Here And Now

The Times calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo “as the purveyor of a new, transparent Albany,” to “make certain that all groups – supporting him or opposing him – reveal their donors.”

The DN calls on Cuomo to move ASAP on ethics reform.

Just weeks before he announced a 5 percent pay cut for himself and his top aides, Cuomo gave several of those same aides five-figure bonuses for working on his campaign.

After coming under fire for its lack of transparency, the Committee to Save NY agreed to register as a lobbyist organization. More here.

Cuomo, who has pledged to overhaul the campaign finance system, is taking political cash from donors who exploit the LLC loophole.

The governor spent $350 worth of campaign cash at Brooks Bros. for “staff gifts.”

Mayor Bloomberg will try to hit the reset button in his State of the City address today.

New Yorkers for Growth is pushing for repeal of the Triborough Amendment, a provision of the state’s Taylor Law that allows unions to operate under the provisions of an expired contract while a new contract is being negotiated.

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s decision not to seek re-election in 2012 will likely generate a hotly-contested primary for his seat.

The House has begun debate over repeal of the health care reform law. A vote is expected today. Keep an eye on Rep. Richard Hanna of NY-24.

Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will deliver the first-ever State of SUNY speech today.

More >


Connecticut Democrat Sen. Joe Liberman won’t seek re-election in 2012.

Neither will Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. (The GOP considers this seat a potential pick-up).

NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams on Mayor Bloomberg’s recent troubles: “With all his money and all his power, he usually lives in a different world. But at least for now, he’s back to where the rest of us live.”

The Senate GOP is pushing a constitutional amendment that would cap state spending at 2 percent and a bill that would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to approve any tax increases.

AG Eric Schneiderman announced an $18 million settlement with the state’s largest residential service provider.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer have a wish list for issues they hope President Obama will broach with Chinese President Ju Jintao.

The NYCCFB is Tweeting NYC politicians’ net contributions.

Mayor Bloomberg will propose in tomorrow’s State of the City address letting livery cabbies legally pick up passengers.

The “good, bad and in-between” of Albany 2010, as seen by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Howie Hawkins and his fellow Greens protested National Grid.

Chuck Cunningham, the NRA”s director of Political Affairs, keynote the Assembly GOP’s second annual “Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day on Jan. 25. (No link).

High-capacity magazine makers have raised millions for the NRA.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steel City mayor Luke Ravensthal are seeking input on a wager for Sunday’s AFC championship game.

The AP’s Sara Kugler Fraizer has a new job.

RIP Sargent Shriver

Peace Corps founder and former vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, 95, has passed away. President Obama just released the following statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation.”

“Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad.”

“His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time.”

Senate Dems Want To Expand Post-Coup Rules

The new Senate Minority conference is appealing to the GOP majority in hopes of leveling the playing field when it comes to resources and bringing legislation to the floor.

Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron are proposing a resolution that would give minority members the power to introduce bills even if the majority leader disapproves. It would also require each side have equal staff allocations, resources, and member items.

Krueger touted the rules reform adopted after the 2009 coup, which allowed the then-GOP minority access to more resources.

Of course, now that the Dems are back in the minority, they want those rules to go even further, saying the changes adopted in January and June of 2009 were merely a first step forward.

“What we are hoping to do with this year’s changing rules is to move the ball down the field,” Krueger said using one of many references to football following the New York Jets win over the Patriots Sunday.

“We’re very proud as Democrats to have significantly improve the rules of the Senate over the last two years, but we didn’t go far enough. We know that.”

Republicans are expected to introduce a resolution today that would expand the current rules through Feb. 1. Krueger says she wants the Senate to adopt these new rules now before the budget process begins that same day.

Sen. Krueger and her colleagues were also asked about eliminating member items as a way to ease the state’s estimated $10 billion deficit, which they agreed is a good idea. However, if member items find their way into the budget they say those items should be equal across the board.

Cuomo Campaign Team Gets Bonuses (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo doled out at least $225,000 worth of bonuses to top staffers on his campaign team after he won the 2010 governor’s race, his most recent financial report shows.

The biggest windfall went to Cuomo’s right-hand and, Joe Percoco, who started as an advance man with former Gov. Mario Cuomo and has been with the current governor’s side through every step of his political career – from HUD to the failed 2002 campaign to the AG’s office.

Cuomo paid Percoco a whopping $90,000 at the beginning of December. That goes a long way toward making up for that 5 percent pay cut all top staffers took at the start of this year, following the lead of their boss, who said he wanted to set an example as he prepares to call for massive spending cuts.

Percoco’s title is executive deputy secretary to the governor. In that job, he’s earning $159,000. He got $154,679 for similar work in the AG’s office.

The next largest bonus of $80,000 went to another Mario Cuomo administration, Drew Zambelli, who is the current governor’s uber-message man. Technically speaking, his title is “counselor to the governor” – a position created during Cuomo I, but not held by anyone in recent years. He’s earning $169,100.

Other bonuses went to Ben Lawsky ($50,000), who is now pulling down $169,100 as Cuomo’s chief of staff; Josh Vlasto ($10,000) who’s making $120,000 as deputy communications director.

There are a number of other payments to campaign aides in Cuomo’s Jan. 15 expenditure report, but an administration source informs me these are not bonuses. I’ve been told Cuomo’s finance director, Jennifer Bayer Michaels, also got a bonus, but have been unable to locate that in the filing.

UPDATED: The payment of $65,000 went to Michaels’ firm, JB Consulting Services.

Two former spokespeople who left ex-Gov. David Paterson’s team in the wake of the twin David Johnson/domestic violence and Yankees tickets scandals and then later showed up on Cuomo’s campaign – Peter Kauffmann and Marissa Shorenstein – got payments of $5,000 and $6,666.50, respectively, from the governor’s political committee in December.

Former Hillary Clinton spokesman Phil Singer’s firm, Marathon Strategies, received $10,000.

Howard Glaser’s Washington, D.C.-based firm, Capitol Hill Associates, got a $50,000 windfall. Glaser, who worked with Cuomo at HUD, is now a member of the administration with twin titles: Director of state operations and senior policy adviser. He’s also earning $169,100.

Cuomo Has $4.1 M On Hand

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has made it clear he will spend political cash to advance his agenda in the upcoming budget battle, has just over $4.1 million in the bank.

One of Cuomo’s fundraisers, Jennifer Bayer Michaels, sent out the toplines for Cuomo’s Jan. 15 financial filing, which is not yet available on the state Board of Elections Website. Here’s the breakdown:

Opening Balance: $4,986,705.22
Total Receipts: $217,625.79
Total Expenses: $1,028,211.00
Total On Hand (End of Period): $4,176,120.01

The DN reported last week that Cuomo sent out a fundraising appeal, seeking donors’ help in countering what he called the “special-interest campaigns” he expects will be launched by the labor unions and their allies.

Some opening shots have already been fired in that fight.

NYSUT, for example, recently launched a pro-teacher ad campaign. A coalition of public and private sector unions is airing a radio ad that targets Wall Streeters for getting rich in the wake of government bailouts.

Another group of special interests – namely the business and real estate community – have formed the Committee to Save NY and raised some $10 million to help cover Cuomo’s flank in this fight. The CSNY launched its first pro-Cuomo ad last week.

Cuomo’s Root Canal (Updated)

The “dental procedure” from which Gov. Andrew Cuomo was recovering that prevented him from attending the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual MLK Day celebration – more or less a must-attend event for Democratic elected officials – was a root canal, the governor’s office confirms.

Cuomo had the procedure done on Friday. Apparently, he was in a lot of pain, but is doing fine now.

He had a local anesthetic, which is standard for this type of dental work. That means he was awake throughout the surgery, and so there were no issues of succession to deal with.

(Sorry, LG Bob Duffy, maybe next time).

UPDATE: I’m told the governor was spotted on the second floor of the Capitol yesterday – perhaps working on the budget, which he is due to deliver on Feb. 1, so he’s well on his way to a full recovery.

As you might recall, Cuomo’s predecessor, ex-Gov. David Paterson, underwent a series of eye surgeries early in his gubernatorial tenure. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (this was the summer before the 2008 elections when the Democrats took control of the chamber), who was next in line at the time, was alerted about Paterson’s condition – just in case.

The “who’s in charge” question has come up from time to time over the years. Ex-Gov. George Pataki, for example, insisted he was still running the state even when he wasn’t here. He also worked from a hospital bed after undergoing emergency abdominal surgery toward the end of his tenure in the spring of 2008.

The governor hasn’t made any public appearances since last Friday when he delivered two back-to-back versions of his State of the State speech that were tailored for upstate audiences in Jamestown (on Thursday) and Watertown (on Friday).

He’s in Albany with no public schedule.

Zimpher Gives State Of SUNY Preview

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will give the first ever “State of the University” address tomorrow.

Zimpher would not divulge details of her speech, but said she’ll indulge in some “bragging” about SUNY’s accomplishments over the last year and then lay out her agenda moving forward.

During a brief interview at the Capitol earlier today, Zimpher also addressed rumors that SUNY campuses may be facing funding cuts and tuition hikes to help reduce the state’s estimated $10 billion deficit:

“This is a tough time. Everybody knows that,” said Zimpher.

“But I think the public deserves to know that the State University of New York is working for it. I think it’s a partnership so we will rally support but we will do our part in exchange.”

The address will be at the Egg in Albany at 10 a.m.

Cuomo’s PIC Appointments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced three appointees to the Commission on Public Integrity, which may or may not end up existing in its current incarnation when ethics reform finally takes place at the Capitol.

The commission, which was created during former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s tenure (it is the combination of the old lobbying and ethics commissions), consists of 13 members.

Seven, including the chair are selected by the governor and six members are appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the AG, the state comptroller, and the four legislative leaders. No more than four of the seven members appointed by the Governor can belong to the same political party.

The appointees, who don’t receive a salary and don’t require Senate confirmation, are:

- Mitra Hormozi. (Chairperson). Hormozi was FORMERLY Cuomo’s special deputy chief of staff. She coordinated major initiatives related to public integrity and consumer fraud in the AG’s office, and had oversight of regional office initiatives. Headed up the investigation of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.

Hormozi also spent more than six years as an assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where she was the chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

- Richard J. Bartlett. (Commission member). Bartlett is currently a partner at Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes PC in Glens Falls. He was a member and chair of the state Board of Law Examiners and is a former dean and law professor at Albany Law School of Union University. Bartlett was a state Supreme Court Justice and was chief administrative judge of New York.

- Vernon Broderick. (Commission member). Broderick is a partner at Weil, Gotshal, & Manges LLP. He was an assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York for eight years. While there, he served as chief of the Violent Gangs Unit.

Schumer Press Shop Shuffle

After spending four years as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s spokesman and two as his upstate press secretary, Max Young is moving on. Sort of.

Young is departing the senior senator’s office, but he isn’t going far.

On Feb. 1, he will be starting as director of Regional Media for the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – the new entity created by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid specifically for Schumer to lead as the party heads into another difficult election cycle.

In this role, Schumer has officially become the Senate Democrats’ chief message maker, and he is embracing that role with relish, talking about the middle class and jobs at every turn.

Young, who has somehow managed to maintain composure and sanity in the whirlwind that is the Schumer communications boot camp, will be replaced by Matt House.

(An example of what a class act Young is…He included the following line in his “goodbye/moving on” e-mail to reporters: “Working here for the last two years has been a joy, and I am consistently in awe of the quality of the reporting that you all do on a daily basis.” Ah, yes, flattery will get you everywhere).

As far as I can tell, House last worked for former New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the US Senate as a self-professed “real fiscal conservative” in the 2010 cycle.