Koch, Hikind Defend Palin

Sarah Palin, who has drawn fire from Jewish leaders for her use of the phrase “blood libel” while defending herself against claims that she contributed to the overchagred atmosphere that led to the Arizona shooting, is receiving support from some prominent Jewish New Yorkers.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch took to Twitter to defend Palin, calling her choice of words “appropriate,” and saying she is “smarter than critics who denounce her for defending herself from false charges.”

Koch is not only Jewish and a self-professed liberal (althoguh some might disagree with that, considering his history of crossing the aisle to endorse Republicans and Hawkish outlook when it comes to Israel), but he also once called Palin “scary.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew and Brooklyn Democrat, issued a statement in support of Palin, saying:

“As someone whose grandparents were slaughtered in the Holocaust; whose parents survived the horrors of Auschwitz; and as the Assembly representative of the largest contingency of Holocaust survivors, I resent the recent attacks on Sarah Palin for her use of the term ‘blood libel’ in defense of accusations lobbed against her by those wishing to lay blame for the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

“This is nothing more than an attempt to vilify and malign her, and I am not a Palin supporter. I would argue that those who continue to demonize her are themselves engaging in a blood libel.”

KOCH

State Police Official Punts On Raises

NYS Police Col. Tom Fazio more or less declined to comment earlier today when pressed on the reported $600,000 worth of pay raises awarded top brass by former Gov. David Paterson shortly before he left office.

Well, because the governor said he was going to be looking into the matter, I will reserve my comments on this two-year old issue,” Fazio told reporters during an unrelated press conference at the LOB earlier today.

“But he will look at it and he will get to the bottom of it, and make a decision about whether or not it was appropriate or inappropriate.”

“…What I’m doing is deferring to the governor because he’s my boss, and he said he’s going to look into it. So, as a matter of rank, I’ll let him make the comments on it. And he said he’s going to look into it, and so in the end he’s going to make a determination.”

According to a handy chart provided to Politics on the Hudson by the state comptroller’s office, Fazio was one of 21 officials to receive the raises. His salary went from $159,382 to $179,756 as a result of the increase.

Cuomo said yesterday that he was “surprised and shocked” by the NY Post’s report on the raises and would be reviewing them as part of the budget process. He did not, however, immediately commit to rolling back the increases.

‘She’s Very Much There’

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ chief of staff, Saratoga Springs native Pia Carusone, spoke yesterday with Brian Williams about the remarkable pace of her boss’ recovery, saying the congresswoman is clearly “very much there” in spite of her truamatic brain injury.

Carusone, who flew to Tucson to be with Giffords and has logged a considerable amount of time at the hospital, was interviewed prior to last night’s memorial service and apparently before the congresswoman opened her eyes for the first time while meeting with her colleagues, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Carusone described how Giffords has been scratching her nose and lifting up two fingers in either a peace or victory sign.

She said last weekend was “the most difficult weekend of all of our lives,” noting one member of Giffords’ staff, Gabe Zimmerman, was killed during last Saturday’s shooting spree and two others, Ron Barber and Pam Simon, were injured.

Carusone has been making the rounds of national TV shows. She was also interviewed Tuesday by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

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Cuomo Launched ‘Citizens Campaign’

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicks off an upstate tour to sell the agenda he laid out in last week’s State of the State address directly to the people, he’s also launching a so-called “Citizens Campaign” through a new Website where New Yorkers can make comments and suggestions on how to best reform the government.

citizenscampaign

The Website includes the following statement from the governor:

“A major theme of my State of the State Address was increasing accountability and restoring New Yorkers’ faith and trust in their government.

“As I continue to travel the state delivering a message of change in Albany and outlining lasting fixes to the many long-term problems we all face, I am hearing from you. This Website is designed to increase that dialogue, because we are all part of the solution.”

“This is a ‘Citizens Campaign’ and your ideas, comments, and suggestions are critical to reforming the state, and I am listening. The power of the people is unparalleled, so please take advantage of this outlet and submit your thoughts on my State of the State and together we will enact the change New York needs.”

Sampson Takes The Gloves Off

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, who has been measured in his reaction to the recent defection of four senators, changed his approach during an “Inside City Hall” interview last night and went on the attack against his former deputy, Sen. Jeff Klein.

In an unusually heated response, Sampson defended his leadership to my downstate counterpart, Errol Louis, taking Klein to task for criticizing him over legislation that failed to pass during the Democrats’ control of the majority and noting it was on Klein’s watch as DSCC chairman that the party lost its grip on the chamber.

“If you have issues and concerns like we did in the past, you come to me, you tell me about it, and let’s deal with them,” Sampson said.

“This move that he made when he didn’t want to be the deputy, he said he had called me. He didn’t call me once. Didn’t pick up the phone and call me so we could deal with these issues. Some of these gripes that they have, they could have told me about it and we could have dealt with them.”

“But most of all, our conference, our conference feels betrayed.”

Sampson said he has no problem with independence, noting that the most independent member of the minority – Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. – has managed to stick around, even when his fellow amigos – former Sens. Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate – decided to bolt and join forces with the GOP.

“The question is: Is it about being independent or is it about the powers and the perks? You’re getting an office. You’re working with the Republicans to get an office. You’re working with the Republicans to get allocations. You’re working with the Republicans to get chairmanships. What is it about? Don’t use excuses. Get to the bottom line.”

For the record, Klein has insisted that he and his fellow Independent Democratic Conference members weren’t motivated by a lust for power. None of them have received anything from the GOP yet, although committee chairmanships and resources are still in play.

Sampson seemed to let Sen. Dave Valesky off the hook, saying the Syracuse lawmaker came to him and said he wouldn’t be voting in favor of retaining the Brooklyn senator as head of the Democratic conference. (Klein, by contrast, voted “yes.” Valesky was the only member to abstain).

The minority leader also had some harsh words for freshman Sen. David Carlucci, on whom the DSCC spent some $700,000 during the 2010 elections, saying: “How can he have any dissatisfaction when he never sat one day with us in the chamber?”

DiNapoli Settles With Merrill Lynch, B of A

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced today he has reached a $4.25 million settlement of his securities fraud lawsuit against Merrill Lynch & Co. and its officials, E. Stanley O’Neal and Jeffrey N. Edwards.

The state pension fund negotiated the settlement with Bank of America, which purchased Merrill Lynch back in 2008, and opted out of a similar class action suit.

As a result, DiNapoli said, New York’s fund stands to recover substantially more in damages than the amount expected as part of the class.

“The Fund was misled about the extent of Merrill Lynch’s participation in the subprime mortgage fiasco; that is unacceptable,” DiNapoli said in a press release.

“I am responsible for protecting the secure retirement of more than one million system members, and I take that duty seriously. I am confident that this settlement makes up for a large part of the Fund’s losses. This sends a message that we will always fight to protect the best interests of our members.”

The law firm of Entwistle & Cappucci negotiated the settlement in this suit, which DiNapoli brought in July – at the height of his campaign to keep the statewide office he inheritied thanks to his former legislative colleagues in February 2008 following the resignation of former Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

DiNapoli also filed a separate but related action seeking to recover losses incurred as the result of the merger between BofA and Merrill Lynch.

DiNapoli’s office alleged that the defendants tried to cover up the extent of the company’s involvement in risky subprime mortgage-backed securities.

By doing this, the defendants artificially inflated the value of their stock and when the true extent of their exposure became public, the stock value plummeted and investors lost money.

DiNapoli’s office and the NYC pension funds recently negotiated a $624 million settlement in a class-action securities fraud suit against Countrywide Financial Corporation in May. If approved by the court, it will be one of the largest securities fraud class action settlements in history.

Zimpher: SUNY Facing ‘Double-Edged Sword’

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher appeared on “Squawk Box” this morning to discuss the budget cuts the system is expected to face at the same time it is being asked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to play a bigger role in the state’s economic recovery.

Zimpher called the situation faced by the nation’s largest public higher education system a “double-edged sword,” and made the case that if SUNY is to share in the funding cuts that are widely expected to help close the $10 billion budget deficit, its schools should have greater autonomy to set their own tutition rates and enter into public-private partnerships.

The chancellor said she was pleased that SUNY received “a singular spot” in Cuomo’s State of the State address, noting that her colleagues in other states are facing the same revenue shortfalls, but aren’t necessarily receiving the same attention from their governors.

“If I were a president in California or Texas or North Carolina, I’d be listening for the governor to say: You know what, as bad as this is, you’re a part of the recovery,” Zimpher said.


Here And Now

President Obama spoke movingly for just over 33 minutes at last night’s memorial service in Arizona and called for a new era of civil discourse in the nation.

The full text of the president’s speech is here.

During the speech, Obama revealed Giffords had opened her eyes yesterday for the first time since the shooting last Saturday.

Alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s ex-girlfriend recalls him as a “sweet” and “caring” guy.

Security was increased at an event held by Rep. Nan Hayworth.

The House reconvened and paid tribute to the shooting victims.

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor oppose Rep. Pete King’s ban on weapons within 1,000 feet of federal elected officials and judges.

The Post wants the NYPD to take the lead in calling for for a ban on the sale of high-capacity gun magazines to civilians.

More New Yorkers are rushing to buy handguns in the wake of the Arizona shooting.

Questions have arisen about $1.3 million worth of campaign loans secured by DSCC Executive Director Josh Cherwin, apparently without the prior knowledge or sign off of some Senate Democrats.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is launching a statewide tour today in Jamestown to push for his legislative agenda outside Albany. (He’ll be in Watertown tomorrow).

More >

Gillibrand On Meeting With Giffords

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke at length with reporters on Air Force One last night about their experience visiting their friend and fellow member of Congress, Rep. Gabby Giffords, in the hospital before last night’s memorial service in Tucson.

Gillibrand said she had been holding Giffords’ hand when she opened her eyes for the very first time – something the president revealed during his speech.

The moment came, the junior senator said, when she and Wasserman Schultz were joking about how their friend had to hurry up and get well because of all the social outings they wanted to take with her.

“She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands so we could – she could really – we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding,” Gillibrand said, according to a transcript provided by the White House pool reporter.

“And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.”

“And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened – we didn’t know that – and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. ”

“And we didn’t – I didn’t know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s a good – we couldn’t figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.”

“And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just – can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.”

Gillibrand went on to describe how Giffords grabbed the wrist of her husband, Mark, after he asked her to touch his ring. She and Wasserman-Schultz both recounted how Mark Kelly had predicted his wife would make a full recovery and would even be walking within two weeks.

The transcript is quite long, but it’s also moving. Gillibrand recalls a double date she and her husband had recently with Kelly and Giffords at a Washington, D.C. pizzeria and describes them as being deeply in love and in a perpetual newly-wed state.

So, I’m going to post it in full after the jump.

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Extras

NJ Gov. Chris Christie to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani: “I guess when you are retired and out of politics its easy to come on these shows and shoot away.”

Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” in her Arizona shooting fallout response has angered Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League came to Palin’s defense, while admitting she could have chosen her words better.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called Palin’s remarks “unhelpful.”

House members reconvened in Washington to honor the dead; Republicans rejected calls for more gun control.

Mayor Bloomberg is “relieved” about the response to the latest snow storm.

Bloomberg will deliver his 10th State of the City speech at the St. George Theater on Staten Island.

Jim Malatras is the Cuomo administration’s point man on MTA policy.

Patrick Gaspard marks the one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sidestepped a question about whether the Committee to Save NY should make its donor list public.

Mark Steyn will speak at the Conservative Party’s Political Action Conference on Jan. 31 at the Holiday Inn in Colonie.

Walmart started a mail campaign about moving into NYC.

The Deutsche Bank building is nearly no more.

The Brennan Center has some suggestions for rules reform in the state Senate.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman released a report on emergency preparedness in the NYC theater district.

Richard Lipsky is disgusted with the WFP.

The governor will speak at Jefferson Community College in Watertown Friday; he’ll be in Jamestown tomorrow.

Cuomo, very frugal.

So sad, but not surprising.

The head of a nonprofit that got substantial member item support from Assemblyman Peter Rivera was hit with federal corruption charges.