Zimpher Asked For ‘Expedited’ SUNY Research Probe

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said today that she’s hoping for a “speedy conclusion” to the Commission on Public Integrity’s deliberations regarding SUNY Research Foundation President John O’Connor’s alleged violation of the Public Officers Law.

As you’ll recall, O’Connor took a voluntary leave of absence yesterday in the wake of the PIC’s charge last week that he gave a no-show job to former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s daughter, Susan.

Zimpher said she has asked the PIC to “expedite” its process, to which SUNY is “not a party.” She expressed confidence that the Research Foundation “sought and expedited external reviews,” after reporters noted questions about Susan Bruno’s job had been raised by the media and asked whether an in-house probe had ever been launched.

SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden said yesterday was “a painful day for me personally,” adding:

“We have an extraordinary sensitivity to ethical issues. And John has taken an action which I think is appropriate to the circumstances. We’ve accepted his decision to step down during the interim that is required to complete these investigations. It’s now in the hands of the lawyers. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

Hayden echoed Zimpher’s call for the PIC and the IG to expedite the process. He stressed that all there is at this point is an allegation and O’Connor is “entitled to his due process rights.”

No Gay Marriage Litmus Test For Row E

Much was made of the fact that state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay expressed personal support yesterday for the legalization of same-sex marriage, with some suggesting this could somehow neutralize the state Conservative Party’s threat to deny its endorsement – and ballot line – to any Republican who votes “yes” on the bill.

There’s a significant difference here.

The Conservative Party has passed a resolution effectively making gay marriage a litmus test. Vote “yes” and you’re automatically denied Row C – a big problem for several GOP senators for whom the line made a difference in 2010.

I asked MacKay during a brief interview earlier today if he would do the same – in other words, refuse to let candidates who vote “no” on gay marriage run on Row E (and yes, the party fared poorly in the ballot status sweepstakes last fall). His response:

“Absolutely not. These are my personal beliefs…Our main concern is political reform, and we hope the people we’re supporting are those who would be fiscally responsible, but also either vote or use their influence to reform government.”

MacKay said local Indy committees (and remember, there has been a power struggle – particularly in NYC – over who controls the line) are responsible for making endorsements, with the executive committee stepping in to make decisions in districts that cross county lines.

“The local committees know better than me,” the chairman explained. “For example, here in Suffolk County, there’s very little I know about Monroe County. The committee in Monroe County makes its decisions based on how they think performance at the local level is…We have people from the left, the right and the center in leadership. It makes us unique among the parties.”

Of course, to suggest that MacKay doesn’t wield considerable clout when it comes to endorsements is simply naive. Still, for what it’s worth, he insisted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom the party endorsed in 2010, did not ask MacKay to come out in favor of gay marriage.

Bloomberg: Perp Walks Unfortunate, But…

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today the traditional “perp walk” — when cops parade those arrested before the media — is unfortunate, but also said the best way to avoid one is not to commit crime.

Bloomberg, in Albany today to lobby for same-sex marriage legalization, responded to a question about the criticism from French officials over the perp walk for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund chief who was arrested this week in New York on sexual assault charges.

“I think it is humiliating, but you know if you don’t want to do the perp walk, don’t do the crime,” Bloomberg said.

He added, “The real sad thing is if someone is accused and does the perp walk and turns out not to be guilty, then society really ought to look in the mirror.”

Some in the French public were offended at the sight of Strauss-Kahn, a leading French politician, being offered up before the cameras.

Air Hochul: ‘Look For Yourself’ On Medicare

Democratic NY-26 candidate Kathy Hochul is responding to the GOP’s attempt to construe her as supportive of cuts to Social Security and Medicare with a new ad that highlights her endorsement this weekend by the Buffalo News.

“In a desperate attempt to distract voters, Jane Corwin has created a false attack on Kathy Hochul that the Buffalo News has called an ‘attempt to deflect attention from her support’ of the Republican budget that would decimate Medicare, while giving massive tax breaks to multi-millionaires and billionaires,” said Hochul spokesman Fabien Levy.

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and her Republican allies have been trying to muddy the Medicare waters by highlighting her comment in last week’s debate that “everything should be on the table” in budget talks – “entitlements, defense spending, but also revenues.”

Hochul is getting backup on this one from Factcheck.org, which called Corwin’s allegations against Hochul in a recent ad “bogus.”

Morelle: Gay Marriage ‘More Challenging’ In Assembly This Year

ICYMI: Assemblyman Joe Morelle told me on CapTon last night that passing the same-sex marriage bill in his house will be “more challenging” this year due to vacancies and gains by the Republican minority in the 2010 elections, although he does believe the measure will ultimately pass a fourth time in the Democrat-dominated chamber.

I think it’s more challenging because of that,” the Monroe County Democrat said. “There are some vacant seats, and we’ve had some shift. But I believe it will pass our house, and it won’t pass – probably – by the margin it has in previous years. But I think it will pass. And then the question is whether the state Senate has enough votes for it. I think they’re getting closer.”

Morelle, a longtime ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the gay marriage push is “gaining currency” with voters and should be brought up for a vote because it is a “conscience issue.” He also rejected suggestions that the governor will see success on only two of his top three post-budget policy agenda items – at most – but won’t get hit a trifecta.

Jimmy Vielkind is reporting on CapCon that Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell is moving forward with his gay marriage bill, which he introduced in the absence of a program bill from Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has indicated he’ll move forward on the bill, not heeding Cuomo’s timetable.

That’s an about-face for the speaker, who told me in March that he would prefer to “wait and see” what happens in the Senate before putting the bill back up for a vote in his house.

Unshackle: No Cap Is Better Than One With Exemptions

Brian Sampson, the executive director of the pro-business Unshackle Upstate, said he would prefer no cap than one with watered-down exemptions.

“A cap with exemptions guarantees that we don’t deal with the cost-drivers,” he said.

Sampson, along with a coalition of business groups and chambers of commerce, is in Albany today to lobby for the 2 percent cap on local property taxes as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Though the Senate has already approved the measure on Jan. 31, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver may introduce his own bill with exemptions for pensions and debt.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he doesn’t want to negotiate a new measure if it led to a watering down of the cap.

Advocates who support a hard cap fear that if too many exemptions are included the measure would turn into the cap in place in New Jersey, which they consider largely useless.

Sampson also holds the same view as the Cuomo administration on mandate relief — namely that cost drivers such as pensions and Medicaid will be dealt with when the cap is in place. However, county executives like Rob Astorino and Chris Collins disagree.

“Let’s finally take the bull by horns, pass the 2 percent cap and then we’ll deal with the mandates,” Sampson said.

House GOP Tries To Turn The Tables On Medicare

Democrats have succeeded in using Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul as a wedge issue in NY-26, which is now being cast as a referendum on the controversial GOP plan (although there’s some debate over how much of a harbinger the outcome of the May 24 special election will really be, in terms of the 2012 election cycle).

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin seized on a statement Kathy Hochul made in last week’s debate that “everything should be on the table” in budget talks – “entitlements, defense spending but also revenues”, releasing an ad that accuses the Democratic Erie County clerk of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Factcheck.org deemed the spot “bogus”, but Corwin’s campaign defended it.

Now the NRCC has unleashed a round of robocalls with a similar theme, accusing targeted Democrats – including Rep. Tim Bishop in NY-1 – of supporting the “Democrat plan that lets Medicare go bankrupt”, forcing the reduction of services or higher taxes.

The script for the robocall appears below. Similar calls went out in the districts of the following House members: John Barrow (GA-12), Dan Boren (OK-02), Ben Chandler (KY-06), Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), Mike McIntyre (NC-07), Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Jim Himes (CT-04), David Loebsack (IA-02), and Mike Ross (AR-04).

“Hello. I’m calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee about your congressman, Tim Bishop’s plan for Medicare. Bishop and President Obama’s plan threatens to deny treatment for seniors in Medicare by allowing bureaucrats interfere with their doctors. Worse, Bishop’s budget plan lets Medicare go bankrupt. That would mean big cuts to benefits. Call Congressman Bishop at 202-225-3826 and tell him to stop endangering Medicare.”

Proposed Cut To Security Benefits Podunk, Idaho?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, and other lawmakers today to discuss the proposed $100 million cut to New York’s federal homeland security funding.

Sen. William Larkin, R-Orange County, said the money needed to go to New York, not a part of the country that wouldn’t be a target for terrorists.

“Do you think Podunk, Idaho is some place they would be looking at? I don’t think so,” Larkin said during the news conference.

The mayor said the city continue to stands out as a target.

“New York is the iconic symbol of the United State around the world for those people who don’t like the fact we’re in charge of our own destiny and we have the right to say what we say,” Bloomberg said.

“Unfortunately the likelihood of something happening again is very high,” he added, saying the cut would impact the city’s ability to thwart an attack and adequately respond to one.

After U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, concerns have been raised that another attack would be launched on U.S. soil. Information in the compound where bin Laden was hiding included plans to bomb trains in the United States, possibly on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ball, the chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, sent a letter to President Obama last month urging him to reconsider the cut.

Ball also held a committee meeting on the issue of preparedness, which was criticized for including witnesses who are critical of Islam.

Coalition Aims To Curb ‘Archaic’ Abortion Laws

The Bipartisan Pro Choice Legislative Caucus is increasing its efforts to end what it calls “archaic” laws that restrict reproductive freedoms and is pushing to update language in the state law to reflect modern views on providing abortions.

In a news release, the group, led by Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, says New York’s laws need to be updated in order to fit with modern times.

The group is trying to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which, among other things, guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, even when her health is endangered and revises language to treat abortions as a “public health” issue, not a medical practice.

While New York once led the nation in breaking barriers on behalf of women’s reproductive rights, these same laws, which have not been updated in 40 years, are now antiquated and ill serving in modern times. After the nation followed New York in securing a women’s right to choose, and even provided greater protections for these rights, our State failed to match this new standard. Instead, New York settled into complacency and left our laws unchanged. Even now, under New York State law, there are inappropriate limitations placed on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy in situations that put her health in jeopardy.

The law also has the backing of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

House Majority PAC Attacks Corwin

More DC money is flowing into NY-26. Today, House Majority PAC launched an added attacking Republican Jane Corwin for saying she’d support the Paul Ryan budget. What’s interesting is that they don’t hammer her as hard on the Medicare aspect of the House budget, as they do on the debt that budget contains.

The ad says it will increase the national debt by 8 trillion dollars over ten years. The figure is widely accepted on Capitol Hill – but in fairness it would be virtually impossible to stop the debt from increasing over the next ten years. The debate is more about how much you can slow it down, and how quickly you can turn our economy around and start running surpluses, and where you are going to make cuts or give tax breaks in order to make that happen.

The House Majority PAC was formed shortly after the 2010 elections by Democrats as a way to counteract Republican groups who poured millions into campaigns last year following the Citizens United decision which did away with limits on how much individuals and corporations could spend.

The ad is going to be playing on cable and network stations until election day. Sources tell CapTon that the ad buy is in the low 6 figures. Just yesterday, the NRCC launched a $400k ad buy attacking both Kathy Hochul and Jack Davis.