Hochul: Weiner Scandal ‘The Definition Of Irony’

After trying for several days without success, I finally managed to get a comment from Rep. Kathy Hochul (thanks to YNN Buffalo) on Weinergate and whether she thinks the scandal-scarred congressman should resign.

Weiner’s newest colleague side-stepped the resignation question, although she did call his behavior “reprehensible”, adding: “The more that comes out, the more disturbing I find it.”

“I am very adamant that there must be an immediate ethics investigation,” Hochul told reporters at a ceremony marking the opening of her district office outside Buffalo.

“And pending the outcome of that, I believe that if there are sanctions, I will support them. And again as with any member of Congress, a resignation is their decision with their family and their consitutents. That’s how it is with everyone. But I will wait and see if those ethics issues arise, and if they are substantial and merit sanctions, I will be very supportive of those.”

Hochul was asked if she thought it was ironic that this scandal broke just days after her upset victory in a special election that wouldn’t have taken place had it not been for the on-line scandal of a now-former congressman with a penchant for posting shirtless photos of himself.

“That is probably the definition of irony, yes. I would find that ironic, yes.”

Hochul said she believes public service is a privilege and elected officials should be “always honest with ourselves and our constituents.”

Democrats are generally shying away from drawing parallels between the Chris Lee and Weiner scandals, perhaps because the former was so quick to resign and the latter is refusing to heed calls for him to go.

Extras

UPDATE: Sources tell Reuters Hillary Clinton is seeking the World Bank presidency.

Weiner just wants to get back to work, and won’t comment on his wife’s reported pregnancy.

“Apologizing to the president is hard enough, but he can’t exactly take the moral high ground, can he?” said a source who knows all the people involved. “I’d be terrified of (Hillary).”

Rep. Pete King stopped short of calling on Weiner to resign, but said he doesn’t see how the embattled congressman manages to hang on.

Rock Hackshaw makes the case for why Weiner is right to hang on to his seat.

The research arm of Congress circulated a report on the downsides of texting – including sexting – but did not mention Weiner (or any lawmaker, for that matter).

Barbara Walters thinks the photo of Weiner’s genitals is flattering.

It’s all Vincent D’Onofrio’s fault.

YFrog is capitalizing.

Mayor Bloomberg has never taken a photo of himself – for the record – and thinks the voters should decide Weiner’s fate.

The ethics inquiry into Weinergate could take a while.

Would-be Weiner replacement NYC Councilman Mark Weprin thinks the congressman “will ride this out.”

Jennifer Senior questions the timing of the news leak about Huma Abedin’s pregnancy.

Perhaps now would be a good time for Weiner to change his position on independent redistricting?

Just in case he goes with the whole 2012 thing, King has a campaign theme song all picked out.

Mitt Romney got into a heated argument in Detroit over the auto bailout.

Newt Gingrich’s top presidential campaign aides resigned en masse.

A Rudy Giuliani advisor insists the former NYC mayor is still “waiting for the field to settle” and on track for an end-of-summer decision.

Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef would like to know where his state cash is.

Ironcially, Cuomo was raising money – political money, that is – in Rockland County today.

Alec Baldwin actually has run for office before.

Baldwin defends “modern man” Weiner, sort of.

NYC Councilman Dan Halloran thinks Bloomberg “sucks” as a mayor and is targeting him.

Insight into Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan’s retirement – in verse!

Tomorrow is Eliot Spitzer’s birthday. (Last item).

De Blasio Lands Clintonite (Updated)

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is poised to announce that Harold Ickes, a veteran Democratic operative and former top aide to President Clinton, has agreed to serve on the board of his office’s nonprofit arm, the Fund for Public Advocacy.

Other new board members include PR maven Ken Sunshine and philantrhopist Mahsa Pelosky.

The fund was established in 2002 by then-incumbent Betsy Gotbaum to “reinforce and support” the public advocate’s office at a time of budget cuts. Gotbaum still serves as president of the funds Board of Directors.

De Blasio has been trying to reinvigorate the fund since he took office, hiring Reshma Saujani (the financial manager attorney who ran a failed 2010 primary challenge against Rep. Carolyn Maloney) back in January.

Ickes, who chaired Clinton’s presidential campaign in New York in 1992 and served as his deputy chief of staff, has been a member of the Clinton circle for many years.

His decision to sign on to a fund connected to de Blasio is notable following the scandal that appears to have bumped presumed 2013 NYC mayoral race frontrunner, Rep. Anthony Weiner, from contention. Weiner was believed to have the inside edge with the Clintons, with whom he has a close relationship – in part due to his wife’s career as Hillary Clinton’s top aide.

Of course, that’s all changed now.

UPDATE: A reader notes that Ickes and de Blasio have a relationship that dates back to the days when they both former for former NYC Mayor David Dinkins….so that dramatically reduces the whole Clinton connection thing.

DiNapoli Renews Campaign-Finance Reform Call

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli renewed his call today for legislation that would move the state to public financing of campaigns, a proposal that comes as the Legislature is poised to vote on an ethics overhaul bill.

DiNapoli pushed the measure during the 2010 campaign as well.

To be eligble for public financing, a candidate would have to participate in a voluntary matching program.

Under the provisions of his legislation, spending limits for primary and general elections for Comptroller starting in 2014 would be capped at $5 million and $7.5 million dollars respectively and contributions would be limited to a maximum of $2,000.

The measure would also create a campaign-finance review boaerd that would audit and enforce the program.

The comptroller said in a statement that the ethics overhaul legislation isn’t complete until it also addresses campaign spending.

“Elections should be about issues, not about money,” said DiNapoli. “The Comptroller’s Office must be a model of independence and ethics. Strict contribution limits and a level playing field for all candidates for Comptroller are a clear signal that this office is not for sale.”

Source: NY Mulls April 24 Presidential Primary

New York is likely to set its 2012 presidential primary for April 24, according to a GOP source who had been briefed on that plan.

The Legislature is expected to pass legislation that would codify that date before the 2011 session’s scheduled end on June 20. If this goes forward, New York would join Connecticut and Pennsylvania in holding its presidential contest on that date.

It would be more than two months later than the 2008 contest, which was held Feb. 5 – AKA “Super Duper Tuesday” because it was the day on which the largest simultaneous number of presidential primaries and/or caucuses in history were held. All told, voters in 24 states and American Samoa voted that day.

The Legislature and then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer agreed to move the primary up one month to, as the governor put it, “help secure New York’s large and diverse population an influential voice in selecting the 2008 presidential nominees.”

In other news on the presidential primary front: The NY GOP unanimously approved switching its primary from the winner-take-all model back to a proportional delegate system in which candidates must compete in every congressional district.

The Democrats already use the proportional system, although the idea of allowing states to go the winner-take-all route has been broached at the national level.

New York still hasn’t addressed the issue of military service members absentee ballots, which could require moving the annual primary date from September to June – not something elected officials are too keen on.

If they don’t act, they could face another lawsuit from the US Justice Department, which sued over this issue in 2010.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature acted earlier this year to extend the periods for special elections to allow military ballots to be mailed and counted in compliance with federal law.

Cuomo Introduces ‘Rational’ Tuition Plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon introduced a measure that would allow state university campuses to raise their own tuition, creates a competitive $80 million grant program and creates a university revolving loan fund.

Tuition increases would be capped at 5 percent a year.

The bill would also provide for the unversity centers in Buffalo, Albany, Binghamton and Stony Brook to raise their tuition 8 percent.

The Tuition Assistance Program would be exempt from the tuition increases.

The Legislature has been loath to allowing campuses to raise their own tuition, but universities have argued the local control is needed in order to help undertake economic development programs.

The measure also provides for $140 million in capital funding for the campuses.

“The current tuition system does not serve our students, schools, or state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This bill brings rationality to the SUNY tuition system, by allowing students and parents to reasonably plan for college expenses, instead of being subject to dramatic tuition increases and uncertainty.

A similar measure pushed by Gov. David Paterson failed last year.

The highlights include: More >

Donohue: Layoff Plan ‘Obscene’

Civil Service Employees Association President Danny Donohue called the layoff plan being put forward by Gov. Andrew Cuomo “obscene” and move designed to scare people.

”This is obscene,” Donohue said. “It’s an attempt by the Governor to make people frightened. Well you’ve done that. You’ve gotten people frightened but you’ve also identified yourself as the biggest bully on the block.”

A Cuomo administration memorandum dated June 8 and sent to agency chiefs instructs them to begin the layoff process by July 15. The memo comes as Cuomo and unions are in the midst of heated negotiations with public-workers unions.

The 2011-12 state budget includes plans fort $450 million in state-worker concessions. If the concessions aren’t achieved, Cuomo will layoff up to 9,800 workers.

In an interview with YNN, Donohue said CSEA was willing to make concessions, but said it was “crazy” to make workers give up everything.

”We’re willing to work with the Governor on doing things we maybe wouldn’t have done in the past but we’re not going to give up everything we have,” he said. “That’s crazy.”

Report: ‘Disturbing’ Trends In Grassroots Advocacy

Common Cause New York is out with a report today that shows the sources of funding for “grassroots” organizations is frequently hidden or poorly reported.

The group takes lobbying groups from a range of the political to spectrum to task, including the Cuomo-friendly Committee to Save New York, the Alliance Quality Education and American Beverage Association, for failing to disclose who is behind their advertising and advocacy.

Common Cause says third-party groups and coalitions with feel-good names have stepped up their campaigning in recent years to influence public policy. Often these grassroots groups are backed by powerful and wealthy lobbying shops, only you wouldn’t know it from their advertisements.

From the report:

These campaign‐style battles are being waged through an increasing number of “veiled actors” ‐‐ third‐party coalitions with misleading names that ask voters to “Save New York” or fight for “Fiscal Fairness” without revealing the powerful interest groups behind these messages.

The Committee to Save New York, a consortium of monied interests organized this year to back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal plan, received an “F” for its failure to disclose its advertising, the report said. The group spent nearly $8 million lobbying the state this year so far, and continues to do so with the governor’s tax cap.

Unshackle Upstate, a business friendly coalition based in Rochester, quickly responded to the report.

“As Executive Director of Unshackle Upstate, I only wish that we had more money to spend to help improve the economy of Upstate New York,” said Brian Sampson. Unshackle Upstate has come a long way since we were created in 2005, but we know we have a long way to go. The bottom line is that Unshackle Upstate complies with current law, and will always comply with the law. We remain committed to fighting for the taxpayers and job creators of Upstate New York, and refuse to apologize for standing up for them.”

Susan Lerner of Common Cause will be sitting down with Liz tonight to talk about the report.
Common Cause-ny — Lifting the Veil – Final

NY GOP Approves Primary Change (Updated)

The state GOP is meeting today at the Desmond in Colonie (outside Albany) and is expected to approve changing its winner-take-all primary system back to the proportionality approach in hopes of forcing 2012 candidates to campaign here rather than simply treating New York like a gigantic ATM machine.

UPDATE: The change was unanimously approved, I’m told by an upstate GOP county chair who attended the meeting. Also approved: The election of John Reidman from Rochester to serve as treasurer, replacing Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who stepped down prior to her loss in the NY-26 special election.

This switch was first discussed back in February.

The New York Democrats already award delegates proportionately by Congressional district. (The DNC does not allow the all-or-nothing approach, although the topic was broached for states that participate later in the process for 2012).

The winner-take-all approach is generally championed by candidates who hail from large, delegate-rich states. The Massachusetts GOP, for example, defied supporters of former Gov. Mitt Romney when it changed its policy of committing all the state’s delegates to the primary winner back in 2007.

The system was expected to award all of New York’s delegates to hometown favorite Rudy Giuliani back in 2008, but the former NYC mayor never made it to Super Tuesday after tanking in Florida. The Empire State ended up going to the eventual GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Giuliani has said he’s thinking about taking another crack at the White House in 2012. He has recently traveled to New Hampshire and pledged to focus this time on the first-in-the-nation primary state, forgoing his (failed) 2008 playbook of overlooking the Granite State in favor of Florida.

If Giuliani does throw his hat into the ring – and, according to William Kristol, he’s thisclose to doing so, although the former mayor’s camp is working to knock down that speculation today – this change means he would likely have to work to secure the support of GOP delegates in his home state (assuming his campaign lasts that long).

Giuliani has long had a complicated relationship with the state GOP.

Support for him from most party leaders was strong back in 2008, even though then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno had once called Giuliani “Judas” for crossing party lines to back Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo in his (failed) re-election attempt in 1994.

It was not, however, universal. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, for example, has long been a McCain man (although the two are on the outs, it seems, since the senator wasn’t invited to the recent Chris Cox-Andrea Catsimatidis wedding, which featured 700 guests). Former Rep. Rick Lazio raised money for Romney.

PEF ‘Appalled’ By Layoff Memo

The Public Employees Federation said today in a statement they were “appalled” to learn of the memorandum from the Cuomo administration that would begin layoffs on July 15 if concessions aren’t reached.

PEF President Ken Brynien also said the governor is trying to seek $10,000 in reduced total compensation, a proposal he said was unacceptable.

He noted that Council 82 members, a union of law-enforcement workers, rejected a similar deal.

“The governor, all along, has wanted to take money out of the pockets of dedicated, middle class, taxpaying state employees while handing the wealthy a $5 billion tax break,” Brynien said in a statement. “We offered givebacks equal to what the governor asked for, but that wasn’t enough. Apparently, it’s Cuomo’s way or no way and it’s the state work force and its citizens who rely on the services state employees provide who will pay the price.”

The PEF statement does not go into particular detail as to what givebacks have been offered, but the union has frequently criticized the state’s use of hiring consultants.