Working Families Party

WFP And Cuomo: It’s Complicated

The Working Families Party blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement released after midnight, blaming him for the Democratic losses on the state and federal level in New York.

In particular, WFP Director Bill Lipton singled out the governor’s newly formed Women’s Equality Party as a “fake party” and knocked Cuomo for not spending more money to help Democrats retake full control of the state Senate.

“Governor Cuomo promised to take back the State Senate,” Lipton said in the statement. “Instead, he squandered millions on a fake party, and left millions more in his campaign account as New York Democrats in the legislature and in Congress withered on the vine. But he couldn’t sink WFP and we’re not going anywhere, except back to Albany to fight for working families. Our party is needed now more than ever.”

The surging Green Party, meanwhile, appears to have displaced the WFP from Row D.

Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins received 146,564 votes as of early Wednesday morning, with Cuomo receiving 94,593 on the WFP line.

The party was able to clear the 50,000-vote hurdle in to keep its ballot status.

But WFP officials were miffed as Cuomo sought to promote the Women’s Equality Party over their ballot line and sought to frame a vote for the governor on their line as sending him a message.

Cuomo was endorsed by the party in May after pledging to back a host of liberal measures ranging from the Dream Act, to the public financing of political campaigns.

Those measures appear to be in doubt next year with Republicans holding a clear majority in the state Senate.

Gillibrand Boosts Working Families Party

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo presses for votes on the newly formed Women’s Equality Party ballot line, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Saturday sent out a fundraising appeal for the Working Families Party.

In the email, Gillibrand makes a pitch for a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

“Equal pay for equal work. A minimum wage that lifts millions of New Yorkers out of poverty. Real campaign finance reform so more women can run against the old boys’ network,” Gillibrand writes in the email.

“Control of the New York State Senate will determine whether we see decisive wins on these issues, or stagnation and perhaps even lost ground,” she adds.

Gillibrand also name-drops the Democratic Senate candidates running in key districts that could decide control of the chamber, including Buffalo’s Marc Panepinto, who the governor is yet to endorse (Cuomo is torn on the race, considering Sen. Mark Grisanti is the last sitting Republican in the chamber to have supported same-sex marriage in 2011).

Cuomo has endorsed candidates in other battleground Senate races, including Democrats Justin Wagner, Adrienne Esposito and Sens. Terry Gipson, Ted O’Brien and Cecilia Tkaczyk.

At the same time, the state Democratic Committee and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee are also joining forces to send mailers on behalf of candidates.

Nevertheless, Cuomo has been criticized by liberals advocates for not being more forcefully in favor of a Democratic takeover of the chamber this year, which came to a head this week when the governor knocked public schools as a “monopoly” he wants to break by strengthening charter schools.

Gillibrand’s push for the WFP is eyebrow-raising in part because of Cuomo’s efforts to establish the Women’s Equality Party as a permanent party through the next election cycle and Gillibrand’s own backing of electing more women to public office.

The email appeal comes as the WFP is making a concerted effort to have liberal voters vote on their ballot line.

The pressure on the WFP is two-fold: Cuomo’s Women’s Equality ballot line could siphon votes away from the labor-backed WFP, while Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is expected to receive a large number of votes from liberals disaffected by the governor’s economic policies.

Cuomo’s formation of the women-centric ballot line could hinder the party’s efforts at achieving 50,000 votes, the necessary threshold to qualify for the ballot. At the very least, the party’s ballot position — Row D — is potentially at stake this year.

Cuomo has denied that he’s trying to weaken the Working Families Party, whose endorsement he had to fight for back in May. In a WNYC radio interview on Friday, Cuomo insisted the Women’s Equality Party is about enacting the social change of passing the full Women’s Equality Act, and that anything to the contrary is “tortured analysis.”

WFP Gets A Pitch From Whoopi Goldberg

The Working Families Party on Friday received a celebrity boost in a video message from Whoopi Goldberg.

In a minute-and-half video, Goldberg touts the WFP as the “progressive party” that has helped elect officials who in turn have fought to pass measures such as paid sick leave, living wages and support for public transit.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is pushing for votes on his Women’s Equality Party ballot line next week, is not mentioned.

But Goldberg does suggest — as have other WFPers recently — that a vote on the liberal, labor-backed line will be about sending a message.

“Next year could be big. When we stand together and vote, it’s a clear progressive message Albany cannot ignore,” she says.

Goldberg adds: “We can’t wait for them until we elect them. Get out and vote.”

A star-powered GOTV effort isn’t new for the WFP. The party in 2010 had Matt Damon promoting a vote on the ballot line as well; Goldberg jokes in the video she wants viewers to share it on social media and beat his view total.

Meanwhile, the WFP co-chairwoman, Karen Scharff, pushed back this afternoon after Cuomo made reference to the creation of “fringe” parties in a radio interview.

“I’m 5 feet one inches tall, but even little parties can pack a big punch,” Scharff said. “We’ve never been afraid to pressure the big guys to be accountable to women and families.”

Teachout’s Campaign Mananger: Vote For Cuomo On WFP Line

Zephyr Teachout’s former campaign manager is urging liberals to send a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by vote for him on the Working Families Party line.

The eyebrow-raising push came this afternoon in the form of an email from the Working Families Party, which spurned Teachout in May in favor of giving Cuomo the labor-backed party’s ballot line this fall.

“I didn’t agree with the decision by the Working Families Party to nominate Andrew Cuomo for governor this summer,” writes Mike BOland in the email. “Like many progressives, I disagreed strongly with the Governor’s economic policies over the last four years. That’s a big reason why I left the WFP after 15 years to be Zephyr Teachout’s campaign manager. I’m proud of what we accomplished on that campaign. I believe we helped change the conversation in New York politics.”

Cuomo, at the time of receiving the party’s endorsement, pledged to support a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate and measures like public financing, the Dream Act and a $10.10 minimum wage.

At the time, the reasoning for the WFP was that if the party didn’t nominate Cuomo as its standard bearer and went along with a stand-alone candidate for the first time in its history, it’s ballot status could be jeopardized.

But ironically, keeping the WFP’s ballot status, much less its spot at Row E, appears to be increasingly a concern for party leaders and activists as the governor pushes for voters to back him on the Women’s Equality Party line, which is increasingly being seen as a rival for liberals’ votes and potential siphon away support from the WFP.

Teachout, as a Democratic primary opponent of the governor’s, ultimately received 35 percent of the vote, marshaling liberal dissatisfaction with Cuomo’s economic record over the last foue years.

Boland writes in the email that supporting Cuomo on the WFP ballot line would hold him accountable.

“On November 5th, it seems to me that progressives will wake up to one of two worlds: one with a strong WFP holding the governor accountable day in and day out, or one with a weak WFP where corporations and billionaires have even more power in Albany than they do now. For me, the choice between those two scenarios is clear,” he writes.

That being said, he also raises the possibility of the party not receiving 50,000 votes in order to maintain permanent ballot status for the next election cycle.

“In order to stay on the ballot, the Working Families Party needs to win 50,000 votes for Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday. The more votes progressives cast for Gov. Cuomo on the WFP line, the stronger position WFP will be in come November 5th,” he says. “And that is when the real work begins — when we all need to come together to fight for higher wages for workers, campaign finance reform to change Albany, full funding of our schools, and so much more.”

The email comes after Teachout has said she will not endorse in the race for governor.

Earlier today, Cuomo released his WFP-like email calling on supporters to vote for him and his running mate Kathy Hochul on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line.

In that email, Cuomo said he wanted the newly created ballot line to achieve the 50,000-vote threshold next week in order to remain on the ballot next year.

The Cuomo-WFP contretemps were renewed this week after Cuomo called public schools a “monopoly” and escalated a war of words with the statewide teachers union NYSUT.

Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state Democratic Committee, called the back and forth with the WFP “political blather.”

WFP Co-Chairwoman Karen Scharff in a statement earlier today knocked that statement, saying the dispute is rooted in clear policy disagreements over education.

Working Families Party: Vote Our Ballot Line

Facing competition this Election Day from the Women’s Equality Party ballot, the labor-backed Working Families Party on Thursday released a video featuring prominent Democratic women urging a vote for the WFP.

The message of the video is clear: The WFP stands for everything the WEP stands for, and them some.

The video comes though as the Women’s Equality Party — formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year as a way to promote his backing of the Women’s Equality Act — could lead to a potential downgrade in their ballot position, currently Row D.

In the video, elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, says a vote for the WFP is a vote for women’s equality, as well as campaign finance reform and the Dream Act.

“Equality means all of this, and more,” says Karen Scharff, the party’s co-chair, in the video.

Cuomo had to fight for the WFP’s endorsement earlier this year, and ultimately won their backing after pledging to support a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate as well as re-affirm his support for a liberal agenda next year.

But the speculation has been Cuomo formed the Women’s Equality Party in part to challenge the supremacy of the WFP as the left-leaning third party ballot line in the state, or at the very least to make party leaders nervous heading in to Election Day.

Still, women who are prominent in liberal-advocacy politics are not totally on board with the idea of the Women’s Equality Party.

Scharff has been critical of the women-centric party, and in an interview on Capital Tonight questioned the need for the ballot line.

Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan has called the party a “mistake” and said it could lead to a marginalization of female voters.

Gloria Steinem Pitches Cuomo on WFP Line

From the Morning Memo:

Since Gov. Cuomo isn’t pitching himself on the Working Families Party line – especially not with women, a key voting bloc – the labor-backed party has tapped an icon in the women’s movement to do it for him.

The WFP yesterday sent out an email from veteran activist and feminist Gloria Steinem, who implored New Yorkers to join her in voting for Cuomo on Row D, insisting: “This is important for women, for men, for the future of our state.”

Steinem went on to enumerate the WFP’s achievements, calling the party “the anchor of progressive reform across this diverse state that so often is the conscience of the country.”

She made no mention of Cuomo or his record on progressive issues, or his endorsement agreement with the WFP that included a pledge to support the Democrats’ effort to take back the state Senate majority.

“Our votes on the Working Families Party line help elect leaders who have promised to pass a full Women’s Equality agenda as well as a full range of progressive policies that affect every New York woman,” Steinem wrote.

“A strong WFP vote also builds the kind of independent, progressive political power we need to hold those same politicians to their promises after Election Day.”

The irony here is that Cuomo is urging voters to support him on the newly created “Women’s Equality Line” – otherwise known as the WEP, just one letter away from the WFP.

If the governor attracts at least 50,000 votes on the WEP, it will attain official party status and automatic ballot access for the next four years.

Depending on how many votes Cuomo attracts on the WFP line, the party could lose its hard-fought position on Row D, and even – though insiders don’t expect this – lose its ballot line altogether.

Steinem’s email calls the governor’s race “the most important vote in this year’s election.”

It also includes a link to a sample ballot that shows bubbles filled out for the top three statewide Democratic candidates – Cuomo, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – all of whom have been cross endorsed by the WFP.

WFP Co-Chair: No Need for Women’s Equality Party

From the Morning Memo:

When allies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of the Women’s Equality Party earlier this year, it was not lost on Working Families Party leaders that just one letter of the alphabet separates “WEP” from “WFP.”

Some of the more conspiracy theory-minded members of New York’s political class wondered what the governor was up to, and if he was hoping to confuse voters and dilute the WFP vote – potentially bumping the labor-backed party from its hard-fought position on Row D, or even perhaps robbing it of ballot status altogether.

The WFP must receive at least 50,000 votes for its candidate for governor – Cuomo – in order to maintain its official standing as a party, and an automatic slot on the ballot for the next four years.

Cuomo isn’t campaigning terribly hard on the WFP line. In fact, he didn’t even bother putting in an appearance at the party’s big campaign rally in Manhattan on Wednesday night. And the feeling appears mutual among those who did attend the rally, including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Cuomo was not the focus of the event, and was barely even mentioned there.

Instead, the WFP has concentrated its efforts on flipping the Senate into Democratic hands – something Cuomo pledged to support when he cut an endorsement deal with the WFP back in May, but to which he has not yet visibly dedicated much energy.

What Cuomo is dedicating considerable time and resources to is the Women’s Equality Party. This weekend, he and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, will again board their fancy “Women’s Equality Express” buses (hopefully minus the cookies this time), and head to Long Island for more campaign appearances.

Privately, a number of women in political circles have looked askance at Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Party effort, suggesting the single-issue approach to woo women voters is dated and even demeaning.

During a CapTon interview last night, WFP Co-Chair Karen Scharff dismissed the WEP altogether, saying she doesn’t see the “need” for it.

“Women are actually the vast majority of voters in New York State, and I don’t think we should be pigeonholed in a separate party,” said Scharff, who is also executive director of Citizen Action of New York.

“Women should be voting on the WFP line,” she continued. “The WFP line is what’s going to elect the state senators who will actually pass the Women Equality Act.”

“It’s great to have a women’s equality campaign message, but what actually matters to New Yorkers is passing a Women’s Equality Act. The only way that passes is if we elect a Democrat-Working Families majority to the state Senate.”

“And it’s the candidates who are on that line whose votes are needed to actually have women’s lives improve in this state.”

Scharff also noted that there are a plethora of issues that matter to women other than abortion rights, which has been the main focus of Cuomo’s WEP push.

She specifically singled out a minimum wage increase and creation of a statewide public campaign finance system – two other WFP agenda items that Cuomo promised to support as part of his endorsement deal with the party.

I asked Scharff is she thought the governor’s WEP push was a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine the WFP, with which he has had a contentious relationship since at least 2010.

“I have no idea what the motivation is,” she replied. “I’m not involved (in the WEP).”

WFP Emails On Airbnb

The Working Families Party on Monday evening emailed supporters with a push against the online apartment-sharing service Airbnb.

The email from the labor-aligned party says Airbnb, which allows users to rent homes and apartments on a temporary basis, is contributing to ever-increasing rents in New York City.

“At a time when average New Yorkers are paying an unsustainable 40% of their income towards rent and many of us are being driven out of our neighborhoods due to soaring costs, Airbnb’s worst users are contributing to a shortage of available and affordable housing,” the email says. “Working families in New York can barely get by these days — there’s no need for Airbnb to make the problem worse.”

The email, which asks supporters to sign a petition opposing Airbnb’s business practices, suggests the company’s main users are wealthy landlords who are flipping their properties into illegal hotels.

“Over the last three years, the top 40 Airbnb users alone have grossed profits of $35 million. That’s not making ends meet — that’s making a fortune off of an illegal business,” the email says.

The WFP is affiliated with a number of groups that have problems with the company, including the Hotel Trades Council, as well as affordable rent organizations.

Airbnb has come under scrutiny from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, who successfully sought information on the company’s users in order to determine whether any hosts have broken subletting laws or failed to pay taxes.

The email comes as the WFP has exerted its influence in this election cycle, pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to accept a host of liberal measures — including a faster phase in of the state’s minimum wage and the DREAM Act — order to receive its endorsement.

Are WFP Case Subpoenas Legal?

From today’s Morning Memo:

A key union affiliate of the Working Families Party is questioning the legality of the latest round of subpoenas issued by a special prosecutor investigating the labor-backed organization’s 2009 campaign activities.

In an Aug. 5 letter to the special prosecutor, Roger Adler, the attorney for political action committee of the Communications Workers of America noted that by sending a July 1 subpoena to the union’s political arm, Adler was “proceeding as if that were a valid grand jury subpoena.”

But in an Aug. 4 interview with Capital New York, Adler said “Grand Jury Number Two” in this long-standing case would not be impaneled until Friday, Sept. 5.

That was consistent with a claim made in an email to the CWA PAC attorney, James Reif, of Gladstein Reif and Meginniss, in which, Reif wrote to Adler, “you stated that the Richmond County Grand Jury will begin taking testimony on September 5, 2014.”

“Both of these statements following a July 18, 2014 email in which you stated that a grand jury would be impaneled on August 20, 2014,” Reif continued in his letter, which appears after the jump.

“Your statement to the press and your July 18 and July 31 emails suggest that, in early July, there was no grand jury then impaneled which was investigating the 2009 campaign activities of the Working Families Party. In such a case, the subpoena to the CWA PAC dated July 1 and returnable July 8 is without legal authority.”

“Before my client takes further steps to respond to the subpoena, please confirm whether, as the foregoing statement and emails suggest, there was no grand jury impaneled in July in respect to the above-described investigation to properly authorize issuance thereof,” Reif concluded.

As of close of business Friday, Adler had not responded to Reif’s letter, according to a source with knowledge of this case.

Adler did not return a message left by CapTon at his office Friday afternoon seeking comment.

The CWA PAC is not the only entity to receive subpoenas from Adler, though he has repeatedly refused to confirm exactly to whom he sent them.

SEIU 1199 political director Kevin Finnegan, in that same Aug. 4 Capital NY report, confirmed the union had also received a subpoena from Adler, had retained counsel and would be “cooperating fully.”

An attorney for Staten Island Councilwoman Debi Rose confirmed to The Staten Island Advance on Aug. 5 that Rose had also received a subpoena, is not a target of Adler’s investigation and would also be “cooperating fully” with the special prosecutor.

According to the Advance, Adler had also issued subpoenas to the WFP itself, the NYC Campaign Finance Board, 32 BJ SEIU, and District Council 37.

Adler told the Advance that the grand jury would meet on Wednesdays and Fridays of each week, and that he expected it to last until sometime in November.

“I just want to make sure we have more than enough time,” Adler told the Advance. “At the end of October, we’ll have a better idea how deep into November we’re going to have to go.”

Adler previously served subpoenas on WFP officials in 2013.

More >

WFP Criticizes Wu’s Triborough And Scaffold Comments

The labor-backed Working Families Party fired its first salvo at the Teachout-Wu ticket, saying in a statement the party “strongly disagrees” with comments made by Columbia professor Tim Wu on potentially scaling back regulations like the Triborough amendment and the Scaffold Law.

Wu, the candidate for lieutenant governor on the Teachout ticket, told Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom Wednesday morning that he would be open to considering reforming the laws when it came to helping small businesses.

“I think the regulatory burden on small businesses in New York is too strong,” Wu said in the interview. “There is too much red tape, there is too much regulation. Part of how I’d rejuvenate the upstate economy is by relieving small businesses of the onerous regulatory requirements.”

The WFP this afternoon criticized those comments as a “slippery slope.”

“We strongly disagree with Tim Wu’s comments about the need to deregulate essential worker protections in the Triborough Amendment and Scaffold Law. Stripping away basic rights for working people is a slippery slope that would set the labor community back decades,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the WFP.

Zephyr Teachout sought the WFP ballot line at the party’s May convention, but ultimately failed to get a Wilson-Pakula waiver to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Teachout and Wu are running to the left in many respects to Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, especially on issues of taxes and schools funding.

But Cuomo’s support from the WFP also comes with the backing of key labor groups that are also pushing for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

Nevertheless, Teachout and Wu say they have collected 45,000 signatures to achieve primary ballot access this September.