders in Albany, connected through financial and political clout, have immunized themselves from the law. Governor Cuomo has taken this corruption and elevated it to new levels.”
Ironically, it was just yesterday that Teachout was standing with Cuomo’s GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and railing against the governor for failing to reign in corruption during his tenure.
Teachout specifically cited Cuomo’s shutting down of the Moreland Commission as proof that the governor is not serious about addressing the underpinnings of the corruption problem that has plagued the state Capitol for years.
Astorino released a far more subdued statement, saying Cuomo is in “big trouble” and cheering on US Attorney Preet Bharara for taking over where the Moreland Commission left off.
“We applaud the United States Attorney for his work to levy justice on Moreland’s targets, and on those who interefered with the Commission to protect Mr. Cuomo and his political allies,” Astorino said. “We urge the greatest expediency possible in these deliberations. New Yorkers cannot afford to have a crook in the Governor’s Mansion.”
Jul 22nd - 3:08 pm
A measure that would extend civil-rights and workplace protections including the ability to bring lawsuits over sexual harassment to unpaid interns was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, would extend anti-discrimination protections to unpaid interns when it comes to hiring, firing, or terms of employment – as well as retaliation.
Prohibitions against sexual harassment of interns by employers is also codified, including both quid pro quo and creating a hostile environment.
The measure is approved about a year after a state court ruled that unpaid interns are not protected by anti-sexual harassment laws.
Extending new labor protections to unpaid interns stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Lihuan Wang, a New York-based intern at Phoenix Satellite Television U.S.
A state judge determined that Wang couldn’t bring the case due to her status as an unpaid intern because she lacked the status of a regular employee.
The new law was one of 91 bills approved on Tuesday by Cuomo.
Jul 22nd - 2:12 pm
An aide to Republican Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is joining Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, her office on Tuesday announced.
Matthew Millea, who holds the title of deputy county executive for physical services, will became the deputy secretary of state for planning and development in August.
“Onondaga County taxpayers have been well served by Deputy County Executive Matt Millea,” Mahoney said in a statement. “Matt did an excellent job for our community whether it was implementing Save the Rain or overseeing millions of dollars in capital improvement programs, he will be missed.”
Taking over for Millea in Onondaga County is Mary Beth Primo, who most recently served as the first chief deputy county attorney and as the top director for economic development.
Mahoney is a close GOP ally of Cuomo both on the fundraising side as well as in government, having served on his anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
Jul 18th - 3:24 pm
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin will attend the second annual whitewater rafting event known as the Adirondack Challenge this Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday announced.
“The Adirondack Challenge is about highlighting the beauty and recreational opportunities available to visitors of the region, and New York’s second annual challenge will showcase everything the Adirondack’s has to offer like never before,” Cuomo said. “Last year we set the bar high with a Challenge that drew a variety of tourism industry representatives, business leaders, and elected officials, and this year we are going even further.”
Cuomo’s team this year will include his daughters and girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee.
Also participating this year is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Republican Sen. Betty Little, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and IDC Leader Jeff Klein.
Republican Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney will captain a rafting team, as will Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
The 2014 version of the event will also include golfing, hiking, fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking with a reception to follow the rafting festivities.
Cuomo launched the Adirondack Challenge last year a way to promote tourism to the state’s North Country.
Last year, the special guest for the rafting trip was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.