Working Families Party

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.

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.”