King: KSM Trial Reversal ‘Vindication’ For Ex-Prez Bush

Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and dean of the GOP congressional delegation, put out the following statement declaring victory in the wake of the Obama administration’s reversal of its decision to hold the KSM trial in a civilian court in NYC:

“Today’s decision to abandon plans to try admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators in civilian court in New York City is a long-awaited step in the right direction.”

“As I have been saying since day one, these terror trials belong in a military commission at Guantanamo. I am absolutely shocked that it took Attorney General Holder 507 days to come to this realization.”

“Today’s reversal is yet another vindication of President Bush’s detention policies by the Obama Administration, and is welcome news to the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who will finally see long-awaited justice.”

Speaking Of Re-election Bids…

I received this invite earlier today to the official campaign kick-off for Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham, who is seeking his fifth term after almost 16 years in office.

I found it particularly interesting in light of the fact that President Obama signaled the official start of his re-election bid (over a year in advance) by filing paperwork with the FEC that will enable him to raise campaign cash.

I believe Graham is the state’s lone Independence Party member holding an executive elected post in New York, although I know of at least one state legislator – Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who switched from the Republican Party last fall.

Graham is an outspoken North Country pol who has run unsuccessfully for the US Senate (in 2000 when Democrat Hillary Clinton was the winner). He also blogs and hosts a radio show.

GrahamForMayor2011Invitation

Schumer: KSM ‘Likely’ To Get Death Penalty At Guantanamo Trial

Sen. Chuck Schumer was pleased by the Obama administration’s reversal trying KSM and his co-conspirators at a civilian court in New York City, insisting the “ultimate penalty” can yet be visited on the 9/11 mastermind, who the senior senator called a “dastardly criminal.”

“I have always said that KSM should not be tried in New York,” Schumer said during a stop earlier today in Syracuse.

“I have always said that he is a dastardly criminal and we have to do everything we can to find the ultimate penalty for him. I wrote the federal death penalty law that applies to him, and I hope it will be enforced. And I think that in this trial in Guantanamo it is likely to be enforced.”

Quinn, In Albany, Continues Same-Sex Marriage Lobbying

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – a possible candidate for mayor in 2013 – met with Senate Minority Leader John Sampson for about 30 minutes this afternoon, a meeting that she said was mainly to “thank” the lawmaker for restoring funding to city senior centers.

But Quinn said she also discussed a same-sex marriage.

“I wanted to follow up on a couple of budget things, thank Senator Sampson and others for his support on Title XX for senior centers,” she said. “But I’ve always been doing weekly visits on the marriage equality bill.”

“My other meetings have been marriage/budget,” Quinn added. “This was marriage/thank you. We try to come up once a week.”

Why Quinn met with Sampson and not, say, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is unclear. When Democrats controlled the Senate in 2009, a gay marriage bill failed.

Any vote to approve same-sex marriage this year would take not only several GOP lawmakers, but also some Democrats who haven’t supported the measure. Several of those Democratic “no” voters – former Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Bill Stachowski – are now gone. Two others – Sens. Joe Addabbo and Shirley Huntley – are now on the fence, as is GOP Sen. Jim Alesi.

Today’s trip by Quinn did not include a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo or members of his staff.

Quinn’s low-profile appearance today was in contrast to her visit to Albany in March, when she and other gay-marriage advocates met with Cuomo.

The Democratic governor has vowed to pass a gay-marriage bill this year. The measure would help Cuomo shore up support in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which is weary over his cuts to education and health care.

NOTE from LB: A reader says Quinn met with Skelos when she was last in Albany. Also, Cuomo has said he wants a vote on gay marriage prior to the end of this session – perhaps even before Father’s Day.

Holder Stands By Decision On KSM While Reversing It

US AG Eric Holder staunchly defended his decision to try the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in federal court in NYC even as he announced the reversal of that position – a move forced, he said, by actions taken by Congress.

“I stand by that decision today, as the indictment unsealed today reveals we were prepared to bring a powerful case against KSM and his four conspirators,” said Holder, describing the case as both “well-researched” and “well-documented.”

Holder blamed members of Congress for imposing restrictions that blocked the administration from bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial in the US and insisted the Obama administration will continue to try to reverse that, adding: “Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been and should remain decisions made by the executive branch.”

“Do I know better then them? Yes,” Holder said of members of Congress, insisting he has seen details on the case about which elected officials are not aware.

“We also must face a simple truth,” Holder said. “Those restrictions are unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future and we simply can’t allow a trial to be delayed any longer for the victims of the 9/11 attacks and for the family members who have waited over a decade for justice.”

Holder noted that he grew up in NYC (he’s a Queens native) and firmly believed all along that NYC would be able to safely host the KSM trials, even though local elected officials – including, then Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg although, in his case, not at first – had opposed the move.

The AG said the death penalty is still an option in the KSM case, although that remains an “open question.”

He decried the “needless controversy” that has surrounding this case since he first announced in November 2009 that the trials would be held in NYC, saying this should always have been about the victims and their families and not about “settling ideological arguments or scoring political points.”

Click here to read the unsealing order on the KSM indictment. Here’s the indictment (be forewarned, it’s 81 pages):

Mohammed, Khalid Sheikh et al Indictment

WFP Pressures Skelos On RSA

The Working Families Party is using Rent Stabilization Association President Joe Strasburg’s unusually frank comments about the power of political contributions to the Senate GOP in its ongoing quest to establish a statewide public campaign finance system much like the one that exists in NYC.

As you’ll recall, Strasburg was caught on camera at a recent RSA meeting in Brooklyn unabashedly admitting his organization had “basically emptied our piggy bank” in the final 48 hours of the 2010 campaign to help the GOP retake the Senate majority, adding:

“(Senate Majority Leader) Dean Skelos, who understands how important you are as an industry – and it’s selfish – but he understands clearly that if he doesn’t hurt us or he tries to avoid hurting us, we will be there for him next time around.”

In an email blast to WFP supporters, the party’s executive director, Dan Cantor, said (with tongue firmly in cheek) that the labor-backed party owes Strasburg its “thanks”, adding:

“In the words of Bob Dylan, ‘money doesn’t talk, it swears.’ And Strasburg is just telling it like it is.”

“There’s a better way. It’s called Voter-Owned Elections, with public financing. In this system, eligible candidates raise small contributions from individuals, and then receive public matching funds. Big money would not vanish, but it would mean less.”

“And we’ll save taxpayers a lot of money when politicians no longer dole out sweetheart subsidies and tax loopholes to their corporate donors…Fortunately, Governor Cuomo has publicly endorsed the idea of Voter Owned Elections with public financing. But it’s up to us to give the proposal momentum and make sure the decision-makers in Albany know we’re serious.”

The WFP email includes the Strasburg video and a link to a petition that will be sent to Skelos. The party is hoping to get 50,000 supporters to send a missive to the majority leader expressing support for the so-called Voter Owned Elections Law.

Cuomo is on the record saying he supports public financing, but he so far hasn’t shown much interest in including it in any of his reform efforts. He has, however, made clear that he believes it’s necessary to both extend and “strengthen” the rent laws that are set to expire on June 15.

Holding Cuomo’s Feet To The Fire On Diversity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a fairly warm welcome at Somos over the weekend – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz’s joke about no one wanting to “embrace” him aside, my understanding is that the crowd gave him a standing O when he spoke.

That should not, however, be misinterpreted to mean that the Hispanic community is universally pleased with Cuomo’s leadership to date.

Questions about the governor’s dedication to progressive ideals have arisen, particularly among the more left leaning members of his own party – something about which the administration appears keenly aware, which explains his post-budget policy agenda.

Members of the Latino community also don’t feel the governor has lived up yet to his campaign pledge – born out of criticism over the all-white Democratic ticket – to put together the most diverse administration in New York history. His pre-Somos tapping of Cesar Perales to serve as secretary of state helped, but there’s still more to do, according to Ortiz, who told me last Friday:

“I’m satisfied about one thing and one thing only. I’m satisfied that the governor has managed to keep his promise about having a line of communication between the task force and his administration…We will begin to have that kind of dialogue about the diversity…I will keep this administration accountable and responsible for their promises and we’re going to measure them accordingly.”

Ortiz alluded to the diversity issue during his remarks at the Somos gala Saturday, which Cuomo attended, saying:

“This is what empowerment of the Hispanic community is going to be about. It’s going to be about representation. It’s going to be about accountability…Diversity about our government. And we are going to ask about diversity in corporate America as well. Because it’s about time that our Hispanic folks move from the kitchen table to the boardrooms. It’s about our Hispanic community being selected to be at the table, not on the menu. We’re going to make sure that we are going to be able to get that done.”

Good Government Groups: Where’s The Ethics Bill? (Updated)

They’ll believe it when they see it.

That’s the reaction from good-government advocates today after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, told The Daily News that an ethics bill had been agreed to with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was holding out.

“What’s going to happen, we don’t know yet,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “There’s no bill language out, we’ve not seen any. And the discussions seem like a moving target. Certainly we’re hoping for independent oversight and adequate disclosure.”

The Daily News reported today that Silver and the governor have agreed to an ethics package could give the Public Integrity Commission, which oversees the executive branch, the power to investigate the Legislature as well.

The move is most likely an attempt to prod Skelos on passing some sort of ethics measure. Skelos maintained during the budget season that focus should remain on passing a spending plan. The 2011-12 fiscal year budget passed last week.

Reform advocates also want greater disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income and more information on legislators’ whose law firms have clients that do business with the state.

The fact that both houses of the Legislature is home to lawmakers who moonlight as private-practice attorneys (including Silver) could be problematic for a robust ethics law.

“I think that’s going to be the hurdle they have to get over,” said Barbara Bartoletti of the New York League of Women Voters.

In the governor’s back pocket is the power to initiate a Moreland Commission to investigate the Legislature. The move is seen as one similar to Cuomo’s threat to use budget extenders if lawmakers had failed to agree on a spending plan.

“I think that’s his hammer during the ethics discussions,” Bartoletti said. “If the Legislature doesn’t come out with an ethics bill, I think this governor, because he had the experience as an attorney general, I think he would very willing to use it.”

Update — Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto notes in a statement that a formal agreement has not been reached:

“We have had productive conversations with both Assembly and the Senate but this isn’t horseshoes: close doesn’t count. We are focusing on closure one way or the other over the next few weeks.”

Senate Seeks To Clamp Down On Criminal Use Of Public Records

The Senate is expected to vote on a bill today that would make it a felony to obtain public records with the intent to commit a crime.

The bill, which does not appear to have an Assembly version, is sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn.

Golden, a former detective for the NYPD, writes in the bill’s memo of support that there has been an increase in the Freedom of Information Law being used to obtain sensitive information on private citizens to be used in order to commit crimes.

From the bill:

Recently, there has been an increase in instances where unscrupulous individuals use FOIL to gain personal data on unsuspecting citizens. The crime of identity theft is all the more offensive when government document are used, because the perpetrators are abusing a freedom we all enjoy. The use of government documents in this manner is unacceptable and should be prevented.

The memorandum doesn’t cite any of the instances. The measure has been introduced off and on in the Senate since 2003.

Ouch

According to a survey conducted in honor of April Fools Day for the Daily Beast by the consumer-research firm Experian Simmons, the Albany metro area ranks decidedly low on the funny scale – 28th out of 32.

(A reader notes that a total of 200 metro areas were surveyed, and so there are 172 less funny areas in which to live. True enough. The “ouch” headline was more about the supposed local punch line than our ranking, which I still consider rather low – personally speaking, that is).

Perhaps it has something to do with the seemingly endless winter…or maybe it’s the most unfunny supposed local punchline (which, for the record, I’ve never heard) that has Albanians feeling blue.

funny