Krueger/Kruger Update

Some news from the Senate Democratic conference from two members who share a virtually identical last name and once upon a time held some of the most powerful committee posts in the chamber.

liz krueger headshot

I’m told members have been informed that Sen. Carl Kruger will NOT be showing up to conference (now slated to start at 2 p.m.) after there were widespread complaints – and at least two threats to boycott – about his plan to show up and apologize to his colleagues for the federal corruption charges he faces.

Senators are starting to head to their conference room on the third floor of the state Capitol because they want to discuss some key bills expected to come up for a vote today – including Sen. John Bonacic’s constitutional amendment redistricting measure – but they’re pledging to walk out if Kruger shows up.

As you’ll recall, Kruger was stripped of his post as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee last week by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson after he turned himself in to face corruption charges.

(No pleas have yet been entered in the Kruger/Boyland/Lipsky et al case, but the senator and the lobbyist – at the very least – are expected to fight to defend themselves).

Kruger chaired the Finance Committee when the Democrats controlled the chamber. His vice chair was Sen. Liz Krueger, a reform-minded Upper East Sider. The two did not get along. (Kruger once described the relationship as a “marriage” – this came after she exploded at him during a closed-door conference and reportedly dropped the f-bomb).

As of today, Krueger will officially step up to become the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee. She is the first woman of any legislative conference to take her party’s top spot there. In keeping with her past practice, she will not be accepting the $20,500 lulu for this position.

“My first priority is to ensure the budgetary process proceeds in an open and transparent way, without delay, so we are able to pass a balanced budget that is both fair and on time,” Krueger said in a press release.

“New York, like many other states, is facing fiscal difficulty, but that does not mean we should make hasty decisions which disproportionately affect one group over another. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and members from both sides of the aisle in the Senate to ensure that this happens.”

Koch To Senate GOP: Constitutional Amendment Not Cutting It

Not surprisingly, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is not buying the Senate Republicans’ argument that passing Sen. Jon Bonacic’s constitutional amendment bill to create a five-member nonpartisan reapportionment commission satisfies their campaign-year pledge to reform the redistricting process.

In a letter sent today to Bonacic and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Koch noted the bill in question – S3331 – “would not apply for the current redistricting cycle to be completed next year and therefore would not meet the requirements of the New York Uprising pledge, which specifies that the reforms apply to the redistricting pursuant to the 2010 Census.”

The former mayor says that if the Republicans want to go the constitutional amendment route, which requires passage by two separately elected Legislatures and a public referendum, after passing a bill that would apply to the 2012 elections, “no one would object to that.”

Koch does not employ the dreaded “e” word – that would be “enemy” of course – either in this letter or at a press conference at City Hall in Lower Manhattan this afternoon. He appears to be holding out hope that a deal might yet be worked out and sticking to the “more flies with honey” strategy for the moment.

There will be robocalls going out, although there’s no date set for those yet, in which Koch tells constituents of senators who signed his NY Uprising pledge that they now appearing to be renegging on that promise.

skelos[1][1].bonacic.ltr

Republicans Join Redistricting Reform Push, Senate GOP Goes Own Way

Several Republicans – including former Sen. Frank Padavan – have signed on to a good government campaign for resdistricting reform just as the Senate GOP is poised to pass a bill that would amend the state Constitution to create an independent redistricting panel, but not in time to redraw the lines for the 2012 elections.

“As a co-sponsor of the bill in 2010 to create an independent redistricting commission with fair and defined criteria and opportunities for public engagement in the map-making process, I urge my former colleagues to move forward on this long overdue reform,” Padavan said in a press release.

“The general public, and ultimately both Republicans and Democrats, will benefit from a process that puts fairness and independence above partisan concerns in the drawing of district lines.”

Former state Comptroller contender Harry Wilson and my dad, SUNY Prof. Gerald Benjamin, are two other Republicans who have signed on to co-chair the ReShapeNY push to end to partisan gerrymandering.

The group, headed by Citizens Union, is calling for a “politically balanced citizens redistricting commission to draw fair district boundaries through a process that allows for ample public input.”

Other co-chairs being announced today include:

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Paladino: I’ve Been Conned And Slandered

Carl Paladino had some very choice words for the Buffalo News in response to the paper’s report this weekend that he “stiffed” staffers, vendors and consultants who worked on his 2010 gubernatorial campaign to the tune of about $130,000.

Paladino told YNN Buffalo’s Kevin Jolly yesterday that there’s “absolutely no truth whatsoever ” to the story, adding:

“I think finally spineless (News Publisher) Stan Lipsey and his hatchet man (James) Heaney have gone over the edge they clearly have slandered me here. It’s malicious, it’s clearly malicious. And I’ll be talking to the lawyers on Monday. And maybe this is the way we’re going to get the Buffalo News out of our hair. Maybe I’ll end up owning the News someday soon.”

Heaney, the reporter who wrote the story, has been the target of Paladino’s ire for some time now. Ditto Lipsey, and, well, the entire paper in general, actually.

In the piece, Heaney quotes several former Paladino aides, focusing particularly on Tim Suereth, who is described as having first served as manager of internal operations and later as an unpaid volunteer.

Suereth says Paladino has refused to reimburse him $6,300 for expenses and also alleges the Buffalo businessman took out a $3 million loan from an undisclosed outside source, which Paladino apparently did not disclose. It’s unclear whether failing to report this runs afoul of Election Law.

Paladino says Suereth initially came to work on his campaign using the last name “Smith” and was brought in by Michael Caputo, a consultant who is a protege of Roger Stone. (Paladino and Caputo were once close, but have had a serious falling out and are no longer speaking).

He’s a con man,” Paladino insisted.

“…I find out after two-and-a-half months that we’re paying this guy $12,000 a month to be a driver and he couldn’t drive,” he continued.

“I find out that the reason he wasn’t using his real name was because his wife was on the payroll and so was his kid – all with different names. And when we got into the work that he was doing, I halved his pay…They all show up from Florida and it’s one big con.”

While I have had my own differences with Paladino, I have to point out the following:

Wayne Barrett reported last September on the connection between Paladino and Stone, noting that Suereth, a Florida real estate broker, is married to Stone longtime secretary, Dianne Thorne, who worked on Paladino’s campaign, as did her stepson, Andrew Miller.

Senate Dems To Boycott Kruger ‘Apology’?

Four days after turning himself in to face federal corruption charges, Sen. Carl Kruger has asked to speak today to his Democratic colleagues at their closed-door pre-session meeting to deliver what has been characterized to Senate staffers as an “apology.”

It’s unclear whether the Brooklyn lawmaker will be allowed to deliver that mea culpa, however, as several lawmakers have made it clear they’re not interested in hearing whatever it is that he has to say.

“A few senators don’t want to continue another day of the Carl Kruger circus,” one staffer told me this morning. “They want to get on with their business and they have other, better things to do.”

Democratic senators were informed Saturday that Kruger had requested to speak to them at the 1:30 p.m. conference meeting today. The initial speculation was that he might want to resign – something the Republicans and at least one Democrat (Brooklyn District Leader Lincoln Restler) have called on him to do.

But when they heard that Kruger actually wanted to say he’s sorry for bringing shame to a conference already reeling from 1) the AEG scandal, 2) losing the majority last fall, and 3) experiencing an intra-party split that resulted in the breakaway of four rogue members who are now the IDC, certain senators made it clear they would not attend today’s meeting if, as another staffer put it, a “certain person” is there.

“If there’s an apology, I’m not sure what that can do to rectify the situation,” this staffer told me.

So far, I’ve heard of at least two members who won’t attend conference if Kruger is there.

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Hawkes Join Marriage Equality Campaign

The latest celebrities to join the Human Rights Campaign’s push for Marriage Equality are actor Ethan Hawke and his wife Ryan.

HRC has been slowly gathering videos from prominent politicians and actors for a while now, in their push for same sex marriage to pass in New York, including: Russell Simmons, Mark and Sunrise Ruffalo, Joan Rivers, Barbara Bush, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, Fran Drescher, Moby, and Mayor Bloomberg.

Here And Now

Eighteen days and counting until the budget is due. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. Goo-goos will be joined by some interesting Republicans at 12:30 p.m. for simultaneous press conferences in Albany and NYC to push for redistricting reform. The Senate GOP is expected to move a constitutional amendment bill on redistricting and then claim victory in keeping their pledge to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who will likely beg to differ.

And now, some headlines…

Both the Assembly and Senate introduced one-house budget bills over the weekend.

The Assembly’s plan extends the millionaire’s tax, altered to live up to its name, and also carve out the med-mal piece of the governor-backed MRT proposal.

The Senate’s proposal relies on optimistic revenue forecasts to restore education aid and also would make it harder for the governor’s prison-closing efforts to be come to fruition.

The Senate Republicans have also included a LIFO proposal that’s being billed as a hybrid of what the governor and Mayor Bloomberg are separately pushing.

“These final days leading up to the budget are going to define Gov. Cuomo’s entire term in office, and I can assure you he’s not going to sit back and let himself be defined by a spendthrift, dysfunctional, scandal-scarred, national embarrassment of a Legislature,” a source close to the governor told Fred Dicker.

Silver started his push to extend the rent control laws, which he has re-linked – philosophically speaking, at any rate – to a property tax cap.

The Post calls on Cuomo to block any resurrection of the millionaire’s tax.

The Senate Republicans are trying to align themselves as much as possible with the Democratic governor.

There’s little pity for Sen. Carl Kruger as he faces federal corruption charges because he wasn’t well liked by his colleagues to begin with.

“(A) Moreland Act investigation could result in honest legislators’ being treated like criminals,” writes Assemblyman Micah Kellner, who urges his colleagues to pass ethics reform.

“I don’t need a body man. I have a gun.”

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The Weekend That Was

Danny Hakim investigates state-run group homes and finds widespread problems in the 2,000-house system. After learning of the story’s findings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced the resignation of two top state employees.

Cuomo wants lobbying groups like AQE, NYPIRG and the CSNY to be forced to disclose their donors.

Carl Paladino stiffed about a dozen consultants, vendors and staff members for some $130,000 in salaries, fees and expenses, and his campaign committee is in debt.

The Times says capping medical malpractice payouts is “the wrong way to go,” siding with the Assembly Democrats by saying the “best solution is to greatly reduce the errors and bad outcomes that can lead to malpractice suits.”

The Gray Lady also warns Cuomo and state officials to listen to patients advocates when cutting Medicaid.

The Journal News cautions the governor and legislative leaders to consider the “human cost” when cutting Medicaid.

AG Eric Schneiderman has Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley in his sights.

Huntley was instrumental in getting her former top aide, Ruben Wills, elected to the NYC Council.

Sen. Owen Johnson’s health is a big concern for the Senate Republicans.

President Obama penned on OpEd on gun violence and proposed some reforms, but did not include the high-capacity magazine ban being pushed by Rep. Caroline McCarthy.

A State Department spokesman resigned after saying the treatment of Wikileaks suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning in military detention has been “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

Obama is focused on trying to win back independent voters.

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Assembly Rolls Out Rent Control Study

Assembly Democrats have released a new study on rent regulation laws, which sets up nicely the debate that will take place over the next few months heading into the expiration of current laws on June 15th.

“If we do not act quickly to extend our rent laws, millions of working New Yorkers could lose their homes.” Speaker Sheldon Silver said. “Merely continuing the current laws is not enough. We must close the loopholes identified in this report that cost our neighborhoods thousands of affordable homes each year and which threaten to turn New York into a city without a middle-class.”

The study estimates that 10 thousand rent regulated apartments are lost each year in New York City, mostly because of vacancy decontrol (a part of the law that allows apartments to come off of rent stabilization if it is vacant. You can read more about it here.)

In a recent interview with CapTon, Speaker Silver said he’d like to link rent regulation to property tax relief, because the issues are similar.

ASSEMBLY RENT REPORT

Corwin Lands Row E

The Independence Party endorsed Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s bid to replace former Rep. Chris Lee in NY-26 earlier today, according to state Party Chairman Frank MacKay.

MacKay told me the vote, held this morning, had been unanimous. He noted that Corwin has run with Independence Party support in the past and said he expects her to do a good job representing the district in Washington.

I read this as yet another sign that the DCCC isn’t terribly interested in this race, despite the fact that there will be at least one well-funded independent candidate in the running, (Jack Davis) and possibly a conservative independent in the mix, too (David Bellavia), which would theoretically open a window of opportunity for a Democratic candidate in the GOP-controlled district.

MacKay is close with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (stands to reason, since they both hail from Long Island). In the immediate wake of Lee’s abrupt resignation following his Craigslist scandal, an Indy insider told me the party would be open to backing someone other than Corwin, the GOP’s pick, should a suitable candidate come forward.

But now the party has gone with the assemblywoman, giving her two ballot lines in the May 24 special election. She’s likely to have a third if the Conservative Party acts as expected and endorses her when state committee members meet Monday.

That fact, coupled with the GOP enrollment edge in NY-26 and compressed time period of the special election (even with the new timeline established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo), Corwin is going to have a serious leg up in this race. The Democrat, whoever that may be, is likely to have the WFP line, but I’m not sure how much that will help.