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.

Tribe Wins Stay In Tobacco Case

An American Indian tribe in New York won another stay on the collection of cigarette taxes sold on reservations, one day after a judge lifted the order.

The new order prohibiting the state from moving forward with its collection scheme runs until June 20.

The Seneca Nation of Indians was pleased with the latest ruling, saying it was a sign the plan wouldn’t work:

“If New York State courts eventually allow this New York State law to stand, it will have two primary result. One, good-paying retail jobs, selling a legal product in Western New York, will be lost; and, two, there will be no change in the Seneca Nation’s stand that it will never collect or impose sales taxes for New York State. If the Nation’s businesses need to shift their product mix to render such onerous tax laws moot, they will.”

The decades-long effort to collect the tax took a step forward last year when Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature approved a plan to raise the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. It was coupled with the enforcement plan for tobacco products sold by American Indian tribes. The plan excludes non-tribal citizens.

But the enforcement plan has been met with a stiff legal challenge from tribes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he remains in favor of collecting the revenue.

DCCC Take on Buerkle, Hayworth On Medicare

As Congressional Democrats struggle to change the subject back from embattled U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner to the Medicare fight in Washington, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a robocall effort against GOP Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle and Nan Hayworth on the issue.

Eleven other Republican-held districts are being targeted by the call as well, which also takes the GOP to task on tax subsidies for oil companies.

Here’s the script of the call:

Hi, I’m calling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle’s vote to end Medicare and increase the debt.

You’ve paid into Medicare for more than 25 years and earned Medicare benefits. But under the Buerkle plan, Medicare will end and you’ll have to save about $182,000 more to pay for your health care from private insurance companies. But millionaires and corporations get even bigger tax breaks.

For all of Buerkle’s talk about reducing the debt, her plan to end Medicare actually increases the debt by almost $2 trillion because of more tax breaks for millionaires and corporations.

We must cut spending and tighten our belt, but Buerkle made the wrong choice. Ending Medicare to pay for subsidies for Big Oil and tax breaks for millionaires, while increasing the debt! That’s not right.

Weiner’s Wife Becomes Media Target

Even after traveling halfway around the globe, Huma Abedin can’t escape the media spotlight generated by her scandal-scarred husband, Rep. Anthony Weiner.

The veteran aide to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself the object of considerable attention from photographers and videographers during a trip to Abu Dhabi with her boss. The AP shot the footage that appears below.

There are also “paparazzi-like” photos of Abedin, who looks stunning and calm – as always – in spite of undoubtedly lethally stress-cocktail of a long flight, a marriage in trouble and being about 10 weeks pregnant.

Here’s The Layoff Memo

As the TU’s Jim Odato scooped this morning, the Cuomo administration sent a memo this week setting July 15 as a deadline for the start of state-worker layoffs.

In the memorandum sent to agency heads on June 8, State Operations Director Howard Glaser and Division of Budget chief Robert Megna direct them to begin the layoff process in order to achieve $450 million in savings.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains in negotiations with public-employee unions. Those negotiations are likely complicated by the new, less generous Tier VI pension proposal introduced on Wednesday by Cuomo. Union leaders blasted the proposal.

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Ravitch: Ryan Plan ‘Mischaracterized’

Former LG Richard Ravitch is decidedly not on message with his fellow Democrats when it comes to the Medicare overhaul plan proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

While most Dems have cast the proposal as an effort to “end Medicare as we know it” – a soundbite that worked particularly well in the recent NY-26 special election – Ravitch is taking a much more pragmatic, elder statesman approach.

“I don’t believe that that proposal is the devil incarnate,” he told me during a CapTon interview last night. “I think the issues that are raised – I don’t happen to agree with Paul Ryan…I think the Ryan plan has been mischaracterized in some respects.”

“…I think both parties have been guilty of overdoing the political advantages that each represent with their rhetoric. The Republicans with their anti-public employee rhetoric and the Democrats suggesting the Republicans want to destroy every institution that we have. And the truth it, ultimately, that there’s doing to have to be a compromise.”

Ravitch said he supports a “similar” plan proposed by former Clinton advisor Alice Rivlin. Ryan actually cited Rivlin when he rolled out his Medicare reform plan, (the two had both endorsed a 2010 overhaul proposal). But she subsequently said she doesn’t support his “version” of what they worked on.

Jacobs: No Rush For Weiner Resignation

Pressure from fellow Democrats for Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign is mounting – so far at least of his House colleagues and two former DNC chairs have said they believe it’s time for him to pack it in.

So far, however, none of those calls are coming from Weiner’s fellow New Yorkers, even with the example of the last congressman to post a compromising picture of himself on the Internet – former Rep. Chris Lee – a very recent memory.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs declined during a CapTon interview last night to draw parallels between Lee and Weiner, explaining:

“I felt badly for him, and I said so, too, and for his family and what they had to go through. It’s awful enough when you make a mistake like this, on its own merits. But then to have it in the public and the embarrassment that goes with it. It’s tremendously difficult.”

Jacobs reminded me of the “human piece” of scandals of this nature, saying people should “step back and give them (Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin) just a few moments,” adding: “There is no imperative in the representation of his district for him to step down at this exact minute.”

The chairman refused to close the door on a possible Weiner resignation – just not right now. If the House ethics inquiry finds the congressman broke the rules and/or the law in some way, well…that’s a different story altogether.

I asked Jacobs about the “Weiner as redistricting sacrificial lamb” speculation that’s making it’s way through political circles, and he laughed it off – although it didn’t deny that it’s entirely plausible – calling it a “Machiavellian” scheme.

Broadway For Same-Sex Marriage

The Human Rights Campaign has a new Youtube video of New Yorkers supporting same-sex marriage today, with the latest future Broadway actors urging voters to contact their lawmakers in support of the measure.

“Broadway is about as synonymous with New York as the Empire State Building and Joe Namath,” said HRC Senior New York Strategist, Brian Ellner. “Each year, Broadway shows bring in over $1 billion in ticket sales alone. We are approaching the end of the current legislative session and now is the time for all New Yorkers to raise their voices in support for marriage equality.”

The focus next week will be on the Republican-led Senate, where seven legislators remain undecided. The measure failed 38-24 in 2009 when Democrats controlled the chamber. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has worked behind the scenes to push the issue, meeting with undeclared lawmakers Sens. Jim Alesi and Roy McDonald.