John Edwards: ‘There Is No Question I Have Done Wrong’

Former Senator and Presidential Candidate John Edwards plead not guilty today in a North Carolina court room to charges he violated campaign finance laws. He is charged with misusing nearly a million dollars back in 2008 campaign cash to hide the identity of his mistress and the baby they had together.

After his appearance in court, he made a brief 30 second statement where he claimed his innocence while also admitting he had “done wrong.”

“There is no question that I have done wrong. And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and harm that I have caused my daughters. But I did not break the law. And I never, ever thought that I broke the law,” Edwards said.

Senate and Assembly Dems To Hold Redistricting Forum

Democrats in the Senate and Assembly plan to hold an “interactive” forum on creating an independent redistricting commission on Tuesday that will use social media websites and live questions from voters on the issues.

Questions will be taken via Twitter through @NYSenDems and the hashtags #NYRedistricting and #NYSenate and the forum will be broadcast over Livestream and Senate Democrats’ Facebook page.

Good-government groups like NYPIRG and Citizen Union are also participating.

Senate Democrats are trying to reignite the somewhat dormant issue of using an independent commission to draw the boundaries of state and federal districts — a topic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not raising on his People First tour around the state.

The GOP-led Senate did approve a measure that add an amendment to the state constitution requiring independent redistricting, but it won’t realistically be in place for 10 years.

“Our energies are focused on passing Governor Cuomo’s independent redistricting legislation to fundamentally change Albany,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran. “Despite Senate Republicans’ attempt to maintain their stranglehold on power through the partisan drawing of electoral lines, we will continue to engage the public in an all-out effort to highlight the critical need for a fair and independent redistricting process,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to veto any lines drawn by the Legislature, throwing those duties to the courts.

O’Connor Resigns Research Foundation, Vice Chancellor Posts (Updated)

SUNY Research Foundation President John O’Connor is resigning his post no later than June 15 following an investigation into his hiring of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s daughter for an alleged “no-show” consultant job.

The SUNY Board of Regents voted unanimously today to accept the resignation, which also includes O’Connor leaving his job as vice chancellor. He was paid a total salary of $276,000.

The resignation comes as both Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Inspector General Ellen Biben planned to begin special investigations into O’Connor’s hiring of Susan Bruno.

The Board of Regents met in executive session to discuss the issue before accepting O’Connor’s “separation” from SUNY, said spokesman Morgan Hook.

The Commission on Public Integrity alleged earlier this month that Bruno was hired to fill a job at the Research Foundation for which she did little work, but took $70,000 a year.

O’Connor had initially taken a leave of absence from the job following the CPI report.

O’Connor at the time charged that the CPI had played politics with their report on the issue and asked that Biben investigate the commission for its leaks to the press.

Update — Here’s the resolution:

Resolved, that the SUNY Board of Trustees hereby accepts John O’Connor’s separation from his roles as Secretary and Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation of the University, by no later than June 15, 2011; on the understanding that he will also separate from his position as President of the Research Foundation of State University of New York by that same date.

Catholic Conference Defends Diaz

New York State Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard Barnes is defending Sen. Ruben Diaz’s stance opposing same-sex marriage, writing a post on Facebook that the Bronx Democrat is preaching inclusion and knocking the threats made against him.

Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, is a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and has been ridiculed by gay-marriage advocates. A Brooklyn event called F— Ruben Diaz called on participants to write humorous, Onion-inspired short stories about Diaz.

The lawmakers has also said he’s been subjected to death threats, which he asked the FBI to investigate.

Barnes writes that none of this is amusing:

We are unjustly called “haters” and “bigots” by those who have carefully framed their advocacy strategy. The entire campaign to enact same-sex marriage is conducted under a banner of acceptance, and equality and respect for others. Yet behind that banner of tolerance is another campaign – of intimidation, threats and ugliness.

NYSUT Begins Anti-Tax Cap Push

The state United Teachers union is starting a $1.3 million statewide ad campaign opposing the cap on local and school property taxes.

The commercial — called “A Tax Cap Is Not The Answer” — began running this morning.

“Make no mistake, educators are taxpayers, too, and support real, meaningful tax relief,” union President Richard Iannuzzi said in a statement. “The agreement reached by the governor and Legislature fails to provide that relief. Instead, it would lead to the elimination of needed programs, even more overcrowded classrooms and thousands and thousands of additional layoffs. The impact on municipalities would cripple community colleges and prevent local governments from providing the essential public services that middle-class New Yorkers need.”

The ad quotes heavily from The New York Times editorial on the tentative cap agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

The new proposal, introduced in the Assembly, would still cap property taxes at 2 percent, but include some limited carve outs for pension growth and an undetermined expiration date.

Senate Republicans say the possible sunset date coinciding with rent control complicates the agreement, but remain confident a cap will stay in place.

The teachers union, long an opponent of caps, says pushing a ceiling the same year as deep cuts in education spending is especially troubling.

Lazio Invites You To Ignite With Him

Former GOP Rep. Rick Lazio announced today he’s forming an online publication called “IGNITE With Rick Lazio” — a website he says will focus on economic, political and social news.

In an email announcing the launching of the website, the one-time Senate and gubernatorial candidate said he would be the moderator and “moderator and perhaps at times a provocateur” of the news and commentary site.

The site also promises to provide “civil discussion” on current issues.

“As I promised you last year, I’ll continue to be a voice for progress by speaking out on issues that effect our daily lives and the future of our nation. I plan to create a dialogue with civic leaders, business professionals, ordinary citizens and political leaders who want to come together to express their views and ideas for the common good. Certainly, I can’t do it without your help.

From what I can tell so far, the site’s initial offering is like a Lazio fanzine, with a link to a Politico story quoting Lazio, two lengthy articles written by Lazio and an analysis of Medicaid spending. It also includes a link promoting Lazio’s upcoming appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Lazio last year was defeated for the Republican nomination for governor by tea party insurgent Carl Paladino. Lazio later dropped the Conservative Party bid for governor as well.

Kolb Seeks Answers From Great Beyond

When you’re the leader of the smallest legislative conference in Albany, you sometimes have to resort to desperate measures to get information on negotiations at the Capitol.

(A point of clarification, as per a Kolb aide: The Assembly GOP is, in fact, the second smallest legislative conference. The Senate Democrats hold the title for smallest with 26 members – not counting the fearsome foursome (AKA: the IDC). Propotionately speaking, however, and in terms of clout, the Assembly Republicans are the smallest, with 51 members to the Democrats’ 99).

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb expressed his frustration during a CapTon interview last night over being left out of negotiations on key policy issues like the property tax cap, ethics reform and redistricting reform.

Kolb told me he has some suggestions for Gov. Andrew Cuomo about how to tweak his (yet to be passed by either house) redistricting reform program bill. He put those ideas to paper and sent them off to the second floor, but has yet to receive a response.

The minority leader is also annoyed by the fact that he stood at a press conference with the governor and majority legislative leaders (with about an hour’s notice) at a Red Room press conference to hail a so-called property tax cap “deal”, but has yet to see anything codified via passage by the Legislature. I asked if there really is a cap deal, and he replied:

“Back in my office in Albany, I have this thing called a Ouija board. And you take a pulse on the day, the hour, the minute, the second in terms of what’s going to happen or not happen in Albany.”

“And again, I think a lot of this is more posturing, more theatrics, that – quite frankly – it gets tiring…Any help I could get to predict the outcome in Albany would be great.”

Stewart On Weinergate: Day 3

In the “with friends like these” category, we have Rep. Anthony Weiner’s onetime roommate, Jon Stewart, who is not helping the congressman put this whole Twitter scandal thing behind him.

Stewart: “Dammit, the Weiner story’s gotten into the matrix. It’s as though politicians can’t get any attention anymore unless they’re Sarah Palin or have done something terribly wrong.”

Punchline: GOP 2012 contender Tim Pawlenty has emailed a picture of his package…at which point Stewart mocks falling asleep.

Here And Now

Former Senator/presidential contender John Edwards is expected to be indicted today.

The Seattle woman at the center of Weinergate shoots a hole in the congressman’s theory of how she received a lewd picture from his Twitter account, saying: “I never mentioned anything about a hacking.”

Weiner’s constituents are confused about why he can’t recognize his own underwear or remember if he shot a picture of his own crotch.

Day 3 of Weinergate coverage for Jon Stewart, the congressman’s onetime summer house roommate.

Weiner spokesman Dave Arnold makes City Hall’s loser’s list for this week.

Was Arnold the one who called the cops on CBS/Channel 2′s Marcia Kramer?

Weiner hired the law firm Baker Hostetler to investigate the alleged hacking of his accounts. (No link).

“I have confidence in Anthony Weiner that if an investigation is in order that will take place,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Mayor Bloomberg’s former spokesman, Bill Cunningham, on Weiner: “(H)e’s become a joke. And that’s the worst thing that can happen to you in politics.”

A Weiner aide refused to say whether the congressman will be making his planned trip to Wisconsin.

Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is carrying on with her job at the State Department as if nothing has happened in her personal life.

A friend said Abedin is “not worried about infidelity” and is “confident and comfortable in her marriage.”

More >

Ethics Agreement Could Come Friday

Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are on the verge of agreeing to an ethics overhaul measure with an announcement of an accord possibly coming Friday, according to several sources familiar with the negotiations.

As the Associated Press reported earlier this evening, Cuomo and top lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate may make an announcement as early as Friday in New York City.

Those familiar with the discussions, however, say a full agreement is yet to be completely nailed down. A major sticking point has been over appointments to the proposed 12-member Joint Commission On Public Ethics (also known as JCOPE).

It is possible that Cuomo, who has made cleaning up Albany sleaze a cornerstone of his first-year agenda, would cede up to eight of the 12 commission picks to legislative leaders in order to broker a compromise.

Though the Democratic governor and lawmakers have given few specifics on the ethics measure, some details were made known this week.

A bill could include requiring lawmakers to divulge all direct legal and business clients, compel legislators to provide more specific detail on outside income, along with outlawing redactions on ethics filings. In addition, non-profit 501(c)4 organizations would be required to divulge their contributors