Trump Adviser: Birther Issue ‘Appears’ Resolved

ICYMI: GOP consultant Roger Stone, who’s serving as an unofficial adviser to Donald Trump’s non-campaign, told me during a CapTon interview last night that the question of President Obama’s birth seems “resolved” – at least for the moment – after yesterday’s release by the White House of the long-form birth certificate.

Stone reiterated Trump’s call for Obama to release his academic records, but also admitted these sorts of issues aren’t the stuff of a full-blown presidential campaign. He said he expects Trump to have a complete platform if he decides to run.

Starting at about the 1:14 mark, Stone responded thusly to my question about whether the whole birther thing is now settled:

“I don’t think you can predict what Trump is going to say next week. Although clearly he talked today about gasoline prices, about trade with China, about the problem with OPEC.”

“I don’t think that the birther is the raison and d’etre for a presidential campaign. But I have no doubt that if Trump ran for president he’d have a full platform, he’d discuss all of the issues. This appears to me – at least this segment of it – to be resolved.”

“Barack Obama promised us the most transparent administration in history and he hasn’t released his academic records, and I, for one, would be interested in seeing them.

Senate Dems Stage Ethics Forum

After failing in their effort two weeks ago to force the Senate Republicans to hold a public hearing on a package of ethics reform bills, the Senate Democrats are taking matters into their own hands.

The minority is technically not allowed to hold full-fledged public hearings, but the Democrats can put on a “forum,” which is more or less the same thing – minus some officials bells and whistles. The Dem forum will be held this coming Wednesday at noon, or immediately following the conclusion of the session, in Hearing Room A at the LOB.

A full slate of goo-goos is expected to be on hand, including representatives from: The Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, Citizen Action of NY, Common Cause/NY, the League of Women Voters, and NYPIRG.

To do this, the Dems are citing Senate Rule VII and convening a forum on the following legislation under the jurisdiction of the Investigations and Government Operations Committee:

- Establishing an independent commission on governmental ethics (S31/Squadron).

- Increasing financial and client disclosure requirements (S382/Rivera).

- Stripping elected officials convicted of misusing office of pensions (S2333/Krueger).

- Restricting the personal use of campaign funds (S3053/Krueger).

- Eliminating Pay-to-Play (S1565/Addabbo).

“For Albany to do the people’s business, we must change the way Albany does business,” said Sen. Dan Squadron. “Halfway through the legislative session, we have yet to see any action on the fundamental reforms that almost every Senator has pledged to support.”

“This forum will offer an important public hearing on critical ethics reform. Passage of a real ethics package will lend much-needed transparency and accountability to our state government, helping restore New Yorkers’ trust and allowing us all to better tackle the dire challenges facing our state.”

Marist Poll: Obama’s Handling Of Economy Hits All-Time Low

Today’s McClatchy-Marist poll finds that only four in ten voters approve of how the president is dealing with the country’s economy while nearly six in ten disapprove. (In other words: 40-57, with three percent unsure).

This is the lowest rating on the “handling the economy” question that Obama has received since he took office in January 2009.

Voters were divided, 44-48 with 8 percent unsure, the last time Marist posed this question. The change was caused by a loss of support for the president among his fellow Democrats and independents.

“These economic numbers could spell trouble for President Obama’s re-election prospects,” said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff. “Oddly, though, he still isn’t being faulted for the sluggish economy. Most think it was there waiting for him when he took office.”

Sixty-three percent of poll respondents said they think today’s economic situation is mostly something Obama inherited from the Bush administration, while 30 percent believe it is a result of his own policies. Seven percent are unsure.

That’s similar to Marist’s January numbers. At that time, 63 percent thought the country’s economic conditions were mostly inherited, 25 percent said they were a result of Obama’s policies, and 12 percent were unsure.

Out Of Gas

Gas tax holidays such as those being proposed by Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in response to the most recent spike at the pump sound really great. I mean, who wouldn’t like a break when prices as fast climbing toward $5 per gallon?

During a Red Room press conference yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t rule out supporting the idea, saying he has to take a look at the numbers. But not everyone is a fan.

In a letter to the two Republican lawmakers, which appears below, Associated General Contractors of New York President and CEO Mike Elmendorf expressed concern over the plan, noting it calls for temporary suspension of the state excise tax, sales tax and Petroleum Business Tax on gas – all of which are used to fund the state’s already insolvent Dedicated Bridge and Highway Trust Fund.

While allowing that his members are also upset over high gas prices, Elmendorf pointed out that the fund is already being raided – to the tune of $700 million a year – for unreleated expenses like snow removal and bus inspections when it is supposed to be dedicated for the state’s crumbling transporation infrastructure.

He also questioned whether temporarily relieving drivers of these taxes would even translate in savings, citing a TU report on how counties’ reduction of local gas taxes back in 2006 failed to impact per gallon prices.

AGC NYS Gas Tax Holiday Response

DiNapoli: NY Recovery A ‘Mixed Bag’

As NY1 reported earlier, the economic recovery is seen as uneven across New York state, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.

However, the Empire State has weathered the recession relatively well compared to other parts of the country that have been devastated by the housing crisis.

“The recession didn’t hit New York as hard as other states,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “But there’s still a lot of pain. Our economic recovery is headed in the right direction, but the road out of recession is still winding and potentially perilous.”

The report, which you can read here, found that home values have risen in the upstate area while they’ve fallen in metro New York City.

The private sector has added jobs, while public sector job posts declined, DiNapoli’s office found. Job losses overall in New York were less severe than in other states and personal income rose 4.1 percent in 2010, second only to New Mexico.

Ithaca, home to Cornell University, led in the way in overall gross product, increasing by 3.3 percent, DiNapoli’s office found. Ithaca leading They were followed by the Mid-Hudson Valley at 3.1  percent,  Buffalo  at  2.9 percent and Rochester and the Utica-Rome regions  at  2.4  percent.

NRCC Ties Owens To Pelosi (Again) In New Ad On Debt

The NRCC is turning up the heat on Rep. Bill Owens will a new TV ad that slams the North Country Democrat for voting “for another Pelosi budget” that will add to the nation’s already staggering debt.

Debt – specifically whether to raise the legal limit or “ceiling” of what the country can borrow – is the next big fight in Washington, D.C. The Republicans are drawing a line in the sand on this one, saying they won’t vote to raise the ceiling unless and until the Democrats and the White House agree to big spending cut.

This is the GOP’s first attack on Owens, and also – I think – the first time it has aired a TV ad in NY since the 2010 election cycle.

The NRCC did release a Web video attacking Democratic NY-26 candidate Kathy Hochul back when she was first tapped to run in the May 24 special election, but I don’t believe it ever went up on the air.

So far, the DCCC has been far more active in New York in playing the groundwork for 2012 than the NRCC. The Democrats have launched a series of radio ads, robocalls and on-line actions against several freshman GOP House members, highlighting their “yes” votes on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan to overhaul Medicare.

The GOP has been trying to link Owens to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for a long time now, dating back to when she was still speaker and the House was under Democratic control. This strategy hasn’t worked so far. Owens has managed to hold onto the seat he won in a 2009 special election, despite the GOP enrollment edge in NY-23.

(Incidentally, Pelosi has figured in the NY-26 race, too. There’s got to be GOP internal polling somewhere that has her negatives very high).

Here’s the script of the NRCC ad, which hits the airwaves today and will be running on cable stations in Watertown and Syracuse for the next three weeks.

(ANNCR): The United States government borrows $4 billion every day. Fourteen trillion dollars in debt on the backs of our grandchildren. And Congressman Bill Owens is making it worse. Bill Owens just voted for another Pelosi budget. More spending. More debt. Borrowed from other nations. Strangling our economy and putting America at the mercy of the Peoples Republic of China. Call Bill Owens. Tell him to stop spending.”

UPDATE: An Owens spokesman tells the WSJ the congressman “voted for the Obama-Boehner budget compromise.” An anonymous Democratic aide said the buy is a scant $5,000 – very small, even for the upstate market.

Here And Now

The severe weather is making headlines in upstate New York and around the country.

President Obama at a fundraiser last night at the Waldorf: “My name is Barack Obama. I was born in Hawaii. I’m President of the United States. And I’m running for reelection. Nobody checked my ID on the way in.” (No link).

Obama was in NYC for a trio of fundraisers expected to net up to $3 million for the DNC and his own re-election campaign.

The purpose of Obama’s latest trip to the Big Apple was, in part, to try to make peace with deep-pocketed Wall Street donors.

The Obama campaign is again focusing on the youth vote.

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was invited by the president to join him at the Waldorf event.

Donald Trump pledged to engage in traditional retail politics in New Hampshire if he runs for president.

Riding in Trump’s limo did not improve Andrea Peyser’s opinion of the real estate mogul, although she was impressed the “notorious germaphobe” managed to shake some hands.

Andrea Tantaros on Obama’s decision to release his long-form birth certificate: “Trump, 1; Obama, 0.”

David Mixner floats Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as the first woman president (to run in 2016).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t ruling out a gas tax holiday, saying he has to “look at the numbers.”

More >

Extras

The president and first lady taped a 70-minute interview with Oprah that will air next Monday.

Donald Trump accused Obama, his supporters and the national media of playing the race card.

Did Assemblyman Joe Morelle jump the gun when he announced NYPA CEO Richard Kessel is stepping down? Kessel certainly thinks so.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s seeking a “most aggressive” strengthening of the rent laws, but stopped short of calling for an end to vacancy decontrol.

A Trump guessing game, compliments of Dan Amira.

Thomas Kaplan deems the news-free post-cabinet experience “a bizarre spectacle even by Albany standards.”

The key talking point for Cuomo cabinet members: “Everybody’s happy.”

A group of parents is suing Bloomberg for $100 million over his appointment of ex-NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black.

Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin.

On average, school districts are seeking a 3.4 percent increase in the property-tax levy in the 2011-12 school year that starts July 1. (That’s 1.4 percent higher than the 2 percent cap Cuomo’s pushing).

“Leading progressive and conservative experts” Richard Brodsky and Daniel DiSalvo will square off tomorrow at NYU over what lessons New York can learn from the recent political unrest in Wisconsin.

“Client 9″ filmmaker Alex Gibney’s next project looks at sports scapegoats. (I’m sure there’s a hidden in there somewhere, but I can’t find it).

Thanks to Rep. Paul Ryan, the senior citizen vote may be in play in 2012.

Ryan had to leave a town hall meeting in his Wisconsin district through a back door and with a police escort.

Sen. Greg Ball called his predecessor’s desire for diplomatic duty instead of jail time “disgusting” and “a slap in the face to all troops.”

Andrew Giuliani has qualified for the South George Classic golf tournament.

NYC’s newest columnist, Harry Siegel, hopes to avoid “churnolism.”

State Operations Director Howard Glaser has a deputy.

Nearly six in 10 Americans are worried a Japan-type nuclear disaster could occur here.

Hayworth Passes On Health Care Plan She’s Pushing For Seniors

ICYMI: Sen. Nan Hayworth defended the Medicare overhaul proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan during a CapTon interview last night, toeing the GOP line by insisting the so-called “premium support” plan is essentially the same coverage that members of Congress enjoy.

Oh, except her, that is.

The freshman Republican, who ousted Democrat John Hall in NY-19 last fall, revealed she opted to keep her own private insurance when she went to Washington in January.

Hayworth said Ryan’s plan, which the Republicans passed unanimously without a single Democratic vote, would “give seniors into the future the power to do what they know best in their own lives.”

“So by a premium support program, which is what we have now as members of Congress – I personally have my old insurance – but members of Congress have a program that’s been widely praised that provides premium support and lets them choose among an array of approved insurance programs. And that’s what Medicare would do,” the congresswoman concluded.

Hayworth was an opthamologist before she was elected. She and her husband, Scott, co-founded the Mount Kisco Medical Group, of which he is still the president and CEO. Scott Hayworth is an OB-GYN and chairs the Board of Directors at the American Medical Group Association.

The congresswoman sought to put a positive spin on her decision, arguing that she’s actually doing the public a favor by opting to pay for her own insurance.

“Well, not because it’s a bad program at all,” she said when I asked why she had decided not to go with the congressional health plan.

“But simply because, actually, I’m saving taxpayers some dollars by continuing my old insurance, which was a very cost-effective thing to do.”

Gas Tax Holiday Not Ruled Out By Cuomo

A suspension of the state’s gas tax — a proposal that seems to come up in Albany whenever gasoline reaches an uncomfortable price — wasn’t completely ruled out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today.

“You would have to look at the numbers,” Cuomo said when asked about the proposal, which was put out by Sen. Greg Ball, R-Putnam County and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Saratoga.

The lawmakers proposed this week to suspended the 8-cent excise tax, the 8-cent sales tax and the 17-cent petroleum business tax during the big summer holiday weekends: Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. The state Conservative Party, which has been issuing Cuomo-friendly signals over the last several months, also got in on the act and issued a memo supporting the suspension.

Cuomo said he feared the impact of gasoline costs would have on the nascent economic rebound.

“I’m afraid of the possible effect it would have on the economic recovery,” Cuomo said. “But I would have to actually take a look at the numbers.”

A suspension of the state’s gasoline sales tax has been proposed off and on over the years, but has been shot down each time over the impact of revenue for the state.