Sources: Manhattan DA ‘Actively’ Investigating Conlin

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. has launched an active criminal investigation of former NARAL President Kelli Conlin, who allegedly misappropriated nonprofit funds for personal use, two sources briefed on the DA’s probe confirmed.

As we reported exclusively on CapTon last night, a forsenic audit uncovered thousands of dollars worth of questionable expenses by Conlin between 2008 and 2010.

That audit spurred NARAL to launch a more far-reaching probe, which is continuing. A source familiar with that audit said it has indicated Conlin’s spending habits may have dated back considerably longer than originally believed.

Conlin abruptly departed her post – a position she had held for more than 18 years – in late January. No details were provided at the time, and NARAL indicated in a tersely-worded press release that Conlin’s decision to step down had been voluntary.

In fact, according to sources familiar with the circumstances surrounding this case, Conlin was fired.

AG Eric Schneiderman’s office is reviewing Conlin’s case. NARAL was deeply involved in Schneiderman’s 2010 campaign and has a long-standing relationship with the former Manhattan senator.

In addition, Schneiderman’s father, Irwin, sits on NARAL’s board, although he stepped down temporarily during his son’s successful bid to become New York’s top attorney.

NARAL did not endorse Vance during the 2009 Democratic DA primary, but did include him as a candidate support by the organization in its voter guide for the general election, in which Vance ran unopposed.

The Left Calls For Investigation Of Committee To Save NY (Updated)

Two progressive organizations – VOCAL-NY and Community Voices Heard – have filed a complaint with the Commission on Public Integrity against the business-backed pro-Cuomo Committee to Save New York, alleging the organization failed to comply with the technical requirements of the Lobbying Act and CPI rules.

The groups claim CSNY failed to meet the deadline to register with the state and also should be required to list Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the third party on whose behalf it is lobbying.

It is our understanding that The Committee to Save New York, acting as both a client and its own lobbyist, was non-compliant with its registration requirements under the state Lobbying Law and under the Commission’s rules,” the groups stated.

“Further, it is our understanding that the Committee is intending to lobby on the behalf of a third party – namely, Governor Andrew Cuomo – and therefore must include the Governor’s name, address, and phone number on the Committee’s statement of registration.”

VOCAL, as you’ll recall, protested outside REBNY’s annual gala in Manhattan recently. REBNY is a big participant in CSNY, although the extent of its involvement is unclear since the committee is not required to publicize its donor list.

CSNY registered as a lobbyist with the CPI and also has retained Allison Lee, of DKC’s lobbying arm. (DKC’s Bill Cunninggam is the committee’s official spokesman).

Everything I’ve heard from sources involved with this committee indicate that Cuomo himself is driving the bus on this.

UPDATE: Cunningham responded by calling this a “political hatchet job,” accusing VOCAL and Community Voices Heard of being “afraid to go after the governor directly, so they go after the committee.”

More >

Report: Kirwan Wins 100th AD

According to the MidHudsonNews.com Thomas Kirwan has been finally declared the winner in the 100th Assembly District. It was the last legislative race in the country to be called.

A Brooklyn appellate court voted 4-0 this morning, declaring him the winner over Democrat Frank Skartados, who actually defeated Kirwan back in 2008.

Kirwan’s victory gives Republicans 51 of the 150 seats in the Assembly, which means they would be able to sustain any veto by Governor Cuomo if they voted as an entire block.

Flip-Flop Alert

A reader forwarded this Google alert, which he found rather amusing.

As you’ll recall, Carl Paladino’s initial take on the budget proposed by his erstwhile opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, was that it moved in the “right direction,” but didn’t go far enough to solve the state’s myriad of problems.

Yesterday, however, the Buffalo businessman was singing quite a different tune, releasing a blistering attack of Cuomo’s budget, which is posted in full below.

This comes in the wake of an effort by Paladino’s former campaign manager, Michael Caputo, to get the Tea Partiers to bake Cuomo’s budget. There has been some disagreement in WNY Tea Party circles as to whether Paladino was angered by Caputo’s move. Rus Thompson says he is, Caputo says he isn’t.

Paladino flip flop

Turn Albany UpsideDown 10-06-10 2 3

NY GOP Operative Joins ‘Draft Trump’ Effort

Lynn Krogh, a veteran GOP operative who has worked on numerous statewide campaigns in New York, has signed on to serve as national political director for a committee that is trying to draft Donald Trump into the 2012 presidential race.

trump_logo_email

Krogh served as deputy press secretary to former Gov. George Pataki. She’s currently executive director of the Young Republican National Federation and state chair of the New York Young Republicans.

This past election cycle, Krogh first worked for gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio and is credited with masterminding his GOP convention strategy that blocked his would-be primary opponents, Democrat-turned-Republican Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Carl Paladino, from getting placed on the ballot.

After the Buffalo businessman went the petition route and defeated the former Long Island congressman in the September 2010 primary, Krogh went to work on Paladino’s campaign.

(Also deeply involved in the effort to get the NY developer into the race: Roger Stone, who was an advisor to Paladino during his unsuccessful effort to defeat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

The Draft Trump committee was formed by Iraq War veteran Nick McLaughlin of St. Charles, Missouri, who said in a press release that he has never before been politically active and also has never met Trump.

He has, however, met Krogh – the two crossed paths at the recent CPAC gathering at which Trump was among the candidates who spoke to the conservative faithful. Trump has said he will make a decision about whether to throw his hat into the ring by June.

In addition, the Draft Trump committee announced it has hired a New Hampshire coordinator: Mark J. LaLiberte, who served as the public policy advisor for former Manchester Mayor-turned-Congressman Frank Guinta.

Bloomberg Raises To Cover Donovan’s Debt (To Bloomberg Advisor)

A helpful reader forwarded this invitation to an upcoming fundraiser being hosted for Staten Island DA Dan Donovan by Mayor Bloomberg to help the failed Republican AG candidate pay down his debt from the 2010 campaign.

Donovan was the one candidate it was clear from the get-go that Bloomberg would back. (The mayor initially said he wouldn’t get involved in other statewide campaigns and then later endorsed by GOP comptroller hopeful Harry Wilson and Democratic gubernatorial contender Andrew Cuomo).

The mayor got all-in with Donovan, not only personally contributing to his campaign and helping him raise cash for him (albeit less than initially expected), but also having his former campaign manager, Brad Tusk, run Donovan’s first statewide bid.

And here’s the interesting thing: Of the $335,683 worth of campaign debt Donovan is carrying, the largest chunk – $100,924 – is owed to Tusk for door hangers, production (assumedly for a TV ad) and generally consulting.

Donovan also owes $92,787 to fundraiser Cathy Blaney, who was long best known as a GOP operative (mostly for former Gov. George Pataki), but also raised money for Cuomo’s campaign last year.

UPDATE: A reader notes that Blaney is running this fundraiser. So, technically speaking, she’s raising money to help pay…herself.

The other big oustanding debts for Donovan: $27,000 to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s firm, Bracewell & Giuliani ,for “legal fees,” $45,198 to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Midtown Manhattan for a fundraiser, and $32,000 to the Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies for a post-primary poll.

Donovan was widely expected to give Democratic AG contender Eric Schneiderman a serious challenge, with Democrats – including, reportedly, Cuomo – worried that the former senator would be too liberal to win statewide against a law-and-order DA.

As it turned out, however, Donovan never really caught fire. He had trouble raising campaign cash, even with Bloomberg’s assistance, and ended up losing to Schneiderman, who received 55 percent of the vote.

Donovan Invitation

Diaz Sr. vs Schneiderman, Redux

I’m a little late on this one, but Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who has a history of tangling with former Senator-turned-AG Eric Schneiderman, is again targeting his old colleague, calling on him to recuse himself from the probe into ex-NARAL President Kelli Conlin’s questionable spending while heading the pro-choice organization.

Following my report last night that Conlin had been fired from her post after a forensic audit uncovered thousands of dollars worth of apparently personal expenses she had charged to NARAL, Diaz Sr. released a statement saying the “close, personal and political relationship” between Conlin and the AG disqualifies him from investigating and/or prosecuting him.

According to Diaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat who is staunchly opposed to abortion rights, Schneiderman’s entire office is “suspect of gross conflict-of-interest” due to the deep involvement of NARAL in the AG’s 2010 campaign and the long-standing connection to the organization both of the AG himself and his father, Irwin.

“The Schneiderman family’s long involvement with NARAL (Irwin Scheniderman has been on NARAL’s board) and Eric Schneiderman’s close relationship with Ms. Conlin makes the proximity of the disclosure of these allegations to his recent election raise questions that Eric Schneiderman could have known about these developing allegations – which were not investigated overnight,” Diaz Sr. said.

“Be that as it may, the proper course of action at this point will be to have a neutral prosecutorial office, such as the US Attorney’s Office, to investigate and prosecute if appropriate.”

“After the investigation is entirely removed from the jurisdiction of the NYS Attorney General’s office, in the event there is proof of wrong doing, I will be interested in seeing that the US Attorney’s office brings the full weight of its resources down upon Ms. Conlin and her NARAL confederates to the same degree that it was dropped upon former Senator Pedro Espada and those investigated and indicted for similar allegations of wrongdoings.”

“Considering the extent of allegations of personal enrichment at the expense of a political advocacy group, Ms. Conlin, if found responsible, should be certainly as vilified as Pedro Espada has been for his alleged crimes.”

Diaz Sr. has long championed the cause of his two former amigos – Espada and ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was the first lawmaker in modern history to be expelled from the Senate.

As you’ll recall, it was Schneiderman who headed up the committee that investigated Monserrate in the wake of his conviction on charges that he abused his girlfriend, and eventually recommended that he be formally removed from his seat.

National Illegal Guns Drive

Mayors Against Illegal Guns are launching a national drive to bring attention the current background check system they feel is broken. It kicked off today in Times Square, with an actual truck that will also make a stop in Newark today, and then continue West.

“Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns – and most of them are purchased or possessed illegally,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “It is time for Washington to listen to the 250,000 Americans that have signed our petition and take action: since the Tucson shooting more than 1,300 people have been killed with guns in the United States and that number continues to grow.”

The goal of the drive is to get more people to sign a petition calling for gun checks to be fixed. Right now, 250,000 Americans have signed the petition, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

This is the latest effort in the groups push for stricter laws. It started with a press conference by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, where Rep. Pete King also introduced his bill banning guns within 1000 feet of events involving members of Congress. Shortly afterward, they released a poll showing that most Americans felt current loopholes should be closed.

Here And Now

NARAL fallout continues after our exclusive story.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has concerns with Cuomo’s budget. (He will be a guest on CapTon tonight.)

Gov. Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign team has come up with 49 suggestions.

Post blasts Education Commissioner David Steiner for not getting on board with “Last In, First Out.” They also accuse Arne Duncan of flip-flopping on the issue.

Cuomo tapped Lt. Governor Bob Duffy to defend his education plan during yesterday’s budget hearings.

Could students have to pay $5.93 to take Regents exams?

North Country schools claim budget cuts hit them hardest.

Andrew Cuomo’s budget may allow him to still be the sheriff of Wall Street.

NJ Governor Chris Christie is looking to up his national profile with a speech in DC today.

Cuomo v. Christie?

Ed Koch is gearing up for phase II of NY Uprising.

Assembly is in no rush on a property tax cap.

Is Christine Quinn gearing up for a 2013 mayoral run?

Quinn called Bloomberg’s budget a “job killer” in her annual address.

Washington Democrats were in NY-26 yesterday to gauge their chances to win the seat.

Rep. Pete King reportedly owes the NRCC $40,000.
More >

EXCLUSIVE: Why Conlin Left NARAL

Capital Tonight has obtained an exclusive copy of a forensic audit conducted for NARAL Pro Choice New York that uncovered extensive alleged financial misconduct by the nonprofit’s former president, Kelli Conlin, dating back at least to 2008 and perhaps even longer.

The draft document explains Conlin’s mysterious and abrupt departure on Jan. 21 from the post she had held for close to two decades. A source familiar with the circumstances of her decision said Conlin was fired.

The audit, conducted by the accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron, details numerous questionable charges on NARAL credit cards by Conlin between 2008 and 2010, including $5,709 worth of high-end clothing at Giorgio Armani and Barney’s and a $17,000 reimbursement on a Hamptons summer rental where Conlin stayed in the summer of 2009.

Between March 2008 and December 2010, Conlin spent just over $100,000 on car service. She often had the driver drop her children off at their school on the Upper West Side, the audit found.

The audit also raised a red flag on more than $22,000 Conlin spent on meals. In some cases, it appears she dined with non-work friends, but it’s unclear what percentage of these charges were personal.

More >