Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces the membership of economic development council No. 4 at SUNY Old Westbury at noon.

LG Bob Duffy unveils economic development councils 5 and 6 at Binghamton University (11 a.m.), and SUNY New Paltz (2 p.m.)


Is AG Eric Schneiderman “the left’s last hope“?

Schneiderman is gaining allies and momentum in his investigation into the mortgage foreclosure mess.

The AG is also challenging DOMA, saying it undercuts New York’s new gay marriage law.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly leads the 2013 pack of NYC mayoral hopefuls with 23 percent, even though he’s not running (yet), according to a new Q poll.

The same poll shows Mayor Bloomberg’s approval rating has risen slightly to 45-43 from 40-49 in May.

Kelly might not be interested in running NYC, but he does think Albany should raise the penalty for subway fare beating.

A Central NY village mayor says his hand is being “forced” by the new property tax cap to merge with a town and eradicate his municipality. He’s not alone.

The governor wants New Yorkers to get their heads out of the past.

A setback for House Speaker John Boehner: The vote on his debt reduction plan was delayed amid questions about its savings and opposition from conservatives.

The Post takes some credit for the resignation of NYPA chief Richard Kessel.

More >


ADDED: Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, who played a big role in Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s (failed) NY-26 campaign, benefitted financially from her bid, along with another Corwin booster: Former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek.

Most Americans agree with the president on how to end the debt stalemate, saying they’d prefer a mix of cuts and tax increases.

Among the members of Congress whose official Websites crashed after the president urged Americans to contact their representatives: Bill Owens.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held no Q-and-A sessions with reporters during his upstate swing today.

A slew of bills are awaiting action by the governor.

The National Council on State Taxation gave New York an “F” for the fairness of its property tax system.

Bob Turner seeks to cast Assemblyman David Weprin as a career politician.

Weprin is trying to make the NY-9 race about Medicare and Social Security and not about Israel.

Turner is having a pizza party fundraiser tonight.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says she’s already invited to be part of two same-sex wedding ceremonies.

“After ‘I Do,’” with Sen. Daniel Squadron.

Freshly married Buffalonian Kitty Lambert is going on the National Organization for Marriage Equality tour with a former National Organization for Marriage social media operations guru, Louis Marinelli.

Congress has hit a new low, according to Rasmussen’s latest poll.

Mrs. Charlie Rangel once had a “rather unfortunate incident” at the Nixon White House.

The Medicaid Redesign Team has a public hearing in Brooklyn Thursday.

A good day for apple farmers.

FLOTUS approves.

DiNapoli Warns Of ‘Severe’ Impact Of Default

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said a default or near default by the U.S. government would have a long-term impact on the economy and especially the state’s pension fund.

Lawmakers in Washington are still trying to piece together a deal that would stave off a first-ever default by the federal government, which the White House warns would throw the nation back into economic turmoil.

The deadline for the default is next Tuesday.

DiNapoli said such an action would erase whatever gains made in the nascent economic recovery.

“New York State is just beginning to regain its financial strength, but the battle over the federal debt ceiling is creating tremendous uncertainty for the State’s pension fund investments,” DiNapoli said. “Beyond the impact on our pension fund, the failure to act in Washington could have other severe consequences in New York. The potential for higher borrowing costs, cash flow disruptions and a negative impact on bond markets at both the State and local levels are hanging like dark clouds over this debate in Washington.

An Alleged Fraudster With Political Connections Arrested

It went somewhat unnoticed (I believe The New York Daily News had the story, but I can’t find it online. Help, dear readers!), but an alleged mortgage fraudster with ties to both Rep. Greg Meeks and Senate Minority Leader John Sampson was arrested by federal agents on Friday after boarding a flight at JFK.

Multiple reports online say Edul Ahmad, a Guyana native, was pulled off the plane and arrested by FBI agents. It is unclear if he was released on bail.

Ahmad, as you’ll recall, loaned Meeks, D-Queens, $40,000, which the congressman failed to disclose. The late dislcosure prompted calls for an ethics investigation of Meeks. It also resulted in the press casting an eye on Ahmad, a financier who has run afoul of multiple state investigations.

And Sampson, as the Times reported last July, performed legal work for Ahmad.

The NYT also reported at the time that Ahmad, a licensed real-estate broker, has been investigated for predatory lending and other cases of fraud by the Department of State.

NYPA Chief Kessel Resigning

Another day, another imminent vacancy for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to mull.

The Watertown Times reports embattled NYPA CEO Richard Kessel will resign, effective the day after Labor Day. Gil Quiniones, the chief operating officer of the authority, will take over as interim CEO while the board searches for a replacement.

Kessel, who has been in his post since September 2008, announced his departure at a NYPA meeting today. He received a round of applause from the NYPA trustees.

Quiniones was the energy policy guru for the Bloomberg administration, chairing the Mayor’s Energy Policy Task Force and playing a big role in PlaNYC. He was also senior VP of Energy and Telecommunications at the NYC Economic Development Corp.

Kessel served as CEO of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) from 1997 to 2006, and chairman of the LIPA Board of
Trustees from 1989 to 1995. He served on the state Consumer Protection Board from 1983 to 1995.

He has been at odds with the Cuomo administration for some time, even though he was initially an operative for Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

He faced firing by then-GOP Gov. George Pataki and subsequently became close to a host of Long Island Republicans, including ex-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello.

John Dyson, a former NYPA chairman who was reappointed to the authority by Cuomo this spring, said while awaiting Senate confirmation that he planned to launch an investigation into the use of funds for chartiable donations to organizations unrelated to NYPA’s mission. (In other words: A publicly-funded slush fund with no oversight).

IG Ellen Biben subsquently began an investigation into Kessel’s practice of handing out grants to politically-connected organizations, issuing subpoenas for his telephone and cell phone records, emails, schedules and contracts. This came in the wake of allegations of impropriety at NYPA made by former Port Authority Executive Director George Marlin.

The Post’s Fred Dicker reported yesterday that Kessel was “weeks away” from resigning after meeting quietly with State Operations Director Howard Glaser.

Kessel’s announcement comes less than a week after another Cuomo administration member (not appointeed by the current governor) – MTA Chairman Jay Walder – abruptly revealed he plans to depart this fall, too. Unlike Kessel, however, Walder is believed to have been welcome to stay on if he wanted to.

Early Isn’t Always Better

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is getting a very early start on his 2012 challenge to US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as demonstrated by this photo of one of his campaign signs, which was sent in by a Long Island reader.


These signs have been popping up throughout the state in recent weeks. I’ve seen a few of them in the Hudson Valley, too.

It’s probably smart for the little-known Long Island Republican to be getting his name out there, since he has a long way to go before he reaches the name-recognition levels of his intended opponent.

To be fair, though, she’s still working on hers, too, according to a recent Siena poll, 30 percent of New York voters still don’t know who the junior senator is – and that’s less than a year after she won her first statewide election.

But by making his candidacy official (he filed his statement with the FEC on June 2), Maragos also elevated his disclosure requirements to a new level – something that would not have occurred if he had merely remained in the “exploratory” phase. Of course, he would have had different fundraising restrictions then, too.

Maragos has said he will spent up to $5 million of his own cash on his campaign. Gillibrand, however, is a prodigious fundraiser. She raked in $3.1 million during the second quarter of this year alone.

After filing their official statements of candidacy, Congressional hopefuls have 30 days to file their financial disclosure reports – or before May 15 of that calendar year, “whichever is later.”

I checked with the Office of Public Records in D.C. this afternoon (unfortunately, there’s no way to do this on-line), and Maragos has still not filed his.

There’s a $200 penalty for late filings, unless the candidate in question has been granted an extension. In “extraordinary” circumstances, the Ethics Committee may choose to waive the penalty fee. A waiver request must be made in writing.


Schneiderman Files Challenge Against DOMA

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is joining a growing chorus seeking to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, sending a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Eddie Windsor’s legal team who is challenging to overturn the measure.

Schneiderman includes an interesting argument in the brief. He writes that the federal government redefined marriage when it approved the law. And he argues the law is an improper intrusion from the federal government on the traditional role of marriage, adding that it discriminates against same-sex couples.

The U.S. Justice Department announced earlier in the year it would no longer defend the DOMA.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act clearly violates the principle of equal justice under law as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and improperly intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue My office will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”

The brief filed by Schneiderman comes a year after the AG pledged to fight to overturn the law during his campaign. It also comes two days after the same-sex marriage law took effect in New York. Thousands of gay couples have already been married in cities and towns across the state.

10-Cv-8435 Windsor v United States Amicus NY State

First Development Team Includes Cuomo Donors

The western New York economic development team announced today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sprinkled with donors to his political campaign, records show.

It should be said up front that this is nothing new: governors, presidents and other public executives appoint contributors to various unpaid posts. If anything it shows Cuomo is picking the politically engaged to lead his job-creation teams. But it also shows the intersection of money and politics.

The regional co-chairman of the western New York team, businessman Howard Zemsky of the Larkin Development Group, has donated $15,000 to Cuomo’s political campaigns, with $12,500 coming in the waning days of the 2010 campaign.

John Koelmel, the president and CEO, First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. donated $2,000.

And Andrew Rudnick is a member of the Committee to Save New York, a group that supported Cuomo’s fiscal agenda in 2011 with a $9.7 million lobbying campaign.

To be sure, the vast majority of the committee are not Cuomo donors.

Zemsky’s fellow co-chair, Satish Tripathi, the president of University at Buffalo, has not donated to Cuomo. And Colleen DiPirro, the president and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce has donated to only Republican campaigns.

The 10 economic development committees are being created to compete for up to $1 billion in development funds. The teams are being tasked with producing job-creation ideas for the region and the teams with the best ideas will get a larger piece of the pie.

Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, is leading all the teams as chairman.

The long-awaited committees are meant to provide a regional approach to what’s been historically a top-down agenda from Albany.

“For too long, Albany has imposed one-size-fits-all economic development plans across the state, ignoring the unique assets and challenges of each region,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today, we are taking a new approach. With the Regional Councils, we will empower individual areas like Western New York to chart their own course for job creation and growth and we will send a clear message that New York is open for business.”

Cuomo’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” plan also involves an advertising campaign meant to attract businesses and private investment to the state. In addition, Cuomo and the cabinet plan to travel to different regions of the state in order to hear local concerns.

Does The Marriage Suit Hold Any Merit?

The lawsuit filed by a conservative group seeking to repeal the same-sex marriage law that took effect Sunday relies on a lot of assumptions, incendiary charges and the hope the judiciary will become involve with the rules of order in the state Senate.

So Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesman Josh Vlasto is probably right when he says the suit holds little merit.

I spoke with the Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms last night on the suit which was filed in state Supreme Court on Monday.

The suit makes a lot of charges, but I’ve boiled it down to three basic complaints:

*Wealthy gay marriage advocates like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated to GOP senators in exchange for voting yes on the measure. In other words, there was a quid pro quo, a very serious charge.

*Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate lawmakers and other elected officials met privately and behind closed doors to discuss the issue in violation of the state Opening Meetings Law.

*Senators for and against the bill didn’t have the chance to talk, a violation of the Senate’s rules.

Let’s take these one at a time.

The first point is the most serious; if proven it’s a serious violation of the law. I asked McGuire twice on Monday if he had evidence of a quid pro quo. Both times he demurred, suggesting that evidence would come out in court (if the case ever goes to trail, that is). He also made the assertion that Bloomberg promised contributions in exchange for a yes vote. I can’t recall any time Bloomberg made those comments publicly and McGuire couldn’t either when asked him about it. He said he would leave that up to his legal team.

As for the Open Meetings Law, the state Legislature isn’t covered by the open government laws. As my friend, former colleague and open-government expert Mark Mahoney of The Post-Star points out, this makes that argument largely a moot point. It’s a long-standing irritant that the Legislature doesn’t follow the same open government guidelines local governments are required to adhere to, even as Albany lays down these laws itself. But sticking to the facts of this case, the Republican conference can meet in private to discuss whatever they want.

And finally, the suit contends lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy violated Senate rules by not giving opponents and even some advocates a chance to speak on the bill. Sen. Steve Saland, a yes-voting Republican, spoke at length. Sen. Ruben Diaz, a gay marriage foe, wasn’t given any time. YouTube proves me wrong. Diaz got more than 2 minutes to speak on the issue.

But in the U.S., we have a long-standing tradition of the separation of powers. In other words, the courts would be loathe to wade into the thorny details of the New York Senate’s byzantine operating rules. A judge just won’t do it.

Colbert On Gay Marriage

Stephen Colbert emerged from his man cave to opine on the legalization of same-sex marriage in NY. I think he’s in favor…