Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to sign the statewide Distracted Driving Bill into law at noon at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is releasing his latest IDA report in Syracuse.

Former First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson is writing a tell-all book. She says her husband’s first words upon learning he would be governor were: “I think I’ll kill myself.”

The GOP candidate for ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s old House seat, Bob Turner, had to pay more than $16,000 in fines for sloppy bookkeeping in his last race.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch (a Democrat) urged NY-9 residents to vote for Turner in hopes of getting the president to “change his hostile position on the state of Israel.”

Now that the dust has cleared, Richard Cohen writes of Weiner’s victimization.

Ironically, Assemblyman David Weprin, now running for Weiner’s seat, marched with the ex-congressman in a Memorial Day parade during the weekend the Twitter scandal that made this campaign possible broke.

“I think Mr. Weprin has a track record: tax and spend liberal Democrat,” said Turner. “He’s hooked into the Obama administration and party lines and in philosophy. I don’t think there’s any getting away from it.”

Same-sex couples made to wait a little longer to wed by 1930s-era law intended to prevent “gin weddings.”

The DN picks up our story about LG Bob Duffy’s use of campaign cash to pay for his Albany apartment.

More >

Extras

The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s reaction to the President’s “eat our peas” comment: “Eating more lentils couldn’t hurt, either.”

Rep. Charlie Rangel on the debt ceiling: “Our whole nation’s fiscal system and the international community, which depends on that, would collapse…if they don’t work it out.”

Foreclosures are down in NYC.

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has launched a campaign to combat childhood obesity, ordered a 1,556-calorie lunch at Shake Shack.

Dana Rubinstein on the rent laws extension: “No one is happy, because no one, aside from perhaps Andrew Cuomo, who can now claim he’s marginally more tenant-friendly than his predecessors, got precisely what they wanted.”

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be deciding “very soon” whether to throw his hat into the 2012 ring.

The reception and information Giuliani gets at his New Hampshire visit this week will be a “key factor” in his decision-making process.

Former State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli Jr. pleaded guilty to official misconduct and agreed to pay $50,000 restitution but avoided jail in a plea deal that dismissed more serious charges.

Ed Koch sees the NY-9 special election as a test of Obama’s support for Israel and won’t endorse his fellow Democrat, Assemblyman David Weprin.

Dominique Straus-Kahn’s court date has been pushed off until August.

Adoption lawyers are getting ready for a baby boom they believe could follow the enactment of NY’s same-sex marriage law.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos raised campaign cash on the golf course today.

Cuomo has ten days to act on a school district borrowing bill that he has pledged to veto.

The 9/11 Memorial saw a rush in on-line reservations.

Goodbye, Glenn Beck.

Edwards A Possible Challenger For Cox

Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards, who ran a failed bid for LG as Carl Paladino’s running mate last year, confirmed his is “considering” a challenge to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox this fall.

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Edwards said he has been asked by “people whose opinions I respect” to consider a bid to take over the party (which, for the record, did not initially back him – or his first running mate, former Rep. Rick Lazio, in 2010). He refused to reveal the identities of these individuals, but stressed that he is “flattered” that they approached him.

“Like anything else, when someone presents a business proposition to me, I analyze where I am, I analyze the proposal, I consider my options. And that’s precisely what I’m doing,” Edwards told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon.

“…So, I’m making calls, and I’m considering it. All kinds of other issues demand my attention as county executive, and they’re getting that.”

Edwards refused to be pinned down to making a decision, saying only: “Everything has a timeline.”

Cox’s two-year term ends after the September primary. Technically speaking, there’s no provision in the party rules for ousting a sitting chairman. Generally speaking, challengers interested in bumping a chair before his tenure is up build support among the county chairs, who, in turn, pressure their leader to step down.

That, as you’ll recall, is how Cox managed to get into the state chairmanship in the first place. Unlike his rival for the spot, then-Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, Cox didn’t wait for its occupant at the time, Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, to announce he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Wojtaszek’s careful approach cost him the job, even though he was backed by almost the entire NYS GOP establishment.

Edwards arguably risks the same fate with his “I’m considering it” line. Then again, former state GOP Executive Director Ed Lurie, who was actively campaigning for Cox’s job, just pulled back on that effort, citing a lack of interest on behalf of the county chairs.

So, maybe Edwards is smart to play it safe here.

He is a Western NY guy, and the displeasure with Cox is strong on that end of the state. But it’s unclear if he would be any better than Cox at fundraising for the party – particularly since he doesn’t have deep ties to the deep pocketed NYC donors – other than those he forged during his statewide stint last fall.

Duffy Using Political Funds For ‘Housing’ (Updated X2)

The early-bird posting of Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy’s campaign-finance report shows the Cuomo administration’s number two has used his fund to pay for what is described in the filing as “housing,” with payments going to a company owned by a major Republican contributor.

The report shows that Bob Duffy 2010 has spent $1,902.93 a month since January on housing, with payments going to AG Spanos, a real-estate company owned by San Diego Chargers owner and prolific GOP donor Alex G. Spanos. The payments total $13,320.51.

The purposes for the expenses are listed under “housing.”

Update: Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto responds, saying the use of the funds doesn’t violate state law because it’s related to the holding of a public office.

“The Lieutenant Governor does not take taxpayer funded per diems to cover the cost of his housing when he is working in Albany, saving New York taxpayers thousands of dollars. The law clearly states than an official can use campaign funds for activities related to the holding of their office. That is clearly the case here. And, upon taking office, the Lieutenant Governor in fact checked with the Board of Elections and they confirmed the above.”

The website for AG Spanos shows the company owns residential and commercial properties around the country and the only property in New York the company takes credit for building is a 300-unit luxury apartment complex called Patroon Creek near Washington Avenue in Albany, where Duffy stays when he’s in town for legislative business.

The company’s owner and namesake, Alex Spanos, is also the owner of the San Diego Chargers and a major Republican contributor in California and in the 2000 and 2004 presidential cycles.

In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website calls Spanos “professional football’s most prolific political bankroller.” Spanos has not made any major contributions in New York races.

Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, has been a visible presence in Albany since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office Jan. 1 and frequently presides over the state Senate, one of the few official duties for the lieutenant governor. Cuomo has also deployed Duffy to travel the state and drum up support for the legislative agenda.

Good-government groups have railed against the use of the campaign funds for personal use.

“While we don’t have any detailed information on these expenditures, the issue of using campaign funds for purposes other than running for office is something that should get addressed in the campaign finance reform bill which we hope to see next year,” said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The report does not show any major fundraising for Duffy in the last six months.

The New York campaign finance law is notoriously gray on this area. Lawmakers and public officials on both sides of the aisle have used political funds to cover a variety of items, including car leases. The law itself states that,

“Campaign funds for personal use
Contributions received by a candidate or a political commit- tee may be expended for any lawful purpose. Such funds shall not be converted by any person to a personal use which is unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of a public office or party position.”

Update X2:
I checked over Cuomo’s campaign book that discussed the need for campaign-finance reform. At the time, Cuomo wrote,

“New York’s vague prohibition on the use of campaign funds for personal expenditures has resulted in their use for such non-campaign related expenses as country club memberships, purchases of television sets and personal wardrobe items. Permissible and non-permissible uses of campaign funds must be clarified, and non-campaign related, personal uses of any kind prohibited and enforced.”

Weprin Picks Up WFP Endorsement

Congressional candidate David Weprin will have three lines on the ballot in September’s special election. After being selected by the Democrats last week, Assemblyman Weprin picked up the Independence Party’s support over the weekend. And today, the Working Families Party announced that Weprin has the unanimous support of its executive committee.
In a statement, WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor said “As the Washington Republicans threaten to default on our national debt and end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors, the people of Brooklyn and Queens can count on David Weprin to stand up for working families. Throughout his time in the city council and the state assembly David Weprin has earned our respect and admiration as a public leader. He’s a real mensch. That’s why the Working Families Party supports David Weprin for Congress.”

A GOP ‘Yes’ For Raising The Debt Ceiling

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who is so far the only announced Republican 2012 challenger to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, told me during a CapTon interview that he would, if he had the opportunity to do so, vote in favor of raising the U.S. ceiling.

But, not surprisingly, he offered some caveats, saying the congressional Republicans are being “fiscally responsible” in their refusal to vote “yes” before first wringing cost-cutting agreements from the Democrats and the White House.

“We have to, we have no choice,” Maragos said of the debt ceiling vote. “But we also have to get serious in making significant cuts in the entitlement programs.”

“They are being fiscally responsible because if they raise the debt ceiling without any preconditions on, or serious commitments to, cut costs, what they simply will be doing is giving the Obama administration another blank check. And America cannot afford to give another blank check to this administration.”

As for revenue increases, Maragos balked at the idea of raising taxes on the rich, or, as House Speaker John Boehner would say, “higher taxes on job creators.” Gillibrand called last week for an end to the Bush-era tax cuts and proposed tax breaks for small businesses instead.

He did, however, voice support for ending subsidies for big oil, which isn’t in keeping with the rehtoric of his GOP colleagues.

In fact, that’s something on which the comptroller and Gillibrand agree.

Former Giuliani Aide: SC Ruling Could Hinder City Finance System

A blog post co-authored by Larry Levy, a former campaign lawyer for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid, suggests that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could derail New York City’s taxpayer-subsidized campaign finance system.

The post on Albany Law School Law Review’s Fireplace blog, points to a 5-4 court decision that struck down a portion of Arizona’s campaign-finance law pertaining to matching funds to candidates that is based on the proportionate spending of opponents.

Levy, along with Andrew Rafalaf, writes that the ruling could have consequences for the city’s campaign-finance model, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he supports replicating on the state level.

From their blog:

Consequently, it would appear that New York City’s campaign finance program is ripe for constitutional challenge since it incorporates trigger provisions similar to those at issue in Arizona. ”

“The current New York City program, which is highly regarded and vigorously enforced by the Campaign Finance Board (‘CFB’), provides participating candidates for public office with an opportunity to qualify for matching funds

Lurie Dials Back ‘Suicide Mission’ For State GOP Chairman

Former state GOP executive director and veteran NYS Republican operator Ed Lurie has stepped back from his effort to oust state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, citing a lack of interest and support – both financial and operational – among the party’s county chairs.

Lurie refused to allow me to use the word “suspended” in connection with his behind-the-scenes campaign, insisting he remains interested in the state chairman’s job if circumstances change between now and when Cox’s two-year term is up this fall.

“I’m not going on a suicide mission, Liz,” Lurie told me. “I’ve done enough of that.”

“If things are the way they are now come the fall, then no, I won’t push it. If things have changed, then yes…I think there will be some others out there, and I think it’s important that if we’re going to move ahead, there needs to be a united front.”

Lurie used the word “deactivated” when he spoke to the NY Observer’s David Freedlander, explaining: “I’m still out there, but it’s not an organized campaign at this point.”

More >

Goo-Goos Give Incomplete To Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo managed to get a lot done in his first six months, but good-government groups want more.

Speaking on The Capitol Pressroom this morning, Jessica Wisneski of Citizen Action and Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group said Cuomo should fulfill his campaign pledge of pushing for a New York City-style form of public financing for political campaigns.

“If I had to give him a grade it would be an incomplete,” Mahoney said. “He talked a lot about what he wanted to do during the campaign, including campaign finance reform. There’s no enforcement whatsoever and even with these high limits there’s a way you can get around them.”

Cuomo highlighted the issue in his campaign policy book on government reform, wrting, “Like New York City, New York State needs a system of public campaign financing to set limits on campaign spending and to increase participation by qualified candidates who lack the means or the connections to raise significant campaign funds.”

Wisneski said she was hopeful Cuomo would turn his attention to the issue this fall.

“That would allow more people to run in state Assembly and Senate races,” she said. “I think for Gov. Cuomo he clearly has taken certain issues and wants to see them through. We know campaign finance is on that list and we hope that public financing will be on that list.”

Cuomo was applauded by reformers for pushing through an ethics overhaul bill that includes new requirements for lawmakers to disclose their outside sources of income — a major and long-sought goal.

The governor also reiterated his vow last week made during the campaign season that he would veto legislative boundaries drawn by lawmakers during the redistriciting process. Cuomo is pushing for an independent panel to redraw the lines, another good-government backed issue.

Still, good-government groups were dismayed that Cuomo called special elections for the vacant state and federal seats in New York. Advocates charge special elections allow party bosses to pick candidates and reduce ballot access to outsiders.

Cuomo set the special elections for the ninth congressional district and six vacant Assembly seats on Sept. 13.

United Front For Turner

Republicans and Conservatives gathered in Forest Hills, Queens this morning in hopes of conveying a message of solidarity in the wake of a brief struggle over the selection of Bob Turner to run for ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat in NY-9, NY1′s Grace Rauh reports.

Turner was introduced at the event by Juan Reyes, the attorney and former low-level Giuliani administration aide (UPDATE: A reader insists Reyes was not, in fact, “low-level,” noting his last title was general counsel to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, and he also served as counsel to the NYC Loft Board) preferred by the Queens GOP to get the party’s nod in the upcoming Sept. 13 special election.

Supporters who had volunteered for Turner’s unsuccessful 2010 bid against Weiner stood behind the newly-minted candidate with re-purposed “Bob Turner for Congress” signs.

“I’m very gratified at the turnout,” Turner said. “I can hardly believe the volunteers didn’t toss their signage after the last election. I had thrown mine out. But apparently we have more believers here than we thought.”

Also on hand were state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, both of whom backed Turner, a businessman who garnered about 40 percent of the vote in his failed effort to unseat Weiner.

Cox huddled last Friday with Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton and his Queens counterpart, Phil Ragusa, who lost the internal power struggle over selection of the NY-9 candidate. Ragusa had preferred Reyes due to concerns over Turner’s alliance with NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich, who isn’t a Ragusa loyalist.

Ragusa and Eaton attended today’s event, too. Cox was the only party leader who spoke from the podium.

Turner said the country is “on the wrong course, adding:

“As I walk around this neighborhood and talk to friends and acquaintances, I see a continuing problem – a lack of hope that our direction can be fixed or fixed easily. There’s a crisis of leadership…We appeal to Washington for help, for leadership. They are directionless, and to my mind, clueless.”

Turner invoked the late President Reagan when he spoke of stimulating the economy, saying business needs to be “freed up” and not “crushed” with regulations and new taxes.

He made no mention of his Democratic opponent, Assemblyman David Weprin, from the podium, and didn’t mention Weiner, either.