Lawmakers Consider Oversight Options After Arrests

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers want to see more oversight of economic development spending after the arrests of nine people last week in an alleged widespread scheme involving bid rigging and bribery within key projects designed to spur job creation upstate.

“The problem is when public money is involved, there needs to be the highest degree of oversight over that public money,” said Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents an Albany-area district.

Now lawmakers are considering reinstating the power of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review state spending under the umbrella of economic development. The comptroller’s office was stripped of that power in 2011, the first year Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office.

“What we might want to do is what any other entity is used to dealing with here in state government, which is admittedly an arduous process but reinstating the comptroller’s role and attorney general’s role in reviewing all these contracts,” McDonald said.

DiNapoli has signaled he would like to have that power to review the spending once again, and Speaker Carl Heastie has told lawmakers and legislative staff he would like new oversight options as well.

“The speaker’s given direction to examine every option, and an option might be to reinstate the comptroller and attorney general in the process right up front,” McDonald said.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have their own ideas, which includes making it easier for any reform bill to come to the floor for a vote. One bill would allow for votes on bills, should a majority of the entire chamber–not just the party in power–agree to a vote.

“We have to get reform bills to the floor and we can’t let the powerful leaders hold up those bills,” said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco a Republican from the Albany suburbs. “They have to be leaders themselves, rank and file members.”

Tedisco, who is running for the Senate this year, adds new disclosure requirements for state contracts is also needed, enhancing the powers of the attorney general and restoring the power of the comptroller.

“He should have the ability to look at that type of spending and that’s why I think the Truth in Spending bill will help him do that type of audit,” said Tedisco.

Though they are all Democrats, both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli are considered to be political rivals to Cuomo.

Cuomo this week faulted the SUNY procurement process in the wake of the arrests, which included his former top aide Joe Percoco and SUNY Polytechnic leader Alain Kaloyeros. Cuomo has said he will introduce reforms to the procurement process in his State of the State address. 

SD-7: Haber Fundraises Off Trump’s Debate Performance

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Senate candidate Adam Haber wasted little time this week firing off a fundraising appeal to supporters on the heels of the first presidential debate this week.

In the email sent Thursday, Haber blasted the performance by Trump and his campaign for the White House in general, saying it has drawn in “hate, bigotry and anti-woman insults.”

“The debate showed just how out of touch, and ill-prepared, the Party of Trump has become,” Haber wrote in the email. “We are stronger when we work together, putting forth bold ideas based off facts and common-sense — not hate and dividing people.”

The message is the latest sign Democrats running in key Senate races this year, especially in Nassau County, are seizing on the anti-Trump sentiment among general election voters with the hope of down-ballot races like theirs will be rewarded by a strong showing by Clinton in November.

“This is the person our opponent is depending on at the polls for a victory,” Haber wrote in the email. “We can’t let this happen. Will you join me in the fight against Trump and his allies?”

Haber is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jack Martins, who is running for an open congressional seat. Haber faces Republican Elaine Phillips, the mayor of the village of Flower Hill.

TWC News/Siena College Poll: Tenney Leads Three-Way Race

From the Morning Memo:

Republican congressional candidate Claudia Tenney leads a crowded race for the open congressional seat in central New York, a Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll found.

The poll shows Tenney drawing 35 percent of the vote, with Democratic challenger Kim Myers receiving 30 percent of the vote. Martin Babinec, a businessman running an independent bid for the district, received 24 percent of support.

Babinec has said he would caucus with House Republicans if elected. But the poll found him drawing virtually equal shares of Republican, Democratic and independent voters, receiving 22 percent, 24 percent and 25 percent of those voters respectively.

The 22nd congressional district is considered a battleground race in part due to the retirement of Republican Rep. Richard Hanna, a moderate GOP lawmaker who has endorsed Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

Tenney, an assemblywoman, is making her second bid for Congress after falling short in primary against Hanna two years ago.

The poll shows Republican Donald Trump defeating Clinton in the district, 46 percent to 35 percent.

Nevertheless, Hanna remains a popular figure in the district, with a favorable rating of 55 percent to 30 percent.

And most voters have been engaged by the campaigns, the poll found: 58 percent reported hearing or seeing a commercial from the Tenney campaign, with half saying they’ve been contacted by the Myers camp as well. Forty-nine percent of voters say they’ve been contacted by the Babinec campaign.

A majority of voters — 52 percent — want to see Republicans retain control of Congress next year.

The poll of 649 likely voters was conducted from Sept. 21 through Sept. 26. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

17fadb52-818d-4e41-814a-ee6a0feafa5e by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Deacon Lands WFP Line

From the Morning Memo:

Here’s some not-too-surprising, but nevertheless good news for Colleen Deacon, the Democrat challenging freshman Republican Rep. John Katko in NY-24 – one of the country’s most hotly contested congressional races:

The Working Families Party has decided to endorse the first-time candidate, putting her name on its ballot line in November instead of its current contender, labor lawyer Mimi Satter.

“We are thrilled to endorse Colleen Deacon for Congress,” New York WFP Political Director Ari Kamen said in an emailed statement that I received late last night. 

“Working families in Central New York deserve a member of Congress who fights for them, not the extreme GOP agenda,” Kamen continued. “And we look forward to supporting Colleen and urging voters to vote for her on the WFP line in November.”  

The WFP tapped Satter to hold its line while three Democrats – Deacon, SU professor Eric Kingson and Manlius and Syracuse lawyer and Navy veteran Steve Williams – battled it out in a primary.

Deacon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the DCCC’s preferred candidate in the race, won the June primary easily, receiving about 48 percent of the vote.

Deacon has embraced a number of top policy issues for the WFP – including Paid Family Leave and a higher federal minimum wage. Both the Democrats and their progressive allies see this seat as a prime pick-up target in the general election, since the district is closely divided and has changed hands several times over the past few cycles.

It’s a fairly standard practice for the WFP to tap a placeholder to keep its ballot line warm – and satisfy state Board of Elections deadlines in the process – while waiting to see who the Democrats end up with for the general election.

In order to facilitate easy removal from the line – by means of a judicial nomination – the party, which is by no means alone in using this method, picks an attorney (like Satter) to do the honors.

Kamen didn’t mention which judgeship Satter has been nominated for, but since she didn’t campaign for her congressional bid, it’s a safe bet she won’t be actively running for that office, either.

Federal Bid-Rigging Complaint Could Be Lucrative For Charities

From the Morning Memo:

There isn’t too much positive news to talk about when it comes to nine people with ties to the Cuomo administration are arrested, accused of rigging the bid process for major state contracts.

After all, it’s only been a week since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara unsealed the complaint that sent ripples throughout the entire state.

But just for a minute, let’s propose a potential silver lining: This could turn out to be a very lucrative turn of events for charities and non-profit organizations across the state.

Elected leaders around New York are trying to figure out what to do with campaign contributions they’ve received from two big developers – and donors – connected to this scandal, LPCiminelli in Buffalo and COR Development in Syracuse.

While nobody’s saying these donations are outright illegal, pay-to-play graft, it’s safe to say many politicians would like to distance themselves from this case and these companies, just in case.

But, as Chris Jacobs’ state Senate campaign spokesman Craig Turner noted, simply returning the contributions to their original donors doesn’t make much sense. The money is probably already spent, and so cutting a new check to replace the initial contributions would, in effect, require the use of other donors’ money.

So instead, Jacobs’ Senate campaign cut a $5,500 check to the United Way earlier this week. That’s the same amount LPCiminelli CEO Louis Ciminelli donated to the Jacobs for Erie County clerk campaign in 2014.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren had the same idea. A spokesperson for the mayor’s campaign committee said she’s looking into how much, if any, money she received from people connected to this case.

She will donate that amount, in full, to the Rochester Boys and Girls Club for its reading program. According to the state Board of Elections, Warren received $7,500 from Ciminelli in 2014 and 2015.

Not everybody is taking the charity route, including the biggest beneficiary of these contributions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He has decided to hold on to the contributions in a separate account while the case wends its way through the legal system.

“If the U.S. Attorney decides that there’s payments to be made to people who have been harmed in the process, we want to make sure that these companies still have the assets to do that,” LG Kathy Hochul explained.

Of course, if non-profits are really going to cash in, that could mean bad news for the defendants in the long run.

Some leaders, including Sen. Tim Kennedy, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz – all Buffalo Democrats – said they will donate all or part of the contributions in question to charity, but only if and when the people accused are actually convicted.

SD-37: Latimer Given Firefighters Union Nod

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Sen. George Latimer was endorsed on Wednesday by the politically active Yonkers Firefighter Union in his bid for re-election to the suburban Senate district.

“I firmly believe that State government has a responsibility to protect New Yorkers and to ensure our heroic first responders have the tools and resources they need to keep our communities safe,” Latimer said in a statement.

“I am honored to receive the backing of the Yonkers Firefighters union local 628 and I will continue my efforts to ensure our state government provides the support that our first responders need and deserve.”

The firefighters union in Yonkers has played a politically active role, especially in city government. The district, which includes a swath of the Long Island sound shore in Westchester County, was redrawn during the 2012 redistricting process to include a portion of Yonkers.

“We are proud to stand with Senator Latimer because he has consistently stood up for us. George has a proven track record of prioritizing public safety and fighting for our interests in Albany,” said firefighter union leader Barry McGoey.

“We strongly believe that Senator Latimer is the right person to send to the State Senate to continue working on our behalf.”

First elected in 2012 to the seat vacated by longtime Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, Republicans have long coveted the Westchester County district as a potential pickup opportunity.

Latimer faces Republican challenger Julie Killian in a district the Senate GOP’s political arm hopes can be a competitive race, one of perhaps two districts they are playing offense in an otherwise challenging electoral year.

Senate Dem Candidates Push Rivals To Return Contributions Linked To Scandal

Two Democratic candidates for state Senate on Wednesday called on their Republican opponents to return campaign cash linked to developers who have been charged in the sweeping bribery and pay-to-play scandal that has engulfed a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Democrat Sara Niccoli, running to unseat incumbent Sen. George Amedore in the 46th Senate district, is pushing him to return $30,000 in contributions from Albany-based developer Joseph Nicolla.

Nicolla was among those who face state charges in an alleged bid-rigging scheme that has ensnared the head of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros.

“George Amedore has a pattern of accepting money from shady, corrupt and even indicted individuals and it has to end,” Niccoli said.

“Not only was George hand-picked to run for the Senate by convicted felon Dean Skelos, he was even drawn his own special district and lavished with millions of dollars from downstate party bosses. George has also received millions from New York City real estate developers and from Leonard Litwin, who was at the very core of the Dean Skelos corruption scandal. The Nicolla donations are simply the latest example of Senator Amedore being funded by corrupt special interests, and I urge George to do the right thing and return these tainted dollars.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Amber Small also on Wednesday made a similar call for Republican Chris Jacobs to return his donations he’s received from LP Ciminelli executives and members of the Ciminelli family. Ciminelli is among the upstate developers who has been charged in the federal case, whose company has played a prominent role in the Buffalo Billion economic development program.

The calls come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign on Tuesday signaled it would set aside the thousands of dollars he’s received from the developers linked to the corruption cases should prosecutors seek to clawback those funds.

At the same time, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli had previously said he would return then $20,000 in contributions he’s received from Ciminelli.

State Dem Chairman Brown Gets Front Row Seat For Debate

From the Morning Memo:

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown didn’t just get an invite to Monday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University. As the new chair of the state Democratic party, Brown was in the front row, and from where he was sitting, he said Hillary Clinton clearly beat Donald Trump.

“She had excellent moments all throughout the entire debate, so it would be hard to pick just one moment that was best,” he said.

As the head of New York’s second largest city, Brown said Clinton’s comments on police and race relations specifically resonated with him.

“I thought that was a very strong moment,” the mayor recalled. “It reflected that she had thought about that issue a lot and that she had been involved in that issue and traveled to different parts of the country to talk to both police officers and residents.”

Brown was sitting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, with whom the mayor said he has built a relationship over the years. Brown said he enjoyed being able to discuss his impressions about the debate with a man he deemed one of the “most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement in this nation.”

After the debate, Jackson also joined Brown in the Spin Room, where thousands of reporters were trolling the aisle, seeking comment. The chairman said it was his first time in that environment.

“It’s a huge room with media from all across the country and across the world, many people talking in different sections of the room. It was a very interesting experience, seeing a room like that and having questions fired at you from a lot of different quarters,” Brown said.

One person who did not make a post-debate Spin Room appearance – Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who tapped Brown to serve as party chair. The governor did, however, attend the event with his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, and also headlined a local rally for Clinton after the debate.

Murphy Campaign Knocks Opponent’s de Blasio Ties

From the Morning Memo:

The campaign of Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy is criticizing Democratic rival Alison Boak for hiring the consultant firm used by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It’s another example of a member of the GOP conference running in a battleground race in either an upstate or suburban swing district linking a Democratic challenger to the liberal New York City mayor.

In this case, it’s Boak’s hiring of Red Horse Strategies, a political consultant firm that has been used by an array of Democratic candidates over the years.

At the same time, the Murphy campaign took a swipe at Boak’s campaign’s latest financial statement showing $14,760 following her September primary.

“Ali Boak has a spending problem, burning too much cash too quickly on Mayor de Blasio’s preferred consultants,” said Murphy spokesman William Faulkner. “She clearly cannot manage money, which is part of why she’s having so much trouble raising it.”

To be sure, de Blasio has signaled he will not be involved in this year’s races for the narrowly divided state Senate. His efforts for Democratic candidates in 2014 has come under scrutiny by federal investigators for campaign finance practices.

Murphy, who represents a Westchester County district, has been a staunch and prominent critic of de Blasio.

The Boak campaign, meanwhile, pushed back hard against Murphy and his previously reported tax liens.

“Another day, anther cowardly attack from ‘Tax cheat Terrence,’ who seems to want to talk about anything to hide the fact that he spent years cheating the taxpayers out of over $100,000,” said Boak campaign manager Chandler Bellanca.

“Let’s be clear, Ali has no plans on taking money advice from someone who consistently fails to pay his own taxes but if he wants to look at connections, let’s look at the fact that Murphy was elected only two years ago after taking over a million dollars from convicted felon Dean Skelos to help him join Albany’s culture of corruption. He’s on the attack to hide his ethical failures, his tax fraud and his anti-woman agenda, but the voters deserve far better.”

It’s Debate Day

From the Morning Memo:

Back in April, the presidential campaign swung into New York, presenting an alternative world in which the state’s politics on the White House stage actually mattered.

Tonight, attention is turning back to New York as Hofstra University on Long Island prepares to host the first presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The debate’s ratings, to borrow a phrase, are expected to be huge.

Largely driven by the unpredictable nature of the GOP nominee and his success in the demolition derby-style primary debates, the forum this evening could draw up to 100 million — Super Bowl-style numbers in what has become a fragmented media world.

For Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is attending the debate this evening alongside rival New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the event could be a moment of deja vu.

After all, it was at Hofstra that Cuomo faced Trump supporter Carl Paladino in the 2010 gubernatorial debate. Paladino, a Buffalo businessman and the co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign, ran a Trumpian, shoot-from-the-hip race five years ago.

Ultimately, Paladino turned in a largely passive debate performance despite his staunch criticism of Cuomo.

The key difference, however, is that Cuomo and Paladino shared a stage that evening in 2010 with a host of other even more colorful candidates including the Rent Is 2 Damn High candidate Jimmy McMillan, who stole the show.

Tonight, it’s just Trump and Clinton alone under the klieg lights.

Capital Tonight will air live from the debate at Hofstra University at 8 p.m. on TWC News this evening. The debate itself begins at 9 p.m.