Lawyering Up, Ball Pays Tacopina $25K

Less than a week after announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election, Republican state Sen. Greg Ball retained the services of attorney Joe Tacopina for $25,000, his campaign finance filing made public on Tuesday shows.

Ball, a Hudson Valley lawmaker who is stepping down after two terms in the Senate, also reported expenditures from his campaign account dating back to 2007, showing payments for car loans, restaurant tabs, hotel stays and even wine.

Tacopina, a high-profile lawyer who has represented baseball player Alex Rodriguez and former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, has defended Ball’s use of campaign funds and threatened to sue various critics of Ball, including Assemblyman Steve Katz.

Ball’s campaign finances have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after it was revealed his campaign spent money travel without itemizing it.

Ball, of course, is not the only state lawmaker to use campaign funds to pay lawyers.

Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, facing a lawsuit over his handling of a sexual harassment case, and the under-indictment Sen. Tom Libous have spent campaign money to pay their legal fees in recent weeks.

Astorino And Teachout Join Forces To Knock Cuomo On Ethics

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino and Democratic hopeful Zephyr Teachout in a joint news conference on Tuesday knocked Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s record on ethics and his decision to shutdown the Moreland Commission investigating the Legislature.

The unusual joining of forces for Astorino and Teachout at the Tweed Courthouse in New York City comes as both candidates struggle to raise their name recognition with voters as polls show they continue to be largely unknown.

Both Teachout and Astorino called on Cuomo to stop airing television ads touting the state’s business climate, which is being paid for by the Empire State Development Corp.

And they criticized Cuomo’s closure of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, a panel he set up and then disbanded in April after state lawmakers agreed to an ethics package in the state budget.

“New York taxpayers are getting hammered by Albany’s corruption tax, which rears its head in every nook of state government,” Astorino said. “Some of this corruption results in perp walks and some, like Mr. Cuomo’s siphoning $37.5 million in Hurricane Sandy dollars from storm victims, shamelessly occurs right out in the open. This is a state in desperate need of ethics reform, and I proudly stand with Professor Teachout to address the issue and speak about needed reforms.”

Teachout, a Fordham law professor, noted Cuomo started his 2010 campaign for governor at the Tweed Courthouse, promising to clean up Albany’s ethical morass. Despite efforts that have resulted in ethics laws passing in 2011 and this year, lawmakers continue to be indicted or forced from office over corruption convictions.

“Four years ago governor Cuomo stood on these steps and promised to clean up Albany. He promised campaign finance reform, redistricting reform and a new culture of transparency and accountability. I believed him. And so I voted for him. But governor andrew Cuomo broke the promises he made four years ago. The system is still corrupt. Governor Cuomo not only refuses to fix it, he is making it worse,” Teachout said.

The Moreland Commission has come under the scrutiny of the U.S. attorney’s office, which in April took possession of records generated by the panel. Cuomo’s office reportedly had a hand in directing subpoenas from the commission.

Astorino: Christie Should Step Down From RGA If He’s Compromised By Cuomo

GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino on Tuesday suggested New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should step down as the head of the Republican Governors Association if he has some sort of “quid pro quo” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo stemming from the George Washington Bridge lane closure controversy.

Christie on Monday said he was unlikely to campaign for Astorino in New York, citing his low poll numbers against the incumbent Cuomo.

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie said, according to NJ.com.

Astorino hit back in a radio interview with Fred Dicker on Tuesday, saying it’s Christie’s job to help Republicans capture governor’s mansions.

If he can’t do that because of his ties to Cuomo, then perhaps he should step down from the RGA, Astorino said.

“If there’s a side deal or a quid pro quo or a handshake between the two of them, he can’t do his job,” Astorino said of Christie.

“Maybe there’s an issue we don’t know about,” he added.

He quickly added he doesn’t know for sure that Cuomo and Christie are somehow acting together to keep the likely GOP presidential candidate out of New York.

The tough words from Astorino highlight a publicly cordial relationship between Cuomo and Christie.

Cuomo has refrained from criticizing Christie’s handling of the bridge controversy, which last year appeared to railroad any chances of a viable presidential campaign.

Both Cuomo and Christie appoint the leadership for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has jurisdiction over the bridge.

Astorino met privately with Christie last year — before the controversy over the bridge lane closures occurred — to discuss running for governor in New York.

Westchester Democrats Get Contributions From LLCs

A group limited liability corporations contributed heavily to the Westchester Democratic Committee, which is funding a surrogacy effort to knock Republican candidate for governor, Rob Astorino.

Campaign filings made public on Tuesday show contributions from five LLCs combined for $50,000 to the committee. The LLCs are controlled by developer Adam Katz, who is also a donor for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Additional LLCs made contributions of $46,000 and $30,000.

Altogether, the committee reported raising $293,278 over the last six months and spent $157,226. It has $300,460 in cash on hand.

Interest in the county Democratic committee’s filing was heightened this month in part because the local party is funding an effort called the “Astorino Truth Squad” which has blasted the Republican candidate for governor in news releases and a website tracking his campaigning.

The filing shows an $18,000 payment to Mike Morey, the spokesman for the group SKDKnickerbocker.

The committee also spent nearly $90,000 on media consulting, the filing shows.

The filing was posted — about a week after the deadline — after county Democratic Committee Chairman Reginald Lafayette bristled at questions from Gannett’s Albany bureau over why it was late.

Grisanti Doubles Down vs. Undocumented Immigrants

Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who is facing a GOP primary battle this fall and so far does not have the support of local Conservatives, is continuing to make political hay from various Democratic proposals to assist undocumented immigrants in New York.

His latest salvo is an on-line petition against a plan, introduced just as the 2014 session drew to a close by Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera, called the New York is Home Act, which would enable nearly 3 million noncitizens who meet specific criteria to apply for citizenship with New York’s Office for New Americans.

“This is the most outrageous proposal I have seen during my four years in the Senate,” Grisanti said in a statement released this morning. “It would not only allow illegal immigrants to vote and run for office in state and local elections, it would allow them to get driver’s licenses, serve on juries, and become eligible for Medicaid.”

“It would also allow them to receive in-state college tuition rates and financial aid. The New York City liberals never seem to learn that middle-class families are sick and tired of funding their politically motivated giveaway programs. I will oppose this legislation every step of the way.”

This is a continuing theme for the Democrat-turned-Republican Western New York senator, whose very first TV ad of this year’s campaign (released back in April) focused on his opposition to the DREAM Act, which would help the children of undocumented immigrants access state cash to attend college. Grisanti voted “no” on the DREAM Act when it was brought to the Senate floor in March and failed to pass.

Grisanti is typically considered one of the more moderate members of the Senate Republican conference - a reputation earned by ”yes” votes on two bills pushed by Cuomo: same-sex marriage and the gun control measure known as the SAFE Act.

He faced a Republican primary in 2012 that was backed by Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman who ran for governor on the GOP and Conservative lines in 2010. Grisanti won re-election that year in a crowded three-way race that included Democratic and Conservative Party candidates. (He had lost the Conservative Party’s support thanks to his support of gay marriage – ironically, the party backed a Democrat that year - but is the only one of the four GOP senators who voted “yes” on the measure still sitting in the Senate chamber).

This year, the Conservatives have again taken a pass on Grisanti, backing a palceholder candidate pending the outcome of a GOP primary, in which Grisanti faces a challenge from attorney Kevin Stocker. Sotcker failed in 2012 to knock the senator from his perch.  But Stocker is angering local GOP leaders by trying to wage a write-in campaign on the line belonging to the WFP, which is working hard to flip the Senate into Democratic hands.

If he succeeds, Stocker would challenge Democrat Marc Panepinto on the WFP line in September while also running against Grisanti on the GOP line.

Grisanti has the Independence Party line, which means he’s assured at least one line on the November general election ballot. (Rus Thompson, the Paladino-backed Independence Party member who had been threatening to run, won’t be appearing anywhere on the ballot either in September or November).

Libous Wants To Return To Normalcy

From the morning memo, in case you missed it:

Deputy Senate Republican Leader Tom Libous insisted in an interview with Time Warner Cable News on Monday the federal indictment against him doesn’t change his approach to his job or is prospects for re-election.

The longtime Binghamton lawmaker is accused of lying to the FBI, based on a June 2010 interview stemming from his alleged efforts to secure a job for his son Matthew Libous at a politically connected law firm.

In the interview, Libous stressed he’s focused on his day job as a state senator and isn’t being distracted by the looming case.

“It hasn’t taken up a lot fo time because — I don’t want to say they’re simple, they’re serious charges, I take them seriously — but we believe we can deal with it,” Libous said. “I have a good attorney. It really hasn’t taken or distracted me from many things.”

Libous added he still had a lot he wanted to accomplish while in office, including the completion of a new pharmacy school in the area.

Libous continues to have treatment for cancer, but said that while it knocks him back on occasion, he feels fine.

He was also confident he’ll be found not guilty of the false statements charge.

“I have to prove I did not give false statements in the interview and we’re going to prove that,” Libous said.

Nevertheless, the indictment of Libous was yet another wrench into the Senate GOP’s efforts to claim full control of the state Senate.

Soon after the indictment of Libous, Republican Sen. George Maziarz, the third-ranking member of the conference, abruptly announced he would retire and not run for re-election.

Maziarz’s campaign finances are reportedly being investigated by federal prosecutors, but he has insisted he’s stepping down to spend more time with his family.

Senate Democrats have sought to pounce on the Maziarz retirement as well as Libous’ indictment.

Former Vestal town Supervisor Andrea Starzak is running for Libous’ seat that he’s held since 1988. Denver Jones, a local activist, is running a GOP primary campaign against him.

Libous indicated he planned to run on his seniority and tenure in the state Senate — a potentially risky card to play. Losing him in the chamber could essentially hit the reset button in Albany for the region.

“Make the decision based on my performance, based on what I’ve done for the Southern Tier,” Libous said.

He added: “We don’t need New York City running upstate New York. If they were to win this seat, it gives them a foothold. Whether Republican or Democrat is, you’d be starting all over again. You’re starting from scratch.”

He’s spoken with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has a warm relationship with, since the indictment was handed up.

“We’ve connected and the governor’s in good spirits,” Libous said, “and we continue our relationship.”

With Friends Like These

From the morning memo:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for now, is taking a pass on getting involved on Republican Rob Astorino’s behalf in the race for New York governor.

The reasoning is simple, according to NJ.com: Christie, the head of the Republican Governors Association, doesn’t think Astorino has much of a shot.

“I will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning,” said Christie while campaigning in Connecticut.

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” he added. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”

A Siena poll of likely voters released on Monday found Astorino trailing Cuomo by 37 percentage points.

The Christie comments also come as Astorino, the Westchester County executive, lags in fundraising against Cuomo as well.

Christie had reportedly met with Astorino late last year to discuss a potential run for governor against Cuomo, a Democrat who the New Jersey Republican has had a publicly cordial relationship.

During the controversy over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Cuomo was careful not to criticize Christie’s handling of the situation.

It was rumored that Christie was going to even appear at Cuomo’s second Adirondack Challenge this past weekend, but ultimately did not attend (The optics, to say the least, would have been very interesting).

Astorino, meanwhile, due to make a joint appearance with Zephyr Teachout this morning at the Tweed Courthouse — an eyebrow raising event that could garner both campaigns more attention during a relatively slow summer.

Teachout, a Fordham law professor, is challenging Cuomo on the Democratic primary ballot (Her petitions are being challenged by the governor’s re-election campaign).

The joint appearance comes as both Astorino and Teachout try to raise their name recognition with voters and gain the attention of Cuomo.

Astorino has challenged the governor to a series of debates around the state, which the Cuomo campaign has brushed aside.

It’s interesting to note, too, that Cuomo started his own campaign in 2010 for governor at the Tweed Courthouse, launching an effort based on cleaning up Albany.

Here and Now

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

NYC City Mayor Bill de Blasio is on the island of Capri, Italy with his family. No public events are scheduled.

At 10 a.m., GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout make a joint announcement, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan. (Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and local business owners will join him).

At 10:30 a.m., JCOPE meets, 540 Broadway, Albany.

AT 10:45 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on “Live from the State Capitol” with host Fred Dicker.

At 11:30 a.m., NYC Council members and state lawmakers who are members of minority caucus groups, as well as other city officials, hold a news conference to criticize the actions of NYPD officers during the Thursday, July 17, arrest of 43-year-old Staten Island resident Eric Garner, who lost consciousness and died; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci joins Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and others to call for legislation to be signed to ensure people who have had their image broadcasted without their consent will have a course of action, Clarkstown Police Station, 20 Maple Ave., New City.

At 1 p.m., Astorino will hold a joint press conference with state comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci and former Rep. Bob Turner calling on Cuomo to return the $37 million in Superstorm Sandy funds he spent on TV ads to the victims, 175 Ocean Ave., Breezy Point, Queens.

At 1:15 p.m., labor leaders speak out against the DEC’s plan to shut off electricity from Indian Point Energy Center, Colonial Terrace, 119 Oregon Rd., Cortlandt Manor.

At 5:30 p.m., Reps. Peter King and Chris Collins headline a fundraiser for fellow Republican Bruce Blakeman, who is running for Congress in NY-4, Capitol Hill Club, 300 First St. SE, Washington, DC.

At 6:30 p.m., Astorino will attend a fundraiser for Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Tropix on the Mile, 395 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport.

At 8 p.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer greets the crowd from the state at Shakespeare in the Park: King Lear, at the Delacorte Theater, 81 Central Park West, Manhattan.

At 8:15 p.m., Astorino will attend the Huntington Chamber of Commerce Networking Luau, Crab Meadow Beach, Waterside Avenue, Northport.

Headlines…

Republican Governors Association Chairman Chris Christie on why he won’t be campaigning on Astorino’s behalf in New York anytime soon: “We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” He’ll change his mind if the race becomes “competitive.”

Christie, the New Jersey governor and a potential 2016 contender, has yet to regain the record high popularity he enjoyed before a scandal involving the George Washington Bridge, though public interest in the lane closures is fading, according to a new poll.

While campaigning in Connecticut, Christie was rebuked by Newtown families for rejecting a bill that would have banned the sale of ammunition magazines larger than 10 rounds.

Food Network star Sandra Lee, who rarely makes public appearances with her live-in boyfriend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, made a splash at the Adirondack whitewater rafting race he organized this past weekend.

School bus operators who need Mayor de Blasio’s help to retain lucrative city contracts contributed nearly $40,000 to a mayoral nonprofit — but took steps to hide the donations from public view.

De Blasio is keeping up a breakneck New York-type pace on his family vacation in Italy, leaving the Italians to wonder: What’s the rush?

The Staten Island neighborhood thrust into the spotlight when Eric Garner died after an NYPD officer subdued him with an apparent chokehold is in a precinct that has historically seen tension between the police and residents.

An NYPD internal report prepared right after Garner’s death plays down the incident, with supervising officers failing to note the chokehold and insisting he was not in “great distress.”

Nearly two-thirds of New York voters say they’re never surprised when another state legislator gets indicted because most are out only to help themselves and their political pals, according to a new Siena poll.

A legal battle with Cuomo’s anti-corruption Moreland Commission didn’t stop the Syracuse-based firm of Hiscock & Barclay from contributing to the governor’s campaign.

Well-known election attorney and former Senate Democratic Leader Marty Connor is representing challengers to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout’s petitions.

More >

Extras

Westchester Democratic Chairman Reginald LaFayette, who is also a local election commissioner, thinks it’s “a little insulting” to be asked why he can’t file financial reports on time.

The League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes and 1199 SEIU have reached a tentative deal on a new four-year contract.

Federal prosecutors want GOP Rep. Michael Grimm’s tax evasion trial to start in October - a month before Election Day.

The NYC Department of Investigation has begun a review of scores of cases of serious injuries suffered by inmates at Rikers Island.

NY-24 GOP candidate John Katko, who is “not interested in doing the lables,” shared his positions on a host of key issues.

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera rolled $33,000 from his NYC campaign account to his Senate account to fund his primary challenge to Sen. Gustavo Rivera; the CFB wants that cash back.

On his second day in Italy, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Vatican and invited Pope Francis to come to New York.

If Tim Wu defeats Kathy Hochul in the Democratic LG primary, it could be curtains for the state Independence Party.

Two of the nation’s largest non-profit immigration service groups will shut down as part of a settlement with AG Eric Schneiderman.

GOP operative John Haggerty, who bilked former NYC Mayor Bloomberg out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2009, turned himself in this morning to serve 1 ​1/3 to 4 years in prison.

A report from the city’s Independent Budget Office found 21 percent of households that moved out of New York City in 2012 moved within the state - either to the suburbs or upstate.

GE, which is slated to receive $135 million from the Cuomo administration, contributed $90,000 to the state Democratic Party in less than seven months.

Ken Thompson took a hefty pay cut this year when he was became the new Brooklyn district attorney.

State government contracts related to the Saw Mill River Parkway are paving the way for political donations to Cuomo.

Sen. Michael Nozzolio is touting a GOP proposal to use a $3.3 billion settlement with a French bank for education aid and ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

 

CWA Endorses Klein

The Communications Workers of America, a key union in the coalition that’s trying to engineer a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate, endorsed on Monday Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein’s re-election.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat, faces former New York City Councilman Oliver Koppell this fall.

“As a leader of the State Senate, Jeff Klein has fought for issues that make a difference in the lives of CWA members and hardworking New Yorkers across the state. Jeff supports high quality telecommunications services throughout New York, a higher minimum wage and real, meaningful campaign finance reform. CWA is proud to endorse Jeff Klein for reelection to the 34th State Senate District,” said CWA District One Vice President Chris Shelton in a statement.

CWA is a major get for Klein, considering the labor union is a key player within the Working Families Party, which is officially remaining neutral in this race and the primary campaign between IDC Sen. Tony Avella and former city Comptroller John Liu.

Klein and the IDC last month agreed to a form a new coalition with mainline Senate Democrats following a deal brokered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A coalition that includes the state’s largest and most politically active unions and the Working Families Party is part of an overall effort to help Democrats regain control of the Senate.