Liveblog Prez At GE

A hand-shake/little whisper/back-slap moment between the president and Sen. Chuck Schumer. (The two haven’t always seen eye-to-eye; they disagreed over the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Schumer wanted the president to fight the GOP on that. Obama ended up brokering a deal with the Republicans instead in exchange for the extension of unemployment benefits).

Some hand-shaking and picture-taking going on. The president is wading into the crowd. Big smiles. Lots of iPhones.

And he’s out. That was short. It’s 1:19 p.m. He started speaking at about 1:02 p.m. So, that’s a bit under 17 minutes.

Here’s the we’re Americans patriotic part. The future belongs to us, and here at this plant you’re showing everybody the way forward.

Task for the old economic advisory council: Help stop the downward economic slide….Props for Paul Volcker, whom Immelt is replacing, for offering “unvarnished advice” and being unafraid to counter the conventional wisdom. He did a great service to this country. But now, “we’re in a different place.”

Basically, this is where the president tries to explain why Volcker’s out and Immelt’s in. In short: We’re shifting from a focus of bailing out to building up. Or, as Obama put it, much more eloquently than I ever could:

Obama said he met a GE worker who was trained at Hudson Valley, “which I had an opportunity to visit a while back…that’s an example of the kind of partnerships that we need to duplicate all over the country.” And now he’s touting the training program that prepares HV students to work at GE.

“The past two years were about pulling the economy back from the brink. The next two years, our job now, is to put our economy into overdrive…We think GE has something to teach businesses all across America. I hope you don’t mind I’m going to brag about your boss for a second here.”

“We want an economy that’s fueled by what we invent by what we invent and what we build. We’re going back to Thomas Edison’s principles; we’re going to build stuff and invent stuff.” More love for Immelt…

More >

Palin Headed To NY

Sarah Palin has agreed to a one-hour onstage interview at the Long Island Association’s annual meeting in Woodbury, NY next month, the AP reports.

LIA Executive Direcor Kevin Law said he expects about 1,000 local business leaders to attend the event on Feb 17, which will no doubt be overrun with press.

As far as I can tell, Palin hasn’t made a public appearance since the dust-up over the Tucson tragedy, although she did post that “blood libel” video on Facebook and then made several TV appearances.

Law refused to say how much the former Alaska governor will be paid to speak, and a Palin spokesperson didn’t return the AP’s calls for comment.

The Long Island Association is New York’s largest business group. In the past, it has played host to former presidents and other national leaders. Bill Clinton spoke at the LIA’s fall luncheon last October.

Stratton On Air Force One

The following report just came in from the White House pool reporter traveling with the president en route to Schenectady:

The President left the White House for New York this morning accompanied by Mayor Brian Stratton of Schenectady.

The two walked across the South Lawn smiling and waiving to a crowd of mayors (at the WH for a morning meeting) who stood on the balcony. Robert Gibbs and Valerie Jarrett also boarded Marine One. They were off at 10:53 am.

Mayor Stratton has been in office since 2004, according to his website. His “record” includes eliminating the towns $10m deficit and finishing the last two years with a budget surplus, according to the Website.

Stratton, who was in Washington, D.C. for the annual winter meeting of the US Conference of Mayors, joined me on CapTon last night to preview the president’s trip. He was awfully coy about just how he planned to return back to the Electric City in time for the GE tour. Now we know.

Others local electeds also on AF1: Reps. Chris Gibson (R), Richard Hanna (R), and Paul Tonko (D) and Sens. Churck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Gov. Andrew Cuomo is at Albany County International Airport to greet the president on the tarmac. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings is also on hand.

Gibson told Politics on the Hudson that he might take the opportunity of his face time with the president to press for a nuclear power plant in the 20th CD. Specifically, the congressman said he wants to “express to (Obama) my passion for energy as a potential game changer.”

Gillibrand To Cross The Aisle For SoU

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand just announced she’ll be crossing the aisle to sit with her GOP colleague, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, for President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday.

Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer were among the early supporters of a proposal by Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall to have bipartisan seating at the speech.

This was intended as a sort of goodwill gesture and an attempt to ratchet down the polarizing rhetoric in the wake of the Tucson shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (a Blue Dog Dem) seriously injured.

This is just a symbol, but it sends an important message that although we may disagree on various issues, we all stand ready to work together and do what we believe is right for the country,” Gillibrand said.

“The American people want this Congress to work together – not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans. I look forward to sitting with my colleague Senator Thune, and I look forward to working together with all my colleagues on a legislative agenda to create good-paying jobs and get our economy growing and working for all Americans.”

Gillibrand made an interesting choice in deciding to sit with Thune at the SOU. He’s hardly low-profile. Quite the contrary, actually, since he’s being mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential contender.

For the record, Gillibrand is one of several elected officials riding on Air Force One with Obama as he heads to Schenectady for his GE visit today.

She also owes a serious debt of gratitude to the White House, which intervened in a big way to prevent big name Democrats like Rep. Steve Israel, who undoubtedly could have given the junior senator a run for her money, from primarying her last fall when she was running statewide for the frist time.

Gillibrand ended up facing a little-known Bloomberg administration staffer, Gail Goode, in the primary, which she easily won. She then went on to handily defeat fromer GOP Rep. Joe DioGuardi in the November general election.

Campaign Contribution Limits Going Up (Updated)

NYPIRG just sent out a press release bringing attention to New York’s policy on campaign contribution limits. Every four years, after statewide elections, the limits are readjusted for inflation.

Here are the new contribution numbers.

  • Party Committee Donation’s rise from $94,200 to $102,300
  • GOP Statewide Primary rises from $14,034 to $14,602
  • Dem Statewide Primary rises from $18,100 to $19,700
  • Statewide General rises from $37,800 to $41,000
  • Senate Primary rises from $6,000 to $6,500
  • Senate General rises from $9,500 to $10,300
  • Assembly Primary rises from $3,800 to $4,100
  • Assembly General rises from $3,800 to $4,100

NYPIRG points out that New York is now the only state that allows more than $100,000 to be donated to a political party, though 5 states have no contribution limits.

UPDATE: On request, here’s the entire press release:

2011 Contribution Limits

Higgins’ New Committees

Rep. Brian Higgins announced this morning he has been selected by the House Democratic Caucus to serve on the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs.

The Buffalo-area Democrat made a point of highlighting some pertinent WNY issues in his press release.

“I am honored to have been appointed to serve on Homeland Security Committee, positioning our border community in the forefront of national discussions and helping to advance the Peace Bridge project and improve our border operations to strengthen economic ties with our Canadian neighbors,” the congressman said.

“Moreover, with a position on the Committee with jurisdiction over FEMA, I will continue to fight against unfair, outdated flood maps and for relief when communities like Silver Creek, devastated by flooding, and Buffalo, hit by the October Storm, are overwhelmed by natural disasters.”

The release also features a quote from Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican who re-assumed his old post as chair of the Homeland Security Committee after the GOP wrested control of the House from the Democrats last November.

“Congressman Higgins is a welcome addition to the Committee on Homeland Security,” King said.

“Brian and I have previously worked together on a number of issues important to New York. I now look forward to working closely with him on critical homeland security issues. The fact that Brian represents the northern border region will give the Committee valuable insight.”

Higgins served on the Ways & Means Committee from 2009 through 2010, stepping down this month due to a change in the ratio of committee seats. His office says the congressman will maintain his seniority on the committee and the powerful tax-writing committee when seats become available.

Higgins served on the Transportation and Infrastructure and the Government & Oversight committees from 2005 through 2008.

Protesting The Committee To Save NY

Protestors who support the extension of the so-called millionaire’s tax converged outside REBNY’s annual gala at the New York Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan last night, criticizing the real estate industry for supporting the pro-Cuomo Committee to Save NY.

Low-income and housing advocates carried a banner and shouted at gala attendees: “Hey, you millionaires! Pay your fair share!” They also passed out fliers that accused members of the CSNY of wanting “tax breaks for the super-rich and service cuts for everyone else.”

The flier also listed the names of CSNY board members (disclosed last week after the committee came under fire for its lack of transparency) and called on them to step down.

Cuomo has made it clear on numerous occasions that he opposes continuing the temporary three-year personal income tax increase on wealthy New Yorkers that is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2011. The governor insists he will be able to close the $10 billion+ budget deficit without borrowing and raising taxes.

Supporters of continuing the tax – including a number of Assembly Democrats – argue the governor won’t be able to cut his way out of such a massive budget hole and could use the revenue ($1 billion in the current fiscal year, $4-to-$5 billion in the next) generated by the millionaire’s tax.

REBNY Cmte to Save NY from VOCAL NY on Vimeo.

Here And Now

Welcome to the Capital Region, President Obama! Snow Capitol of NY…OK, not really. But it sure feels that way. Fourth storm so far this month. Plus, I got the car stuck in my own driveway. Brilliant. And now, the headlines.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who will be with Obama in Schenectady today, has been tapped by the president to run his outside panel of economic advisers, replacing Paul A. Volcker. He’ll chair a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Among those on Air Force One with the president today: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Richard Hanna.

Cash-strapped states may soon be able to declare bankruptcy.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is continuing to make rapid progress and will be transferred to a Houston rehab center today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took his “tough-love tour” to Poughkeepsie and was well-received.

The governor said there will be “short-term pain” inflicted by his budget, but refused to confirm reports that he will call for the layoff of between 10,000 and 15,000 state workers.

Cuomo said he doesn’t expect a government shutdown, but also didn’t rule out the option.

A reduction of that size could cost WNY some 1,000 jobs.

The spending cap passed by the Senate yesterday would have prevented layoffs had it been in place years ago, says Sen. Tom Libous.

Cuomo is open to doing away with the MTA payroll tax.

Mayor Bloomberg upped the ante against the city’s labor unions, saying: “If we don’t get pension reform, we are going to have to have a much smaller workforce.”

The unions are playing defense.

The mayor is trying – at times in vain – to demonstrate how much he cares about the outer boroughs.

More >


More than 100 US mobsters were arrested in what US AG Eric Holder called “the largest Mafia round-up in history.”

It was, William Rashbaum writes, “a blanket assault against seven mob families in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.”

Holder said no decision has been made on whether to hold the KSM trial in New York, but warned that “nothing’s off the table yet.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of chickens in Poughkeepsie, but kept layoff numbers to himself.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb called the layoff leaks “rumor mongering at its worst.”

Cuomo has asked legislators to do him the courtesy of reviewing his budget instead of immediately criticizing it.

Patrick Gaspard is leaving the White House and headed to the DNC.

Change is afoot at the DN.

Is there trouble in Palin paradise?

The last remaining undecided Assembly race (100th AD) is, well, still undecided.

After voting to repeal the health care reform law, House Republicans are now moving to rewrite it.

Bloomberg launched the NYC Urban Technology Innovation Center.

An alternative State of the City.

The state is on track to have a $1.5 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapolo.

Sen. Marty Golden is Senate Majority’s representative to the MTA Capital Program Review Board. (No link).

Cuomo weighed in on the possibility of the Trudeau Institute leaving Saranac Lake.

Coming And Going

There’s been a lot of moving around in the lobbying/consulting world this past month, which is something that typically occurs when a new administration blows into town. Here’s a synopsis of announcements that have landed in my in-box over the past several weeks:

- Former Bronx BP Herman Badillo has joined Parker Waichman Alonso, a national law firm dedicated to protecting victims’ rights, as a senior counsel in its New York office.

“My career has always been about defending the rights of individuals and underserved communities,” Badillo said in a press release. “Protecting everyday people is the focus of Parker Waichman Alonso’s practice, and I’m honored to continue my work with them.”

- Empire Government Strategies, a New York-based political consulting firm has recently expanded its lobbying team in both Albany and Washington, D.C.

Joshua Lamel, former chief of staff to two members of Congress, and Jeff Lande, former VP of Tech America are joining the firm, founded by former Assemblyman Jerry Kremer. In addition, Alfredo Vidal, president of the Vidal Group, has signed on to EGS’s Albany office.

- State & Broadway, a NYC and Albany-based lobbying/consulting/organizing firm, has hired Jeremy Hoffman to serve as senior government affairs consultant and principal coordinator for NYC government relations.

Hoffman worked for seven years for NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, leaving her staff as deputy legislative director. Most recently, he worked for the Laborers Eastern Region as a government affairs coordinator.

- Mercury Public Affairs, the consulting and lobbying firm founded by a group of former Pataki administration aides/advisors that has since expanded to several states, has hired Dan Cho to its New York government relations team. His new title is director of New York lobbying compliance.

Cho served as a strategist and advisor to NYC Councilman Dan Halloran, a Queens Republican, during his hotly contested 2009 race. Following Halloran’s victory, Cho served as an advisor on the councilman’s transition team.

In 2008, Cho worked as a coordinator and national coalitions special assistant for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in Arlington, Va.

- Joel Barkin has departed his post as deputy Secretary of State for Public Affairs and is now director of communications at The Roffe Group.