Senate Dems Want To Expand Post-Coup Rules

The new Senate Minority conference is appealing to the GOP majority in hopes of leveling the playing field when it comes to resources and bringing legislation to the floor.

Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron are proposing a resolution that would give minority members the power to introduce bills even if the majority leader disapproves. It would also require each side have equal staff allocations, resources, and member items.

Krueger touted the rules reform adopted after the 2009 coup, which allowed the then-GOP minority access to more resources.

Of course, now that the Dems are back in the minority, they want those rules to go even further, saying the changes adopted in January and June of 2009 were merely a first step forward.

“What we are hoping to do with this year’s changing rules is to move the ball down the field,” Krueger said using one of many references to football following the New York Jets win over the Patriots Sunday.

“We’re very proud as Democrats to have significantly improve the rules of the Senate over the last two years, but we didn’t go far enough. We know that.”

Republicans are expected to introduce a resolution today that would expand the current rules through Feb. 1. Krueger says she wants the Senate to adopt these new rules now before the budget process begins that same day.

Sen. Krueger and her colleagues were also asked about eliminating member items as a way to ease the state’s estimated $10 billion deficit, which they agreed is a good idea. However, if member items find their way into the budget they say those items should be equal across the board.

Cuomo Campaign Team Gets Bonuses (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo doled out at least $225,000 worth of bonuses to top staffers on his campaign team after he won the 2010 governor’s race, his most recent financial report shows.

The biggest windfall went to Cuomo’s right-hand and, Joe Percoco, who started as an advance man with former Gov. Mario Cuomo and has been with the current governor’s side through every step of his political career – from HUD to the failed 2002 campaign to the AG’s office.

Cuomo paid Percoco a whopping $90,000 at the beginning of December. That goes a long way toward making up for that 5 percent pay cut all top staffers took at the start of this year, following the lead of their boss, who said he wanted to set an example as he prepares to call for massive spending cuts.

Percoco’s title is executive deputy secretary to the governor. In that job, he’s earning $159,000. He got $154,679 for similar work in the AG’s office.

The next largest bonus of $80,000 went to another Mario Cuomo administration, Drew Zambelli, who is the current governor’s uber-message man. Technically speaking, his title is “counselor to the governor” – a position created during Cuomo I, but not held by anyone in recent years. He’s earning $169,100.

Other bonuses went to Ben Lawsky ($50,000), who is now pulling down $169,100 as Cuomo’s chief of staff; Josh Vlasto ($10,000) who’s making $120,000 as deputy communications director.

There are a number of other payments to campaign aides in Cuomo’s Jan. 15 expenditure report, but an administration source informs me these are not bonuses. I’ve been told Cuomo’s finance director, Jennifer Bayer Michaels, also got a bonus, but have been unable to locate that in the filing.

UPDATED: The payment of $65,000 went to Michaels’ firm, JB Consulting Services.

Two former spokespeople who left ex-Gov. David Paterson’s team in the wake of the twin David Johnson/domestic violence and Yankees tickets scandals and then later showed up on Cuomo’s campaign – Peter Kauffmann and Marissa Shorenstein – got payments of $5,000 and $6,666.50, respectively, from the governor’s political committee in December.

Former Hillary Clinton spokesman Phil Singer’s firm, Marathon Strategies, received $10,000.

Howard Glaser’s Washington, D.C.-based firm, Capitol Hill Associates, got a $50,000 windfall. Glaser, who worked with Cuomo at HUD, is now a member of the administration with twin titles: Director of state operations and senior policy adviser. He’s also earning $169,100.

Cuomo Has $4.1 M On Hand

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has made it clear he will spend political cash to advance his agenda in the upcoming budget battle, has just over $4.1 million in the bank.

One of Cuomo’s fundraisers, Jennifer Bayer Michaels, sent out the toplines for Cuomo’s Jan. 15 financial filing, which is not yet available on the state Board of Elections Website. Here’s the breakdown:

Opening Balance: $4,986,705.22
Total Receipts: $217,625.79
Total Expenses: $1,028,211.00
Total On Hand (End of Period): $4,176,120.01

The DN reported last week that Cuomo sent out a fundraising appeal, seeking donors’ help in countering what he called the “special-interest campaigns” he expects will be launched by the labor unions and their allies.

Some opening shots have already been fired in that fight.

NYSUT, for example, recently launched a pro-teacher ad campaign. A coalition of public and private sector unions is airing a radio ad that targets Wall Streeters for getting rich in the wake of government bailouts.

Another group of special interests – namely the business and real estate community – have formed the Committee to Save NY and raised some $10 million to help cover Cuomo’s flank in this fight. The CSNY launched its first pro-Cuomo ad last week.

Cuomo’s Root Canal (Updated)

The “dental procedure” from which Gov. Andrew Cuomo was recovering that prevented him from attending the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual MLK Day celebration – more or less a must-attend event for Democratic elected officials – was a root canal, the governor’s office confirms.

Cuomo had the procedure done on Friday. Apparently, he was in a lot of pain, but is doing fine now.

He had a local anesthetic, which is standard for this type of dental work. That means he was awake throughout the surgery, and so there were no issues of succession to deal with.

(Sorry, LG Bob Duffy, maybe next time).

UPDATE: I’m told the governor was spotted on the second floor of the Capitol yesterday – perhaps working on the budget, which he is due to deliver on Feb. 1, so he’s well on his way to a full recovery.

As you might recall, Cuomo’s predecessor, ex-Gov. David Paterson, underwent a series of eye surgeries early in his gubernatorial tenure. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (this was the summer before the 2008 elections when the Democrats took control of the chamber), who was next in line at the time, was alerted about Paterson’s condition – just in case.

The “who’s in charge” question has come up from time to time over the years. Ex-Gov. George Pataki, for example, insisted he was still running the state even when he wasn’t here. He also worked from a hospital bed after undergoing emergency abdominal surgery toward the end of his tenure in the spring of 2008.

The governor hasn’t made any public appearances since last Friday when he delivered two back-to-back versions of his State of the State speech that were tailored for upstate audiences in Jamestown (on Thursday) and Watertown (on Friday).

He’s in Albany with no public schedule.

Zimpher Gives State Of SUNY Preview

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will give the first ever “State of the University” address tomorrow.

Zimpher would not divulge details of her speech, but said she’ll indulge in some “bragging” about SUNY’s accomplishments over the last year and then lay out her agenda moving forward.

During a brief interview at the Capitol earlier today, Zimpher also addressed rumors that SUNY campuses may be facing funding cuts and tuition hikes to help reduce the state’s estimated $10 billion deficit:

“This is a tough time. Everybody knows that,” said Zimpher.

“But I think the public deserves to know that the State University of New York is working for it. I think it’s a partnership so we will rally support but we will do our part in exchange.”

The address will be at the Egg in Albany at 10 a.m.

Cuomo’s PIC Appointments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced three appointees to the Commission on Public Integrity, which may or may not end up existing in its current incarnation when ethics reform finally takes place at the Capitol.

The commission, which was created during former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s tenure (it is the combination of the old lobbying and ethics commissions), consists of 13 members.

Seven, including the chair are selected by the governor and six members are appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the AG, the state comptroller, and the four legislative leaders. No more than four of the seven members appointed by the Governor can belong to the same political party.

The appointees, who don’t receive a salary and don’t require Senate confirmation, are:

- Mitra Hormozi. (Chairperson). Hormozi was FORMERLY Cuomo’s special deputy chief of staff. She coordinated major initiatives related to public integrity and consumer fraud in the AG’s office, and had oversight of regional office initiatives. Headed up the investigation of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.

Hormozi also spent more than six years as an assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where she was the chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

- Richard J. Bartlett. (Commission member). Bartlett is currently a partner at Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes PC in Glens Falls. He was a member and chair of the state Board of Law Examiners and is a former dean and law professor at Albany Law School of Union University. Bartlett was a state Supreme Court Justice and was chief administrative judge of New York.

- Vernon Broderick. (Commission member). Broderick is a partner at Weil, Gotshal, & Manges LLP. He was an assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York for eight years. While there, he served as chief of the Violent Gangs Unit.

Schumer Press Shop Shuffle

After spending four years as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s spokesman and two as his upstate press secretary, Max Young is moving on. Sort of.

Young is departing the senior senator’s office, but he isn’t going far.

On Feb. 1, he will be starting as director of Regional Media for the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – the new entity created by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid specifically for Schumer to lead as the party heads into another difficult election cycle.

In this role, Schumer has officially become the Senate Democrats’ chief message maker, and he is embracing that role with relish, talking about the middle class and jobs at every turn.

Young, who has somehow managed to maintain composure and sanity in the whirlwind that is the Schumer communications boot camp, will be replaced by Matt House.

(An example of what a class act Young is…He included the following line in his “goodbye/moving on” e-mail to reporters: “Working here for the last two years has been a joy, and I am consistently in awe of the quality of the reporting that you all do on a daily basis.” Ah, yes, flattery will get you everywhere).

As far as I can tell, House last worked for former New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the US Senate as a self-professed “real fiscal conservative” in the 2010 cycle.

Committee To Save NY Registering As A Lobbying Group

In the wake of this morning’s NY Times story and subsequent criticism from the good government community, the pro-Cuomo Committee to Save New York is filing paperwork today to register as a lobbying organization with the Committee on Public Integrity.

“Because we may, at some point in time, be engaged in grassroots lobbying, we would have to report those expenditures, so we’re filing at the commission the way a company would,” CSNY spokesman Bill Cunningham told me during a brief telephone interview.

“We have always said we would comply with all of the rules, and we’re in the process of getting filed. We would have done it yesterday, except for the holiday. We were talking about it last week. Today, is the first day back.”

Cunningham insisted that the committee’s decision to go this route was not in response to the Times story, which highlighted its close ties to the governor and the fact that it has not (and is not under any legal requirement to) disclosed its donors – a move that seems to run counter to Cuomo’s pledge to bring transparency to Albany.

The CSNY launched its first TV ad last week that proclaimed support for the governor and his fiscally conservative agenda. The ad coincided with Cuomo’s upstate tour, during which he re-delivered a slightly retooled State of the State address in Jamestown and Watertown.

Bloomberg’s Gun Control Group Polls On Gun Control

Mayor Bloomberg has joined the pushback effort on the suggestion that passing gun control legislation is neither possible nor palatable in the current political environment, releasing a poll through his Mayors Against Illegal Guns group today that demonstrates a “sensible approach” to the nation’s gun laws.

The poll was conducted jointly by Momentum Analysis, a polling firm with Democratic clients, and American Viewpoint, a polling firm with Republican clients.

“This poll shows that, particularly in the wake of yet another tragic mass shooting, Americans and gun owners agree with our efforts to fix our federal background check system and close loopholes,” said Bloomberg.

“If the tragedy in Tucson was not enough to ensure that Congress finally takes action, we hope this clear call for reform from the public will add to the groundswell of support.”

The results of the poll aren’t terribly surprising, basically revealing that most Americans believe that while the Second Amendment protects the rights of “law-abiding” individuals to own guns, more should be done to ensure that felons, drug abusers and the mentally ill don’t have access to firearms.


Bloomberg’s New Man In Albany

Mayor Bloomberg has added a new face to his upstate team.

Mark Botnick is returning to the administration to take the spokesman job that has been vacant since the departure of Matt Gorton to work on the mayor’s successful 2009 re-election campaign.

Most recently, Botnick has been working with former NYC Mayor Ed Koch on his NY Uprising PAC, which provided him with some opportunity broaden his downstate-centric world view. (Recall that the mayor did some stumping in upstate America to highlight his so-called “heroes” of reform).

Botnick also worked on Bloomberg’s re-election effort, focusing maining on corralling the Jewish vote.

He departed the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit to join the campaign, but never went back, instead staying on the political side of the fence to manage Brooklyn Democrat David Greenfield’s campaign in the 2010 special election for former NYC Councilman Simcha Felder’s 44th CD seat.

Botnick joins Micah Lasher and Steven Williams in Bloomberg’s upstate office. I believe today is his first day on the job. Nice weather for it. Welcome to Albany, Mark! Enjoy the ice.