Celebrating With Lopez

A reader forwarded this invite to Assemblyman/Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Vito Lopez’ upcoming holiday party, which was attached to an e-mail from his office about the annual Christmas Day program at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center.

Lopez arguably has something to celebration this season after Staten Island DA Dan Donovan made it clear he is not investigating either the assemblyman or the senior center to which he has long been linked.

However, the feds and the city Department of Investigation might yet cause Lopez some trouble. Ditto AG-elect Eric Schneiderman, whom Donovan accused of turning a “blind eye” to corruption by his fellow Democrat.

In response to that charge, Schneiderman replied he would be tough on legislative corruption regardless of political affiliation, adding:

“Of course I would pursue that. I’m the one who’s been talking about it. I’m the one who raised it. I’m glad Mr. Donovan has finally become aware of that.”

Holiday Party Invite

Privacy, Misinformation Top Voting Machine Concerns

The League of Women Voters of New York State released the results of its 2010 voter survey, which basically codify a lot of anecdotal issues with the new electronic voting machines that we in the media heard during the September primary and November general election.

The on-line survey of 1,072 respondents, from 47 counties including all five NYC boroughs, showed the voting machines indeed did perform well.

But respondents highlighted several inadequacies the League said it feels must be addressed to ensure voters are guaranteed a “secure and private franchise,” and recommended the state Board of Elections take “immediate” action.

The lack of privacy provided by the low-sided machines and so-called privacy “screens” for the ballots was chief among voters’ complaints. Other issues included lack of poll worker knowledge (this seems to be a perennial complaint, but was a bigger deal than usual this year since the machines were new), and a confusion ballot design.

“The League’s Voter Survey shows that we need to do much, much more if we’re to take full advantage of the State’s new voting systems. In particular, the design of New York’s ballot must be completely overhauled in order to be fully usable by voters,” said Bo Lipari, the league’s technology director.

LWVNYS 2010 Election Survey Report FULL December 13, 2010

Gillibrand vs. Durban III Summit

Here’s the text of the letter Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and 17 of her colleagues – including seven Republicans – sent to the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, seeking a boycott of the UN’s Durban III World Conference Against Racism, citing concerns the event will again serve as a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations.

The senators also expressed dismay that the UN has chosen to hold the conference on Sept. 20, 2011, just days after the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Gillibrand called the event an “insult to America.” The senators who signed on to her letter include:

James E. Risch (R-ID), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Dan Inouye (D-HI), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

“Dear Ambassador Rice,

We write to express our dismay regarding the United Nations decision on November 23, 2010 to hold the Durban III World Conference Against Racism in New York City on September 21, 2011, just days after the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

We appreciate the United States’ strong statement opposing the resolution on Durban III. However, we urge you to again refrain from participating in the conference as long as it undermines the very goal of fighting discrimination with a demonstration of anti-Semitism. We applaud the Canadian government’s decision to boycott the event. We believe that the United States ought to demonstrate leadership on these issues by removing itself from association with Durban III and encouraging other nations to do the same.

Unfortunately last year the 2009 U.N. Durban Review Conference Against Racism (Durban II) proved to be a repeat of the 2001 controversial summit as extreme anti-Semitic voices took over Durban II, and the United States and our allies were forced to pull out. The United States had likewise withdrawn from participating in Durban I primarily because the conference was viewed as disproportionately focused on Israel and the United States. We are very concerned that Durban III will follow in the pattern of the two preceding conferences by serving once again as a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations, which would again taint this opportunity to combat the abhorrent practices of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance.

It is important that the United States send a strong signal that another anti-Semitic and anti-American Durban Conference particularly held so close to the tenth anniversary and location of the worst terrorist attack in American history is unacceptable. We can send this signal by making clear now that the United States will not participate in this gathering. Of course, we would welcome the United States’ eventual return to the conference if it were to become a legitimate forum for combating discrimination – but that is a development that seems highly improbable to us.

We respectfully ask that you keep us abreast of any developments and offer our assistance in efforts to combat racism and anti-Semitism.

Spinola: Why Stop At $10 M?

REBNY’s Steve Spinola joined me on CapTon last night, and said the Committee to Save NY is already more than halfway to its goal of raising $10 million to help Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming budget battle and might not stop when it hits that target.

“I think if we prove that this is a message that needs to get out throughout all of the state of New York, then I think the business community needs to gather its resources and make a determined effort to get that message out and put the resources in it necessary to communicate to the people of the state of New York.”

Spinola was quite forthcoming in explaining why he had decided to get involved in the business and private sector labor effort to raise cash and influence the budget fight by “educating” New Yorkers, which essentially means running an ad campaign to counter whatever the public sector unions run.

He readily admitted that the people on Cuomo’s side are special interests, even though that’s a taboo label in Albany these days.

Spinola also said REBNY spent more than the $3.5 million it expected to dump into legislative races this year in hopes of electing real estate industry-friendly lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He told me REBNY toyed with the idea of stating its own political party, following the blueprint of the labor-backed Working Families Party, but found that too difficult.

You can watch the entire interview here.

NY Delegation Split On Tax Cut Vote

Members of the New York delegation were sharply divided on last night’s 277-148 vote to pass the tax cut deal President Obama brokered with the Republicans, with the more liberal members making good on pledges to oppose the measure.

Not surprisingly, the three lone Republicans – Chris Lee, Pete King and the newest House member, Tom Reed – voted “yes.” (They’ll soon be joined by five GOP freshmen, a number of whom have said they would have voted in the affirmative had they been given the chance).

All of the outgoing Democrats also voted “yes,” even if they lean toward the left, which I found interesting.

Here’s how the NY vote broke down:

YES: Arcuri, Bishop, Crowley, Hall, Higgins, Israel, King, Lee, Lowey, Maffei, Maloney, McMahon, Meeks, Murphy, Owens.

NO: Ackerman, Clarke, Engel, Hinchey, Nadler, Rangel, Serrano, Slaughter, Tonko, Towns, Velazquez, Weiner.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat, was one of eight House members who didn’t vote.

Here And Now

The tax cut bill passed late last night in a bipartisan vote of 277-148 after the liberal Democrats failed in a final attempt to modify the estate tax provision it contains.

Expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s girlfriend Karla Giraldo is suing prosecutors, cops and hospital staffers for $35 million for conspiring to falsely charge the Queens Democrat with slashing her.

Lawmakers think Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is sending a message with his choice of inauguration venues, and it’s not merely one of fiscal austerity.

Most of the 200 people expected at the Cuomo-Duffy inauguration will be friends and family members. Not elected officials or lobbyists. It’s unclear if Gov. David Paterson or former Gov. Eliot Spitzer will attend.

The new era of fiscal prudence at the Capitol is not good for the catering businesses.

A state Health Department official urged an investigation into Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.’s Soundview healthcare empire six years before the Bronx lawmaker was indicted and saw his plea ignored.

Rep. Peter King plans an inquiry as chair of the Homeland Security Committee into the “radicalization” of the Muslim community.

Seventeen senators, including seven Republicans, have signed on to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s effort to pressure the Obama administration to boycott a United Nations forum in New York next year that has been widely criticized as a platform for anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli rhetoric.

The GOP snubbed New York Democrats’ effort to make Rep. Carolyn Maloney the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee.

The fight for control of the state Senate will continue at least into next week after Sen. Craig Johnson decided to kick his appellate court loss up to the Court of Appeals.

Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Dean Skelos thinks Cuomo wants to be president, while he merely wants to run the chamber for a few more years and retire.

More >

Extras

Rep. Ed Towns to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on why he stopped pushing to be ranking member on the House Oversight Committee: “I decided to withdraw my candidacy following a conversation with you when you made it clear I did not have your support.”

Governor-elect/AG Andrew Cuomo withdrew his appeal of a judge’s decision to throw out the convictions of two former Marsh & McLennan Cos. executives.

The tax cap pushback continues.

New York City and Albany were added to the Judicial Hell Holes watch list.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Assemblyman Marcus Crespo are hosting a “Christmas Madness Party” at Maestro’s
Caterers tomorrow from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. (No link).

The Democrat & Chronicle gives Gov. David Paterson some props, but says he was his “own worst enemy.”

UFCW is urging elected officials to donate Wal-Mart campaign contributions to Toys for Tots.

George Marlin’s list of Long Island political winners and losers.

Outgoing NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s biggest weakness, according to Anna Phillips: Management.
The DSCC is selling poetry magnets.

Congressman-elect Chris Gibson will have the same committee seats as his predecessor and his predecessor’s predecessor.

State/Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is fighting with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.

Elmo visits the White House kitchen. (H/T Ben Smith).

Assemblyman David Gantt got teary while defending himself against double-dipping charges.

The day Niagara Falls ran dry.

NYC Comptroller John Liu is “speechless” about CityTime.

Paterson says Mayor Bloomberg urged him to appoint himself to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.

Johnson v Martins To Be Heard By High Court

….next Monday.

And they’re right on schedule.

Elect 001

Do The Espadas Plan To Plea? (Updated)

After pleading not guilty to embezzlement and conspiracy charges yesterday, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. told reporters: “I do have abiding faith in the justice system, in the people who decide these matters, and I look forward to a full and complete vindication in court.”

But paperwork filed by his attorney appears to tell a different story.

This application of excludable delay, forwarded by a helpful reader, indicates Espada’s legal team needs additional time to prepare for trial due to the “complexity of the case.”

It also indicates the following:

“Given the reasonable likelihood that ongoing plea negotiations will result in a disposition of this case without trial, the exclusion of time will allow counsel to focus their efforts on plea negotiations without the risk that they would be denied the resonable time necessary for effective preparation for trial, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.”

Also, another document indicates Espada filed an unsecured bond for $750,000 to make bail, which is apparently unusual and rarely offered for any offense over a misdemeanor.

UPDATE: An attorney says the documents filed here are fairly standard, and it’s not unusual to have an unsecured bond in a white collar case.

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Reporting From The War Room, It’s Kaitlyn Ross

An exclusive SOP production, compliments of CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross, who reports from the War Room where Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and LG-elect Bob Duffy will be sworn in just over three weeks from now.

(They’re going to have to do something about the acoustics before Jan. 1, although maybe more bodies in there will take care of all that echoing).

Kaitlyn also spoke to NYPIRG’s Blair Horner about the scaled-down nature of Cuomo’s inauguration ceremony, which Horner (who used to work for Cuomo at the AG’s office, heading up Project Sunlight) said he thinks “makes perfect sense, given the economic climate the state is in.”

The War Room, which is officially known as the Governor’s Reception Room, was redecorated and repainted during then-Gov. George Pataki’s first term.