The Case Of Greg Ball’s Office And The ‘Fake’ Email (Updated)

A Hudson Valley newspaper is alleging Sen. Greg Ball’s office fabricated email addresses of constituents in order to send a laudatory letter to thed editor.

The constituent claims the letter was meant to be private and never for publication.

From The Lewisboro Ledger:

Dan Branda, the Republican senator’s deputy communications director, created an e-mail account in the name of a resident who had written the senator thanking him for helping her daughter. He then used that e-mail address to send the letter to the editors of The Ledger and other local publications to be printed.

But Robyn Fields of South Salem who wrote the letter on May 22 and her husband, Robert, said they sent that letter in private, never gave permission to have it sent to the press and the e-mail address The Ledger received it from was not theirs, despite it having Ms. Fields’ full name in the address.

“There was no reason why the senator’s office had to engage in such subterfuge by creating the false e-mail address and, thus, making it look like my wife sent a letter to The Ledger that, in reality, she did not send,” Mr. Fields told The Ledger.

The full story, which can be found here, is a little confusing, includes some back and forth between Ball’s office and the constituent, with both claiming the other is wrong.

UPDATE: The unedited letter in question, which was posted here, included personal information and so was taken down until it can be redacted. Thanks. Also, Ball’s office is insisting nothing untoward occurred here, and that his aide was merely trying to help a constituent.

In Albany, Mehlman Makes Gay Marriage Pitch

Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee Chairman and a key architect of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, is in Albany today to lobby for same-sex marriage.

Mehlman, who came out as a gay man last year, said he was meeting with Republican senators who have not taken a public position on same-sex marriage.

He refused to say which GOP lawmakers he met with. However, Sens. Roy McDonald and Greg Ball have both said they are undecided. Sen. Jim Alesi has said he’s made up his mind, but won’t say how he’ll vote (check YNN’s gay-marriage vote tracker for more info).

Mehlman said he was making his same-sex marriage pitch to the legislators based on what he said were basica Republican principles of family values and fairness.

“It’s fairly clear there’s been a big change about how voters feel about this issue, especially a majority of independents,” he told reporters. “In terms of Republican values and interests, a party that stands for freedom, a party that stands for freedom and a party that stands for the gold rule ought to be supportive.”

He wouldn’t say whether he agreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to not introduce the bill in the Republican-led Senate unless the votes are available.

But Mehlman did say he was sure a measure would be placed before legislators by the end of the month (which, by the way, is rapidly approaching).

“I’m speaking as a New York resident who also has a long history in Republican politics. Again, I leave that to experts. I’m hopeful and confident there will be an up or down vote,” he said.

Awaiting Word From Weiner (Updated)

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s office appears to be on lockdown in the wake of new reports of his exchanging of explicit on-line communications with a woman who is not his wife.

In case you’ve somehow been away from the computer for the last several hours and are just checking in, the developments are as follows:

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who sparked the whole Weinergate scandal last weekend by posting a photo of the congressman’s erect, underwear-clad sexual organ sent from his Twitter account to a Seattle college student, this morning announced he had a trove of new images and messages from another, (this time anonymous) woman.

He proceded to post several of these, including one of the (fully clothed) congressman with his two cats that featured a double entendre headline.

Subsequently, RadarOnline.com and Star magazine reported a woman (the same woman?) came forward with a transcript of a sexting exchange she had with Weiner. She says she has some 200 sexually explicit Facebook messages from him that originated from an account he no longer uses.

The woman said she and Weiner engaged in a 30-minute phone sex session. It appears he placed the call from his congressional office.

UPDATE: It’s deja vu all over again…a shirtless picture of Weiner, a la ex-Rep. Chris Lee (which, as you’ll recall, led to his resignation) has now surfaced.

I’m still waiting word from Weiner’s spokesman – along with everyone else under the sun.

WNY Humor, Compliments Of Sam Hoyt

At CapTon’s request, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt forwarded the 2011 invite to his annual clam bake fundraiser, an event for which the Buffalo Democrat and his staff go all-out in the creativity department.

As usual, the invite is a riff on a summer blockbuster – in this case, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – featuring Hoyt in the title role. There’s also a list of Top 10 reasons to “join Sam’s voyage”, which include tweaks at the GOP Erie County executive, Chris Collins, who’s seeking re-election this year; and perennial NY-26 candidate Jack Davis.

My favorite: No 2, which highlights one of the stranger stories to come out of Albany so far this year (and that’s saying a lot).

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‘Tweaking’ In Cards For Ethics Deal?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are scheduled to formally unveil the ethics deal announced via press release last Friday at a Red Room press conference at 2:15 p.m.

That seems to indicate the framework deal held over the weekend, which was, of course, the main reason why the governor was willing to go the late Friday afternoon press release route rather than waiting for today when all the players would be back in Albany.

Apparently, the governor had good reason to be worried. Consider the following comments by Sen. Jim Alesi, who chatted with a YNN Rochester reporter over the weekend:

What’s been holding it up is whether attorneys have to disclose who their clients are and what buffers might exist between an attorney and his law firm, or her law firm with clients that the firm represents but that particular member of the Legislature attorney doesn’t have a direct relationship to. All of those things will be resolved at some point. I expect that even though there’s an agreement there might be a little more tweaking.”

Alesi did say he would be willing to vote for the bill (whenever one shows up) even if it’s not “tweaked”. He also praised the governor for showing “tremendous leadership throughout the year.”

In the second half of this interview, Alesi discusses being under intense “pressure” for being the first person in the chamber to cast a vote on controversial issues like gay marriage.

We’ve been hearing that there might be some highly choreographed behind-the-scenes efforts to micromanage the vote and avoid what happened in 2009. But that’s just talk right now. There’s no firm word about when – and if – a bill will actually come to the floor for a vote.

Clinton Helping Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton is again auctioning himself off to help a “special special woman in my life” – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – retire her 2009 campaign debt.

“As you may know, Hillary’s campaign is close to paying off the last of her debt, but she still needs our help,” Bill Clinton wrote in an email.

“Will you consider making a contribution to her campaign? If you enter by Tuesday, June 14, 2011, you and a friend will have the chance to fly to New York to spend a day with me…Your support is invaluable to Hillary and to me.”

“Hillary would not be where she is today without friends like you and without your support and dedication. Thank you for being a friend of Hillary’s throughout the years. I look forward to the chance to meet you!”

This isn’t the first time the former US senator/presidential contender’s husband stepped in to assist her raise cash (which she is barred from doing herself due to her position in the Obama cabinet). He did the “spend the day in NYC with me” thing earlier this year, too.

According to the April quarterly report filed with the FEC, Hillary Clinton for President still owes Penn Schoen & Berland Associates $329,010.

Grandeau: We’re Commenting On A Press Release Right Now

David Grandeau, the former executive director of the defunct Temporary Commission on Lobbying, said it’s difficult to comment on the ethics overhaul announcement without any details.

But Grandeau, a fierce critic of the successor organization Commission on Public Integrity, said he liked what he saw so far of the proposed Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which would replace the CPI.

“The basic question is, how do you comment on something when you don’t have a bill, so we’re commenting on the press release right now,” he said.

As of right now, there’s no formal bill language that’s been introduced. Officials said the bill language will be available by the planned 2:15 news conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.

“But at the end of the day, to the extent that what results from this press release gets rid of the Public Integrity Commission, we have an opportunity for new people, I think we’re making a huge step ahead,” he said.

Grandeau also said governor receiving fewer appointees to JCOPE than the Legislature is not a problem.

“It’s going to be the picks. If you have six good picks, it’s better than Spitzer’s seven bad picks, isn’t it? So let’s judge this governor on who those picks are and what those picks are.”

‘Alcopops’ Ban On Senate Agenda

The Senate today will consider a measure that would ban caffeinated-alcoholic beverages in New York, a move aimed at stemming the so-called “alcopops” market critics say is aimed at minors.

The measure, sponsored by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein of the Independent Democratic Conference, would make it a felony to sell alcoholic beverages like Four Loko that contain stimulants.

The Assembly version is sponsored by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who famously attempted to drink Four Loko, with rather gross results.

From the bill memo:

The popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol at bars has led to the introduction of energy drinks premixed with alcohol. Many of these beverages are primarily malt based beverages, and therefore,
can be sold in the same places as beer and malt liquor, i.e., supermarkets, convenience stores, and bodegas. These sales points are also the same place that teenagers can hang around at and purchase soda and snacks. High alcohol CABs such as Joose and Four Loko are examples of this trend.

Last week, Klein announced would subpeona the makers of Four Loko to determine how they market their product. Klein believes the Chicago-based company tailors its marketing to entice those underage to drink the brew.

Koch: One Down

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, the driving force behind the reformist New York Uprising, is cheering the ethics overhaul deal, giving credit to voters for holding lawmakers’ feet to the fire on the issue.

In a letter sent to supporters, Koch congratulated them for backing ethics reform. Koch singled out the new Joint Comission on Public Ethics for having “teeth” and praised the bill for its requirements to disclose client lists.

But Koch also says more work needs to be done: He still wants an independent commission to redraw legislative boundaries.

From his letter:

Congratulations to the Governor and his colleagues on reaching this essential milestone.

And just as important: Congratulations to you. The crescendo toward this moment has been building over the last year or so. After relentlessly helping to make ethics reform a major issue in virtually every campaign in the state, we successfully raised its profile and placed tremendous pressure on the system and the players to enact a strong bill before the end of session.

New York Uprising set out by identifying the three most important reforms necessary for fixing our state’s dysfunctional government — including Ethics Reform. With your support behind me, I traveled the state, calling for outside income disclosure in Buffalo, disclosure of client lists in Long Island, and in Albany, a state ethics commission with teeth.

Diaz: I’m Keeping Weiner In My Prayers

Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, said he was keeping embattled U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner in his prayers, knocking how their fellow Democrats are deserting him.

Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, said it was “shameful” to see other officials abandon him after Weiner’s twitter account sent a lewd photo to a woman in Seattle.

Here’s the full statement from Diaz:

“The Bible teaches us to take care of others and to help others when they are down.

It is appalling to witness the way that Congressman Anthony Weiner’s colleagues have been running away from him during these past few days. It is just shameful to see how many of Congressman Weiner’s supposed friends – especially those who are elected officials – have abandoned him as the media makes a total mockery of him.

Although Congressman Weiner has never defended my positions on some of the issues that matter most to me, I know that he has fought hard for New York State. He has fought hard for the Democratic Party, for his colleagues in the Democratic Party, and for the President of the United States.

I am not defending any mistakes he may have made – who knows – but it is shameful to watch this ongoing ridicule of Congressman Weiner.

I am praying for Congressman Weiner and I ask everyone to join me and pray for him during these difficult times.”