DNC: GOP Budget ‘Not Selling Very Well’

The DNC is trying to make hay out of the heat House Republicans are receiving in their home districts during this congressional spring break from constituents unhappy with Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan – particularly when it comes to overhauling Medicare.

“While the President’s plan calls for shared sacrifice, the GOP plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican dominated House, places the burden for getting our fiscal house in order on middle and working class Americans, seniors and young people while protecting the wealthy and big oil,” the DNC said. “It’s no wonder the GOP budget plan isn’t selling very well back home.”

The video is a mashup of news coverage and footage from town halls similiar to what I just posted from last night’s event hosted by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-20) in Malta.

This comes as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he’ll be putting the Ryan plan up for a vote when Congress returns to work, although he did not set a specific date for that.

The idea here is to get Republicans perceived as vulnerable on the record and then try to subject those who vote “yes” to the same negative attention their House colleagues are now receiving.

Gibson Questioned (Again) Over Budget Votes

Joe Seeman, a Capital Region activist and MoveOn organizer, forwarded several links to YouTube videos of Rep. Chris Gibson getting protested/questioned/jeered/drowned out by cheers at a town hall in Malta last night.

It’s hard to tell how many of those in the audience were Democrats specifically targeting the Republican freshman for his “yes” votes on proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, overhaul Medicare etc. and how many were non-affiliated constituents simply trying to get some answers.

It’s kind of the redux of the battle over health care reform that we saw during the 2010 cycle, expect this time the GOP members are on the hot seat.

The Times noted this morning that House Republicans all over the country are on increasingly on the defensive as they try to sell their Medicare plan to the public – a plan Democrats insist will “end” the government-run program that provides health care for the elderly.

This isn’t the first time during Congress’ two-week spring break that Gibson has taken heat for his Medicare vote. He’s also not alone – a number of his fellow GOP members are receiving similar treatment.

There are also dueling radio ad campaigns that either thank (60 Plus) or deride (DCCC, House Majority PAC) freshman GOP members for their Medicare votes.

Main Street: New WIGS Campaign ‘Simply a Joke’

The Last Store on Main Street, a coalition of business groups opposed to the selling of wine in grocery stores, released a statement knocking the new campaign by the New York League of Conservation Voters, saying the argument they’re now pushing is a joke.

From spokesman Michael McKeon:

The idea that putting 4,500 people out of work, stunting the growth of small wineries and increasing underage drinking is some how a means of saving farmland is simply a joke. This plan would in fact hurt small wineries that rely on wine stores to get their products to consumers, potentially putting more farmland at risk.

New Yorkers like wine – we rank second among states in wine consumption. Unfortunately, too often New Yorkers reach for wines from outside New York. The best way to help New York wineries, and retailers, and to preserve farmland, is to educate consumers about the great wines we make in New York and promote New York wines.

The legislature has rejected WIGS over and over again, and we are confident they will see through this latest phony argument as they look for new ways to promote New York wines.

WIGS backers are trying to get a wine in grocery stores provision approved this session and were disappointed it didn’t make it into the final budget plan passed in March.

The group unveiled a new campaign today, saying that selling vino in places other than liquor stores would help preserve the state’s farmland.

de Blasio: Release Records Of Grimm Nightclub Incident

Donald Trump doesn’t have the market cornered on calling for the release of records.

As The Donald is taking credit for President Obama’s decision this morning to post his birth certificate on the Web, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is taking aim at GOP Rep. Michael Grimm, calling on the NYPD and the US Justice Department to release all records surrounding a 1999 nightclub incident in which the congressman allegedly abused his position as an FBI agent.

De Blasio, a Democrat who is eyeing a potential NYC mayoral run in 2013, said the report on Grimm’s conduct in this week’s New Yorker are “too troubling to be ignored,” adding:

“If these charges are true, it’s clear that Congressman Grimm abused his power as a law enforcement official and violated the civil rights of several New Yorkers.”

“This deplorable behavior is not worthy of a member of Congress or any elected official. Additionally, leaving these allegations unanswered would be a disservice to the brave members of all law enforcement agencies in our City.”

“A matter this serious cannot be brushed under the rug.As a representative to the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn, Congressman Grimm has an obligation to fully address these allegations by letting the whole truth come out.”

“I urge the Congressman to join me in calling on the New York City Police Department and the Justice Department to release all records surrounding this incident in order to provide a full accounting to the public.”

As you’ll recall, neither the NYPD nor the Justice Department would provide information about the incident.

Grimm, a freshman GOP member in NY-13, told the Staten Island Advance (his hometown newspaper) that the New Yorker story is “fiction” and denied the most damning allegations it contains – that he brandished his gun in the Caribbean Tropics nightclub and yelled: “All the white people get outta here.”

“It’s unfortunate,” the congressman told the Advance’s editorial board. “This reporter was working on it for over a year. He was trying to dig up something that wasn’t there.”

Grimm ousted Democratic former Rep. Mike McMahon last fall. McMahon, a one-termer, won a long-held GOP seat after former Rep. Vito Fossella declined to seek re-election in the wake of a drunk driving/out-of-wedlock child scandal.

McMahon has suggested that he might not yet be done with politics, but hasn’t yet made any formal moves toward a re-match. Investment banker Robert Diamond is reportedly considering a challenge to Grimm in 2012.

Cuomo Cabinet Meets, Says Little (VIDEO ADDED)

The first full cabinet meeting of the Cuomo administration was held this morning for about 90 minutes, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out his legislative priorities for the rest of the year.

But administration officials emerged from the close-door huddle with little to say or report back. Several officials used the phrase “upbeat” to describe the meeting.

Not present at the meeting was Secretary of State Cesar Perales, who is traveling out of the country. A full list of the attendees is after the jump.

The session marked the first time the governor met with commissioners and other top-level appointees since Jan. 1. It was also the first time most administration officials met together since they were confirmed or appointed by Cuomo.

“It was a terrific meeting,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens. “It was inspiring. The governor talked about his confidence in all of us, obviously and what his aspirations going forward both for the legislative session and beyond. It was a totally upbeat meeting. I think as he’s been saying from the start, it was totally important to getting a budget on time.”

Ask by the gaggle of reporters gathered what was specifically discussed, Martens deferred.

“I don’t want to go through the particulars he went through with us, but I think many of you know his legislative priorities.”

Former Schenectady mayor and newly minted Canal Corp. director Brian Stratton also said little.

“You got the sense that we were all on the same time and that we would all be working together,” he said. “You all know what the governor wants. He wants us to work together as a team.” More >

Make That 3 Assembly Vacancies And Counting (Updated)

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer will resign the seat she has held since since 1987 to become the Queens County clerk, filling the post left vacant by the death of Gloria D’Amico late last year, according to a Democratic source who has spoken to the legislator about her plans.

Pheffer accepted the offer of the clerk’s job today, according to the source. She’ll be tendering her resignation sometime next month. I am awaiting a return call from the assemblywoman.

UPDATE: Pheffer called to say she’ll be starting her new job on May 12, and so will likely resign her seat on May 11 so as not to “break service.” She said she’s leaving with “mixed emotions”, but is excited about her new job. Also, as to whether a Republican can win, she predicted: “It’ll be a race,” noting a special election is a difficult thing to predict.

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Pheffer made no secret of her interest in the job, and she was supported in her quest by the Queens Democratic Party.

The presiding judge of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, A. Gail Prudenti, was tasked with selecting the next clerk. She was appointed by former GOP Gov. George Pataki.

Pheffer had toyed with a potential Queens BP run (this was, of course, complicated the last time around by the extension of term limits pushed through by Mayor Bloomberg, which enabled the current BP, Helen Marshall, to seek re-election). She hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running for the job even if she did get the clerk gig, telling a local Queens paper back in January:

“Politics is a funny thing. Borough president is three years down the road. This is an opportunity that’s here now.”

Once Pheffer departs, there will be three vacant Assembly seats – all of which could be filled via special election at the call of the governor.

Former Assemblyman Darryl Towns resigned in early April to become Cuomo’s commissioner and C.E.O. of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

Former Assemblywoman Nettie, also of Queens, resigned on April 1 after 28 years in office.

Another pending vacancy will occur when Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, of Utica, gets confirmed by the Senate to her position as OGS commissioner in the Cuomo administration.

The Republicans could make a play for Pheffer’s seat, I’m told. (The current split in the chamber is 99-51).

Pheffer has said she’ll likely endorse her chief of staff, JoAnn Shapiro, in the race to replace her. Other potential contenders include all of the candidates who challenged GOP NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich in 2009 – Geraldine M. Chapey; Frank Gulluscio (who ended up getting knocked off the ballot); Mike Ricatto; and Lew M. Simon.

Another name that surfaced: Y. Phillip Goldfeder, a former aide to Mayor Bloomberg and Queens native who works as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

UPDATE: A reader with insight into Queens GOP politics writes:

“Ulrich is supporting a Republican in the 23AD vacancy, Jane Deacy. Jane is a GOP district leader out there, hailing from Breezy Point (heavy, heavy GOP neighborhood; treasure trove of votes – especially in a special election – plus, she’s a retired cop. Good credentials if the Rs are going to make a serious run at the seat.”

Trump’s Victory Lap

Sorry for the delay on this.

Right before the President addressed the nation about his birth certificate, Donald Trump was holding court on the cable news stations. He kicked off his press conference by taking a victory lap, claiming his pressure forced the president to release his birth certificate.

“Today I am very proud of myself. Because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed on the helicopter that our President has finally released a birth certificate. I’d want to look at it. But I hope it is true so we can get onto much more important matters. So the press can stop asking me questions,” Trump said upon landing in New Hampshire.

“He should have done it a long time ago. Why he didn’t do it when the Clinton’s asked for it. Why he didn’t do it when everybody else was asking for it. I don’t know. But I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue.”

Trump went on to answer reporter questions for more than 20 minutes, where he talked at length about his suspicions over Obama’s grades, and how he was able to get into Harvard and Columbia. He also hit all his recent talking points on Libya, China, and gas prices.

Saranac Lake Mayor Spots Celebrity On Street Corner

Apparently Gov. Andrew Cuomo took advantage of the Legislature’s extended spring break to get a little R-and-R of his own, returning to the Adirondacks – a favorite vacation spot – with his youngest daughter and live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lee.

Cuomo’s press office didn’t inform reporters of the trip, although his public schedule did mention he would be in the Albany area over Easter weekend. But it’s hard to fly under the radar screen when you’re the governor, particularly when traveling with a major Food Network star.

According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Cuomo was in Lake Placid on Friday, where he, Lee and his youngest daughter, Michaela, 13, shopped and ate at a local restaurant. (This was confirmed for the paper by Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto).

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau (who once ran for LG) spotted Cuomo on the street in his village late Friday afternoon.

The mayor said he had heard Cuomo was in Lake Placid and thought this man looked like him, but he wasn’t sure, the paper’s managing editor, Peter Crowley, reported.

“So I said, ‘Hey A.C.!’ because I didn’t know if it was the governor or not,” Rabideau said. “I didn’t want to call some stranger the governor.”

…The mayor said he thinks he also saw Lee, a television cooking show host who recently told US magazine that Saranac Lake was one of her two favorite vacation destinations, along with Capri, Italy.

“Interestingly, there was a tall, blond-haired woman with dark sunglasses sitting by herself in a Range Rover,” Rabideau said. “I didn’t ask for an introduction…I really wanted to give him space, but how often do you see your governor standing in front of your village hall?”

After US reported Lee’s love for Saranac Lake, Rabideau invited her to attend the village’s first-ever “Daffest”, which is being held this weekend in celebration of its signature flower.

She unfortunately couldn’t make it due to a previously scheduled engagement (the White House Correspondents Dinner), but offered to host or participate in some capacity next year.

Cuomo is a big fan of the Adirondacks. He was spotted in Saranac Lake not long ago pumping his own gas during a day trip to the mountains with his daughters.

Trump, Animated

Good timing by the Next Media Animation folks, although I’m sure the pro-Donald Trump camp will say they have a clear bias against the real estate developer-turned-reality TV star. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

The video’s title – “Is Trump Destroying the GOP’s chances for 2012?” – pretty much sets the tone.

My favorite parts: Trump’s hair deflecting a bullet from GOP strategist Karl Rove’s gun in an Old West-style shoot-out. (The video’s makers say Rove has “stated the obvious: Donald Trump is a joke candidate.”) Trump then throws a dollar sign-shaped ninja star at Rove that embeds in his chest and knocks him over.

“Democrats must be hoping Trump runs,” the video concludes. “The more Trump talks, the crazier he makes the Republicans seem.”

WIGS Backers Change Tactics

Supporters for wine in grocery stores, disappointed that their-long sought provision was not included in the 2011-12 state budget, are regrouping with the hope of having the measure approved by the end of session in June.

The New York League of Conservation Voters is sending out “action alerts” to senators and assembly members calling on them to support the selling of wine in supermarkets, a move that is opposed by small business groups.

Supporters are also trying to reframe the debate over the issue, saying it will help preserve the state’s shrinking farmland acreage. Ten percent of the revenue, they said, would go toward preserving farmland.

The conservation league points out that there’s a backlog of farmland preservation projects around the state. The pot of money meant to preserve agricultural areas has also shrunk over the last several years.

Here’s the letter that’s being sent to lawmakers.

Farms generate $5 billion per year for New York State’s economy. However, over 613,500 acres of farmland were lost between 1997 and 2007, and New York is currently losing one farm every 3.5 days

Protecting our farms also means protecting our food supply, open spaces and public health. As a member of the New York League of Conservation Voters, I am urging you to support allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores as a way to help protect New York’s farms.

A recent study commissioned by New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets found that the proposal to sell wine in grocery stores would create over 6,000 new net jobs, raise hundreds of millions of dollars through franchise fees and generate $71.1 million annually through sales taxes on additional consumption.

I support dedicating 10 percent of the projected proceeds generated by the sale of wine grocery stores to:

* Fully fund the backlog of approved farmland protection projects, and

* Honor future commitments to farmland protection.

I believe that the revenue generated from the sales of wine in grocery stores is an ideal source of financial support for New York’s farms as it is a no-cost, revenue-generating solution that will also create jobs in wineries and related industries.

Please help grow New York’s economy by protecting local farms.

Thank you for your consideration.