Working Families Party

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.

WFP To Remain Neutral In Contested Senate Primaries

The labor-aligned Working Families Party plans to remain neutral in two hotly contested state Senate primary races that feature challenges to members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a party source on Tuesday confirmed.

The Daily News reported earlier this afternoon the decision by the WFP.

The WFP does not plan to become involved in the primary races between IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx and former city Councilman Oliver Koppell, nor will it make an endorsement in the race between former city Comptroller John Liu and IDC Sen. Tony Avella of Queens.

The source said the decision will allow the party to focus its efforts on bringing full Democratic control to the state Senate.

Klein and his five-member conference last month announced it would form a new coalition with mainline Democrats, breaking apart its two-year-old coalition with Republicans in the chamber.

The agreement came as several IDC Democrats were being threatened with, or had received formal primary challenges.

But after the deal to form a new majority coalition was reached, two challengers to Sens. David Valesky and Diane Savino, fell away.

The agreement for the WFP to stay neutral also comes as a coalition of labor groups, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo support a full Democratic takeover of the Senate.

The powerful labor union 1199/SEIU plans to help IDC Democrats, political director Kevin Finnegan said last month.

“Then we’ll be all in,” Finnegan said. “I don’t know what that means at this point.”

Nevertheless, the end of the primary challenges from Liu and Koppell never seemed to be part of the agreement to form a new coalition, according to Sen. Mike Gianaris in a Capital Tonight interview last week.

“To be clear, we haven’t had made any specific agreements related to primaries,” Gianaris said. “Now that we’re in a cooperative mood we’re trying to be as helpful as we can and as you said someone of these primary candidates have decided to stand down. But there are primaries going on on both sides of the equation.”

WFP Raises Off IDC-Dem Deal

Part II of today’s Morning Memo:

The WFP is wasting no time is trying to capitalize on the news that Klein and breakaway conference have agreed to strike a power-sharing deal with the regular Democrats.

In an email with the subject line “Guess Who’s Back?” WFP State Director Bill Lipton crowed over the news that Klein et al would be forming a “new progressive majority coalition” that (theoretically) will enable passage of a host of blocked bills – from the Women’s Equality Act to public campaign financing.

But Lipton also recognized that even with the IDC on their side, the Democrats would be holding an extremely slim, one-seat margin in the chamber – and that’s assuming they hold every seat they’ve got in the upcoming elections.

“There are three progressive Democrats in swing districts elected with the help of Obama’s 2012 wave,” Lipton wrote.

“Holding those seats will take real work. There are also three formerly Republican held open-seats that could be ripe pick-up opportunities to expand the majority.”

“We need to start raising the money to run competitive races in all six of those seats starting now. Can you contribute $3 to elect a progressive majority in the State Senate?”

“…it’ll take a lot more work to get to that progressive vision we’re dreaming about.”

“And there’s no doubt that the billionaires and bankers and the right wing forces will spend big to stop this from happening. They’ll pour untold millions into New York State Republicans to stop us from putting New York on a progressive path.”

I believe the three swing district Democrats Lipton is referring to are Sens. Terry Gipson, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Ted O’Brien.

The open seats include two on Long Island – one vacated by ex-Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, the other to be given up by Sen. Lee Zeldin as he challenges Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 – and one in the Hudson Valley that currently belongs to retiring Sen. Greg Ball.

Part of Cuomo’s WFP endorsement deal also reportedly included creation of a $10 million fund to help the Democrats take back the Senate, but it remains unclear exactly where all that cash will come from – and how much, if any, Cuomo himself will be contributing.

Bill de Blasio, Boogeyman

From today’s Morning Memo:

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.

Even as they question whether the deal struck by their erstwhile power-sharing partner, IDC Leader Jeff Klein, with his former Democratic colleagues will stick, the Senate Republicans are seeking to turn Klein’s abandonment to their political advantage.

GOP senators – especially those who represent districts north and west of Albany – are warning that upstate will be forgotten if the downstate-dominated Democratic conference takes full control of the chamber.

And they’re playing up the fact that uber-liberal NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leading the charge to flip the Senate into Democratic hands, with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos even going so far as to suggest that de Blasio will become the “de facto governor” of New York if Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

That’s a comment clearly designed to get under the skin of the actual governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has had a rocky relationship with de Blasio since the mayor took office in January.

Skelos drove his point home by saying Cuomo was being “timid” and “sold out” to the labor-backed Working Families Party – a top de Blasio ally – when he agreed to assist his fellow Democrats in their push to take back the Senate in exchange for the WFP’s endorsement.

Sen. Tom Libous, the deputy leader of the Senate GOP, and Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco, made similar comments in separate interviews yesterday.

(Interestingly, and perhaps a bit off-message, DeFrancisco also defended IDC member Dave Valesky, saying he doesn’t support Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey’s threat to challenge the Syracuse Democrat this fall in retaliation for the IDC’s defection).

The anti-de Blasio/downstate vs. upstate argument is apparently a coordinated message for the Senate Republicans, who, according to Capital NY, plan to run this fall against “ultra-liberal New York City radicals” who are working to empower “illegal immigrants” and stifle business.

I’m pretty sure a good number of upstaters have no idea who Bill de Blasio is, but the “we’re your last line of defense against the liberals in NYC” argument is one they’ve certainly heard before from the Senate GOP.

It remains to be seen whether that line of reasoning resonates this time around.

De Blasio Hosts GOTV Tele Town Hall for WFP

The Working Families Party just sent out a blast email announcing that its leaders and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a tele town hall this Thursday night focused on the party’s recent endorsement deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and its effort to “get a bigger-than-ever vote” on Row D for the governor this fall.

The news comes just 24 hours after the candidate the WFP recruited to pressure Cuomo into accepting its endorsement conditions, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, formally announced her plan to mount a primary challenge against Cuomo for the Democratic line. Teachout, as you’ll recall, failed to receive sufficient support at the WFP’s May 31 convention to get onto the ballot, but she did get 41.3 percent of the weighted convention vote to Cuomo’s 58.7 percent.

De Blasio, who was instrumental in brokering the endorsement agreement between the WFP and Cuomo, will host the call at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. That also just so happens to be the final scheduled day of the 2014 legislative session, during which none of the WFP’s top policy agenda items – the DREAM Act, creation of a statewide public campaign finance system, the full 10-point Women’s Equality Act, decriminalization of possession of sall amounts of marijuana and a $10.10 minimum wage/local control over hourly wage icnreases – are likely to be passed by the Legislature.

The WFP has blamed the failure of its agenda squarely on the Senate GOP-IDC coalition, and for that reason is pushing for full control of the chamber by the Democrats.

Cuomo and the WFP’s major labor union partners all signed on to that effort, though exactly what Cuomo will be doing to achieve that goal has yet to be worked out. Also, a number of unions continue to support IDC Leader Jeff Klein in his primary battle with former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell, though they are supporting – or at least promising to support – primary challengers to other IDC members, including former NYC Comptroller John Liu, who is running against the IDC’s newest member, Queens Sen. Tony Avella.

In the email announcing Thursday’s tele town hall, WFP State Director Bill Lipton admitted the party’s legislative agenda is “a big vision and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

“This November, we’ll need a bigger than ever vote on our ballot line than ever – voting on the WFP line for Governor Cuomo means voting for that progressive vision,” Lipton continued. “We believe we can do it – with your help. This campaign for a progressive future starts now.”


Cuomo Shrugs Off Teachout, Insists He’s Been Progressive

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday shrugged off the primary challenge from Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who is launching her gubernatorial campaign and petitioning process.

“You have people on the extreme left… and you have people on the extreme right,” Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom this morning. “That’s what you call a politcal contest.”

Cuomo added it’s “inaccurate” to suggest he hasn’t been sufficiently liberal, pointing to changes to the state’s tax code — which he has alternatively referred to as a tax cut , even though it generated $1.9 billion in extra revenue — as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the controversial gun control package known as the SAFE Act.

Cuomo at the Working Families Party convention last month gained the labor-backed organization’s endorsement after agreeing to help pass a host of liberal-sought legislation, including a new minimum wage increase and the DREAM Act.

Teachout had sought the WFP nomination as well, but came up short in the balloting. Both she and Cuomo received sufficient amounts of the weighted convention vote to get onto the ballot (more than 25 percent) if they were enrolled WFP members. But they are both Democrats and need special permission from party leaders known as a Wilson Pakula, which has a higher threshold (jsut over 50 percent) that only Cuomo managed to cross.

The governor insisted during his interview today he’s been supportive of major liberal legislation in the past.

“I did not promise to be more progressive,” Cuomo said in the interview. “I am a progressive Democrat and this state has been more progressive.”

At the same time, Cuomo has pledged to help Democrats retake the Senate.

On Monday, he clarified that such support is contingent on whether those lawmakers backed a liberal platform as well, suggesting his endorsement isn’t a blanket one for all Democratic senators.

“In terms of a Democrat Senate, I support progressive senators that support progressive issues,” he said.

Cuomo added he wanted to “defer” questions about the Senate leadership until after the legislative session concludes.

Trying to Rein In Teachout (Updated)

The Working Families Party, which launched Zephyr Teachout’s New York political career, is now trying desperately to prevent her from moving forward without its support in opposition to the candidate it chose over her: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Since Teachout lost the WFP endorsement to Cuomo at the party’s convention outside Albany on May 31, party leaders have tried several times to talk the Fordham Law professor out of her desire to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary.

Two sources with knowledge of the WFP’s efforts confirmed that there have been several meetings in recent weeks with Teachout and former members of the party’s staff who are now committed to helping her in her quixotic quest. That includes the WFP’s former field director, Mike Boland, who was so upset over the party’s decision to back Cuomo over Teachout that he quit his job to run her campaign.

As Nick noted earlier, the WFP is doubling down on its support of Cuomo, issuing a statement this afternoon urging “progressives” to support him in the Democratic primary (should one materialize) and vote for him on the WFP line in November.

The NY Post reported this morning that Teachout planned to begin circulating petitions today in order to get onto the September primary ballot. Technically speaking, she needs to collect 15,000 valid signatures from registered Democrats across the state, but the rule of thumb to survive challenges from the opposition – and it’s a safe bet that in this case, there will be challenges – is to colect three times the required amount to provide a cushion.

Teachout has not yet officially announced her campaign.

As of this morning, she was still hedging, telling me in a brief conversation on Twitter that due to the tight political calendar, she needed to circulate petitions and plan a campaign while also trying to decide whether she wanted to run at all. “If I do this, I’ll do it right,” she wrote. “If not, no harm no foul. Tx.”

UPDATE: Teachout confirmed in an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed that she will indeed challenge Cuomo. Her LG runningmate will be Tim Wu, a Columbia Law professor known for his advocacy of net neutrality. The BuzzFeed story makes the following very good point:

“Though Teachout’s campaign can prove disruptive to Cuomo’s early election season, it has one silver lining for the incumbent. Without a primary challenger, Cuomo would have to return a percentage of donations he received. With Teachout’s entry, Cuomo will be able to accept maximum donations for both the primary and general election cycles.”

WFP Endorses John Liu’s Senate Bid (Updated)

The Working Families Party on Thursday endorsed John Liu’s Democratic primary bid against IDC Sen. Tony Avella.

The WFP is part of a labor-backed coalition that is trying to reclaim control of the state Senate for Democrats, with part of that strategy running primary campaigns against members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein’s primary opponent, Oliver Koppell, was previously endorsed by the WFP last month.

Now it’s Liu’s turn, a former city comptroller who hopes to unseat Avella in Queens.

Avella is a relatively new member of the IDC, having defected to the conference earlier this year.

“The Republicans and their allies in the Senate have had ample chances to make New York a better place for working women and men, and they’ve failed. It’s time for a change,” Liu said in a statement. “With the help of the Working Families Party, I will bring that change to Albany. Whether it’s passing the DREAM Act, pushing for reforms to our housing laws that create and preserve truly affordable housing, or fighting for a public campaign finance system that finally brings fair elections to New York, I will relentlessly pursue the policies and reforms that make this state a fair and equitable place to live and work.”

IDC Sen. Diane Savino, who potentially faces a primary challenge herself, told reporters earlier on Thursday the IDC would remain intact regardless of the political landscape next year.

She wouldn’t say whether those plans include forming a new governing coalition with Democrats as opposed to the Senate GOP.

Updated: Avella’s campaign hit back, and they hit back pretty hard:

“Just days after the Court of Appeals ruled that a special prosecutor was permitted to continue its criminal investigation into the Working Families Party, they are now shamelessly backing a disgraced candidate for state senate who comes with his own ethical lapses,” campaign spokeswoman Heather Sager said in a statement. “But this should come as no surprise as both the WFP and John Liu have their own cherished history of backroom deals, reduced-rate-in-kind contributions for city office, and alleged campaign violations that bring utter disgust to our democratic process.”