Lawmakers Rake In Albany Cash

State lawmakers raked in campaign cash from Albany-based fundraisers this year, with more to come, according to a compilation of the events by the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The steady stream of fundraisers just steps from the Capitol isn’t wholly surprising, given that it’s an election year for all 213 seats in the Legislature.

At the same time, a number of new venues in downtown Albany near the Capitol have opened or been renovated, including the newly opened Renaissance Hotel.

Still, the amount of money raised is eyebrow-raising for good-government advocates, who have been pushing for a host of ethics reforms in the wake of the corruption scandals, arrests and convictions, with still more investigations ongoing.

2016 fundraisers.pdf by Nick Reisman

Amid Investigations, Senators Differ On Campaign Finance Reform

Back in Albany, Senate Democrats today made a renewed push for the closure of a loophole that allows single donors to give unlimited funds through a web of limited liability companies.

It’s a longtime bugaboo for good-government advocates and Democratic lawmakers in Albany and one Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to close even as he has taken advantage of the current arrangement in his own fundraising.

But the push also comes amid swirling scandals on both the state and federal level for both the Cuomo administration and the fundraising activities of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on behalf of Senate Democrats.

De Blasio’s political activities are being scrutinized by federal investigations over the method of helping Senate Democrats take over the chamber in 2014 – namely through a series of massive donations to county party committees, which then disbursed funds on behalf of individual candidates.

Senate Republicans, especially GOP freshman Sen. Terrence Murphy whose own race two years ago was a target of de Blasio’s allies, have blasted de Blasio and the Senate Democrats over the investigation.

And as Democrats sought to once again gain a vote on the LLC loophole bill in the Senate Elections Committee, Murphy sought to address county party transfer by boosting penalties for explicitly aiding candidates through local committees.

“This legislation strengthens the penalties for the BDB Loophole, which is already an illegal act under New York State’s election law,” Murphy said in a statement.

“New Yorkers from all parts of our State are demanding action be taken in light of the allegations tying Mayor de Blasio and the Senate Democrats together through illegally prearranged transfers from county committees to handpicked candidates. This bill will give authorities more teeth to hold law breakers accountable for their actions.”

Democrats, meanwhile, shrugged off the Republican complaints as a diversion from the overarching issue of LLC giving.

“What’s ironic is that for multiple years now the Senate majority has refused to address this issue,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, one of the main Democratic sponsors of the LLC loophole bill.

“Everything else you’re hearing here is a diversion. Let me be clear, we need to look at our campaign finance laws. But this has risen to a new level in terms of its use and it’s specific linkage to those trials which means we have to deal with this now. This is a simple fix.”

Donations through LLCs have increased over the years, and Democrats were quick to point out their legislation would not bar the entities from political giving. The practice often makes the source of the contributions difficult to track and has enriched campaigns in an era of free spending in politics ushered in by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Still, Republicans have questioned the motivations behind closing the loophole – the result of a decades-old Board of Elections decision – as a way of aiding labor union giving.

Again, Squadron insisted the LLC loophole is a piece of a larger puzzle for reform, and a crucial one.

“Look, there are a lot of other issues around LLCs and a lot of other issues around campaign finance reform, both of which should be looked at,” he said. “In the case of campaign finance reform, my colleagues and I carry a lot of those bills. But the fact that there are other problems must not be an excuse to allow a glaring issue that has been particularly pernicious and particularly linked to corruption.”

Last Minute Contributions To SD-52

sd52Last-minute donations are being made in the special election to fill a vacant 52nd Senate district to both Republican Fred Akshar and Democratic candidate Barbara Fiala, 24-hour notices filed with the state Board of Elections show.

Contributions to Akshar include:

  • $11,000 from RPAC of New York,
  • $5,000 from the New York State Beer Wholesalers Association
  • $11,000 from the Uniformed Firefighters Association FirePAC
  • $5,000 from AFSCME
  • $8,500 from the Business Council’s political action committee.

Fiala, meanwhile, has received donations in recent days from:

  • $10,000 from the Mason Tenders District Council
  • $5,000 from the teamster’s DRIVE Committee
  • $5,000 from CWA District One
  • $16,209 from the Broome County Democratic Committee.

The donations come as a Time Warner Cable News/Siena College found Akshar leading Fiala among likely voters with a 52-percentage point lead. Akshar, a Broome County undersheriff, has had a vast fundraising advantage compared to Fiala.

Akshar’s campaign has been bolstered by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, with Republicans in Albany sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign.

The Binghamton-area Senate seat, which has a GOP voter enrollment edge, was represented by GOP lawmaker Tom Libous until his conviction on a charge of lying to the FBI in July.

One LLC Fuels Reform Party

astorinoFrom the Morning Memo:

The Reform Party, a ballot line formed last year by Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino, filed its first campaign finance report since it was rechristened this election season, showing a single, massive donation from a limited liability company.

The party’s sole contributor was listed as the Institute for Municipal Safety Research, LLC and donated $107,900 to the line.

The party has been helping a town supervisor candidate in Clarkstown, a Republican running on the Reform Party ballot line, in the form of a TV ad.

The filing reported the party spent $50,582 on the ad shoring up candidate George Hoehmann.

Not much information exists online regarding the LLC and its address is listed as being in a downtown office suite in White Plains.

The Reform Party was initially constituted as the Stop Common Core Party last year — one of two issue-oriented ballot lines formed last year as a way to draw attention to the candidates’ policy issues that could sway voters.

Astorino and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, received the needed 50,000 votes on the line to give the party ballot status in the current election cycle.

The party was renamed the “Reform Party” as a way to broaden its appeal to voters on issues such as term limits and stopping corruption, Astorino has said.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is considering another run for governor in 2018.

Faso’s Congressional Campaign Takes Shape

FasofundraisserThe congressional campaign of Republican John Faso is taking shape this month as the former Assembly minority leader plans a Sept. 30 fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club in Albany.

Tickets for the event range from $250 to $1,000 for the dinner and reception.

Faso, the 2002 Republican candidate for comptroller and 2006 nominee for governor, is vying for the congressional seat held by retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, who is weighing a run for statewide office in 2018.

An invitation obtained by Capital Tonight shows Faso has lined up prominent Republican donors in upstate New York, including businessman John Nigro, communications and publicity expert Mark Behan, developer Emil Galasso and former Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo, an appointee of then-Gov. George Pataki. A long list of those attending the event is after the jump.  More >

Suffolk’s Bellone Fundraises For Re-Election Bid

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Thursday sent out a fundraising appeal ahead of his 2015 re-election campaign.

Bellone, in his fundraising appeal, touts the county’s expansion of clean water infrastructure as well as three balanced budgets under his tenure.

“Together, we have accomplished so much in these last three years. We introduced three consecutive balanced budgets while freezing the general fund property tax and holding all county taxes under the tax cap,” Bellone said. “We reduced the size of government by more than 10 percent, consolidating departments and saving taxpayers more than $100 million each year without impacting services.”

Bellone was first elected in 2011, flipping a seat from a Democrat-turned-Republican hostile to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Steve Levy unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010).

Since then, Bellone has been a key local government ally for the governor, who also has worked well with Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.

Gallivan Hired Law Firm To Review Campaign Expenditures

State Senator George Maziarz wasn’t the only lawmaker to raise eyebrows when his name appeared on a now defunct Moreland Commission report that came to light last summer.  While Maziarz had $140,000 in unspecified campaign expenditures, fellow Western New York State Senator Pat Gallivan had $80,000.

But while Maziarz announced he was retiring soon after the report hit the media and has refused to answer any questions related to the issue since, Gallivan has never shied away from the issue.  In July he told us he was not only surprised to see his name on the report and had directed his staff to conduct an internal review of his campaign expenditures.

On Friday we learned Maziarz spent more than $74,000 in campaign funds on legal counsel in the last six months.  Under the same filing period Gallivan paid a Buffalo law firm $17,000.

Gallivan explained he hired Hodgson Russ LLP to conduct the previously mentioned internal audit.

“As part of a comprehensive review of our filings and record keeping procedures, we hired outside professionals to assist us to ensure full compliance with applicable election law.  My office has always endeavored to comply with state campaign financial disclosure requirements and will continue to do so,” Gallivan said

Astorino, Cahill Help Fundraise For Molinaro

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has sent out an email to promote the upcoming fundraiser for another rising Republican star, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Also supporting the Thursday event is John Cahill, the Republican who challenged Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earlier this month.

Tickets for the event to be held at Cosimo’s Poughkeepsie go for $150.

“My friend and fellow County Executive, Marc Molinaro, is celebrating his 20 years in public service this Thursday at Cosimo’s in Poughkeepsie! This is quite an impressive feat, especially considering his young age,” Astorino wrote in the email. “He began his career in public service at the age of 19 when he was elected Mayor of Tivoli. At the time, he was the youngest elected official in the state of New York. Now, 20 years later, Marc is serving his first term as Dutchess County Executive.”

In a radio interview with Fred Dicker on Talk-1300 on Wednesday, Astorino indicated he was interested in party building over the next several years as he does not close the door on running again for governor in 2018.

“I care about my party, the Republican Party, which quite frankly needs to be repaired, needs to be strengthened,” Astorino said. “The party as I said has been withering and we can’t have that.”

It’s probably smart for Astorino to keep Molinaro close, considering he’s also been mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide office himself.

Hayworth Fundraises Off Hillary

From the Morning Memo:

With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming to help campaign for Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, his Republican opponent, former Rep. Nan Hayworth, sees a fundraising opportunity.

In email sent last night, Hayworth takes note of the heated tone of the campaign.

“Let me be your voice. Maloney has been aggressively attacking me on air, flooding the media market with several nasty, unwarranted ads,” she writes in the email.

And with Clinton helping raise money, why not match them blow for blow.

“The Clintons will be joining my opponent next week here in the Hudson Valley,” the email states. “Don’t let them take your voice back to Washington and distort your needs. Will you stand with me?”

Hayworth recently gave her campaign an additional $1 million of her money for the rematch race in the 18th congressional district.

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have been hitting the campaign trail for Democratic congressional candidates, mostly incumbents running in tight races in New York.

The former president today is in Syracuse for Rep. Dan Maffei after stumping for Rep. Tim Bishop in Suffolk County.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, held a rally on Wednesday in New York City for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

With Eye Toward 2016, Pataki Pitches ‘More Freedom, Less Gov’t’ (Updated)

Former Gov. George Pataki, who is reportedly toying yet again with a White House run, is hitting the airwaves with a new TV ad that slams Washington and calls for a “new America” with less government, and “more freedom.”

The entire ad, launched through a Super PAC called “Americans for Real Change,” features Pataki in a jacket, but no tie, speaking straight to the camera and saying:

“When America’s economy is struggling, and Washington is booming, it’s time for a new America.”

“Big government benefits the rich and powerful. They can afford to play the game; you can’t. It’s time for a new America, with much smaller federal government. Washington can’t run he economy, and shouldn’t try to run our lives.”

“Less government. More freedom. Log on. Join us.”

The ad was announced in an email that doubles as a fundraising pitch signed by Pataki, who says: “Now is the time for us to take the initiative and present a proactive agenda that addresses, head on, Americans’ perception that the deck is stacked in favor of the rich and powerful.”

According to the email, the ad is airing across the nation. But no information was provided as to exactly where, and for how long.

Pataki says the goal of the ad is to “launch a renaissance in Conservative thought.” But it’s also clearly an effort by the moderate New York Republican to reintroduce himself as a fiscal conservative.

An apparently unrelated 501(c)4 called “Americans for Real Change” was created in 2012 by GOP consultant Jake Menges, an advisor to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Vincent Balascio, who worked for Pataki.

At the time, the PAC’s focus was trying to to force out Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for his controversial handling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case. Supposedly, the PAC was going to raise and spend as much as $1.5 million and make NYC mayoral candidates “take a stand” on whether Silver should still be speaker.

But it doesn’t appear to have done any spending, and, according to a filing with the FEC, was terminated in 2013.

Despite ongoing attempts by various Republican candidates – including GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino – to make hay of the Lopez scandal, Silver is still speaker, and does not appear in any imminent danger of losing that post.

UPDATE: A source familiar with the former governor’s effort says this ad is airing in New Hampshire to correspond with Pataki’s visit there – he’s appearing at Politics and Eggs tomorrow, and spent the weekend campaigning with local NH candidates. The ad is also airing nationwide on FOX News.