Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany today with no public schedule.

LATFOR holds another public hearing, this time at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers in Rochester. Committee members were in Syracuse yesterday, where locals opposed splitting up Onondaga County.

The FBI has officially launched its investigation into allegations that News Corp. employees tried to hack the voice mails of 9/11 victims.

A British Parliament committee accused Rupert Murdoch’s company of “deliberately” trying to impede a criminal probe into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

The “humble pie” headline got a workout on the other side of the pond.

Ditto for the DN, which is very much enjoying this. The Post, not so much.

Northeast Primary Day (?): April 24.

The governor unveiled Phase II of his first year in office, which he says will focus on economic development and job creation.

Cuomo said the next six months will be “fun” and “different,” with he and his cabinet members out of Albany more and focused on the “operational” side of government.

Before it improves the business climate in New York, the Cuomo administration needs businesses to pony up $21.25 per employee to cover the cost of a $95 million interest payment it owes the federal government for its unemployment insurance program.

The contract deals struck by the Cuomo administration with PEF and CSEA only saves $148 million in this fiscal year, leaving about $302 million worth of savings included in the budget yet to be accounted for.

Calling the deals contracts for “hard times,” the TU calls on union members to ratify.

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Will Same-Sex Marriage Help Republicans?

The conventional wisdom as to why Senate Republicans allowed a vote on the same-sex marriage bill went like this: Removing the issue and the well-financed groups who backed pro-gay marriage candidates would only help, not hurt their cause in keeping the majority.

But looking at where gay marriage advocates are sending their money — to Republican candidates — raises an interesting question: Does the successful passage of the same-sex marriage bill help the GOP retain the majority?

There are a few caveats. As significant a victory as marriage was, members of the LGBT advocacy community say more needs to be done, and they’ll need Democratic supporters in the Senate to make it happen.

And the four Republicans who vote yes — Sens. Mark Grisanti, Steve Saland, Roy McDonald and Jim Alesi — could also face challenges on their right flank, losing to a candidate who has a no shot of winning a general election.

Grisanti and Alesi are considered to be especially vulnerable in 2012. Republicans hold a narrow 32-30 majority in the Senate after regaining the majority in 2010.

Still, NYPIRG researcher Bill Mahoney points out that the money is meant to show Republicans in other states they would be insulated by attacks launched by groups like NOM.

“I do think that gay marriage advocates want to make a case nationwide that Republican legislators supporting an issue such as this aren’t in legislative danger when the next election comes around,” he said.

Mahoney estimated that about $500,000 came in the last fundraising cycle to GOP legislators who bacekd gay marriage.

“That’s half a million dollars worth of campaign ads that the Republicans will be able to buy,” he said.

LGBT advocates “might be less inclined to donate” given the issue has moved on, he added.

McDonald Brushes Off Attack Mailer

Sen. Roy McDonald, one of the four Republican senators who voted in favor of the same-sex marriage bill, shrugged when questioned about the National Organization for Marriage targeting him and six others with a $150,000 mailer campaign.

And he predicted the Legislature would return to session within two weeks to take up the unfinished business of the PEF contract.

“This is a free country and, you know, America is made up of differing opinions, and everybody has the right to express them,” McDonald said.

He was equally non-plussed when asked about the donations he’s received from LGBT advocates, as have his fellow GOP yes votes, Sens. Mark Grisanti, Steve Saland and Jim Alesi.

“People give me money from all different backgrounds and people in that category as well and people in business and average individuals for all different reasons. I’m not a wealthy person, if you run for office, I can’t afford to take money from my family to run. I didn’t solicit it, but we welcome it.”

McDonald did promote on his facebook a “Stand With Roy” website following his declaration that he would vote for the same-sex marriage bill, which passed 33-29.


Grading Rupert Murdoch’s performance at today’s hearing (not including the pie-in-his-face moment).

A who’s who graphic by the Murdoch-owned WSJ of this morning’s “attempted physical attack” on the media mogul.

President Obama likes the Group of 6′s plan.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is getting his own MSNBC show.

Lady Gaga’s father contributed to Manhattan BP Scott Stringer.

The Oneidas are going Hollywood.

Here’s the Website for Cuomo’s celebrity stylist. Her other clients have included President Obama and former President Clinton.

Sen. Chuck Schumer honored Abby Wambach on the Senate floor.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was elected to the Board of Directors of Ceres, the nation’s largest coalition of investment funds, sustainability organizations and other public interest groups.

Speculation on why Cuomo replaced former Medicaid IG James Sheehan with James Cox.

Mayor Bloomberg pledged up to $100 million in NYC funds and a site for a new engineering and applied sciences school.

“We want to make sure that Sunday is not like a trip to Motor Vehicles,” NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn said of the city’s decision to award July 24 same-sex marriage slots via lottery.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings will open City Hall at 12:01 a.m. Sunday to marry same-sex couples in the Common Council Chamber.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie will implement a medical marijuana program.

Former Senator/presidential contender John Edwards may owe the FEC $2.3 million.

Obama said the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a “rock star,” according to EMILY’s List spokeswoman Jessica McIntosh.

Here’s NY1′s Josh Robin reporting on the fracas in Parliament earlier today:

Cuomo Outlines Jobs-Focused Tour

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon outlined his priorities for the next six months at a public cabinet meeting that includes a barnstorming of the state aimed at economic development and job creation.

Cuomo divided the first and second halves of the year as “Phase I” and “Phase II.”

The first phase — January through June — was focused on legislative goals such as the tax cap, closing the $10 billion deficit without tax increases, same-sex marriage legalization and the SUNY 2020 economic development bill.

Cuomo also praised the Legislature and his cabinet for restoring credibility and optimism when it comes to the lousy reputation that state government has had with New Yorkers for years.

The next six months, which Cuomo calls “NY Works,” will “operationalize” state government. It includes the creation of the long-awaited economic development councils and “regionally-driven economic plans.”

As he said in a Talk 1300 radio interview earlier this month, the focus will be on “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The new phase also includes an advertising campaign called “New York Is Open For Business” which is designed to attract businesses and jobs to the state. Cuomo said he would not appear in any television commercials.

Cuomo also said himself, the lieutenant the cabinet will be traveling the state to visit 10 different regions and assess local needs.

“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be different,” the governor said. “We’re going to be out of Albany and on the road more.”

Cuomo does enjoy traveling.

The governor went on the road earlier this year to pitch New Yorkers on his budget cuts. Armed with a PowerPoint presentation, Cuomo stumped around the state urging voters to accept difficult budget cuts.

The move was arguably successful; the Legislature approved a budget largley of Cuomo’s liking.

Then, he began his People First Tour, which featured Cuomo and his cabinet pitching voters on his three big agenda pieces: same-sex marriage, ethics reform and a 2 percent property tax cap.

Cuomo got all three.

Department Of Campaign Cash Ironies

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out an interesting wrinkle in the state Conservative Party’s July 15 fundraising reports.

The party raised $153,159 from individual donors for its campaign committee account. A good-sized chunk of that – $25,000 – came from Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager and top-tier Republican donor.

This nuggest isn’t at all surprising when considered on its own. Singer is one of New York’s wealthiest and most politically-active GOP donors, and he has given to the Conservative Party at least once before. He’s chairman of the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning research group, and one of the nation’s most generous Republican donors.

But when you consider the fact that Singer was a member of a high-profile group of GOP financiers and donors who financed the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York this year, it’s far more interesting.

According to a May 13 report by the NY Times’ Michael Barbaro and Nick Confessore, Singer coordinated much of the Republican fund-raising for the effort, donating $425,000 of his own money and personally soliciting an additional $500,000 in donations.

He also hosted private meetings at which he made the case for legalizing gay marriage to other conservatives.

Singer had a very personal stake in this fight: He has a gay son who married his partner in Massachusetts when same-sex weddings were not yet legal here in New York.

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was an outspoken opponent of the gay marriage bill – perhaps the most recognizable member of the anti crowd. He has pledged to withdraw his party’s endorsement and ballot line from all four GOP senators who voted “yes” and enabled the bill to pass, 33-29, last month.

Singer’s contribution came in support of the Conservative Party’s annual dinner on June 1 at which Sen. Tom Coburn was the keynote speaker. The Senate passed the gay marriage bill on June 24.

Other interesting contributions to either the party’s campaign committee or housekeeping account include $15,000 (in two installments: $10,000 and $5,000) from former LG Betsy McCaughey and two checks worth $2,000 each from Ellicot Group and Ellicot Development, both of which are owned by failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who, once upon a time, was quite at odds with Long.

Tompkins Leaving Comptroller’s Office

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is losing his veteran spokesman Dennis Tompkins, who is departing early next month to take a newly-created position at the state Education Department.

SED spokesman Tom Dunn confirmed the Board of Regents approved Tompkins’ appointment to the position of chief of external affairs yesterday at the request of the new Education commissioner, John King.

UPDATE: Tompkins informs me the position is not newly-created, per se. Jim Baldwin, who left about six months ago, had a similar post with a different title. The job has been revamped somewhat, but did exist before.

Tompkins, whose formal title at the comptroller’s office is communications director, will be responsible for the combined oversight of the offices of governmental relations and communications at SED, Dunn said. He’s scheduled to start Aug. 8. His new salary was not immediately available.

“I enjoyed working with the comptroller and I respect and admire what he has done,” Tompkins told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon.

“It was an opportunity for me to work on some issues I was interested in, and I’m ready for some new challenges.”

DiNapoli tapped Tompkins back in the spring of 2007, just after he was elevated by his former Assembly colleagues (and over the objections of then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer) to fill the vacancy left by ex-Comptroller Alan Hevesi in the wake of the Chauffeurgate scandal.

He started at an annual salary of $158,093.

At the time, Tompkins was a senior public affairs counselor for Eric Mower and Associates. But this was not his first go-round in the comptroller’s office.

He served for nine years as press secretary to Hevesi’s predecessor, H. Carl McCall, who departed the office to run a failed bid for governor in 2002 as the first black major party candidate. (He was challenged by fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who ended up dropping out of the primary one week before the September election, and then went on to lose to incumbent GOP Gov. George Pataki).

From 2002 through 2006, Tompkins served as media relations manager for NYSUT, where he was chief spokesman and media strategist for the state’s largest union.

Tompkins got his start as a policy and communications aide in the Assembly, where he remained for a decade, eventually working his way up to the position of deputy press secretary for the Democratic majority.

Tompkins has a reputation as a savvy spokesman and tough defender of his principals. He was once grilled by then-AG Cuomo’s investigators, who invoked the Martin Act to question potential witnesses in the pension fund pay-to-play scandal (DiNapoli was cleared of any involvement by Cuomo just prior to the 2010 election).

So far, no replacement for Tompkins has been named in DiNapoli’s press shop.

Bar Association: Time To Pay Judges More

The state Bar Association is reiterating its call for hiking judges’ pay, one day before the Judicial Compensation Commission meets in Albany.

The bar association argues that more than a decade of judges not having a pay increase has led to a loss of “talented and experienced” judges.

In its report to the commission, which was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to study the issue, the bar association aruges that pay for jurists hasn’t kept up with those in other areas of the public sector.

“Over the past 12-1/2 years, the salaries of New York judges have fallen behind the salaries of hundreds of state-employed professionals, including many with less training and seniority,” the report says.

The association suggests a minimum salary of $192,000 for Supreme Court judges. In New York, the Supreme Court is the lowest-level trial court.

District attorneys in New York City, SUNY and CUNY professors and deans of public law schools all have seen their salaries adjusted upward in the last 10 years.

Historically pay for judges has been tied to salary increases for lawmakers. The last pay raise for both came in 1999. State lawmakers make $79,500, with many earning legislative stipends or “lulus” for various positions and titles within in their conferences.

The comenspation commission was meant to divorce pay increases for lawmakers and judges. Given the political climate, a pay raise for state lawmakers, who are still among the highest paid state representatives in the country, would go over like a lead balloon.

Enviros Air Ten Fracking Concerns

Environmental Advocates of New York and a coalition of advocacy organizations have compiled a list of concerns they have with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, saying the overall enforcement “lacks teeth.”

“No matter how diligent the Department of Environmental Conservation is, and how many experts double-check the agency’s work, there is an entropy factor that we really can’t plan for. There’s a big risk in allowing this industry to operate here. Every New Yorker needs to think carefully about whether the reward is worth the risk,” said Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney with Earthjustice.

The process, commonly known as hydrofracking, involves blasting chemicals and water into the ground in order to extract natural gas reserves. High-volume fracking is under consideration for the state’s Southern Tier region in the Marcellus Shale, where energy companies say it can be a financial boon to the moribound upstate economy.

But environmentalists believe the process can damage the water table and want the energy companies to reveal what is in their fracking fluid.

The DEC tried to thread the needle with these concerns, by proposing regulations that would ban high-volume fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds and requiring companies to reveal some of the ingredients used in fracking, save for the ones protected by trade secret.

The DEC’s report goes to a public comment period later this summer. Commissioner Joe Martens has said no permits would be granted this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’s reviewing the report.

But environmentalists say the DEC fails to ban certain chemicals, even ones it knows to be carcinogenic, no or does it allow the drilling waste to be treated as hazardous waste.

At the same time, the DEC’s recent spate of layoffs could hobble the agency with permit enforcement, a claim Cuomo administration officials strongly deny.

Their full top 10 list after the jump.
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NOM Spent Thousands On Surveys, Radio Ads

The National Organization for Marriage spent thousands of dollars lobbying against same-sex marriage legalization in New York, but its spending was less than half of the money utilized by New Yorkers United for Marriage, who backed the legislation.

According to the group’s filing with the Commission on Public Integrity, NOM spent $735,963 in May and June lobbying against the same-sex marriage legislation. By comparison, New Yorkers United For Marriage, a coalition of advocacy groups formed at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spent $1.8 million during the same reporting period.

The group’s previous filing for the months of March and April showed spending of $96,547, which included automatic “informational” calls and $69,557 on a mailer.

NOM’s report shows it invested heavily on a $275,000 television ad in May and another $25,000 one in June. The group also spent nearly $200,000 on corresponding radio ads in May and June as well.

The filing also shows the diverging tactics of the pro-same-sex-marriage lobby and those who opposed the bill, which passed 33-29. The bill takes effect on Sunday, when thousands of gay couples are expected to be married.

The National Organization for Marriage shelled out $181,827 on telephone surveys. Recall that New Yorkers United for Marriage spent $50,000 on canvassing in select Senate districts, according to its report, which posted on Monday.

If anything, the relatively small amount of money spent by the anti-gay marriage lobby underscores the deep-pocketed efforts from the opposite side of the issue. They included leaders in the business community and wealthy politicians like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as celebrities appearing in TV commercials.

Though the opposition did ship in hundreds of protesters chanting and signing in the hallways against gay marriage, they never had a similar, wealthy and high-profile set of donors who publicly put their name to the campaign.

NOM isn’t through with its lobbying efforts. Earlier today the group announced it would begin a $150,000 mailer campaign against lawmakers who flipped their same-sex marriage votes from no to yes.