Q Poll: Cuomo The Nation’s Most Approved Of Gov

…And this won’t perpetuate the 2016 talk, of course. (Not).

Today’s Q poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to enjoy a high job approval rating of 64-19 in spite of – or perhaps because – his successful push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

Cuomo’s numbers put him on top of the heap as far as the nation’s governors are concerned.

This is the highest point for a New York governor since then-GOP Gov. George Pataki clocked in at 66-18 in July 2002 – right around the time Cuomo was in the middle of a quixotic primary challenge to then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall in hopes of taking on Pataki that November.

He’s 20 points ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is sometimes mentioned (or, rather, hoped for) as a potential Cuomo opponent in the 2016 presidential race.

Cuomo’s numbers haven’t moved, statistically speaking, since June when he was at 64-16, which means his end of session sweep appears to have neither helped nor hurt him.

The governor’s championing of gay marriage did not hurt his standing with fellow white Catholics, who approve of him 62-22 percent.

He’s at 53-26 percent with Republicans, 75-13 among fellow Democrats, 61-19 with independent voters and 63-20 in union households. (That last one is particularly noteworthy, considering Cuomo’s hard line with state worker unions and ongoing fights with PEF and NYSUT).

New York voters rate Cuomo more liberal than conservative. On a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is totally liberal, Cuomo gets a mean score of 63.4.

The one cloud in this sky: Transparency. Only 37 percent of those polled said Cuomo has opened up the decision-making process in Albany.

Voters continue to view the Legislature and its leaders negatively on the whole, but approve of their local state senators and Assembly members.

President Obama’s approve rating is down to 57-38 from 60-35 on June 1, but more than half of New Yorkers still think he should be re-elected in 2012 and are ready to vote for him over an unnamed GOP challenger.

Both Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are enjoying high Q poll ratings. He’s at 64-24, his highest in years; while she’s matching her all-time high score of 54-22.

062911 NY GOV + BP

Here And Now

Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet hit the hustings and the airwaves today as part of the post-session victory lap/what-comes-next tour.

Ag & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine will be on North Country Public Radio at 11:15 p.m.

ESDC President/CEO Ken Adams does Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter at 11:45 p.m.

OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito tapes an interview with WNED at 2 p.m.

Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald will make an in-person appearance at 2:30 p.m. in Loudonville.

The governor himself is in Albany with no public schedule. We’re still awaiting word of a big ugly bill signing, which is expected some time this week, along with a prison-closing announcement and the hydrofracking study delivery, which may or may not come Friday.

Mayor Bloomberg is meeting today with Sen. Jim Alesi at Gracie Mansion to thank him for his “yes” vote on same-sex marriage.

Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz will host NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn at Borough Hall tonight for a gay marriage celebration – complete with champagne and wedding cake.

Headlines…

Cuomo put in a call to the NY Times’ Maureen Dowd, reveals he didn’t expected to win the gay marriage fight, is “troubled” to be at odds with the church, mostly abstains from taking Communion, 3talks at least once a day to his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. On a White House run, he says: “If I’m breathing in 2016, I’ll be happy.”

Cuomo leads the nation’s government in his approval rating, which is 64-19, 20 points better than NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s, according to a new Q poll.

Nate Silver on how liberals want President Obama to “expand the realm of the possible” the way Cuomo did with gay marriage in New York.

With all the 2016 speculation, Greg David reminds us that Cuomo must first be re-elected in 2014, and has angered some key constituencies on the left.

Now that it’s legal for gay couples to marry in New York, some private companies will cease to provide benefits to their same-sex employees’ partners unless they wed.

More >

Extras

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos still personally opposes same-sex marriage, and thinks people were celebrating at the Capitol last Friday because “they saw government function.”

An al-Qaeda member makes a cameo appearance in a new ad from Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-illegal guns group that calls on Congress to close the so-called “terror gap.”

The NYC Council’s pork list is out.

An imminent departure from the Port Authority, but not the one we were expecting.

Nothing like a corruption charge to crimp your bill-passing style. (Or maybe it’s because he’s in the minority).

A group tied to the conservative Oklahoma petrochemical billionaires who fund campaigns to deny man-made climate change is pushing a lawsuit to kill New York’s participation in a program to cut greenhouse gases.

Two former governors who resigned amid sex scandals sat down to discuss gay marriage.

One of those governors, New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey, says he has counseled politicians who are now closeted the way he once was.

The lobbyist who got to Sen. Steve Saland, a key “yes” swing vote on same-sex marriage: His wife, Linda.

The Barefoot Contessa thinks slow-roasted fillet of beef will be the “it” dish at gay weddings.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky calls Gov. Andrew Cuomo a “‘conliberal’ – that is, a cross between a conservative and a liberal.”

George Arzt thinks “pragmatist” is a better adjective to describe Cuomo.

A former NYC Housing Authority official was fined.

Sixty-one percent of voters disapprove of how President Obama is handling the deficit, according to a new Marist poll.

Sarah Palin lunched with an Iowa operative.

A Catholic cartoonist thinks Cuomo is tempting fate.

The Pope Tweets. On an iPad. Really.

Saland Credits Cuomo, Slams Other Govs

Speaking this afternoon to the Poughkeepsie Journal editorial board, Sen. Steve Saland praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership during the same-sex marriage effort and offered some not-so-subtle swipes at his immediate predecessors, including Republican George Pataki.

“Gov. Cuomo, much to his credit, was directly involved,” Saland said.

He added that Cuomo, “certainly towered over our most recent governor” as well as his predecessor — specifically mentioning the last few years of the Pataki administration.

Saland was one of four Republicans to vote for the same-sex marriage bill. He provided the crucial 32nd vote for same-sex marriage in the Senate on Friday. He was joined by GOP Sens. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Roy McDonald of Saratoga and Jim Alesi of Perinton, Monroe County.

The measure passed 33-29.

Saland was instrumental in crafting the religious exemption amendment that provided greater carve outs for religious organizations — which he went through in thorough detail in the floor debate on Friday.

In today’s interview, Saland said he’s views on gay marriage started to turn in 2009, but he voted against the December bill because of the lack of religious carve outs.

Along with Cuomo and Sens. Kemp Hannon and Andrew Lanza, Saland crafted the amendment to the bill which provided broader exemptions for religious institutions.

Saland called his wife an “advocate” for same-sex marraige was with him on Friday when he voted yes.

Today’s interview was the first full explanation by Saland on his views on gay marriage, save for his Friday speech on the floor.

During the lead-up to the vote, the lawmaker was rumored to be on the fence, but unlike other undecideds (Greg Ball and Lanza among them) Saland kept away from reporters and cameras. He rarely spoke on the issue and frequently refused to comment.

Saland said his office received 10,000 separate pieces of communication on the issue and was taking 60 to 70 calls a hour.

Quinn Predicts: LGBT Advocates Will Push Obama, Won’t Abandon Him

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, appearing on CNN’s John King USA, took a pragmatic approach on whether LGBT and liberal voters should abandon President Obama if he fails to “evolve,” as he might put it, to a “yes” on same-sex marriage.

Quinn atttributed the success advocates just realized in New York to the fact that “nobody lost hope,” and instead managed to regroup with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership and continue pushing the Senate until its members were able to take another vote on the marriage bill – this time passing it, 33-29.

“I think how the process works is that grassroots advocates, communities, voters, push elected officials, right? And we push the president to be better,” Quinn said.

“And I think that’s part of what got Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed. It’s part of why the president took the bold step he did around the Defense of Marriage Act. So, I expect all in the LGBT community – myself included – to push and push and push the president and every other important elected official until they are where we want them to be.”

“That doesn’t mean that we’re going to abandon them in the voting booth. But, it does mean our job is to keep that pressure, keep that conversation, keep that dialogue. And it has been effective with the president, and it was unbelievably effective with the New York State Legislature. That’s why we won, ’cause we never let up.”

Quinn, the first woman and first openly gay individual to hold her leadership role, made multiple trips to Albany over the past several years to personally lobby senators on same-sex marriage. She’s planning to wed her partner of 10 years, Kim Catullo, next spring.

More Turnover At State GOP

The state GOP’s deputy political director, Michael Lawlor, is getting a promotion. He’s moving up to replace his boss, Matt Masterson, who is departing for a job in the private sector, party Chairman Ed Cox announced this afternoon.

“Mike Lawler has been a key member of our team for over two years,” Cox stated. “He has moved through the ranks, gaining valuable experience and honing his political skills. We are pleased he has agreed to step into this key role.”

“Matt Masterson is a veteran of New York politics who has also worked in other states and in Washington, DC. As ourpPolitical director he has been instrumental in enhancing our efforts to provide training and services to our county committees and component organizations. We wish him great success.”

Masterson hasn’t been on the job all that long. He started less than six months ago, in fact. The Troy native previously worked for ex-Rep. John Sweeney.

Masterson’s abrupt departure comes amid something of a shake-up at the GOP. He’s the second top staffer to depart in as many weeks.

Amid all the end-of-session hoopla, Cox announced the resignation of the party’s executive director and his longtime right-hand man, Tom Basile, who said he was leaving for both personal and professional reasons.

Basile was a controversial figure whose departure has been speculated (and actually actively campaigned for by some party operatives and county chairs) for some time.

Lawler is native and life-long resident of Rockland County, which is also Basile’s home turf. He started his political career working on Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Cox was one of the few McCain supporters in New York, where most Republicans supported the hometown contender: Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The Bruno Factor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is justifiably receiving the lion’s share of the credit for pushing the same-sex marriage bill through the Senate.

But he wasn’t the only one who played a role in getting the Republican majority to take up the measure, clearing the way for its passage by the full house last Friday.

According to former Senate Majority spokesman John McArdle, there was a recognition immediately after the bill failed in 2009 that the Republicans would be key to future success – a feeling that only grew after the GOP recaptured the majority in 2010.

With this in mind, the Gill Action Fund’s political director, Bill Smith, who started his career working for Karl Rove, set about putting together a team that would be able to relate to the Senate Republicans and convince them that voting “yes” on the gay marriage bill – or, at the very least, letting it come out for a vote – would not be political suicide.

That team included McArdle, who served as a strategist and sounding board, since he’s barred from lobbying for two years; and another former Senate GOP staffer, Mike Avella. Gill also turned to the Senate GOP’s own pollster, Claude LaVigna, to run the numbers on gay marriage, assuming lawmakers would be more apt to trust his results.

In addition, former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who experienced his own conversion on same-sex marriage back in 2009, quietly worked behind the scenes to assuage the fears some of his old colleagues were feeling about this vote.

Although Bruno is fighting an attempt by the feds to re-try him on corruption charges, he still has a close relationship with a number of senators – particularly his hand-picked replacement, Sen. Roy McDonald, who switched his 2009 “no” vote to a “yes” this time around.

Bruno also has a good relationship with state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay, whose ballot line could make up the difference for some GOPers who lose the Conservative Party’s endorsement.

“The simple fact is, and it was a very smart recognition, that in order for this to succeed in New York and across the country you need Republican support,” McArdle told me during a CapTon interview last night.

“So, the strategy was to bring in people who could bring a comfort level to the leadership. Senator Skelos, Senator Libous, and to the members. That’s the role I played, Mike Avella certainly played.”

(Me: And Joe Bruno?) “And Joe Bruno and the others,” McArdle responded. “That I think was something that helped the conference bring it to the floor.”

At the request of then-Gov. David Paterson, with whom Bruno had a close relationship, the ex-majority leader also lobbied his former colleagues behind-the-scenes back in 2009. That strategy didn’t work so well, but in McArdle’s eyes, the problem then was one of timing.

The Democrats’ didn’t have sufficient votes in their conference to pass the bill without the handful of GOP senators they could count on. After advocates successfully bounced some “no” voting Democrats from the conference, Cuomo and Senate Minority Leader John Sampson made sure the rest of the members were on board this time around.

Wilson Stays In The Mix

Harry Wilson, the 2010 GOP state comptroller candidate who came close to ousting the Democratic incumbent, Tom DiNapoli, focused much of his campaign on fixing the problems plaguing New York’s pension system.

Empire State voters may have rejected Wilson’s advances, but pension troubles – sadly – are not unique to this state, and the former hedge fund manager has found a new spot to exercise his expertise: Rhose Island.

The Ocean State’s governor, Lincoln Chafee, and general treasurer, Gina Raimondo, tapped Wilson to serve on a 12-member voluntary advisory group to craft a comprehensive pension reform plan. The group met for the first time this week, and Wilson was interviewed by the local news. (His comments start at about the 1:45-minute mark).

At the request of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Wilson’s firm, MAEVA Advisors, is playing a key role in the restructuring of YRC Worldwide, the nation’s largest trucking company. (Ironically, the local chapters of the Teamsters endorsed DiNapoli, whose widespread labor support played a key role in his defeat of Wilson).

A NY GOP source said Wilson is being courted to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012. (She already has one announced opponent, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who has pledged to spend up to $5 million of his own cash on that campaign).

According to this source, Wilson definitely still has the political “bug,” and hasn’t yet ruled out a Senate run.

UPDATE: A source close to the Teamsters – both the IBT International and joint Council 16 – are “solidly behind both DiNapoli and Gillibrand.” In fact, the union just dropped $10,000 at a recent DiNapoli fundraiser.

Schneiderman: Cancer Charity Scammed Millions (Updated)

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to shutdown a Long Island-based breast cancer charity he says scammed millions of dollars out of donors.

Schneiderman filed a lawsuit today against the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, claiming the charity sent phony invoices and used telemarketers to provide fake claims that donors’ money would go toward fighting breast cancer locally.

Rather, the money was used to fund fat incomes for the charity’s board. The top directors received $550,000 in combined salaries for 2005 through 2009, another $150,000 in retirement accounts, and dental and medical benefits that totaled at least $9,000 per year, according to Schneiderman.

At the same time, the board used chairty funds to pay for Internet, television and phone service as well as cell phones.

Board members also used donated money to fuel personal loans and devised a scheme to allow one of the charity’s employees to receive unemployment insurance after being fired, Schneiderman charged.

“By using a charity as a personal cash machine, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer and Campaign Center shamelessly exploited New Yorkers’ natural sympathies and generosity,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Instead of benefiting breast cancer victims and their families, millions of dollars were misused for personal benefit. This type of scam will not be tolerated in New York, and my office will continue its work to stop charities fraud and hold those who commit it accountable.”

The AG’s office has a website that allows tipsters to complain about charities they believe are fronts for frauds and provides a listing of guidelines for charitable organizations.

Summons and Complaint

Follow The Leader

Deep in NYPIRG’s by-the-numbers assessment of the 2011 legislative session are some interesting statistics that demonstrate just how leadership-driven Albany really is.

The average majority members in both houses voted with their respective leaders between 97.41 percent (Assembly Democrats) and 98.87 percent (Senate Republicans) of the time.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is the only leader who can boast 100 percent loyalty from members of his conference – 10 to be exact, including the speaker himself.

Four of those are no longer in the Assembly: RoAnn Destito, who is now the OGS commissioner; former Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, who retired; former Assemblywoman Audry Pheffer, who is now Queens County clerk; and former Assemblyman Darryl Towns, now Cuomo’s housing czar.

The others are: Assembly Ways & Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell Jr., a longtime Silver loyalist; Naomi Rivera, Peter Rivera, David Weprin and Michelle Schimel.

Even the members who voted most frequently against Silver were comparatively loyal. They include: Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (87.47 percent), Assembywoman Aileen Gunther (87.98 percent) and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (91.19 percent).

No GOP members voted with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos 100 percent of the time, but four came darn close: Marty Golden (99.85) and Kemp Hannon, Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous and John Flanagan – all coming in at 99.77 percent each.

Those who voted differently from Skelos most often were Sens. Bill Larkin (96.03 percent), John Bonacic (96.17 percent), and Ken LaValle (96.52 percent).

Assembly Republicans are arguably the Capitol’s most independent conference – relatively speaking. The 51 minority members only voted along with their leader, Brian Kolb, 90.94 percent of the time. The members who voted with him most frequently include a former minority leader, Jim Tedisco (95.85 percent).

The Senate Democrats’ most “renegade” members – those who vote least often with Minority Leader John Sampson – include Sens. Tom Duane (88.40 percent), Bill Perkins (89.29 percent), and Kevin Parker (90.35 percent).

The most loyal include Senate Deputy Minority Leader Neil Breslin (98.55 percent), former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (98.17 percent), and freshman Tim Kennedy (98.09 percent).

Ironically, with the exception of Senators Smith, Kennedy, Breslin, Joe Addabbo, and Suzi Oppenheimer, every senator enrolled as a Democrat voted more consistently with the IDC head, Sen. Jeff Klein, Sampson.