Caputo Resigns From Trump Campaign Post

From the Morning Memo:

Michael Caputo, the colorful western New York political operative who rose to statewide prominence managing Carl Paladino’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, has departed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team after mocking the firing of Corey Lewandowski.

Caputo, who held the title of director of caucus operations for the Trump team, made light of the controversial Lewandowski’s firing on Twitter, tweeting “ding dong the witch is dead” — a post that quickly gained national media attention.

“As a professional campaign operative, someone who is designed to be on the margin and behind the scenes like a campaign operative is, to actually further the narrative of a negative story is malpractice,” Caputo said in a WBEN interview.

Nevertheless, Caputo insisted the departure from the convention post won’t hurt Trump’s chances in western New York.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect western New York’s influence,” he said. “I’m their campaign chairman for the state of New York, and I’m running the show and that’s pretty much it.”

Caputo remained steadfast in his support for Trump, who easily carried New York in the April primary.

“Everything changed for Donald Trump today,” Caputo said. “As long as Donald Trump allows it to happen, and I believe he will, this campaign is gonna go in a different direction now because it has adult supervision from top to bottom.”

Caputo had been one of the New York operatives who sought to recruit Trump to run for governor in 2014 against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Trump ultimately demurred after the Republican field in New York wasn’t cleared for his candidacy.

With figures like Lewandowski and Caputo stepping aside, the businessman’s surrogates say it’s a sign the campaign is turning a corner with longtime operative Paul Manafort now in charged.

“The discipline is critical,” said Rep. Chris Collins, “and I think Paul Manafort standing to the side of Donald Trump moving forward will just ensure that the discipline is forefront as Donald takes the stage.”

Even without Caputo, Western New York still has representation in Trump’s campaign.

NY-19: Heaney Calls For Reform Party To Drop Faso

From the Morning Memo:

Republican congressional candidate Andrew Heaney in a letter to be released on Tuesday called on the Reform Party to rescind the endorsement of rival GOP candidate John Faso, questioning his stance on term limits in the process.

Term limits for elected officials at the state level has been a major push by the party, formed by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has an extra ballot line during the 2014 gubernatorial election, which was at the time called the Stop Common Core line.

In a letter to Reform Party Chairman Bill Merrell, Heaney notes he agrees with the Reform Party’s backing of term limits as a way of giving “government back to the people.”

“That is why I am so confused by your party’s endorsement of my opponent John Faso,” Heaney wrote in the letter.

“Once one of the state’s leading supporters of term limits, in recent years he has become a full time lobbyist and today it’s hard to say what his position is on a host of issues. In a recent interview he told Newsmax that he doesn’t ‘feel that term limits are the panacea.'”

The letter comes amid a pitched battle for congressional primary in the 19th congressional district, which is being vacated by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson this year.

In the increasingly heated campaign, Faso has knocked Heaney for his contribution to President Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2007.

Heaney, in turn, has sought to play up an outsider role, blasting Faso’s resume and touting his support for presumptive GOP nominee for president Donald Trump.

The Reform Party pushed state lawmakers this month to hold a vote on a bill that would set term limits for the Assembly and Senate, as well as statewide elected officials.

Senate Leaders: Independent Expenditure Reform Under Discussion

An effort to provide greater transparency and reform to independent expenditure committees is part of a last-minute discussion between legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The top leaders in the Senate and Assembly met with Cuomo in his office on Thursday afternoon for about 40 minutes.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie breezed out of the meeting and declined to comment.

“Talk to the governor,” Heastie said repeatedly while walking to the Assembly chamber.

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, meanwhile, wouldn’t go into detail as to why Heastie seemingly left the meeting in frustration.

“I think we want to end this session on a high note,” Klein said.

He confirmed lawmakers were discussing new measures to oversee so-called “super PACs” — a proposal from Cuomo earlier this month aimed at preventing coordination between candidate campaigns and the independent expenditure committees.

“The Senate clearly wants to reform the Citizens United decision,” Klein told Time Warner Cable News after the meeting. “We think IEs play a sometimes very mysterious role in our political system and we want to make some changes to that, to reform the system as best as we can as a state.”

For now, it’s unclear whether lawmakers are willing to back the proposal made by Cuomo for IE reform.

“Oversight and transparency. These are things that we’re looking for,” Klein said.

The proposal comes as lawmakers are drawing closer to an agreement on a constitutional amendment that would force public officials convicted of corruption to surrender their pension benefits. Heastie earlier in the day told reporters the Assembly won’t conclude the legislative session without first passage of the measure.

Meanwhile, there is still no agreement on an extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, which is due to expire this month.

“I’ll say there’s no resolution,” Flanagan said. “We’re still sticking to what we had talked about before. The good sign is, we’re still meeting.”

The Senate is expected to return to the Capitol for a new day on Friday. Flanagan would not rule out the negotiations, much less voting, stretching into Friday; Thursday is the final scheduled day of the legislative session.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” he said. “The day is still young and it’s still light outside.”

5 Things To Watch For On The Last Day Of Session

From the Morning Memo:

It’s the final scheduled day of the legislative session in Albany, and state lawmakers (as well as their staffs) have a very long day ahead of them.

Key issues remain unresolved, while agreed-to bills have aged and need to be voted on today.

Here are five things to watch for today:

1. What shape will mayoral control take?

It’s choose your own adventure time for mayoral control of New York City schools. Realistically, the program is almost certain to be re-approved before both chambers leave for the rest of the year. And the current options include a one-year straight extension, a three-year deadline without the “bells and whistles” of other proposals such as the education tax credit, and a the three-year straight extension as favored by Assembly Democrats and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Albany is waiting to see who blinks first on the issue. Senate Republicans have two bills for extending mayoral control — a 12-month extension, plus oversight from the governor’s office and a three-year measure that includes a range of education issues deemed non-starters from Democratic lawmakers.

Senate Republicans could very well try to jam the Assembly and pass both of their mayoral control bills and leave, forcing the other chamber to pick one.

Observers expect mayoral control debate goes right to midnight, with a message of necessity from Cuomo and a quick approval in the early hours of Friday morning.

2. What happens to pension forfeiture?

Do lawmakers have a deal on a constitutional amendment for pension forfeiture, or don’t they? What is considered low-hanging fruit by good-government advocates remains a heavy lift for the Legislature.

A meeting with the legislative leaders on Wednesday afternoon concluded with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein hopeful the Assembly would pass a version similar to the Senate’s amendment that has languished over concerns the language was too broadly written. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not comment to reporters, exiting the meeting to say only there was no news.

Public-sector labor unions quickly went to work expressing anger over the potential agreement for the pension amendment on Wednesday evening.

Still, as one lawmaker pointed out, the unions could always have lobbied the Senate to back the more narrowly written Assembly version of the amendment.

Marginal lawmakers running tough re-election races this fall, however, are eager to see something, anything done on ethics and anti-corruption reform in Albany after the parade of high-profile arrests and convictions at the Capitol.

3. What gets linked?

Well, everything and nothing are linked on Planet Albany until it is all wrapped under one package.

There was some talk in the Assembly on Wednesday night the pension forfeiture amendment would be linked to a more Democratic-pleasing mayoral control measure. Not everyone was happy with that trade. Assembly Democrats haven’t been crazy, historically, about mayoral control, which began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But as one lawmaker put it, there shouldn’t be linkage on an issue like ethics. “That’s what’s getting people in trouble here in the first place,” the lawmaker said.

4. Bet on fantasy sports?

It’s a game of skill to figure out where this one lands as an army of lobbyists from racinos (opposed) and retired quarterbacks (support) have been deployed to the Capitol to lobby on the issue of legalizing daily fantasy sports.

Lawmakers appeared edging toward a deal on Wednesday, with Senate Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman John Bonacic insisting there was a three-way deal after the Legislature accepted “technical” amendments recommended by the governor’s office for the bill, including applying a fee to year-round leagues.

One factor in the discussions has been concerns raised by labor unions, who fear the loss of jobs from casino-based businesses should fantasy sports be allowed.

5. Who can claim victories?

That’s always the trick in these days of the session and Cuomo has shown a willingness, if not a desire, to paint everyone as a winner. A budget that includes something for everyone. A post-budget session whose trade offs serve a variety of needs.

But with the issues so comparatively mundane (extending a program, the first passage of a constitutional amendment), lawmakers and Cuomo are in effect fighting over a shrinking pie.

McLaughlin Steps Up Push For Water Hearings

From the Morning Memo:

It wasn’t that long ago that Steve McLaughlin was considering a potential run for the state Senate.

But now, McLaughlin, a state assemblyman from Rensselaer County, is stepping up his efforts to shame his fellow Republicans in the upper house into holding hearings on water quality issues in Hoosick Falls.

McLaughlin plans to hold a news conference this morning outside of the Senate chamber on third floor of the Capitol with village residents to push Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on holding the hearings.

His frustration boiled over last week, when Flanagan reiterated to reporters he would not hold hearings on water issues in the aftermath of a PFOA contamination in the village in order to assess the response by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration (Conservative critics of the Senate GOP have been deeply critical of the conference’s relationship with Cuomo, especially in the wake of the passage of the SAFE Act).

McLaughlin has been increasingly critical of Republicans in the Senate over the issue, launching a series of provocative tweets at Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif and others in the GOP office there.

He’s not without his critics, however, who point to a vote by McLaughlin against a budget bill that would have provided funding for environmental and clean-water programs.

“If Steve McLaughlin truly cared about ensuring the people of his district and the people of this state had clean drinking water, he wouldn’t have voted against $200 million in Water Quality Improvement Act funding or a record $300 million for the EPF in this year’s budget,” a legislative critic of McLaughlin’s said. “Steve McLaughlin makes a lot of noise, but in the end he only cares about Steve McLaughlin.”

NY-22: Paladino For Tenney

From the Morning Memo:

Republican activist and Buffalo-based businessman Carl Paladino on Monday endorsed Claudia Tenney’s bid for the 22nd congressional district and slammed a former GOP county leader for backing her rival, George Phillips.

In an email to supporters, Paladino called Tenney “the people’s choice for Congress.”

The email included a forward of an invitation from former Manhattan GOP Chairman Dan Isaacs for an event being held in New York City with Phillips and businessman Steve Forbes (the event itself is not a fundraiser).

Paladino wrote, “Dan Issacs has officially left the reservation. He is supporting the opponent of the people’s choice, Claudia Tenney.”

Tenney, an assemblywoman, is making her second bid for the central New York congressional seat that is being vacated by Republican Rep. Richard Hanna this year.

State Lawmakers Want To DiNapoli To Review Buffalo Billion

From the Morning Memo:

Two Republican state lawmakers from western New York on Sunday night released a letter to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli asking he review contracting under Buffalo Billion, and expressed little confidence in the independent investigator hired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The letter comes amid a federal investigation into the Buffalo Billion, a key economic development project for western New York undertaken by the Cuomo administration.

After the governor’s office was issued a subpoena in the case, the Cuomo administration turned to Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, to review contracting under the program.

But Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblyman Ray Walter write in the letter to DiNapoli they are skeptical of the Schwartz investigation.

“We find these allegations deeply disturbing and hope that the ongoing state and federal investigations will hold any offenders responsible for their actions,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

“We also hope these investigations help restore the public’s trust in their government. who have rightfully grown dismayed due to the undeniable culture of corruption that has engulfed state government. While the Governor’s Office has appointed an internal investigator to examine any acts of impropriety, we do not believe such an inquiry can be truly impartial.”

DiNapoli last month signaled he would not want to step on any federal toes by launching an investigation of his own into the Buffalo Billion.

“When you do have an investigation going on, we’re also very mindful of not doing anything that would impede the work of prosecutors,” DiNapoli said in Syracuse.

Buffalo Billion Letter to Comptroller by Nick Reisman

More Than A Month Before RNC, WNY Trump Supporters Already In Cleveland

Looks like Western New York Republicans will have a pretty prominent role in the at the GOP National Convention next month. Trump national campaign staffer Michael Caputo has already set up shop in Cleveland.

According to his social media, Caputo got to Cleveland a few days and says it will be his “home for awhile.” Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw said the political operative is helping organize Trump’s media team for the convention.

Meanwhile, Mychajliw took a day-trip of his own to the Rock N’ Roll Capital Thursday. The comptroller said he planned to be at the convention and wanted to offer up any help he could.

Mychajliw wanted to make clear that unlike Caputo, he’s volunteering his time and his main focus remains on his elected position, but he does believe we’ll see plenty from WNY Trump supporters like Rep. Chris Collins, businesman Carl Paladino, and Caputo from July 18th to July 21st.

Paladino Calls Paul Ryan And His Trump Endorsement ‘Irrelevant’

Despite his endorsement of Donald Trump on Thursday, a boisterous Trump supporter didn’t back off of his criticism of House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Just a day after blasting Ryan in an email, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino didn’t seem impressed with the Wisconsin Republican’s change of heart.

“I said he’s a yellow-bellied coward in my memo,” Paladino said.

Ryan refused to endorse Trump even after his remaining GOP rivals exited the race.  He previously cited conservative principles as the reason for keeping Trump at arm’s length.

“For a man who didn’t show many conservative values when he took a bunch of RINO Republicans and joined the Democrats in voting in an omnibus spending bill for a trillion dollars that (President) Obama wanted,” said Paladino.

Paladino scoffed at establishment and conservative Republican opposition to his preferred candidate. He even defended Trump’s efforts to appeal to moderate and independent voters.

“If you’re way over to the right you’re not going to get elected,” Paladino said.

That statement is a bit of a departure from the Paladino we’ve come to expect. The Buffalo businessman described his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and his continued involvement in state politics as a continued effort to drag the state Republican party to the right.

“These days you have to be 100 percent conservative or we’re going to vote for the liberal?  What’s wrong with these people?” asked Paladino.

Ryan announced Thursday he would be voting for Trump.  He said a Trump presidency would aid the House majority in implementing its agenda.

Paladino called Ryan, and his “half-hearted” endorsement, irrelevant.

“Finally he comes out today and says he’s going to vote for him?  He didn’t want to give a full endorsement.  It’s like make up your mind buddy.  Obviously he’s not going to be a great statesman,” Paladino added

Time Running Short For Any Ethics Deal

From the Morning Memo:

The clock on the legislative session is winding down, and yet there’s been little to no public progress made on ethics or campaign finance reform in Albany. Lawmakers say it’s getting late in the year to reach a deal.

“I would say right now my optimism is low because we’ve had the entire session here to do something specific,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

Time is running short in Albany, with 9 legislative session days to go before lawmakers leave the Capitol for the rest of the year and focus, in most cases, on running for re-election.

But signs of any agreement on ethics reform, at least for now, appear elusive.

In the state Senate, lawmakers are at odds over proposals to ban unlimited donations from limited liability companies. A bill that would have done so was bottled up in a committee earlier in May.

“I never say never, otherwise why would I get up in the morning and come back here so, there’s always room for hope and a chance,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan. “I’ve continuously said all year why are we wasting the crisis of corruption? Why aren’t we fixing ourselves?”

In the Assembly, meanwhile, a constitutional amendment to strip corrupt officials of their pensions was approved last year, but that version differs from what was passed by the Senate. Lawmakers there are growing frustrated the amendment will ever pass.

“There’s several version of pension forfeiture bills out there,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from Queensbury. “I’m at the point now where any of them is better than doing none of them. It may be one that is yet to be even drafted.”

For his part, Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans a roll out of ethics reform bills over the next several days. He released eight different versions of a bill to close the LLC loophole on Tuesday.

“We’ll talk about income limits. We’ll talk independence,” Cuomo said. “Then we’ll talk about term limits, but we have a full agenda.”