Scott Stringer

Democrats Unite To Honor de Blasio

They’re just one big, happy Democratic family.

All of the state’s top elected Democratic officials will unite on Jan. 5 to host a breakfast at Gracie Mansion on Jan. 5. to celebrate the inauguration of New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio.

An invitation to what is officially being billed as an “inauguration committee breakfast,” lists Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, AG Eric Schneiderman, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, NYC Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer and NYC Public Advocate-elect Tish James as the hosts of the event.

The breakfast will take place form 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Gracie on Sunday, Jan. 5 – four days after de Blasio is sworn into office at City Hall.

Spitzer On The Air: ‘I Failed’ (Updated)

The city comptroller campaign of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has a new TV ad that begins with an acknowledgment.

“Look, I failed,” Spitzer says off-camera. “Big time. I hurt a lot of people.”

Cue to Spitzer looking directly into the camera seeking redemption.

In the ad, he harkens back to his time as attorney general, when he was the sheriff of Wall Street, not a late-night TV joke.

He suggests the “negative noise” voters will hear is coming mainly because of the financial industry’s desire to not see him in a position of power. Spitzer plans to broadly expand the powers of the city comptroller’s post, which manages the city’s pension fund and audits agencies, into a more activist office.

The ad itself was put together by former BBDO ad man Jimmy Siegel, the former Madison Avenue ad man who left his position at BBDO to work for Spitzer in 2006.

“Keep in mind where it’s coming from. Maybe being hated by the Wall Street firms isn’t such a bad thing,” Spitzer said. “Everyone, no matter who you are, deserves a fair shot. I’m asking voters do the same for me.”

A spokesman for the campaign said in an email this afternoon the ad will be in rotation in the coming days.

UPDATE: The campaign of Spitzer’s primary opponent, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer, sent out this comment in response to the ad:

“Eliot Spitzer’s real failure was a governorship that left Albany more broken than when he arrived. It’s clearer and clearer that for Eliot Spitzer, this campaign is not about the needs and struggles of New York’s middle class – it’s all about Eliot Spitzer.”

The Investment Question

When Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer launched the initial salvo in his realease-your-tax-returns war with his NYC comptroller primary opponent, Eliot Spitzer, he did so by putting out five years of his own returns, enabling reporters – and members of the public – to scrutinize the finances of Stringer and his wife, Elyse Buxbaum.

A State of Politics reader emailed me a few days ago to note that the Stringer-Buxbaum family has virtually no investment income – just $72 this year.

“(I)t strikes me as rather odd that the guy running for chief investment officer of NYC has no investments and/or investment income, especially for a guy with family income over $200k/year,” the reader wrote.”

To be fair, it’s not like the comptroller’s job requires him to make stock picks. There are five pension funds in New York City, which, unlike the state pension fund, are run by boards of trustees comprised of elected and appointed officials and union representatives. And each has a team of professional investment advisors to help with management and investment policies.

The issue of investment experience does often come up in the context of the comptroller’s office at both the city and state level, however.

For example, then-Gov. Spitzer’s chief complaint about then-Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli when he was up for disgraced former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s job back in 2007 was that he was a life-long public servant and lacked financial expertise.

The Legislature went over Spitzer’s head and appointed DiNapoli to the comptroller’s office, anyway. Spitzer was furious and went on a rampage around the state, stopping in the districts of back-bench legislators to publicly excoriate them and also to call DiNapoli “thoroughly and totally unqualified for the job.”

(DiNapoli has since been formally elected by the voters to his post. He and Spitzer long ago mended their fences, although there was some speculation that the former governor might primary the comptroller, he obviously has chosen to go in a different direction).

Spitzer eventually released  just two pages of his tax returns, which did not reveal any information about his investments, although his Conflict of Interests Board filing shows he makes millions of dollars from his family real estate business and has no debts.

Asked about Stringer’s lack of investment income, his campaign noted that he does have a pension from his years of public service, a 457 deferred compensation plan (similiar to a 401K), which he can’t touch until retirement, and a college savings account for his first child. (Another one will likely be set up for his second).

As to Stringer’s investment experience, or lack thereof, the campaign sent me the following statement:

“As a fiduciary of the New York City Employee Retirement System for the last 8 years, Scott has worked with his fellow trustees to grow the City’s pension funds through prudent investments, improving diversification and ensuring more rigorous assessment of risks to investments such as corporate accountability and violations of environmental regulations.”

“Scott was among the first to call for a ban on private placement agents for City pension investment and also worked to advance shareholder initiatives to align corporate executive pay with long-term performance, promote workplace diversity, increase transparency and sustainability, and disclose corporate political spending.”