Schneiderman: Cancer Charity Scammed Millions (Updated)

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to shutdown a Long Island-based breast cancer charity he says scammed millions of dollars out of donors.

Schneiderman filed a lawsuit today against the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, claiming the charity sent phony invoices and used telemarketers to provide fake claims that donors’ money would go toward fighting breast cancer locally.

Rather, the money was used to fund fat incomes for the charity’s board. The top directors received $550,000 in combined salaries for 2005 through 2009, another $150,000 in retirement accounts, and dental and medical benefits that totaled at least $9,000 per year, according to Schneiderman.

At the same time, the board used chairty funds to pay for Internet, television and phone service as well as cell phones.

Board members also used donated money to fuel personal loans and devised a scheme to allow one of the charity’s employees to receive unemployment insurance after being fired, Schneiderman charged.

“By using a charity as a personal cash machine, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer and Campaign Center shamelessly exploited New Yorkers’ natural sympathies and generosity,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Instead of benefiting breast cancer victims and their families, millions of dollars were misused for personal benefit. This type of scam will not be tolerated in New York, and my office will continue its work to stop charities fraud and hold those who commit it accountable.”

The AG’s office has a website that allows tipsters to complain about charities they believe are fronts for frauds and provides a listing of guidelines for charitable organizations.

Summons and Complaint

Follow The Leader

Deep in NYPIRG’s by-the-numbers assessment of the 2011 legislative session are some interesting statistics that demonstrate just how leadership-driven Albany really is.

The average majority members in both houses voted with their respective leaders between 97.41 percent (Assembly Democrats) and 98.87 percent (Senate Republicans) of the time.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is the only leader who can boast 100 percent loyalty from members of his conference – 10 to be exact, including the speaker himself.

Four of those are no longer in the Assembly: RoAnn Destito, who is now the OGS commissioner; former Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, who retired; former Assemblywoman Audry Pheffer, who is now Queens County clerk; and former Assemblyman Darryl Towns, now Cuomo’s housing czar.

The others are: Assembly Ways & Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell Jr., a longtime Silver loyalist; Naomi Rivera, Peter Rivera, David Weprin and Michelle Schimel.

Even the members who voted most frequently against Silver were comparatively loyal. They include: Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (87.47 percent), Assembywoman Aileen Gunther (87.98 percent) and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (91.19 percent).

No GOP members voted with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos 100 percent of the time, but four came darn close: Marty Golden (99.85) and Kemp Hannon, Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous and John Flanagan – all coming in at 99.77 percent each.

Those who voted differently from Skelos most often were Sens. Bill Larkin (96.03 percent), John Bonacic (96.17 percent), and Ken LaValle (96.52 percent).

Assembly Republicans are arguably the Capitol’s most independent conference – relatively speaking. The 51 minority members only voted along with their leader, Brian Kolb, 90.94 percent of the time. The members who voted with him most frequently include a former minority leader, Jim Tedisco (95.85 percent).

The Senate Democrats’ most “renegade” members – those who vote least often with Minority Leader John Sampson – include Sens. Tom Duane (88.40 percent), Bill Perkins (89.29 percent), and Kevin Parker (90.35 percent).

The most loyal include Senate Deputy Minority Leader Neil Breslin (98.55 percent), former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (98.17 percent), and freshman Tim Kennedy (98.09 percent).

Ironically, with the exception of Senators Smith, Kennedy, Breslin, Joe Addabbo, and Suzi Oppenheimer, every senator enrolled as a Democrat voted more consistently with the IDC head, Sen. Jeff Klein, Sampson.

The Cuomosexual Agenda

Stephen Colbert explains how same-sex marriage in New York will lead to “Dolphin love.”

Cuomo Cabinet To Take Summer Road Trip

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to again deploy members of his cabinet around the state this summer a yet-to-be branded campaign.

Cuomo held a cabinet meeting for about 45 minutes today, which department chiefs said was meant to jumpstart the second half of the year.

Cabinet members, as usual, divulged hardly any details about what was discussed or what the post-session agenda will specifically look like.

“I don’t want to get into all the details now,” said Ben Lawsky, the commissioner of the Department Financail Services. “We talked about getting around the state, getting to all the regions of the state and we’re going to do that.”

Added Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala: “It was informative and were we go from here. It was just more of recap and review of the first six months.”

The new campaign could begin later this week. During the legislative session, Cuomo and the cabinet hit the road in the “People First Tour” which pushed his major goals: gay marriage, a tax cap and an ethics overhaul.

The Legislature passed all three, including an extension of rent control for New York City.

Martens Hedges On Fracking Report

The draft recommendations from the Department of Environmental Conservation on the controversial natural-gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing are due Friday, but Commissioner Joe Martens today hedged on whether his agency will have the report ready by then.

“We’re still working on it, so stay tuned for later in the week whether we’re going to meet the deadline or not,” Martens said following a cabinet meeting on the second floor of the Capitol.

“We’re working on it, hopefully we’ll meet our Friday deadline,” Martens added.

Martens said the report was in the “production process” right now.

The long-expected report on the process known as hydrofracking has been pushed back several times before. The report, which is due on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk at the end of the week, will later be released to the public, the governor said Monday.

The process involves a mixture of chemicals and water to extract natural gas from below ground. Energy companies say the process can be performed safely and become a boon to the local economy, esepcially in the hard-hit Southern Tier region where drilling is being eyed.

But environmentalists argue the process is too risky and can harm the water table. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in May file suit against the federal government after he says Delaware River Basin Commission approved fracking regulations without following all guidelines under federal law.

There is currently a moratorium on the use of hydrofracking under executive order first issued by Gov. David Paterson and sustained by Cuomo.

Martens also suggested today that more information could be released after Friday.

“We’ll see what we can get out Friday versus what we can get out in the days after,” he said.

State Ed: Court Will Back Teacher Evaluations

The controversial teacher evaluation overhaul that is now facing a court challenge from the state’s largest teachers union will be upheld, the state Department of Education predicted in a statement this morning.

The DoE’s full statement:

“In May, the Board of Regents adopted critical reforms that will allow schools for the first time to more accurately measure the performance of teachers and school leaders. This new teacher and principal evaluation system will allow local districts to recognize and replicate teaching excellence, provide intensive professional development for teachers in need of additional support and provide a fair, objective and expedited means of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom. It is the critical foundation of all of our efforts to ensure that every classroom is led by a highly effective teacher. We have every confidence that it will be upheld by the courts.”

The state United Teachers union is suing the department and the state Board of Regents over the proposed evaluations, saying state officials overstepped their authority when it comes to using standardized test scores to gauge teacher effectiveness.

The new guidelines were quickly taken up in May by the Regents after Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for them.

Cuomo Versus Christie Could Be A Blockbuster

File this blog post in the Department of Insanely Early Speculation.

But political junkies, journalists and pundits — who tend to possess the attention span of fruit flies — are getting excited for a hypothetical presidential brawl between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“I’m rubbing my hands not about 2012, 2012 strikes me as a boring election,” said Quinnipiac pollster Mikey Carroll. “But 2016 — Cuomo versus Christie — how do you like that?”

Carroll, speaking on Fred Dicker’s Talk 1300 radio show this morning, noted that both the New York Democrat and New Jersey Republican have achieved significant victories early on in their tenures and have staked out conservative fiscal ground.

“Cuomo did exactly the same thing,” Carroll said of Christie’s and Cuomo’s attempts to seek concessions from public-employee unions. “They’re peas in a pod.”

Cuomo, who is completing only his first six months as governor, was thrusted onto the national stage last week when he signed a same-sex marriage bill that passed the Republican-led Senate.

The bill was necessary for Cuomo’s prgressive street cred, especially after turning down attempts to re-instate the so-called millionaires tax and his successful passage of a property-tax cap.

“I think where ideologically Cuomo may have suffered from the conservative image, but now he’s got the entire left saying what a great guy, he got gay marriage,” Carroll said.

A Cuomo-Christie matchup is the surrogate to what political reporters in New Yorker wanted in 2008 — Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani.

Neither won the nomination.

But for all the comparisons between Cuomo and Christie, their styles differ significantly. Cuomo is yet to appear on a national Sunyday morning political chat show. Christie does them all the time. Cuomo’s confrontations are done in private, Christie’s are done in public.

Christie has insisted he’s not running for president in 2012 despite the seemingly weak Republican field. Cuomo nearly ruled out running in 2016 to Dicker on Monday only to walk the Shermanesque statement back.

And Christie’s popularity in New Jersey is waning, while, for now, Cuomo remains on top of the polls in New York.

Of course, the biggest caveat in all this is that five years is an eternity in politics.

A Busy Session For Kemp Hannon

Long Island Sen. Kemp Hannon was the busiest and most effective lawmaker this session, a New York Public Interest Research Group study found.

The report, released today, found Hannon sponsored more legislation that passed both houses than his 211 colleagues in the Senate and Assembly.

In a split Leiglsature that loves one-house bills, that’s something of a feat. The Democratic-led Assembly passed 999 bills while the Republican-controlled Senate passed 1,289. Of that, 677 bills passed both houses.

Hannon, a Republican from Suffolk Nassau County and the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is known as a policy maven. He also was one of the three Republican lawmakers Gov. Andrew Cuomo consulted to develop religious carve out language for the same-sex marriage bill.

Though Hannon was ultimately a no vote on the bill, he did vote for the amendment (Republican Sens. Steve Saland, Roy McDonald, Jim Alesi, Carl Marcellino, Mark Grisanti and Majority Leader Dean Skelos joined him).

Some other stats from NYPIRG:

-11 legislators introduced more than 200 bills; 8 introduced 5 or less.

-The vast majority of bills that passed each house did so with little or no opposition.

-Members of the Independent Democrats voted the same way as their leader more so than any other conference. The members who differed from their leader most frequently were Assembly Republicans.

- Most of the Senators enrolled as Democrats voted the same way as Senator Klein more often than they voted the same way as Senator Sampson.

- Cuomo relied on messages of necessity less frequently than most of his predecessors. He introduced fewer program bills than any governor in the past decade, but saw a higher percentage of these passed.

NYPIRG 2011 Session Analysis

NYSUT Sues State Over Teacher Eval Policy

The state’s largest teachers union, NYSUT, has filed suit to block the teacher evaluation system that was pushed by the Cuomo administration earlier this year.

The lawsuit specifically alleges that the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner overstepped their authority when they put into place a system that allows some school districts to double the weight of state standardized test scores when evaluating teachers, instead of using “locally selected measures” for the other part of the evaluatin.

When this was adopted back in May, Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch told Capital Tonight that doubling the state scores was only an option for some school districts, and that the local districts could choose to use tenure and other methods to make up the other half of the evaluations.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called Tisch’s comments “disturbing” when she first voiced support of this plan. In today’s press release he said:

“New York was poised to take the lead in developing a thoughtful, comprehensive evaluation system developed in collaboration with teachers and other stakeholders. Instead, the Regents chose politics over sound educational policy and the cheap way over the right way, doubling down on high-stakes tests of dubious worth instead of requiring school districts and teachers unions to collaborate in ways that would really strengthen instruction in our classrooms.”

The implementation of an evaluation system is necessary for New York to collect the nearly $700 million dollars in federal money that it won as part of the Race to the Top program. Part of the application process was demonstrating a willingness of labor groups to work with the state to implement changes to teacher evaluation.

The legislature passed a bill in May of 2010 detailing what the system would look like. As NYSUT points out in their press release, the bill states that a teacher’s annual performance will be based on an effectiveness score where 20% of the evaluation is based on “state assessments” and another 20% on “locally selected measures.”

Q Poll: NYers Approve Of Gay Marriage Law

Today’s Q poll finds a majority of New Yorkers – 54 percent – support the same-sex marriage bill passed by the Legislature last week and promptly signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Overall, 40 percent of poll respondents say they oppose the new law, while support is strongest – 70-26 – among voters under the age of 35.

White Catholics are split 48-48 percent on this controversial topic. Jews support it, 67-30, while white Protestants oppose it, 54-40. Voters who say they have no religion also backed the measure, 78-17.

Voters are divided, 47-46, on whether the new law will pressure religious groups to perform gay marriages. Seventy percent said opposition from religious leaders doesn’t impact their position on this issue.

On one outstanding issue – redistricting reform – voters continue to say they’re supportive of a completely independent commission (42 percent), while 37 percent believe the Legislature should retain a role in redrawing the district lines and 14 percent believing the politically-controlled system is fine just the way it is.

This Q poll was conducted June 20-26, which means it was in the field as the Senate was deliberating – and then passing – gay marriage. Live interviewers surveyed 1,317 registered voters via land lines and cell phones, and the poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

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