AG Taps Independent Counsel On NARAL

AG Eric Schneiderman, who recused himself from investigating the alleged financial improprieites that led to former NARAL Pro-Choice NY President Kelli Conlin, has tapped an independent counsel to handle the matter.

Schneiderman selected John H. Doyle III, who, like half the attorneys in NY, it seems, worked for former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau (albeit at the US attorney’s office), is currently in private practice at the firm of Reed Smith LLP. He’s co-chair of the firm’s Professional Responsibility Committee.

(NOTE: My mistake. Schneiderman didn’t work for Morgenthau, but clerked for two years in the US District Court for the Southern District after graduating from Harvard Law and before going into private practice).

Doyle will be reviewing the Conlin case – this is not to be confused with a full investigation, I’m told, and his services are coming without any cost to the taxpayers.

“Mr. Doyle is a distinguished attorney of unquestionable character and integrity,” said an AG spokesperson. “He has agreed to provide his services without compensation and New Yorkers can be confident that he will conduct a thorough review of the matter.”

Doyle worked in the US attorney’s office on two occasions, from 1966 to to 1971, where he was assistant chief of the Criminal Division. And then again from 1979 to 1980 where he was chief of that same division under Robert B. Fiske, Jr.

According to his bio on the Reed Smith Website, Dolye has a range of experience in civil and white collar criminal litigation, securities law, attorney discipline and the RICO statute.

He has tried civil cases in the areas of professional liability, lender liability, Lanham Act, shipping industry disputes, and preferential payments to bank creditors in bankruptcy. He has handled internal corporate investigations by public companies of alleged insider wrongdoing and leaks from Board of Directors’ meetings.

So this situation will be right up his alley.

Conlin abruptly departed her post on Jan. 21 with no explanation.

We here at CapTon exclusively reported back in February about a forensic audit that uncovered extensive alleged financial misconduct by the nonprofit head, including questionable credit card charges, a $17,000 reimbursement on a Hamptons summer rental and more than $100,000 worth of car service.

NARAL had a long-standing relationship with Schneiderman when he was a senator. The non profit endorsed his 2010 AG run and was deeply involved in his campaign, with Conlin often serving as a surrogate and joining the AG-elect on stage on election night.

In addition, Schneiderman’s father, Irwin, sits on NARAL’s board, although he stepped down temporarily during his son’s successful bid to become New York’s top attorney.

The Manhattan DA’s office launched an active criminal investigation into Conlin. NARAL did not endorse the DA, Cy Vance Jr., during the 2009 Democratic primary.

Gillibrand: Giffords Is Walking, Talking

After a stop in Troy earlier today, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand provided reporters with an update on the status of her friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, whom the junior senator visited last week at the Texas rehabilitation center where she’s recovering from the head wound she sustained during the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting.

“I can tell you she is going great,” Gillibrand said. “She’s an unbelievable, strong woman who inspires me every single day with her courage and her determination to overcome this horrible crime committed against her.”

“She’s walking. She’s talking. She’s doing eight hours of speech therapy, physical therapy and trying to get back on track, and I can tell you she’s doing great. And I have great hopes for her to return to Congress.”

Gillibrand did not address the speculation that Giffords might actually try to join her in the Senate. The Times reported earlier this week that some of the congresswoman’s most ardent supporters are already hypothesizing what her TV commercials would look like if she chose to seek the seat GOP Sen. Jon Kyl is vacating next year.

It’s far too early to tell how much of her abilities Giffords will regain, and if she’ll even be interested in returning to politics at all after her ordeal.

The congresswoman is expected to make her first public appearance since the shooting next month when her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, lifts off from Florida for a two-week space shuttle mission.

Espaillat: Property Tax Cap, Rent Regs Similar

Extending (and possibly expanding) rent regulations in New York City is similar to capping property taxes, Sen. Andriano Espaillat, D-Manhattan, said on NBC New York.

Espaillat, who represents now-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s former upper west side Senate district, was careful to not say the two issues are “linked” as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, initially suggested.

“It’s a runaway train,” Espaillat said of property taxes. “I would not be against that, but we also have the issue of rent stabilization. If we’re going to save homeowners, we should also help tenants. I think we should look at those issues moving forward.”

The Republican-led Senate already approved a 2 percent cap on property taxes on Jan. 31, a day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced his budget. Rent regulations in New York City and parts of suburban counties are due to expire June 15.

Then again, Sen. John Flanagan told Newsday earlier this month that a tax cap might be dead, barring a reduction in costly state mandates.

View more videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com.

Bellavia Withdraws From NY-26 Race

Iraq War veteran David Bellavia has formally withdrawn from the NY-26 race, admitting in a letter to the state Board of Elections that he filed an “insufficient number of valid signatures” to get onto the ballot for the May 24 special election.

Bellavia also acknowledged that he missed the deadline for filing an acceptance to run on his self-created “Federalist Party” line.

MJ called over to the state Board of Elections and was informed that four candidates have been certified to appear on the ballot. They include: Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (GOP, Consverative, Indpendence Party), Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul (Democrat, WFP), Ian Murphy (Green Party) and Jack Davis (Tea Party).

Davis filed 12,015 signatures in his bid to get onto the ballot as an independent. (The required amount is 3,500). Davis’ campaign sent out the following statement from the candidate:

“The people of Western New York understand that both parties have failed to deliver what we need – jobs for the American people. Our independent campaign gives the voters a real choice. When I go to Washington I will fight for the working men and women of this district.”

CD26 Bellavia Federalist Party fax notice 3[1][1].31.11_2

NYSP: ‘No Evidence Of Credible Threat’ In Email

As you may have heard, there were some threatening emails sent to reporters and a few members of the legislature early this morning. We know have an official, and brief statement from the NYSP indicating that there is no evidence of a credible threat.

Here is the release.

“The New York State Police, Troop G, Loudonville and the New York State Police Computer Crimes Unit are currently investigating multiple complaints of threatening e-mails received by local and state politicians this date.

The e-mails are similar in content. At this time, there is no evidence of a credible threat. Due to the sensitive nature of this investigation, no other comments or details will be released at this time.”

Spitzer: Cuomo ‘Wrong’ On Millionaire’s Tax, Medicaid Reform

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer says he’s been trying to “avoid commentary” on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s performance todate, but couldn’t help himself when asked by the West Side Spirit to opine on the governor’s first 75 days in office.

The former governor-turned-CNN host said he disagrees with Cuomo about “certain calls,” adding:

“I think his absolutely no millionaire’s tax was, in this moment of crisis, wrong. Just as I thought extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was wrong.”

“We talk so much about shared sacrifice, and if you look at the pincers of wealth accretion for those at the top over the past 30 years, the genuine deficit crisis that has been created, not just the sort of crisis out of the crisis which is the recession, which is a revenue crisis, but at the long-term structural deficit, we’ve been squeezing government by dropping rates, which would have been fine if the economy had grown.”

“But when it doesn’t, the question is how are we going to pay for basic things like education, infrastructure, health care. I disagree with him on that.”

Spitzer took issue with Cuomo’s strategy of putting health care players with a vested interest in the Medicaid debate – namely GNYHA and SEIU 1199 – onto the redesign team that hashed out a reform and cost-cutting strategy that included sweeteners for the industry (the indemnity fund, living wage) in exchange for accepting spending cuts.

More >

Skelos, Silver Offer Video Welcomes To Somos el Futuro

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos offered separate welcomes in a pair of YouTube videos for attendees at the Somos el Futuro conference, which kicks off today.

As Liz noted earlier, the conference comes as the fast-growing Latino community’s influence in state government and electoral politics is increasing.

In his video, Silver drops some Spanish and gives props to conference chairman, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who heads the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force that is hosting Somos.

“We need you to work with us to enjoy your stay in Albany and accept our best wishes for a successful conference,” Silver said.

Skelos, who spoke in English throughout his video, said the Republican majority would work with conference members to find “favorable solutions to the issues that face us all.” (UPDATE: I’m told Skelos also spoke Spanish in a longer version of this video that will be shown during the conference this weekend. – LB)

Spend-O-Meter

While it’s true that the $132.5 billion on-time budget passed by the Legislature this week reduces overall spending by 2 percent, it still spends a lot of money. A. Lot.

spendometer

Just to give you an idea of exactly how much money we’re talking about, the folks over at The Empire Center have created a Web-based “Spend-O-Meter” to put $132.5 billion into context.

“Under this year’s budget, our state government will spend more every hour than 200 typical New York families earn in a year,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center.

Methodology: The Spend-O-Meter project reflects the “all funds” financial plan disbursements of New York’s state government for the current fiscal year (April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012). It calculates the amount spent since 12:00 a.m. on April 1.

Disclaimer: The Spend-O-Meter calculates the amount based on the “clock time” of the viewer’s computer. Viewers with incorrect time settings or malfunctioning computer clocks may see inaccurate numbers.

4201 Schools Take Victory Lap

Schools for the deaf and blind are taking a victory lap this week after the approved $132.5 billion budget restored about $100 million in funding, rather than shift that cost to local school districts.

The schools, known as 4201 schools, serve high-needs children at 11 centers around the state.

“For nearly 200 years, the state has supported the education of some of New York’s most vulnerable children. Today, we know that the Governor and the legislature are committed to providing certainty and clarity for our students and families,” said Dr. Harold Mowl, Chairman of the 4201 Schools Association, and Superintendent of the Rochester School for the Deaf.

The cut was originally intended to reduce the per-pupil costs at the centers, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office said was as high as $93,000 per student. The proposal resulted in a rally at the Capitol protesting the cuts.

Instead, the budget agreement includes a new process for determining tuition costs at the schools. The 4201 Schools Association said in a statement that Cuomo was still invited to visit one of their facilities.

“I encourage Governor Cuomo and each and every member of the legislature to visit our schools. They will witness students meeting challenges head-on, observe classroom interaction, and leave with a knowledge that every child deserves an opportunity to lead a fulfilling, independent, productive life,” Mowl said.

Capel To Cuomo Admin (Updated)

Downstate Democratic operative Rodney Capel is returning to the public payroll – this time as a staffer for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sources inside and out of the administration confirm.

Mike McKeon, who lured Capel away from NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office to his PR/consulting firm, Mercury Public Affairs, confirmed the move. Capel will be doing intergovernmental work, which is pretty much what he did for Quinn.

This is a loss for Mercury, which started as a GOP-dominated firm and then broadened its horizons by bringing on a number of Democrats (a move undertaken by a number of firms back when Eliot Spitzer was about to replace George Pataki in Albany).

But McKeon insisted he’s not upset, explaining: “This is good for the governor, and what’s good for the governor is good by us.”

Keep in mind that McKeon headed up the Republicans for Cuomo effort during the 2010 campaign, so he already has ties to the second floor.

Capel joined Mercury, which was started by a number of former Pataki administration staffers, in November 2008.

Capel started working for Quinn’s in 2006 and was responsible for overseeing the Council’s member services division and its state and federal legislative offices. He replaced Kevin Wardally, who departed to join the lobbying firm of former Dinkins administration Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch.

Capel’s father, Jim, has served as Rangel’s chief of staff for decades. The younger Capel worked for the congressman on the Hill. He also worked on H. Carl McCall’s 1994 state comptroller bid and the last three Democratic presidential bids before Obama/Biden.

UPDATE: It’s official. The Cuomo admin just sent out an e-mail formally announcing Capel’s hire. His title: NYC director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

“Rodney has a longstanding and impressive career in government, both on the local and national levels,” Cuomo said.

“His experience makes him particularly suited for this appointment. He will be a great addition to my administration as we work with elected officials from across the state towards a better New York.”