Conditional Transparency

Following the formal release this morning of the Committee to Save NY’s first pro-Cuomo ad, a sharp-eyed reader sent the following “irony alert” via e-mail:

“There’s nothing to explain the ‘Committee to Save New York’ on it’s Website – or who is funding it. Quite the blow for transparency, accountability and open-ness in government.”

CSNY is a consortium of business interests that has banded together to assist Gov. Andrew Cuomo in pushing through his pro-business, fiscally conservative agenda that includes a property tax cap, no new taxes, government consolidation and spending cuts.

The committee is getting a big chunk of its $10 million seed money from the real estate industry, according to Crain’s, which reported the following: Tishman Speyer Properties pledged $1 million; The Durst Organization wrote a six-figure check; and developer Larry Silverstein, contributed an undisclosed amount.

CSNY is legally not required to disclose its contributors, which doesn’t exactly jibe (fixed) with Cuomo’s pledge to bring transparency to government.

The governor is taking some heat for talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to transparency.

More >

A Conference Of Convenience?

Members of the renegade foursome that split from the Democratic minority to form a new independent conference have insisted they would never have joined the GOP because they’re true-blue Dems motivated by ideology, not a lust for power.

But there’s some question as to whether the Republicans would even have accepted them had they sought to join the majority.

During a CapTon interview last night, Sen. John Bonacic all but called three of the four – Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino and Dave Valesky (he gave freshman Sen. Dave Carlucci a pass, since he’s new – hypocrites, noting their declarations of independece ring a little hollow now that they’re no longer in the majority and so have little to lose.

“It was disappointing that they didn’t show that independence in the two years that they were in the majority when we got burdened with those $14 billion in new spending and $10 billion in new taxes,” Bonacic told me.

“It was only after they became a minority conference that they’re now asserting this new independence. I look at it as an inside baseball problem within the Democratic conference, but had the Democrats retained the majority, would those four – well, not Mr. Carlucci – but would the other three be stepping up?”

I asked Bonacic if he thought this conference was merely an act of political expediency, particularly by Klein, who was widely believed to want to be leader himself, but couldn’t muster sufficient votes to take out Sampson.

Bonacic responded that he thought the foursome’s decision to bolt was motivated by little other than a disenchantment with Sampson, but noted that “could change from day to day, week to week.”

Senate Mandates Ethics Training (Updated)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos just issued a press release mandating that all senators and their staff to take ethics training before April 1.

It’s similar to the executive order Governor Cuomo issued last week, following his State of the State Address.

“I’m confident that we have built a top-notch team in the State Senate that will work directly with the members of this body to achieve great things for New York, including lower taxes and spending, and more good-paying private sector jobs,” Senator Skelos said.

“But it’s also essential that we give those who work in this institution the tools they need to serve the people of New York with honesty and integrity. Just as the Governor has done for Executive Chamber staff, I am pleased to announce that we will require mandatory ethics training for all State Senate employees.”

It will be interesting now to see if Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver follows suit. In the past, the Assembly Democratic conference has been reluctant to support ethics bills that forced attorneys to reveal their client lists – something Governor Cuomo is calling for.

Yesterday during a brief news conference at the Capitol, Cuomo said he plans to push for ethics reform right away, at the same time that he works on the budget, and other priorities like a property tax cap.

UPDATE: An Assembly majority spokesperson notes the majority has mandated ethics and sexual harassment training since 1994. More recently, workplace violence training has been added. The trainings are every two years for members and staff and every year for interns since there is a new class every year.

More >

Committee To Save NY’s First Salvo

The pro-Cuomo Committee to Save NY has launched its first TV ad and a companion Website that urges New Yorkers to “join the fight to fix Albany’s broken budget.”

The effort is a clear continuation of Andrew Cuomo’s often-repeated pledge to get outside the “beltway” of the Capitol and enlist the people in his quest to reform state government.

Committee spokesman Bill Cunningham said the ad is running statewide on broadcast and cable. He refused to discuss the size of the buy, but said it’s “significant.”

The spot is introductory. It doesn’t attack anyone or advocate for one specific policy agenda. Instead, it offers broad-brush support for Cuomo and his fiscally conservative approach. The point, Cunningham said, is to inform New Yorkers that the committee exists and intends to be involved in the upcoming budget battle.

“Other people have ads out establishing their positions…We’re joining the parade,” Cunningham told me during a brief phone interview this morning.

“We’re out there and we’re moving forward and we’ll see what comes next. A lot of people were wondering if we would be able to pull it together and move forward. This ad is our introduction and it’s there to say: We’re real.”

Crain’s Danny Massey reported yesterday that the CSNY had reached its initial fundraising goal of $10 million, thanks to real estate heavyweights like Larry Silverstein, Tishman Speyer and The Durst Organization. Massey also suggested the committee might hold off on its ad campaign until later in the budget cycle thanks to Cuomo’s strong negotiating position after his big win in November. (So much for that).

So far, labor is largely holdings its fire in the budget debate, but 1199′s Kevin Finnegan warned that could change – and fast – telling Massey:

““We can pivot on a dime. It wouldn’t take more than four days for us to be up on the air (with ads). We can go toe-to-toe with the Committee to Save New York, and we wouldn’t shy away from it if we have to.”

The script for the CSNY ad appears in full after the jump.

More >

Here And Now

President Obama, who was supposed to be in Schenectady today, is headed to Tuscon, Az. tomorrow to attend a memorial service for the Saturday shooting victims.

House members are considering adopting an enhanced security system that would make it easier for them to receive protection at home in their districts.

“I believe gun ownership is an individual fundamental right,” Rep. Tom Reed said. “And regardless of the regulation and prohibition you put on it, weapons are a fact of our society worldwide, and a lunatic is going to be able to get those.”

The president postponed a lavish dinner he planned to host in NYC for Saudi King Abdullah.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down talk by the Assembly Democrats of linking a property tax cap to rent control. (In fact, he’s not big on linkage, period).

Cuomo moved fast to prevent Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver from getting the upper hand.

The Committee to Save NY has launched its first pro-property tax cap ad.

The 5 percent salary reduction imposed by Cuomo on his staff does not apply to Larry Schwartz or any other Paterson administration holdovers.

Semi-first lady Sandra Lee wears all white to look “shiny, happy and pretty,” but stylists look down on her monochromatic approach and would like to see her mix it up.

Lee took her food bank tour to Long Island.

Bill Hammond accuses Cuomo of sending mixed signals about wanting to clean up Albany after the governor held a closed door meeting at the executive mansion with legislative leaders.

More >

Extras

Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner was a registered independent and didn’t vote in the 2010 elections.

Hillary Clinton called Loughner an “extremist.”

The Tea Party Express defended Sarah Palin.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a warning about public-private partnerships.

The NYS Troopers rejected the TU’s FOIL request for the records of Sen. Neil Breslin’s pre-Election Day traffic stop.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking his open-door policy seriously.

The three men are still meeting privately, albeit in a much nicer room.

The Committee to Save NY has reached its $10 million fundraising goal, but is holding its fire at the moment.

The Senate Democrats and IDC held dueling reform press conferences.

The Senate minority launched a new Website to pressure the majority to keep their reform pledges.

A former aide to ex-Gov. David Paterson, Jeffrey Pearlman, is now lobbying.

The Albany-based lobbying firm Barrett Associates has hired Peter Carr as senior vice president.

Mayor Bloomberg’s longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor, posed for Harper’s Bazaar and told the magazine she thinks her main squeeze should be “mayor forever” or maybe president.

If they can fix it there…”

Matt Masterson is the state GOP’s new political director.

The UFT lost its lawsuit over the [ublic release of performance rankings for teachers.

The union has vowed to appeal.

Josh (Benson) and Azi (paybarah) discuss the ongoing impact of the Christmas weekend blizzard on Bloomberg.

Piers Morgan’s opening line-up includes Oprah, Rudy and Mitt.

The opposition to Cuomo’s plan to close upstate prisons is mounting.

Mr. Collegiality

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had another one of those quickie press avails with the Capitol press corps, the focus of which was his focus on “collegiality” in negotiating with the legislative leaders over contentious issues – everything from the budget to the property tax cap.

He stressed “collegiality” and “advocacy,” which to the governor means rallying the people to support his agenda. Standing in the hall of governors on the Capitol’s second floor, Cuomo proclaimed:

“If the conversation is in this hallway, the people lose. I believe the lobbyists win if the conversation is in this hallway.”

Cuomo again reiterated his opposition to reauthorizing the millionaire’s tax, despite the suggestion by advocates and some lawmakers that to do so would technically not break his “no new taxes” pledge.

“My position is, has been, will be: I’m against new taxes. In my opinion, that is a new tax, and I’m against it.”

The governor rejected the linking of rent control to a property tax cap, saying: “I think that these are separate issues, and they should be analyzed as separate issues.”

Cuomo sought to dispel speculation that he condoned or even encouraged the new independent Democratic conference, insisting he had “no knowledge” of its creation until just before it was announced and adding that thinks it’s “none of my business” what goes on in the minority.

Asked whether he is going to seek to get a deal on things other than the budget – including ethics reform and a property tax cap – prior to the April 1 start of the new fiscal year the governor said he’s going to be “moving forward on all of these issues simultaneously – now, now.”

“Look, we’re already speaking with the Senate and the Assembly on all these matters,” Cuomo said.

At the end of this video, Cuomo addresses the Arizona shooting, which he called a “terrible, terrible tragedy.” (He didn’t issue a formal statement). He did say he’s “comfortable” with the level of security he has in the Capitol, which he recently opened up to the public, and around him personally.

‘Who Are The Thugs Now?’

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is on something of a verbal rampage this afternoon, calling around to reporters to lambaste the foursome he has dubbed the “new amigos” for accepting extra resources from the Senate GOP.

“When the four amigos, the Hispanic friends, were negotiating…they called us thugs, they called us crooks,” the Bronx Democrat griped.

“And now I hear these new four amigos are getting $3 million to $4 million for staff and better offices. The better office space. So, I would like to find out: Who are the thugs now? What is the difference?”

“How come we get $350,000 for staffing and they get $3 million, $4 million? What is the difference between what we were doing trying to get committees and they’re getting money?…If this is true, they’re making us look like heroes. We didn’t get that much.”

(Actually, I think Diaz Sr. is misquoting Senate Democratic conference spokesman Austin Shafran, who referred to former Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. as “a thief and a thug” after they split to join the GOP during the 2009 Senate coup).

Diaz Sr.’s upset comes in response to news that Sen. Jeff Klein, who spearheaded the renegade movement away from the Democratic conference last week, has switched offices with Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous.

Rich Azzopardi, who is doing double duty as the spokesman for Klein and the newly created Independent Democratic Conference, rejcted Diaz Sr.’s numbers, although he confirmed it’s likely the IDC, as it has come to be called, will get extra funding from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Azzopardi said Klein got Libous’ office because the Binghamton Republican had designs on his old digs. As for a response, here’s what Azzopardi has to say:

“Name calling is not going to help create one new job nor is it going to help right size government unlike the proposal the (IDC) unveiled today.”

(Here’s the proposal in question).

Gillibrand: A ‘Wake-Up Call For America’

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand declined to discuss her own security set up today, but insisted the Arizona shooting won’t change the access constituents now enjoy to their junior senator and other members of Congress.

“That is who we are, it’s why we’re in public service,” Gillibrand told reporters during a stop in Rochester earlier today.

“It’s part of our fundamental job requirement, to listen to talk to debate and then bring those ideas to Washington and then represent the values and priorities of the constituents that you represent.”

Gillibrand said she hopes the “discourse” changes as a result of the tragedy, which she believes should serve as “a wake-up call for America that we have to treat people with respect, we have to have a level discourse where you can disagree on a policy issue but it doesn’t become an advocacy for violence and hatred.”

Silver: The Media Ought To ‘Turn It Down’

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed concern today about the overheated political discourse that many – including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly – believe contributed to the Arizona shooting spree over the weekend.

Asked if he’s worried about his own security, Silver at first joked to reporters: “How can I you’re all here in front of me?” He then added:

“I obviously am concerned about some of the rhetoric that comes out that, you know, heightens some people, whether its media or political rhetoric. I think that both the media ought to turn it down as well as political (inaudible).”

This moment comes at the end of the video that appears below during what we in the bizz refer to as a “walk-and-talk,” during which Silver was walking away from a Q-and-A with reporters but not yet finished speaking.

He also discussed the supposed “link” between a property tax cap and rent control, insisting he’s willing to do the former without the latter, and refused to say whether or not the state can afford to let the so-called millionaire’s tax sunset on schedule at the end of this year. (He wants to see the budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes first).