Pataki Targets 2nd NYer On ‘Obamacare’

Former Gov. George Pataki’s Revere America Committee has added a second New Yorker – Democratic Rep. Bill Owens – to its list of members of Congress being lambasted in TV ads for voting “yes” on the health care reform bill opponents have taken to calling “Obamacare.”

Pataki launched this national campaign after deciding not to heed calls from GOP leaders to run statewide this year (polls showed him as the strongest challenger to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is now well well ahead of her GOP opponent, Joe DioGuardi).

So far, Revere America ads are running in New York (Rep. John Hall in NY-19 was the first target) and New Hampshire, which is, of course, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primaries, further fueling speculation that Pataki plans to use this PAC as a vehicle to launch another White House run in 2012.

The Owens ad basically follows the same script as the Hall ad, saying:

“Congressman Owens voted for Obama care – government run health care. It’s a bad plan. Government bureaucrats will benefit. Seniors will get hurt. Costs will go up. Care will go down. Longer waits in doctors’ offices. Your right to keep your own doctor may be taken away. It’s a plan we didn’t want and don’t need, but Owens voted for it anyway. Defeat Congressman Owens.”

Media Matters recently debunked Revere America’s ads as “false and misleading.”

The committee has also come under fire for refusing to disclose its donors, which, given its tax status – 501(c)(4) – it is not legally required to do. Revere America has spent over $1 million to date.

Paterson Deflects

Gov. David Paterson’s spokesman Morgan Hook released the following statement in response to the IG’s bombshell AEG report:

“While we are still reviewing the IG’s findings, one thing is indisputable: earlier this year Governor Paterson refashioned the selection process for a gaming operator at Aqueduct and further convinced the Legislative leaders to adhere to this new process.”

“At the Governor’s urging, standard State procurement rules were applied to the bidding process. This led to an efficient, timely, and highly successful bidding process which produced the highest upfront payment ever offered to the State – $380 million – with enhanced MWBE participation, community involvement, and an accelerated construction schedule.”

“The process also produced a $25 million infusion to the racing industry and will generate sustained cash flow for the industry and the many thousands of jobs it supports throughout the State. Due to these actions by the Governor, after years of delay ground is expected to be broken next week on this valuable economic development for New York.”

NRCC Hammers Arcuri On Pelosi

The NRCC is out with yet another ad that casts a Democratic incumbent – this time Rep. Mike Arcuri – as a “rubber stamp” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in hopes that the unpopularity of the California congresswoman will help tip the balance in NY-24 on Election Day.

This comes as a poll conducted for The Hill by Penn Schoen Berland found Arcuri leading his GOP challenger, Richard Hanna, 47-37, which isn’t too far off from a September Siena poll that found Arcuri up, 48-40.

Hanna rejected the Hill poll, calling it “propaganda,” adding: “We know we’re in good shape. We know we’re in a good position to be successful here.” Apparently, the NRCC hasn’t given up on this district yet, either.

“Michael Arcuri’s phony double-talk claiming to be independent isn’t fooling anyone,” said NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola.

“Central New Yorkers know that he says one thing back home and does something completely different when he’s in Washington. His record shows it. He’s a big spending, partisan Democrat who has stood by and helped Speaker Pelosi pass tax increases and pile up more debt, which is why he’s in trouble this fall.”

IG Drops AEG Bomb (Updatedx2)

State Inspector General Joseph Fisch has completed his lengthy probe of the AEG/Aqueduct racino mess and it is a doozy. The 308-page report is well worth a read.

In short, Fisch found Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, Senate President Malcolm Smith and Sen. Eric Adams may have violated the Public Officers Law in “unduly conferring benefits or favoritism and acting in violation of their public trust,” and has referred his findings to the Legislative Ethics Commission.

He also forwarded his findings to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan DA’s office and the state Commission on Public Integrity “for review and any action they deem appropriate.”

UPDATE1: From the IG’s press release, which just came out:

“This process was doomed from the start, and at each turn, our state leaders abdicated their public duty, failed to impose ethical restraints and focused on political gain at a cost of millions to New Yorkers,” Fisch said.

“Unfortunately, and shamefully, consideration of what was in the public’s best interest, rather than the political interest of the decision makers, was a matter of militant indifference to them.”

Fisch is harshest on Sampson, who provided key information on the bidding process to AEG through one of its principals, lobbyist and former Sen. Carl Andrews – something to which the Brooklyn Democrat has already admitted.

Another copy was released by Secretary of the Senate Angelo Aponte to “political operative” Hank Sheinkopf, who invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination with the IG, as did suspended Paterson aide, David Johnson.

UPDATE2: CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross, who is at a Capitol press conference with Fisch, sent this quote from the IG: “Senator Sampson’s testimony was incredible; I stopped counting the number of ‘I don’t recalls’ after 100.”

The report takes Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to task for failing to put the kibosh on the AEG contract at the outset, instead adding conditions that he knew would tank the deal in the long term.

But Fisch, who is close to Silver, also lauds the speaker for essentially being the only adult in the room as negotiations over the lucrative racino contract went down.

NOTE: A reader pointed out to me that Fisch recused himself from the AEG investigation because he is a gubernatorial appointee, but is nevertheless now involved in releasing its findings – a mere 12 days prior to the general election in which the Senate Democrats will be fighting in hopes of retaining control of the chamber. Interesting.

Piling On Monserrate

Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

One day after expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate turned himself in to federal authorities in connection with the NYC Council slush fund scandal, a commission of his former legislative colleagues, which rarely takes action against one of its own, found reasonable cause to believe that he violated the Public Officers Law by setting up a legal defense fund and soliciting contributions from from individuals and entities that had business interests in his work as a senator.

“Most significant is our finding that Senator Monserrate directly solicited registered lobbyists and clients of lobbyists for contributions to the HMLDF,” reads the notice, which was quietly posted on the Legislative Ethics Commission’s Website yesterday afternoon.

“It is in this area that the Commission bases its finding that there is reasonable cause to believe that a breach of the ethics laws, specifically Public Officers Law §73(5) prohibiting illegal gifts, has occurred.”

More >

Nader: Bloomberg For President Is ’50-50′

Perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader added fuel to the Bloomberg-for-president speculation fire during a CapTon interview last night, saying he had spoken to the billionaire mayor and believes he is indeed considering an independent White House run in 2012 – no matter how much he publicly denies his ambitions.

“My conversations with him and his conversations with other people lead me to believe it’s 50-50 he’s going to run in 2012, and it will probably be on an independent ticket,” said Nader, who was on the show to promote the candidacy of Green Party gubernatorial contender Howie Hawkins.

“And if that happens, he writes himself a $600 million check. He doesn’t have to dial for dollars, and it’s a three-way race at the presidential level. I think if he thinks he’s got a chance to win, he’ll really run,” Nader continued.

“His problem is that he thinks too many voters are hereditary Republican, hereditary Democrat – no matter who the nominee is, they’ll go the party line, and that sort of handicaps an independent candidate.”

“…I would support him in the manner of more diversity of choice, just like I would want a Libertarian candidate. I’d want a Green candidate. I really believe in competitive democracy.”

Nader said he would be “very reluctant” to run again himself, but isn’t ruling out the possibility.

Gov. Cuomo Might Have To Clean Up Gov. Cuomo’s MTA Mess

The Drum Major Institute and Transportation Alternatives are out with a joint white paper today that outlines five steps the next governor might take with the Legislature to finally get ahold of MTA’s long-faltering finances, which, if you read the fine print, date back to the last time a guy with the last name of “Cuomo” was in the governor’s office.

“In 1992, state lawmakers slashed state funding for the MTA’s capital program,” the report states. “Today’s debt crisis can be attributed in large part to this unfortunate decision and the failure of subsequent administrations to restore funding.”

As you’ll recall, former Gov. Mario Cuomo was deep into his third – and most difficult – term in office by 1992. Two years later, fed-up voters ousted the Democratic icon, replacing him with a little-known GOP state senator named George Pataki, whose most attractive attribute was arguably the fact that he wasn’t Mario Cuomo.

The MTA’s fiscal mess has only worsened since then. The authority currently faces a $900 million gap in its operating budget in 2011 and a $2.1 billion deficit by 2014, according to the state comptroller’s office.

It holds $31 billion worth of debt, which is more than twice its annual budget. In other words: If the state doesn’t get a handle on this problem – and fast – more fare hikes are undoubtedly in the offing.

The fact that the MTA is in distress and cries out for reform is something that all the gubernatorial contenders appeared to agree on during Monday night’s debate.

More >

Here And Now

Good morning. I’m back. Counting today, there are 12 days remaining in the 2010 campaign season. And now, the headlines…

The Buffalo News follows the trail of Andrew Cuomo’s campaign cash and finds he’s taking lots of money from the same special interests he has promised to take on if he’s elected governor.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is spreading his considerable campaign wealth around, including $250,000 to the Democratic Party in Nevada, which just so happens to be Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home state.

Other Dem parties that have benefitted from Schumer’s largesse: Alaska, Colorado, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

The SEC is reportedly poised to vote on a settlement deal with Steve Rattner, who is still negotiating with Cuomo’s office.

Jimmy McMillan on why his rent numbers don’t add up: “I just made stuff up and told them. None of that is true. I’m not a politician. This isn’t about my personal life.”

The possibilities for McMillan satire…endless, but members of his own party (all three of them, and not McMillan himself) appear to have tired of him already.

He’s also a budding musician.

Roger Stone’s a fan.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann now see 11 potential GOP House pick-ups in NY.

NY-29 is all but certain to return to GOP hands.

More >

Extras

The Harvard Club rejected Eliot Spitzer.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch called on Assembly Dems to dump Speaker Sheldon Silver from his leadership post.

The NY Observer endorsed Sen. Eric Schneiderman for AG.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney and FDNY members will endorse Rep. Mike McMahon tomorrow. (No link).

Mayor Bloomberg declined to comment on whether Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is “hot,” opting instead for the more PC “stunning.”

…He did not, however, endorse her. (He isn’t backing Sen. Chuck Schumer this year, either).

Gillibrand called her “Vogue” spread “a great opportunity for me to speak to women.”

Charlie Gasparino says his Wall Street sources want Bloomberg to run for president, and he’s not saying “no” yet.

Jerry Skurnik parses Hiram Monserrate’s voter registration drive numbers.

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan is not running TV ads this week – an unusual move for less than two weeks out from Election Day.

Greg Edwards, AKA Paladino’s “mop-up man,” get his Times moment.

Jimmy McMillan’s own rent is pretty reasonable.

He’s also not a member of the party for which he is the standard-bearer. (He’s a registered Democrat).

McMillian’s gloves, explained. Sorta.

Cuomo clarified his position on power in an attempt to calm very agitated Western NYers.

Tony Sayegh, Jr. confesses to voting for Paladino in the Sept. 14 primary and now seems to think better of it.

Joe DioGuardi’s hometown paper (The Journal News) endorsed Gillibrand.

NYC has been added to Microsoft’s Cloud.

The world according to Howie Hawkins: If at first you don’t succeed, run, run again.

NYC Councilman David Greenfield will endorse Rep. Mike McMahon, who is trying to support his support among Jewish voters.

Not sure what to make of this one.

Pataki For Phillips

Former Gov. George Pataki is the latest GOP leader to throw his support behind George Phillips’ second attempt to unseat veteran Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey in NY-22.

Pataki will deliver his endorsement in person late tomorrow afternoon at the candidate’s Endwell HQ. From Phillips’ press release:

“The Governor and Mr. Phillips will deliver remarks on the state of the race and the need for new representation in our district.”

“Given the recent national attention to this race, it is clear that more and more government leaders have recognized that George Phillips is on a path to victory. Both gentlemen will be available for questions from the press.”

Pataki has been buying air time through his Revere America PAC to urge voters to toss out key Democrats who voted “yes” on health care reform. So far, however, the only New Yorker he has targeted is Rep. John Hall in NY-19.

This race first came onto my radar screen when Dick Morris included it in a NY Post column back in late September as a possible GOP pick-up. The Post has kept up something of a drumbeat about Hinchey ever since.

At the time, I recall considering a loss by Hinchey to be the longest of long-shots. But then Karl Rove’s American Crossroads got interested in the race, and signaled its intent to spend $300,000 to help Phillips – a massive sum in upstate airtime.

This might be one of those head-fake situations where the GOP tries to lure the Democrats into spending to defend a relatively safe incumbent at the expense of more vulnerable targets. Even so, Hinchey didn’t do himself any favors by telling a local reporter to “shut up” and then insisting he had done no such thing.

Since I promised to keep you updated on whether the congressman keeps his promise to reschedule our CapTon interview, the answer is: Not yet.