Dec 1st - 1:06 pm
AG-elect Eric Schneiderman returned $101,500 worth of campaign contributions in the final weeks of the campaign, most of which came from three of his soon-to-be former Senate colleagues who were implicated in the AEG scandal.
As he promised in the wake of the scathing IG report on AEG that implicated Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, Sen. Eric Adams and Senate President Malcolm Smith, Schneiderman returned a combined $76,300 he had received from the trio.
Schneiderman also returned $22,500 he received from Peter Greer, a Massachusetts resident and former Wall Street executive-turned-microfinancier, and $1,000 from Albany-based lobbyist Pat Lynch.
Lynch made the contribution on Nov. 17 and Schneiderman’s campaign returned the money on Nov. 19. Back in 2009, Lynch’s firm received a subpoena from outgoing AG Andrew Cuomo’s office in connection with his pay-to-play pension fund probe.
The Rattner vs. Cuomo war of words has neared a boiling point in recent weeks, but the lawsuits pending against the former Obama administration car czar are soon going to be Schneiderman’s headache.
Schneiderman also is carrying $550,000 worth of debt from his campaign, all of which he owes to himself.
Dec 1st - 12:12 pm
Gawker and CJR have released a slew of e-mails between members of the LCA and two former top communications aides to Gov. David Paterson – Marissa Shorenstein and Peter Kauffmann – that date back to last winter, when the Capitol was awash in rumors about an imminent Times piece that would cause Paterson to resign.
This is a little bit of ancient history.
As we all know, the story – actually a series of stories – did eventually run, and while they didn’t have anything to do with infidelity, as originally thought, they did reveal Paterson had inappropriately engaged himself in the domestic violence case of his ex-body man, David Johnson.
The ensuing mess, coupled with the Yankess World Series tickets scandal, resulted in the resignation of both Kauffmann and Shorenstein (who both ended up working on Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo’s campaign), among others, and also led Paterson to forgo a run himself this fall.
Still, the e-mails are very entertaining, and also offer a window into the push-pull relationship between political reporters and flacks.
Dec 1st - 10:34 am
Rep. Charlie Rangel is asking supporters to call their congress member and urge them not to vote to censure him. That vote is expected to take place later today.
The veteran Congressman sent a letter to supporters, apologizing for his mistakes, and asks to be treated fairly.
“I have posted material on my website which shows that the recommendation for censure is excessive and that my lapses do not rise to the level of transgressions of those censured in the past,” Rangel writes.
Rangel praises the House of Representatives as a “body he loves” while also listing the Capitol Switchboard number and asking people to call their congress member. He ends the letter with this plea.
“I have spent my entire life standing up for those in need and now I am asking that you please stand with me in this hour of need.”
The letter is after the jump.
Dec 1st - 9:09 am
At the very tail end of his more than 11-minute scrum with reporters in Albany yesterday, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo broached the controversial topic of legislative pay raises, and his response raised some eyebrows.
The issue is back in the spotlight following the passage by both houses of the Legislature yesterday of a bill that would end the long tradition of coupling legislative and judicial pay raises – a practice judges have long decried, insisting they should not be held hostage to the political whims of another branch of government.
Now that state lawmakers, who, like the judges, haven’t seen their base pay increase since January 1999, have green-lighted the creation of a judicial compensation commission, the question of their own raises is again being mentioned in the back rooms of Albany – albeit very quietly, considering the state’s massive budget deficit.
Cuomo insisted he has heard “no talk” of a legislative pay hike. But when asked if there is any bill he would consider signing that would boost lawmakers’ starting salary from $79,500, he replied:
“This year? I would not consider signing it. Next year, we would look at it.”
(Of course, very little time remains in the current year, and Cuomo isn’t currently the governor).
Lawmakers are legally barred from voting to increase their own pay, so they typically take up the topic of raises in late December sessions just before one sitting Legislature leaves and the newly-elected Legislature (made up mostly of returning members) is about to be sworn in.
This timing has the added bonus of coming right around the holiday season, when very few people are paying attention to Albany, and far enough away from the next elections for voters to forget their anger over lawmakers to vote to boost their own bottom lines.
The Senate is expected to return to Albany sometime this month – perhaps as early as Friday (the same day the NYC OTB is slated to close unless it gets a state bailout) – to make a second attempt at passing bills that fell by the wayside during Monday’s special session.
The Assembly has no plans to return. If the pay question isn’t addressed this year, it can’t come up again until 2012 (perhaps in the form of a commission?). UPDATE: As several people have pointed out, a pay raise bill could be passed prior to 2012, but couldn’t take effect until the next newly-elected Legislature is seated.
Past governors have traded legislative pay raises for their own let projects. The last time around, then-Gov. George Pataki agreed to a 38 percent pay hike deal in exchange for legislative support for charter schools.
Dec 1st - 8:43 am
Democrat Matt Zeller, who lost a long-shot bid for disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa’s seat to GOP Congressman-elect Tom Reed in NY-29 last month, isn’t going away quietly.
Zeller posted a “thank-you” message to supporters on his campaign Web site in which he zinged the DCCC, accusing the party campaign committee and national Democratic leaders of failing to adequately support him.
“In a year dubbed the ‘Republican Tsunami’ we raised over $450,000 in 6 months on our own, won 11 out of 11 debates, and opened and manned seven offices in the district the size of Connecticut,” Zeller wrote.
“I am proud of what we accomplished considering that many incumbent Democrats lost by larger margins than we did and they had help from the party with fundraising and events. Hold your heads high, I know I am.”
“So what’s next?”
“A lot of folks have asked me in recent days to run again. 2012 is a new year. Democrats might actually vote this time around. I won’t have to run against Massa, Healthcare, or Pelosi. The DCCC might notice that we nearly pulled this off without their support (imagine if they had actually bothered…) and want to help this time around. I’m taking all of this into consideration and mulling my over my options.”
Zeller went on to say he’s not ruling out a future run, but his decision to throw his hat into the ring in two years will depend on everything from redistricting to party support to “life.”
(Remember: New York is slated to lose up to two House seats in the next round of line redrawing, but if the GOP controls the state Senate, the eight (and possibly nine, depending on how NY-1 breaks) Republican members of the NY delegation are likely to fare better than they will if the Democrats hold on).
In the short term, Zeller said he’s planning to wed his fiancee, Precilla, in the spring and possibly start a clean energy company.
Dec 1st - 8:02 am
The House is close to voting on whether to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel, who is angling for a lesser punishment of reprimand. A Rangel source tells NY1′s Grace Rauh the vote is expected to come tomorrow.
Rangel walked out on the ethics committee’s hearing before prosecutors could bring a litany of witnesses – including Donald Trump – in to testify against him.
Business and real estate interests are banding together to help Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo in his battle with public sector unions.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli spent a sizable chunk of campaign cash on a white shoe law firm.
Gov. David Paterson thinks the odds were stacked against him from the beginning.
David from Harlem will co-chost WFAN’s “Mike’d Up” this afternoon.
The hydrofracking moratorium bill now awaiting the governor’s signature is very broad.
Paterson called the moratorium “really not that big of a deal.”
The Middletown Times Herald-Record wants Cuomo to clearly state his position on hydrofracking.
The Buffalo News calls Senator-elect Mark Gristanti’s win over Sen. Antoine Thompson “one of the most stunning upsets in the history of Western New York politics.”
Grisanti’s win brought the Senate GOP one step closer to winning back the majority.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle thinks the return of Republican control in the Senate could be a good thing.
Nov 30th - 5:36 pm
Jennifer Cunningham is leaving the lobbying business to avoid “even the appearance” of conflicts with the Cuomo and Schneiderman administrations.
Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo said legislators “failed” New Yorkers by failing to close the $315 million mid-year budget deficit.
Cuomo’s pay-to-play state pension fund probe was partially behind Steven Rattner’s heretofore unexplained decision to leave his post as the Obama administration’s car czar in 2009.
The governor-elect just wants to be friends with the Assembly Democrats.
NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black spent part of her first day on the job reading to first graders.
Mayor Bloomberg was with Black during her visit to a Bronx school. The man to whom she owes thanks for her waiver was not.
Black is putting the whole waiver controversy behind her, saying: “That was yesterday.”
Christine O’Donnell hopes Hillary Clinton runs for president.
Bloomberg made Foreign Policy’s “100 Top Global Thinkers” cover.
The WFP opposes a special election to replace LG-elect Bob Duffy as Rochester mayor.
Rep. Charlie Rangel and his allies are still hoping to overturn the ethics committee’s censure recommendation.
US Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara’s insider trading investigation could make or break his career.
FOX News finds voter fraud in NY-1, the country’s last remaining undecided congressional race.
Anti-hydrofracking advocates are very pleased with the Legislature.
Hugo Chavez thinks Clinton should resign over the latest WikiLeaks document dump.
A nine-month Pentagon study found repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have very little – if any – impact on the military.
Nov 30th - 5:09 pm
The bank to which the Senate Democrats owe some $2.4 million was cited for “unsafe and unsound banking practices relating to asset quality, management, and liquidity” by the US Comptroller of the Currency and placed under an enforcement action/formal agreement this past July.
Senate Democratic conference spokesman Austin Shafran declined to comment when I asked him about the troubled experienced by the Flushing, Queens-based National Bank of New York City, which has long been the DSCC’s go-to for loans (dating back at least to the minority leader days of now-Senate President Malcolm Smith, who also hails from Queens).
A reader also forwarded the terms of the DSCC’s recent loans from the bank, (obtained via a FOIL request), which show a maturity date of Dec. 22, as Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos indicated.
However, Shafran insisted that date was established for the DSCC’s old line of credit, which was renewed this past campaign cycle. According to Shafran, the Democats have established a payment plan with the bank, and won’t be forced to pay off their considerable debt in one lump sum in the coming weeks.
Also, Shafran confirmed that senators are personally liable for the loans obtained by the DSCC. Apparently, they sign paperwork indicating the committee has the right to borrowing cash on their behalf when they sign their oaths of office.
NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney put together a spread sheet that demonstates the DSCC has carried more debt than any other campaign committee over the past decade.
Nov 30th - 4:03 pm
The state Republican Party spent just over $1 million in the weeks leading up to the general election, and well over a quarter of that cash went to a single firm: Tusk Enterprises Inc.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell…it’s the firm established by Mayor Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, in the wake of the mayor’s successful (albeit closer-than-expected) election to a third term last fall.
All told, the state GOP paid Tusk $376,684 in three installments of $125,562.
For many years, Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, was one of the largest individual contributors to both the state GOP and the Senate Republicans.
He has, however, become more selective and calculated in his support of candidates – both in fundraising/contributions and public endorsements.
These days, the mayor takes care to spread the love around as he seeks to bolster his image as a post-partisan kingmaker with his eye on a potential independent White House run in 2012.
Tusk continues to be Bloomberg’s go-to political guy outside City Hall, but has also worked for a variety of others, including Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, who ran an unsuccessful bid for AG this fall, and former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who briefly eyed a potential primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Prior to signing back on with Bloomberg, Tusk worked primarily for Democrats (he did a stint with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and ended up testifying against him). The presence of his firm on the state GOP’s filing did not sit well with at least one Republican operative, who told me:
“It’s outrageous that Ed Cox would pay a Democratic operative this sort of money. It’s yet another nail in his coffin. This will certailny get the grassroots up in arms. He may not be able to hold out until September.”
(Remember: Cox has a year remaining in his tenure as chairman, and no formal mechanism exists for his mid-term removal).
UPDATE: State GOP Executive Director/acting spokesman Tom Basile writes:
“The payments made were for mail that was done by the State Party in support of Harry Wilson’s campaign.”
“Mr. Tusk’s firm was used at the specific request of the Wilson campaign. When the State Party creates candidate-specific mail in support of campaigns, we endeavor to use the campaign’s preferred vendors.”
“This practice often leads to cost savings with respect to list generation, graphics design and other elements of the mail.”
Nov 30th - 3:35 pm
Fresh off re-election to his leadership post by his colleagues, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver headed into a closed-door lunch with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo insisting all will be smooth sailing between New York’s two top Democrats heading into a difficult budget year.
Asked if he could foresee any problems between himself and Cuomo, Silver replied: “Absolutely not.”
“I see no problems ahead for me and Andrew Cuomo,” the speaker continued. “We have known each other for many years. We’ve been friends for many years, and I can see us moving forward in these difficult economic times to right the ship of state of New York.”
NY1′s Erin Billups asked Silver if he had any advice for Cuomo on how to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with the Legislature suffered by his predecessors.
“I think the governor-elect has shown the appropriate respect to the Legislature,” the speaker replied.
“I think he understands that we’re all going to be partners in government, and, just like he’s doing today, coming, explaining – hopefully a free-for-all dialogue – with the members of the Assembly Democratic conference in order to move and forge a consensus on an agenda for this year.”