Assembly Spends More On Outside Attorneys

Add another $58,000 to the Legislature’s legal costs.

The state Assembly was approved for a contract amendment with Whiteman Osterman and Hanna LLP for outside legal aid, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office approved $50,000 in payments to Rossein Associates for outside counsel relating to the Assembly’s sexual harassment investigations.

An additional $10,000 to Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP was also approved in order to pay for outside investigations as part of the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Both the Senate and Assembly have increasingly relied on the use of outside legal firms and counsel to handle either sexual harassment investigations, lawsuits and the probe from the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption as lawmakers sought to quash subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel.

In non-legal related spending, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has also approved a $894,000 revenue contract with Swank Motions Pictures, Inc. in order to gain public performance licneses in order to show movies at the state’s correctional facilities.

The state also approved a $5.2 million payment for capital upgrades at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills.

Teachout Campaign Likes What It Sees In Q-Poll

Zephyr Teachout may be largely unknown to voters, but her campaign says that’s beside the point.

Teachout, who is running a Democratic primary campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is unknown to 85 percent of voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.

But Teachout’s campaign manager, Mike Boland, says that may not matter, given the low turnout expected in next month’s primary, as well as primaries tending to turn out true believers.

“The outcome of this election is going to be determined by the passion of parents and teachers, the energy of the anti-fracking movement, and voters energized by our vision of a small business economy that works for all of us,” Boland said. “Let’s take a look at the numbers: turnout in the Democratic Primary is going to be somewhere around 15%, and already 15% of Democrats know who we are. Most of the people who know us are voting for us. For the Governor, his scandals are killing enthusiasm among his base. Everyday its more bad news. Yesterday he couldn’t muster enough support by organized labor to get their endorsement.”

Meanwhile, Teachout’s running mate, Columbia professor Tim Wu, plans to campaign in Buffalo, the home turf of former Rep. Kathy Hochul, who is Cuomo’s choice for lieutenant governor. His stops include a meeting with the Buffalo Federation of Teachers.

“I will be taking questions at my events in Buffalo and they are open to the press,” Wu wrote in a tweet. “I believe democracy requires open debate on the issues.”

Unshackle Steers Clear of Statewide Races – For Now

From the Morning Memo:

The pro-business, anti-tax organization Unshackle Upstate released its 2013-14 legislative scorecards yesterday, indicating which Assembly members and senators are likely to receive its endorsement this fall.

But Unshackle has decided not to pick sides just yet in any of the statewide races, although the group’s executive director, Brian Sampson, was not shy about indicating during a CapTon interview last night which way his board is leaning.

“We’ve had initial conversations…about what we want to with the statewide races, and we’ve made a determination at this point we’re not going to engage,” Sampson told me.

“However, we do have concerns about where certain individuals are aligned and what they’re pushing for relative to the Working Family Party and the Senate going back to New York City control, which would be bad for us and upstate. We’re going to have to see where things go.”

“…We’re going to engage in a few primaries where we think it’s important,” Sampson continued. “Then after Labor Day I’ll be getting my board back together to discuss what we want to do both in local elects and in statewide races.”

Unshackle’s rules require unanimous consent among board members for endorsements.

In 2010, the Rochester-based lobbying group sat out the governor’s race, declining to back either Cuomo (then the state attorney general) or his GOP challenger, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino.

It did endorse Republican hedge fund manager Harry Wilson for state comptroller, but he lost in a very tight race to the Democratic incumbent, Tom DiNapoli.

Based on its scorecards, it’s easy to see that Unshackle will be siding with the Senate Republicans again this year, though one Democrat – Syracuse’s Dave Valesky, an IDC member – scored high enough (88) to be considered for the group’s nod. (A lawmaker must score 85 or higher to be endorsement eligible).

That’s a switch for Valesky, according to Sampson. In 2012, the Central New York Democrat received a 72.

In the Assembly, just one Democrat – Buffalo’s Robin Schimminger, who tends to vote on the conservative side, especially when it comes to fiscal and tax matters – made the cut for Unshackle’s endorsement consideration. He received a 94.

Watch Here >>

Q Poll: Cuomo Part of Corruption ‘Problem,’ NYers Like Him Anyway

A whopping 83 percent of New York voters think state government corruption is either a very or somewhat serious problem, and close to half (48 percent) believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo is contributing to the mess, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

Forty-one percent of those polled said Cuomo is part of the solution to the swamp that has engulfed Albany.

Concern over corruption and the governor’s role in combatting it (or failing to do so) has so far not had much of an impact on either his favorability rating or his lead over all challengers in the fall elections.

Cuomo continues to enjoy a massive lead over his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, trouncing him 56-28, which is virtually unchanged from 57-28 in a May Q poll (conducted well before the Moreland mess heated up, thanks to a July 23 New York Times report).

As for Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, 88 percent of New Yorkers have no idea who she is. Ditto (or nearly, at 89 percent) for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins.

“Is the governor’s race all over? Did it ever start?” said Q pollster Mickey Carroll.

“Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino gets only the standard Republican numbers. Voters give Gov. Cuomo a big lead and say he deserves reelection.”

“First, Cuomo has the primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout, who’s about as anonymous as a candidate can be,” Carroll added.

The governor’s favorability rating is 55-36, and 57-28 approve of the job he has been doing. Fifty-three percent of voters say Cuomo deserves to be re-elected, which is about the same as in May.

Fifty percent of voters disapprove of the way Cuomo is handling ethics in government, but 50 percent also say he’s honest and trustworthy.

Of the 51 percent who have read or heard anything about the governor’s decision to shutter the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, 77 percent say the shutdown was a political deal with legislative leaders while 11 percent say the decision was good government.

Even Cuomo’s fellow Democrats believe – 68-15 -that the demise of Moreland was the result of a political deal.

Forty-six percent of all voters think the feds should continue the defunct commission’s work, though another 46 percent said they haven’t heard enough about this issue to have an opinion one way or the other.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., as part of its Executive Breakfast Series, the Long Island Association will host the Executive Director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, Patrick Foye, 300 Broadhollow Rd., Melville.

At 9:30 a.m., NYC Councilmen Dan Garodnick and Brad Lander and advocates promote two bills that would require additional disclosure on political campaign mailers of candidates and groups involved in sending the mailers; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Brian Jones, the Green Party candidate for LG, will speak at a protest on wage theft and the minimum wage, 75 Varrick St. (in front of the state Labor Department), Manhattan. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout is also expected to attend.

Also at 9:30 a.m., the New York State Fair butter sculpture is unveiled, TWC News will air the momentous event live.

At 10:15 a.m., Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul visits the Bayside Senior Center with Assemblyman David Weprin, 221-15 Horace Harding Expressway, Bayside, Queens.

At 10:30 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement, SUNY Purchase, University Police Department Office, 735 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase.

At 11 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio attends an interfaith roundtable with New York City clergy members hosted by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, 452 Madison Ave., Manhattan. (A media availability will follow, though the meeting is closed to the press).

Also at 11 a.m., the FDNY Union of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association endorses Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, Hochul, and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Russo’s on the Bay, 162-45 Cross Bay Blvd., Howard Beach, Queens.

Also at 11 a.m., LG Bob Duffy makes remarks at the Lion Heart Residences of Cohoes groundbreaking, 51 Manor Ave., Cohoes.

Also at 11 a.m., representatives of the statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and community, government and union officials call for the mayor to disclose more details about efforts to award contracts to businesses owned by minority residents and women, and seek a federal investigation of changes in city laws regulating certification of such businesses; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., GOP AG candidare John Cahill attends the Dutchess County senior picnic, Freedom Park, 212 Skidmore Rd., LaGrange.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and health experts hold a press conference to discuss an annual study assessing the health of adults, 404 55th St., Brooklyn.

At 12:30 p.m., Duffy marks remarks at the at the Tech Valley High School ribbon cutting ceremony, Tech Valley High School, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, 246 Tricentennial Dr., Albany.

Also at 12:30 p.m., Cahill attends the Dutchess County Fair, 6550 Spring Brook Ave., Rhinebeck.

From 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Rep. Dan Maffei will answer questions live on Syracuse.com for the first time in the NY-24 campaign.

At 3 p.m., Cahill highlights step one in his plan to fight corruption in Albany, Robert Abrams Building for Law and Justice, (in front of building on State Street, across from the state Capitol), Albany.

At 4:30 p.m., Real Affordability for All, Rev. Michael Walrond and others hold march to escalate a campaign urging developers to set aside 50 percent of all new apartments as real affordable units, First Corinthian Baptist Church, 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Rep. Charlie Rangel attends a campaign event for former NYC Councilman/Senate candidate Robert Jackson, 193 Malcolm X Blvd., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends and speaks at the Ulster County Conservative Committee Dinner, La Mirage Restaurant and Catering, 423 Broadway St., Ulster Park.

Headlines…

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s meeting today with religious leaders at the home of Cardinal Timothy Dolan is meant to soothe tensions ahead of a weekend march to protest the death of a Staten Island man in an apparent police chokehold.

When the Rev. Al Sharpton marches on Staten Island to protest the death of Eric Garner, he won’t be joined by any of the city’s top Democrats.

A Staten Island grand jury will hear evidence next month in the Garner case, potentially forcing the police officers implicated in the apparent chokehold death to testify under oath if they hope to avoid indictment.

De Blasio, who “shot to fame denouncing stop-and-frisk tactics and luxury condominiums, is now defending hard-nosed policing and cutting deals with developers, bowing to the realities of leading an unruly city but also angering an activist left that propelled his rise to the Democratic elite.”

Good-government groups are preparing to do battle with each other over a ballot proposal to change the state’s redistricting process.

For the first time, indicted Sen. Tom Libous addressed a report that the FBI raided his home on Aug. 8th, saying: “I’ve said it all along; I’m very confident. I sleep well at night. We’re going to fight it and the great thing here is I’m going to continue to work hard and do my job every day because I was elected to do so. I’m running hard for re-election and I’ll let the people decide.”

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams is considering backing Zephyr Teachout over Cuomo in advance of the Sept. 9 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The NYT endorses NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s “ClaimStat” initiative, and wonders why the mayor’s office offered only “mild praise” of the idea.

More >

Extras

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan will convene a grand jury to determine if the NYPD officers involved in the death of Eric Garner will face criminal charges.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is still insisting that the case be turned over to the federal government.

Jimmy Fallon’s love affair with Syracuse continues.

Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca will introduce a bill requiring the NYC Board of Elections to use tech-savvy methods to provide voters with election information.

The Post-Standard calls Syracuse students English and math test scores “worse than dismal” and “unacceptable.”

RIP Frank Fossella, a former NYC councilman who also served as first vice chairman of the Staten Island Democratic Party.

WFP co-founder Bertha Lewis, a Teachout supporter, is disappointed that her ally, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, is backing Cuomo for re-election.

Former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn thinks Teachout’s running mate, Tim Wu, should apologize “to the legacy of Susan B. Anthony” for his comments on women’s suffrage.

Democratic LG candidate Kathy Hochul announced the Women’s Equality Party has received more than 100,000 signatures in a recent petitioning drive.

Nine Democrats running for state Senate will file petition signatures to run on the Women’s Equality Party line – including IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

De Blasio has been avoiding the more conservative areas of Brooklyn that he lost to Republican Joe Lhota in 2013.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has made three trips in nine months to New Hampshire, home to the first presidential primary.

“Is it any wonder that more women don’t run for office?”

Emmy nominee Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” fame is lending her voice in support of a petition demanding safe housing for trans people in New York prisons.

Howard Dean is a supporter of Hillary Clinton 2016, but thinks she “will have a challenger in the Democratic field – maybe several. (Not him).

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a $1.25 million challenge grant to Buffalo State’s Art Conservation Department to bolster graduate student fellowships in the flagship program.

Uber, the fast-growing private car start-up, has hired President Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe to be its senior vice president of policy and strategy.

According to the website RateMyProfessors.com, Teachout’s Fordham Law students admire her professorial skills – and think she’s hot.

GOP Rep. Tom Reed says he has lost 110 pounds since undergoing bariatric surgery. A marathon is on his “bucket list.”

Another 50-state economic ranking list – New York is 23rd.

Paterson: ‘Two Republican States’ (Updated)

Former Gov. David Paterson, now the chairman of the New York Democratic Committee, noted in a statement the disparity between Republican standard bearer Rob Astorino’s economic development plan and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos touted his conference’s economic record in an open letter.

“Rob Astorino put out an economic statement today and Senator Dean Skelos put out an open letter to New Yorkers,” Paterson said in a statement released by state Democrats. “They are both fascinating reading although totally inconsistent as if they live in different states. Senator Skelos’ letter says the state is doing great and jobs are up and taxes are down and celebrates four years of great accomplishment. Upstate is doing great and education is advancing. The state is winning! I agree. Senator Skelos happened to omit the one name most responsible for this success, namely Governor Cuomo. However, Rob Astorino must live in a different state because he thinks the state is doing terribly. He thinks New York is losing and needs radical reform. It really is a tale of two Republican states.”

The Astorino agenda and one backed by Senate Republicans isn’t mutually exclusive, of course.

The plan released by Astorino, of course, isn’t something that Republicans in Albany would have a hard time embracing: He wants to double down on the property tax cap by making it permanent, he favors stripping away and streamlining regulations and backs high-volume hydrofracking of natural gas.

But in classic triangulation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made his achievements at the Capitol the same success story Senate Republicans can tell, even as the GOP conference tries to keep Democrats from gaining full control of the chamber.

Senate Republicans, unlikely in 2012, will likely not be including Cuomo in their campaign ads and literature.

Cuomo, who in May announced he supported a full takeover of the state Senate by his party, has since played nice with Skelos in public, most notably including him on a high-profile trip to Israel last week.

That’s not to say Democrats are working hard to drive a wedge between the Senate GOP and the Astorino camp.

There was a flare up in the relationship in June, when Astorino’s top political advisor, Bill O’Reilly, openly criticized Senate Republicans for compromising with Cuomo and even considered running for a vacant seat.

Updated: State Republican Committee spokesman David Laska responds.

“Politicians who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Only one candidate for Governor is facing a challenge from within his own party: Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo’s New York is ranked dead last fiftieth in tax climate, business-friendliness and outmigration, and even many Democrats are tired of his schtick. That’s why over 45,000 of them signed petitions for Cuomo’s primary challenger.”

NYC, Binghamton Area Continue Unemployment Struggle

The Binghamton metro area and New York City continued to struggle with high unemployment, even as upstate and suburban counties show signs of lower unemployment, according to state Labor Department statistics.

The Binghamton area, in the economic doldrums even before the start of the Great Recession, recorded an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent, the highest in the upstate statistical metropolitan areas.

In New York City, unemployment stands at 8 percent. The Bronx, long one of the poorest areas in the nation, has an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent.

Still, upstate counties recorded some of the lowest unemployment in the state:

  • Hamilton County (3.9%)
  • Saratoga County (4.7%)
  • Tompkins County (4.8%)
  • Yates County (4.9%)
  • Columbia County (5.0%)

Statewide, the unemployment rate in July was 6.6 percent, no change from June.

County Rates (1) by Nick Reisman

Redistricting Amendment Supporters Plan Campaign

The good government groups that back a proposed constitutional change to the state’s redistricting process plan a voter outreach and education effort in the lead-up to the Nov. 4 election.

The groups – Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters, – held a webinar-style briefing for reporters on Tuesday that pitched the redistricting amendment – the product of a 2012 compromise between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers – as the best chance for reforming the system in generations.

“It’s rare when voters are able to take power away from legislators,” said Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey. “This is a once-in-a-half-century opportunity.”

The amendment to the state’s constitution would create a new panel to draw Assembly, Senate and congressional districts in the next round of redistricting, based off the 2020 U.S. Census.

Supporters of the amendment contend the measure will remove the highly partisan process that has resulted in gerrymandered legislative districts and place it in the hands of a less self-interested body.

But state’s good-government advocates are not in complete agreement on the measure.

Both Common Cause and the New York Public Interest Research Group contend the language on the ballot before voters is both misleading and confusing. They especially take issue with the word “independent” being included on the ballot referendum, pointing to the commission being appointed by members of the Legislature.

Common Cause’s executive director, Susan Lerner, is a petitioner in a lawsuit filed in response to the ballot language.

But the amendment’s supporters say the provision before voters is the best possible reform.

“Independent has a strange meaning here in Albany,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters. “Independence – you have to go a couple of degrees out, and this actually does that. This is as independent as you can get in Albany.”

The groups are launching a website to highlight the need for the amendment’s passage and are not ruling out a paid advertising campaign if fundraising allows.

“This will involve a great deal of voter education,” Dadey said.

DFS: Standard Chartered Bank To Pay $300M Fine

Standard Chartered Bank will pay a $300 million fine and end its relationship with high-risk clients over failures to enhance money laundering compliance as part of a 2012 settlement, the Department of Financial Services on Tuesday announced.

The order requires the bank to end dollar clearing through its New York branch for high-risk clients at its Hong Kong-based subsidiary.

The bank is also being ordered to end its relationships with certain clients through its branches in the United Arab Emirates.

The bank cannot accept new dollar-clearing clients or accounts without approval from the Financial Services Department.

“If a bank fails to live up to its commitments, there should be consequences,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky. “That is particularly true in an area as serious as anti-money-laundering compliance, which is vital to helping prevent terrorism and vile human rights abuses.”

The order comes after an independent monitor — put in place after a 2012 agreement with the bank — found Standard Chartered’s monitoring system for transactions was not detecting a large number of potentially high-risk transactions for more intensive review. A large number of those transactions came from its Hong King subsidiary SCB Hong Kong and branches in the UAE.

ea140819 by Nick Reisman