Apr 20th - 11:45 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday defended his trade mission to Cuba, telling reporters on a plane ride there that decades of isolation haven’t moved the country toward improvement on both economics and human rights.
“After 50 years of isolation with no change, maybe you start to think we should go to plan B,” Cuomo said.
The trip is part of a suite of trade missions Cuomo plans in the coming months, with trips being set for countries like Italy, China and Mexico later on.
Cuomo’s trip is meant to expand business opportunities for New York-based companies, though he reiterated today that he hopes the Communist-led country begins to change its posture on human rights issues.
“There is no doubt that Cuba has more progress to make on human rights,” Cuomo said. “There is no doubt that Cuba has progress to make on LGBT rights and relationships.”
But for the most part, Cuomo does not expect human rights discussions to dominate the 24-hour trip to the country.
“When it comes up and its appropriate, we will,” he said when asked if he will initiate talk on human rights with Cuban leaders. “The business people on this plane are not diplomats. They’re here to talk about business.”
Cuomo had previously insisted the trip would focus strictly on business and expanding New York companies into the new Cuban market.
Cuomo today is due to meet with Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, the Cuban minister of trade and foreign investments. In addition, he is expected to hold a private meeting with First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
Cuomo is traveling with a contingent of New York business representatives, including MasterCard, Jet Blue and Chobani.
The governor said he expects that as the U.S. begins to normalize relations with Cuba, the emerging market will be a fast one to open.
“I have no doubt that Cuba is going to be an exciting market to be in for business,” Cuomo said, adding, “I believe the unfolding of the market will happen in a shorter period of time than a longer period of time.”
Cuomo noted that his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, called for an end to the embargo of Cuba in 1996.
“Isolation is not working,” Cuomo said. “It’s not having the desired effect. Go to plan B.”
Apr 20th - 8:07 am
From the Morning Memo:
The New York State Republican Committee on Monday plans to staunchly criticize Gov. Andrew Cuomo for taking a state delegation of business representatives and lawmakers to Cuba.
In a statement to be released later this morning, the GOP committee is turning to its finance chairman, Arcadio Casillas, whose family left Cuba after falling victim to the Castro regime.
“Years ago, my father was murdered by the Castros and I risked my life to escape,” Casillas says in the statement. “People continue to do so today. To give this regime legitimacy is counterproductive to the global cause of advancing human rights and human dignity and does not belong on the agenda of any governor or elected official, regardless of the insensitive, amoral and unilateral position of the White House. We urge the governor to rethink this adventure in light of his constituents and of its far-reaching negative implications.”
Casillas called the trip an “amoral disaster” that remains “a police state, political dissidents are imprisoned and tortured, and the Castro regime has suppressed Cubans and created poverty and disharmony.”
The statement underscores the tricky politics of Cuba’s trip the country as the U.S. begins to normalize relations.
Cuomo has faced previous questions about Cuba’s history of human rights abuses as well as its past discriminatory policies toward gays and lesbians.
In his own statement released on Sunday night, Cuomo acknowledged the country must change, and that by opening it as a new market can be a new start.
“Like other places around the world that the U.S. engages with, there are strong policy disagreements between us on issues like human rights,” Cuomo said. “The U.S. shift in policy recognizes that engagement is far more likely to lead to change in policies we disagree with. Our trade mission is part of that new engagement. New York has proudly long been a leader on issues of equality and human rights and I agree with the President that engagement is the best way to promote democracy and bring about positive change, rather than continuing a failed policy of isolation.”
Cuomo is bringing a contingent of business representatives from New York-based companies, including Jet Blue, MasterCard, Chobani and Pfizer.
A trio of Democratic lawmakers are also set to go: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the state’s highest elected Republican, is not joining the delegation on the trade mission.
The Cuba trip is one several trade missions Cuomo is planning in his second term, with trips also planned for Israel, Japan and Mexico.
Apr 19th - 2:05 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday travels to Cuba for a 24-hour trade mission as the United States government seeks to normalize relations with the Communist-led country.
Cuomo isn’t traveling alone, however.
The governor’s office on Sunday Cuomo will be traveling with a contingent of state lawmakers and representatives of New York-based businesses.
“The representatives in New York’s delegation will help ensure Empire State companies are at the front of the line as the door opens to a market that has been closed to U.S. enterprise for over half a century.” Cuomo said in a statement.
“These industry leaders will serve as ambassadors for all that New York State has to offer and will help form the foundation for a strong economic relationship between New York and Cuba as legal restrictions on trade are eased in the future.”
On the legislative side, Cuomo will be traveling with Senate Minority Leader Andrea-Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein.
Business representatives participating in the trade trip include those from MasterCard, Jet Blue, Plattsburgh International Airport, Regeneron, Pfizer, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and Chobani.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will also represent the state’s higher-education system on the Cuba trip, along with Dr. Jose F. Buscaglia-Salgado, Director of Caribbean, Latin American, and Latino Studies for the University at Buffalo.
Cuomo has said he wants to focus the trip on opening new markets for New York businesses and doesn’t plan to weigh in extensively on the Cuban regime’s human rights record.
The trip to Cuba is part of a broader series of overseas trips that Cuomo will undertake, with additional trade missions planned for Italy, Canada, Japan and Israel.
Cuomo traveled to Israel last year to show solidarity with the Jewish State and also the Dominican Republic as part of an election-year swing.
Apr 17th - 3:01 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo met privately with the leadership of the Working Families Party about a month after Election Day, newly released public schedules show.
Cuomo met with Co-Chairs Bill Lipton, Karen Scharff and Executive Director Dan Cantor on Dec. 4, according to the schedules posted on Cuomo’s open government website.
The meeting came after significant election-year friction between Cuomo and the Working Families Party.
WFP leaders had accused Cuomo of creating the Women’s Equality Party ballot line last year as a way to potentially undermine the left-leaning, union-backed party. Cuomo and his allies had gone as far as urging voters to cast votes on for the new ballot line.
At the same time, the WFP had blasted Cuomo on the night of Election Day for not doing more to help Senate Democrats, who did not gain full control of the chamber after a trio of freshman lawmakers lost their seats to Republicans.
Cuomo received the WFP’s ballot line after intense negotiations and a challenge from Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout, who would go on to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary.
Cuomo’s girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee and New Yorker scribe Jeffrey Toobin were among Cuomo’s passengers on state aircraft that month as well in separate trips.
Records show Toobin was a passenger on state aircraft with Cuomo, Communications Director Melissa DeRosa and aide Stephanie Benton on a flight from Albany to Westchester County Airport. Toobin, who was writing a profile of Cuomo that would be published in February, is shown to have reimbursed the state for the trip.
In a separate trip, Lee and Cuomo took the state helicopter from Albany to New York City on Dec. 31. Cuomo was sworn in the next day in lower Manhattan for a second term.
An opinion from the ethics and lobbying regulators at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found Lee would not have to reimburse the state for rides on state aircraft as long as it is being used for state business.
Apr 16th - 5:12 pm
The Cuomo administration expressed disappointment with the Board of Elections choosing to not approve a reclassification of limited liability companies that would restricted how much they can give to political campaigns and causes.
In a statement, the governor’s office reiterated their support for closing what good-government advocates have said is tantamount of a loophole in the election law.
“We commend Commissioners Kellner and Spano for advancing this reform and are incredibly disappointed their fellow commissioners did not follow suit,” said Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The Governor has repeatedly introduced legislation to close the LLC loophole and he will continue to fight to make it a reality.”
Cuomo in 2013 had declared the LLC classification as “not a loophole. It’s the law.”
Cuomo himself has benefited from LLC contributions in the last election cycle, though he is hardly alone among the state’s politicians.
The board on Thursday was deadlocked on the question of whether to reclassify LLCs as partnerships, having the effect of limiting how much their ownership can contribute through the entities to political candidates.
The board’s Republican commissioners argue the state Legislature should be charged with changing the classification, not elections regulators.
Currently, individual donors can give well above the legal limit through LLCs, based on a 1996 rule first implemented by the Board of Elections.
While good-government groups and left-leaning organizations criticized the board for not acting, the Business Council, which had urged against reclassification, backed the decision.
“We concur with the outcome of today’s Board of Elections review of campaign contribution limits for limited liability companies,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of The Business Council of New York State.
Apr 15th - 4:46 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earned $376,667 from his memoir “All Thing Possible” released last year, burnishing his $553,371 income last year, according to his tax returns made public on Wednesday.
The earnings do not likely represent all of what the governor will ultimately earn from the book, which was released just before Election Day last year and has experienced meager sales.
Cuomo in 2013 reported earning an advance of more than $188,000 from the book’s publisher, Harper Collins. A financial disclosure form submitted by the governor indicated the contract for the memoir is worth at least $700,000.
The governor reported $21,285 in legal fees both associated with the book and administrating of a blind trust.
The governor paid an effective federal tax rate of roughly 28 percent. He paid $155,193 in total federal taxes and owed the government $6,916.
On the state level, Cuomo paid $37,843 in taxes and was owed a $3,212, which will be applied to next year’s taxes.
Cuomo reported two charitable donations of $13,500 each, with contributions going to HELP USA, the organization that combats homelessness he founded and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice (the governor’s ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, is the organization’s president).
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, meanwhile, reported earning $237,498 last year as a vice president for government relations at M&T Bank. She filed jointly with her husband, U.S. Attorney Bill Hochul, who earns $136,137.
The Hochuls paid $11,655 in property taxes last year and paid $99,245 in federal taxes. They owed $19,834 to the federal government and received a $1,104 state return.
The Hochuls reported capital gains income of $17,448 and dividends of $23,910.
They contributed $12,553 to a variety of charitable causes in 2014, including a $5,000 contribution to Canisius College Advancement Series, $1,500 to the Kathleen Mary House, $150 to Shakespeare in the Park and $750 to Habitat for Humanity.
Apr 13th - 5:08 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued 184 vetoes in the 215-16 state budget on Monday, much of which was determined to be re-appropriated pork-barrel spending.
Of the vetoes Cuomo issued, 30 were for items that had been previously paid out, 31 were additional re-appropriations for undisbursed balances of less than $1,000. Of those, 20 were community project fund grants that had balances of less than $100.
The governor’s office added that 42 of the re-appropriations were more than seven years old and had no disbursements during that period.
Cuomo also struck out 13 re-appropriations deemed to be duplicates, and two were vetoed previously, meaning that can’t be included in a new budget.
The vetoes include striking out spending for onion research at Cornell University, a grant to the Putnam County Fish and Game Association and a re-appropriation for the Lindenhurts Robotics Club.
Cuomo’s line-item vetoes last year accounted for 384 vetoes from the state budget.
Apr 9th - 8:23 am
From the Morning Memo:
The author of “The Contender”, the unauthorized biography of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Michael Shnayerson, did not have the cooperation of his main subject.
But he did get on-the-record participation by a key member of the Kennedy family, to which the governor was once related by marriage.
Douglas Kennedy, brother of Cuomo’s ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, was the only member of the family to officially speak to Shnayerson, though others close to them also cooperated – albeit anonymously.
They contributed to a book that does not paint the most positive portrait of the governor, especially where his failed marriage is concerned. And Douglas Kennedy, (who has had his own high-profile run-ins, and is clearly no fan of the governor), even went so far as to characterize Cuomo as a “bully” who made his sister unhappy.
I asked Shnayerson during a CapTon interview last night if he thought the Kennedys had used his book as a vehicle through which to exact revenge on Cuomo.
“Yeah…and maybe justly so,” he replied. “There were a lot of bitter feelings about the way Kerry had been treated, in their view. When it came out about the divorce, it was sort of all Andrew’s side of the story. It was all about Kerry’s extramarital affair, which had started in 2003.”
“Well, I can certainly tell you,” Shnayerson continued, “that from the Kennedys’ point of view, this was a marriage that started falling off the rails in Year One, when actually they both began marriage therapy.”
“And this was a situation where Andrew, as a husband, was almost always absent, consumed by his career at HUD…not a present father at the time, though it’s important to add that later, by all accounts, including the Kennedys, he became a very good father. But at the time, when the girls were very young, no.”
Shnayerson more or less defended Kerry Kennedy, reiterating that she had been clear with Cuomo that she wanted to end the marriage before his disastrous first run for governor in 2002, but agreed to stay with him after setting out some conditions.
According to Shnayerson, who cites the Kennedy family as his source, Cuomo never met these conditions, and Kerry Kennedy pushed for a divorce soon after her then-husband dropped out of the Democratic primary with one week remaining until the election.
Shnayerson said she did not start her affair with “someone who was a close friend” (revealed to be restaurant owner and polo player Bruce Colley) until months later, at which time “her feeling was that she really should have been living under another roof.”
The demise of the storied political marriage known as “Cuomolot” was tabloid fodder for some time, especially coming on the heels of Cuomo’s significant political loss in the 2002 governor’s race. Clearly, he managed to regroup and move on – succeeding both professionally and personally – since then.
Apr 7th - 2:58 pm
For starters, probably some rest and relaxation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo got just that, at least for three days when he took a family vacation to the Caribbean following the passage of the 2015-16 state budget.
The trip came after what Cuomo had acknowledged was a bruising budget season, the most difficult of his time as governor.
Cuomo insisted during the budget endgame that he was really most keen on achieving education reform and new ethics legislation in the final agreement.
The more politically problematic issues — including the DREAM Act, the education investment tax credit, a two-tiered minimum wage increase among them — fell off the negotiating table.
Cuomo defended the issues being left out, calling his budget proposal a “statement of priorities” as to what he wants in the new year.
“Many of the other items that were in the budget, statement of priority, I believe in them. But, we also have a legislative session in which we could get a lot of those done,” Cuomo told reporters the weekend before the budget was finalized.
Cuomo’s post-budget priorities, in part, were half accomplished in the budget itself.
The final spending plan for the new fiscal year includes $25 million in funding for juvenile justice reform. including raising the age of criminal responsibility as well as $110 million for new juvenile facilities. The money is there, the policy just hasn’t been sharpened and agreed to yet.
Similarly, Cuomo was able to secure funding for broader criminal justice reforms, including bulletproof vests and cameras for police — money that would come along with the governor’s own push for dealing with police-related deaths of unarmed civilians.
The governor, too, will likely come back to an effort to curtailing sexual assault and rape on private college campuses through an affirmative consent law and other protections put in place last year by state and city universities.
On the economic front, Cuomo will reiterate his stated push for a permanent extension of the state’s cap on property tax increases. The cap, due to expire next year, is in effect tied to rent control for New York City, which will sunset come June.
A permanent cap isn’t likely, but the 2011 is one of the governor’s signature economic achievements since he first took office.
In the end, Cuomo will be navigating a Legislature that includes hostile members of his own party and Senate Republicans who are holding a number of trump cards with few stated goals beyond the education investment tax credit.
If the budget process in March — a process that the governor has constitutionally speaking more control over — the June post-budget session will be an even steeper hill to climb.
Apr 6th - 8:12 am
From the Morning Memo:
Larry Schwartz, the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who departed his office earlier this year, expects the two-term Democratic incumbent will run for a third term.
The expectation comes after Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign account was re-named Cuomo 2018, according to a filing with the state Board of Elections.
In a statement sent to Capital Tonight, Schwartz credited Cuomo with helping turnaround the state’s economy following the conclusion of the recession and housing crisis.
“The Governor has worked tirelessly to move New York forward and is very optimistic that the economic transformation that has already started in this state will grow exponentially in the coming years,” Schwartz said. “I have known him for three decades and I would bet anything that he runs again.”
Schwartz left the Cuomo administration in January, though continued on to take accrued vacation time and help with the transition through March. He was recently hired by OTG, an airport concession firm.
Cuomo’s decision to run again wouldn’t have to be formally made until at least three years from now — several political lifetimes from now.
But the re-naming of the campaign committee coincides with a number of potential candidates jockeying to run.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is believed to be interested in running for governor and could harness the grassroots liberal advocates who helped give Zephyr Teachout a surprisingly strong showing in last year’s primary against Cuomo.
A dark house candidate could be U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is rumored to harbor presidential ambitions, but might want to seek executive experience.
For Republicans, outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson of the Hudson Valley has not ruled out running for a statewide campaign. The party’s 2014 nominee, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is expected to make another go of it as well for governor.
Third terms don’t always go as planned: Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch, George Pataki and Michael Bloomberg all had difficult final terms in office and either lost their bid for a fourth or declined to run again entirely.
Still, Team Cuomo is counting on fatigue for the current governor not hitting just yet.
Cuomo still remains personally popular in this heavily Democratic state with a favorability rating north of 50 percent in most polls.
He still has at least $8 million in cash on hand and is re-starting his fundraising efforts this month.
And while Cuomo acknowledges this was not an easy budget, he was able to get his desired education reforms through the state Legislature — demonstrating he’s no lame duck.