Capital Investments

A group of good government advocates (NYPIRG, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, Citizens Union) is out with a report today that shows more than $246 million worth of campaign cash was raised during the 2010 cycle, the bulk of which came from – surprise! – the very special interests Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to neuter now that he’s safely in office.

According to the report, the Cuomo/Duffy ticket raised significantly more than any other statewide candidate or ticket. In addition, the health care and real estate sectors dominated in campaign contributions, with the former dominating donations to the new governor’s coffers.

(Interesting aside, REBNY, which poured more than $3 million into the state Senate races with an eye toward restoring power to the GOP, is also heavily involved in the Committee to Save NY, which is the business-dominated organization created to help Cuomo in the upcoming budget battle).

This report contains no surprises, but is nonetheless instructive. The goo-goos are again calling for widespread reforms, including creation of a voluntary system of public campaign financing, lowering of the contribution limits and full disclosure of independent expenditures.

Capital Investments 2010

Team Schneiderman (Part II)

AG Eric Schneiderman just announced his second round of appointments to key staff positions, tapping some veteran political hands and also a top union organizer who handled field for the state Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign this fall.

Schneiderman is keeping a former staffer from his Senate office, Christina Harvey, who served as his chief of staff and now is moving into the post of director of operations. Harvey has been acting as the executive director of the AG’s transition committee.

Neal Kwatra, the political director for the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, will be Schneiderman’s chief of staff. Kwatra drew kudos – including an election night shout-out from Gov. Andrew Cuomo – for putting together the statewide field operation for the state party during the 2010 campaign.

Selecting Kwatra helps solidify Schneiderman’s ties to organized labor, which played a key role in getting elected.

HTC is a top player in the Working Families Party, which was all in for Schneiderman (and, incidentally, is not necessarily all in for Cuomo’s fiscally conservative proposals, although it leaders did signal support for his “New NY Agenda” during the campaign in order to get him to run on its line).

Schneiderman selected a former aide to Eliot Spitzer, Marty Mack, to serve as deputy AG for regional affairs. Mack was ex-Gov. David Paterson’s deputy secretary for appointments and deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs for both Paterson and Spitzer. He worked for eight years in Spitzer’s AG office.

Blake Zeff, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, will be Schneiderman’s senior advisor. He’s currently at the consulting firm BerlinRosen (the premier progressive firm in NY, started by two former Senate Democratic staffers). Zeff worked on Schneiderman’s AG campaign. He also worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign and graduated from Sen. Chuck Schumer’s press office boot camp.

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Paladino Critiques Cuomo

He’s baaaaack.

Not surprisingly, failed GOP/Conservative gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is not impressed with the first steps of his old nemesis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying the Democratic governor hasn’t done enough to improve transparency and ethics in the early days of his new administration.

Speaking to Curtis Sliwa (also not a Cuomo fan…recall his “King Cuomo” act during the campaign) on AM 970 The Apple, Paladino denigrated the governor’s executive order mandating ethics training for top state appointees, saying:

“You know, there’s a lot of diversion here on the ethics. A one-hour ethics course, is that going to really clean up ethics in government? I think we need a bill to clean up ethics in government. We need a strong ethics bill that will do more than it has in the past.”

Interestingly, Paladino is on the same page here with the NY Times editorial board, which also called recently for Cuomo to introduce an omnibus ethics bill sometime during his first week in office.

The new governor is also being pressured to take decisive action by good government advocates, who are having a press conference down at the LOB this morning.

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Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to make good on his campaign pledges to freeze state workers’ pay and establish a spending cap.

Team Cuomo…so far.

First girlfriend Sandra Lee gave her first official interview to the NY Post and left the marriage question open. She also revealed the couple has a new “baby” – a two month-old cockatoo.

Cuomo’s staff did not appreciate Jim Odato’s inquiries as to whether Lee will be spending nights with her governor beau at the executive mansion.

It was an unhappy New Year for some Paterson staffers who got fired with less than 24 hours notice.

Cuomo’s ethics training executive order impacts some 300 government staffers.

The acting State Police superintendent tried to defy Cuomo’s directive not to provide now former Gov. David Paterson with a security detail after he departed office.

Bishop Howard Hubbard urged Cuomo to move forward with a sense of “evangelical daring.”

Dan Janison considers what a fiscal emergency might entail.

Jacob Gershman wonders if Cuomo will be able to sustain the new era of transparency he has ushered in at the Capitol, noting that wasn’t a hallmark of his AG tenure.

A UAlbany grad student briefly punk’d Cuomo’s Twitter feed.

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The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will unveil an “emergency financial reinvention plan” during his State of the State speech Wednesday. No details are yet available.

Cuomo’s distinctive speaking style (as per the Times): “One part Christopher Walken; another part his father, Mario M. Cuomo; and another part old-country Italian.”

The TU senses “a very evident sense of political maturity here.”

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle weighs in with a to-do list.

Fred Dicker approves.

Some Albany High School seniors offer their suggestions to the new governor.

Cuomo is reopening the Capitol “literally and figuratively.”

Sandra Lee wore Carolina Herrera to the inauguration.

Lee was a big hit at the mansion open house.

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo said he’s more grateful and “relieved” than proud to see his son succeed him.

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Klein ‘Disgusted’ By Fellow Dems, But Not Enough To Jump Ship

Sen. Jeff Klein’s distaste for his fellow Democrats might have caused him to relinquish his leadership post, but isn’t strong enough to spur him to break ties with them completely and join forces with the GOP.

“I’m a Democrat and I still adhere to Democratic values, I just don’t want to be judged by the actions of others and I can no longer make excuses to my constituents for the behavior of this conference,” the Bronx lawmaker told me this afternoon following the DN’s report that he had relinquished his post as deputy leader of the (now) minority conference.

Klein said he doesn’t believe the conference will be capable of moving forward with an agenda that will enable it to return to the majority as long as the man under whom he served, Brooklyn Sen. John Sampson, continues to be in charge.

“We failed on every course,” Klein said. “You can say all you want about why we may have lost the majority. It’s never one thing. But certainly I think it was the leadership and how they conducted themselves.”

“The coup, and the IG investigation (into AEG), but also probably the STAR rebate check, the MTA payroll tax, the failure to pass a tax cap, ethics reform, gay marriage and redistricting. You know, it runs the gambit.”

(Of course, Klein was, in fact, part of the leadership team when most of those initiatives were either passed or failed to pass. But that fact muddies up the argument).

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Labor’s First Salvo

A coalition of public and private sector labor unions and their community advocacy allies has launched a new radio ad that takes Wall Street to task for “collecting a record $144 billion in pay and bonuses” and issuing a rather nebulous call for building an economy that “benefits everyone.”

The 60-second spot, dubbed “Party On,” 60-second spot delivers a New Year’s message set to “Auld Lang Syne” and noisemakers. It will start airing tomorrow on major NYC metro-area and Albany stations, including WBLS, WCBS, WINS, WRKS, WLTW, WKLI-FM and WGDJ-AM, and remain on the airwaves through Jan. 11.

The ad, produced by Shorr, Johnson and Magnus Strategic Media, was paid for by a group calling itself the “Strong Economy For All Coalition,” which includes:

The Municipal Labor Committee, Make the Road New York, the Coalition for the Homeless, New York Communities for Change, the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York City Central Labor Council, the UFT, Citizen Action and NYSUT.

It’s a first salvo in what’s expected to be a protracted budget battle as Gov. Andrew Cuomo gears up to fulfill his pledge to make deep spending cuts – most likely by goring the ox of some heretofore sacred cows, including the public employee unions and education aid.

(He’s already promising to unveil an “emergency financial reinvention plan” in his first-ever State of the State address Wednesday).

It will be interesting to see how – and when – the pro-Cuomo business group, the Committee to Save New York, gets on the airwaves with its answer to this ad campaign, which seems to me to be setting up an argument in favor of re-authorizing the so-called millionaires’ tax that’s set to sunset at the end of 2011.

Cuomo reiterated his “no new taxes” pledge during his post-inauguration press conference, but perhaps one could argue that re-upping an already existing tax isn’t technically instituting a new one? Or maybe that’s a little too cute by half.

The script for the ad appears in full after the jump.

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Cuomo Executive Order No. 2: Mandated Ethics Training

Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed his first executive order (removing the 9/11-era concrete barriers from around the state Capitol) with one that requires ethics training for all top state officials and executive chamber staffers, to be completed within 60 days after Jan. 31.

The training, which will focus on “the rules about serving in government, according to a press release, will be offered by the Commission on Public Integrity and is also mandated for all agency commissioners and their respective counsels and ethics officers. In addition, anyone who takes it now must also get a refresher every two years.

A signed statement certifying participation must be submitted by each individual for their personnel file.

“Honor and integrity will be a hallmark of this administration, and I am confident that we have assembled a team that reflects that commitment,” Cuomo said.

“Nonetheless, it is imperative that Chamber staff and other high ranking government officials be versed in the ethics rules and regulations that apply to them. Top government employees should have no questions, no gray areas, and no possibility of confusion regarding what is proper and what is not.”

The release includes statements of praise from NYPIRG’s Blair Horner (who used to work for Cuomo in the AG’s office), Barbara Bartoletti from the League of Women Voters and Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey.

(UPDATE: CU did not, as I erroneously reported, endorse Cuomo for governor because he was never interviewed due to “scheduling conflicts” on both sides. Mea culpa).

Cuomo spoke throughout the campaign and during his inauguration speech about the need to clean up Albany and restore the public’s trust in government.

Aside from improving access to the Capitol and ending the so-called “Fort Pataki” lockdown on the second floor, this is yet another symbolic move that the newly-minted governor is using to demonstrate his commitment to upholding those pledges.

(I think background checks are required for some of the top-level state officials, but I’m not certain what protocols exist in terms of training – if any. If you’ve got an idea, please advise).

UPDATE: A former executive chamber staffer from a previous administration writes:

“All executive chamber personnel were hired with the understanding that employment was conditional pending the results of a required background check by the State Police. Yearly, executive chamber personnel involved in policy administering positions filed disclosure statements.”

Zadroga Bill Signed Into Law

The Obama administration released the following statement this afternoon:

“On Sunday, January 2, 2011, the President signed into law: H.R. 847, the ‘James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act,’ which establishes the World Trade Center Health Program and extends and expands eligibility for compensation under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001.

Here’s a photo, compliments of the White House press office (as you can see, the president is still on vacation in Hawaii).


That was followed by a statements from various different NY pols who were key players in the long push to get this bill passed, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, who said:

After a long, arduous path with several near-defeats, this bill is finally law. The heroes who rushed to Ground Zero in the hours and days after the attacks will not be forgotten.”

“These first responders were like veterans, and this law keeps with a time-honored American tradition of standing by our veterans when they get harmed answering the call. We will begin work immediately to make sure this law gets renewed for another five years.”

…and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:

“All Americans should be proud of this accomplishment. Our nation – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – all came together to do what was right and provide health care to the brave men and women who served with such heroism in the days and weeks following 9/11.”

“This was our undeniable moral obligation.”

“I commend President Obama for helping champion this effort and signing this bill into law. Today’s victory is for the first responders, fire fighters, police officers, every family and every volunteer who never gave up and made sure that Congress fulfilled its duty to the 9/11 heroes. We will always remember your sacrifice, and stand united behind you.”

Paterson, Out

Former Gov. David Paterson was front and center this afternoon for the swearing in of his successor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and seemed to enjoy himself, considering the circumstances.

He was seen chatting and laughing with Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (Lippman’s predecessor, Judith Kaye, swore Paterson in back in March 2008) prior to the ceremony.

He spoke briefly with reporters after the event, praising Cuomo’s speech and his decision to remove the concrete barriers from around the state Capitol, saying he has long felt “chagrined” about how inaccessible the building has been to the public. (No word on why he never acted on that feeling during his own tenure).

Asked what he plans to do now, Paterson responded with a flash of his old trademark humor: “I’m going to go home.”

(Without a State Police detail, it should be noted, since his request for a continuation of his taxpayer-funded protection has been denied).