Heastie: Silver Sentencing End To A ‘Dark Chapter’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday called the sentencing of his predecessor Sheldon Silver the end of a “sad” and “dark chapter” for the institution that he says needs to move forward.

“It’s a dark chapter for the Assembly and I guess we have to get back to life,” Heastie said.

Silver, 72, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday after he was convicted late last year of fraud and extortion. He is also being required to repay the $5.1 million in bribes he received as well as a $1.75 million fine.

Silver had been the unquestioned leader of the Assembly for 21 years before his arrested and indictment in January 2015.

Heastie, who succeeded Silver last year after his indictment, said he wanted to move forward with ethics reform measures, saying there is a “will” to have a constitutional amendment for pension forfeiture approved this year. The measure has languished in gridlock between the Senate and the Assembly.

“That’s the judge’s decision,” he said. “We still have to work we have to do, things we want to get done, particularly with ethics.”

Heastie rejected the idea of term limits, saying in essence that is what elections are meant to do.

“I don’t think in the ninth year someone’s leadership position makes you turn into a terrible person,” Heastie said. “You do have term limits, the people limit your terms.”

The speaker also defended his colleagues, saying they shouldn’t be tarnished by the corruption convictions in recent years as well as the generally poor image of Albany among voters.

“I think the majority of legislators who come up here do the right thing,” Heastie said. “In every industry you have bad apples and whatever the industry is it shouldn’t tarnish those who do the right thing.”

Silver Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison

Democratic former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday was sentenced to 12 years in prison for masking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks as legal fees and pay $5.1 million in forfeiture funds.

Federal prosecutors had sought more than 14 years for Silver, a record for an ex-elected official in New York. The current record holder, former Assemblyman Will Boyland, was convicted of bribery and is serving 14 years in prison.

He will also have to pay a $1.75 million fine.

He is scheduled to report on July 1.

“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

But U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni declined to follow sentencing guidelines in Silver’s case, declaring it would be “Draconian and unjust” considering his age and health. Silver, 72, revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer as he awaited sentencing.

Had Caproni followed those guidelines, Silver would have been sentenced to up to 27 years in prison.

As Silver awaited to be sentenced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office successfully unsealed documents that alleged the former lawmaker had conducted extramarital affairs with two women, one a former member of the Assembly and a lobbyist, both of whom were accused of benefiting from their personal relationship with Silver.

Silver, the once powerful and unquestioned leader of the state Assembly since 1994, was found guilty in November of fraud and extortion, forcing him to surrender his seat in the Assembly in the process.

As Silver was being sentenced at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, his successor and winner of a special election last month, Alice Cancel, was sworn in to replace him in the Assembly. Cancel has ties to Silver’s political allies in the Assembly district and defeated Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line.

Silver’s downfall last year was followed by an unprecedented moment in state politics in which his counter part, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, was also later felled by a corruption scandal involving securing business for his son through official actions.

Skelos is due to be sentenced later this month.

NY-19: Faso And Heaney Agree To Debate

Two of the Republicans running in the 19th congressional district on Tuesday agreed to a series of debates ahead of the June primary.

The day began with Heaney calling on Faso, a former Assembly minority leader who likely enjoys higher name recognition with voters in the district given that he was once an elected official, to hold six debates ahead of the primary.

“As the turnout for the Presidential primary showed, voters are energized and want to hear directly from the candidates about how they will finally change the culture of corruption and back scratching that permeates Washington,” Heaney said in a statement.

Not missing a beat, Faso agreed in a statement released by his campaign 20 minutes later.

At the same time, Faso’s campaign called for the third GOP candidate in the race, Bob Bishop, to be included. Heaeny’s campaign allies have sought to challenge Bishop’s ballot position.

“John Faso accepts,” said Faso spokesman Bill O’Reilly. “He’s happy to inform voters about Andrew Heaney’s history of donating to President Obama, and we suspect that Mr. Bishop may want to talk about Mr. Heaney’s ongoing attempts to disenfranchise him.”

The 19th congressional district is being vacated this year by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who announced Monday he would not run for governor in 2018 and instead take a job at Williams College.

As Kaminsky Is Sworn In, Senate Dems Call For Ethics Reforms

Todd Kaminsky is expected to be sworn in as a new senator on Tuesday at 2 p.m. after running a platform largely on ethics reform.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are seizing on a Siena College poll released Tuesday morning that found a broad majority of voters want ethics reform and anti-corruption measures approved this year.

A plurality of voters believe ethics legislation should be the top issue facing the Legislature in the remainder of the session.

“With the recent election of Todd Kaminsky replacing former Republican Leader Dean Skelos and today’s poll, it is clear that the people of New York are demanding real change,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “We must stop hiding behind the status quo and pass real ethics reforms. I hope the Senate Republicans will finally get this message and help clean up Albany.”

A host of ethics issues swirl in Albany and in New York as a whole.

Ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is being sentenced this afternoon for his corruption conviction, facing more than 14 years in federal prison.

A former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is being investigated for his consulting work with companies that have business before the state.

And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is under investigation for his role in aiding Senate Democrats in 2014, when his political allies sought to funnel money through county party committees in an apparent effort to help individual candidates.

Republicans last month pointed to a donation from an untraceable LLC to the Nassau County Democratic Committee, which had aided Kaminsky’s special election bid to replace ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who is being sentenced later this month for his own corruption conviction in December.

Conservative Party Reiterates Call For Term Limits

As lawmakers return for a post-budget legislative session push Tuesday, the state Conservative Party reiterated its call for term limits of elected officials.

In a letter to state legislators from Chairman Mike Long, the party endorsed a term limit measure backed by Sen. Joe Griffo and Assemblyman Mickey Kearns.

“The power of incumbency creates an almost insurmountable obstacle to challengers who have witnessed a level of corruption that has seen the arrest of 44 members since 2003,” Long wrote in the letter. “Albany has many good legislators who should embrace the idea of term limits. Americans have not been harmed by having our president limited to two terms and quite honestly, I believe New Yorkers will benefit with term limits for members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.”

Later on Tuesday, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is scheduled to be sentenced after he was found guilty in November of fraud and extortion charges. Prosecutors are seeking more than 14 years in prison, which would be a record for a former state lawmaker convicted of corruption.

Lawmakers have been hesitant to approve term limits for themselves and statewide elected officials, though the Senate has put in place in their rule limits on the tenure of leadership and committee chairmanships in the chamber.

SD-49: Farley Won’t Seek Re-Election

Sen. Hugh Farley, one of the longest serving members of the state Senate, announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election to the chamber.

In a statement, the Schenectady-area Republican cited the ongoing health issues facing his wife.

“I wish to announce that I will not be seeking re-election to the 49th Senate District this fall,” Farley said in a statement. “The love of my life, Sharon, my wife of 57 years, is now dealing with several health issues and it is my desire and responsibility to spend more time with her and my family.”

First elected in 1976, the 83-year-old Farley’s district comprises parts of Schenectady and Saratoga counties.

His retirement makes him the latest member of the narrowly divided Senate to not return in 2017. Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Republican from the Finger Lakes region, is due to leave the Senate this year following heart surgery.

Republican Sen. Jack Martins, too, is running in a competitive primary for Congress on Long Island.

Democratic Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson is leaving the Senate at the end of the legislative session June, when she is due to take a job with the Cuomo administration.

Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto is retiring after one term following allegations of misconduct in his office.

Farley’s retirement has the potential to put the seat in play, though the district has been a safe Republican seat for decades. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has already been floated as a potential successor to Farley in the Senate.

With Gibson Out, GOP Field Narrows

From the Morning Memo:

With Rep. Chris Gibson announcing on Capital Tonight he won’t run for governor in 2018, the Republican bench got a little lighter.

Gibson was viewed by both Democrats and Republicans a potentially formidable challenger: An energetic, smart, retired colonel who held moderate views on social issues and was getting a head start on fundraising by retiring from Congress this year.

Alas, for Republicans hoping to capture their first statewide victory since George Pataki won a third term in 2002, it was not to be.

Republicans do have others waiting in the wings though and they stand to benefit from Gibson making some space.

Rob Astorino: The Westchester County executive has made little secret of wanting another shot at the executive mansion in 2018. The 2014 nominee, Astorino lost to Cuomo, but believes he can potentially replicate his 2009 victory over Andy Spano, who at the time was seeking a fourth term as county executive in Democratic-heavy Westchester. Astorino must still decide if he’s seeking re-election to the county executive post in 2017 before running for governor again — making for yet another difficult turn around time in statewide fundraising.

“Chris Gibson is a good man who has served our nation and our state with distinction, pride and integrity,” Astorino said in a statement. “While he is leaving the political arena, I hope that he will continue to be a voice for New Yorkers who are suffering in a stagnant economy and a state government under a massive cloud of corruption.”

Carl Paladino: The 2010 nominee for governor has never really left the stage, despite losing to Cuomo in a landslide. Paladino remains a potent force within the grassroots of the Republican Party in New York, especially upstate. His presidential candidate of choice, Donald Trump, swept nearly every county in New York during last month’s primary. In a phone interview on Monday, Paladino said he’s still considering another run for governor.

“He’s narrowing the field, I guess,” Paladino said. “I have great respect for Chris, for his military service, for his service as a congressman.”

Asked whether Gibson’s decision to not run changes the calculus, Paladino pointed out how early it is.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to happen over the next two years before this becomes a horse race,” he said.

Paladino likely would have the resources and the grassroots help to be a formidable candidate in a GOP primary. But New York’s increasingly blue electorate in the general election could deny him a statewide win again.

Harry Wilson: The 2010 Republican nominee for comptroller stands perhaps the best chance to fill the gap left by Gibson not running. With his financial background, Wilson would command resources and have institutional support from Republicans. At the same time, he likely would not be mired in social issues that have tripped up Republicans running statewide in recent years, such as abortion and LGBT rights issues. Wilson has kept largely below the radar, though he has appeared at Republican and Conservative Party functions as he considers another statewide run. However, he remains largely unknown to most voters.

Marc Molinaro: The Dutchess County executive would be the freshest face in a Republican primary, considering he’s never run for statewide office. He’s also a rising star in the party, having been elected to the county post in 2011 and serving in the Assembly before that. Molinaro, like Wilson, would have to boost his name recognition beyond political circles. And he’d face the similar challenge Gibson would have had as an upstate Republican running in a state where the center of gravity is New York City.

“I am tremendously grateful to Chris Gibson for his selfless sacrifice on behalf of this nation and his service in the House of Representatives,” Molinaro said. “While I would have gladly supported him for higher office I am happiest to call him my congressman, and he and his wife, my friends.”

Siena Poll: Voters Says Ethics Top Issue For Albany

As corruption investigations seep into the governor’s office as well as City Hall in Manhattan, a plurality of voters say state lawmakers should tackle ethics reform in the remainder of the legislative session, a Siena College poll released on Tuesday morning.

The poll found that among a list of issues ranging from enhancing access to cancer screenings, combating heroin addiction and making housing more affordable, passing new ethics and anti-corruption measures was deemed by voters in the poll to be the most important.

The poll found 82 percent rate the issue as “very important” following a year in which scandal and corruption plagued the Capitol. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is scheduled to be sentenced later on Tuesday after he was found guilty on all counts of fraud and extortion. His former counterpart in the Senate, ex-Majority Leader Leader Dean Skelos, is due to be sentenced later this month following his conviction on corruption charges in December

Meanwhile, the offices of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been issued subpoenas in separate corruption cases.

De Blasio’s fundraising practices in 2014 in aid of the Senate Democrats is facing scrutiny for its use of funneling money through party county committees in an effort to aid individual candidates. Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo is under investigation for payments he received from companies with millions of dollars in business before the state.

A whopping 82 percent of voters say combating corruption through the passage of new ethics laws is “very important” — eclipsing other issues such as Common Core, the controversial education standards.

But while most voters agree corruption needs to be tackled, there are varying levels of support for individual remedies, the Siena poll found.

A broad majority, 77 percent, back a constitutional amendment that would strip those convicted of corruption of their pension benefits, with voters saying that should apply to all state employees, not just elected officials.

A plurality, 48 percent, oppose capping lawmakers’ outside pay at 15 percent of their base income, currently $79,500.

A similar plurality, 47 percent, believe the recent spate of scandals at the Capitol makes it less likely for them to support their individual incumbent state legislator, though 39 percent do not believe that will have an impact on their vote.

In the sole statewide election this year, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer continues to hold a wide lead over his Republican opponent, Wendy Long, 57 percent to 32 percent. That’s down a little from February, when Schumer led the little-known Long 60 percent to 29 percent. At the moment, 52 percent of voters plan to re-elect Schumer, who is poised to become the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate next year.

Cuomo’s favorability and job performance reviews saw a slight bump, he poll found.

Cuomo’s favorability rating stands at 54 percent to 41 percent, up slightly from 52 percent to 43 percent in February. His job performance rating remains under water, 43 percent to 56.

The poll of 802 registered voters was conducted from April 24 through April 27. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

SNY42416 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

The Legislature is back to work in Albany after an extended spring break, and both houses are in session this afternoon.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is scheduled to be sentenced today for his federal corruption conviction.

The unusually contentious Buffalo School Board elections are tonight. Also, voters go to the polls in Indiana to cast ballots in primaries that could prove definitive in both the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination battles.

A fuller calendar of today’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his former aide’s acceptance of fees from entities with business before the state, saying it was “totally allowable” for Joe Percoco to have done so while serving as the governor’s campaign manager.

“I’ve known Joe Percoco for many years and he is a good man and I’d be shocked if he did anything wrong, but let’s get the facts and we can all make our own decisions,” Cuomo said. He also defended the Buffalo Billion program, which he said is doing “great work.”

Cuomo acknowledged Percoco had told him he planned to take on additional consulting work while also working on his boss’ re-election campaign. While the governor was aware his top aide would be taking on private work, he said he was not told of the specifics.

Federal investigators looking into the Buffalo Billion have requested information from SolarCity, the California-based rooftop solar energy systems installer, whose solar panel factory in South Buffalo is the keystone of the state’s high-profile economic development initiative. SolarCity is not the focus of the investigation, a company spokesman said.

COR Development Co. officials on Saturday denied ever paying a cent to Percoco. Yesterday, state officials released a disclosure form on which Percoco declared between $50,000 and $75,000 in income from the firm, but COR officials stood by their initial statement.

JCOPE received a federal grand jury subpoena seeking copies of Percoco’s financial disclosure forms more than a week ago. F.B.I. agents from the Buffalo office have executed search warrants at locations around Buffalo, Albany, New York City and Washington, several people briefed on the matter said.

Investigative Post Editor Jim Heaney, whose reporting prompted federal investigators to launch the Buffalo Billion probe, says Cuomo’s penchant for secrecy and misguided notion that the rules don’t apply to him or his administration has fostered a culture that enables corruption.

Former LG Bob Duffy, now chairman of Rochester’s AIM Photonics Leadership Council, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the Buffalo Billion probe, saying it seems built on a lot of “unnamed sources, which always concerns me.” Due to the lack of specifics, Duffy said he wouldn’t speculate on what the investigation means for Rochester.

Former New York City mayoral candidate and billionaire political donor-turned-radio host John Catsimatidis was interviewed by authorities as part of an investigation into NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising activities.

Catsimatidis has publicly acknowledged donating $50,000 to the Putnam County Democratic Committee at de Blasio’s request, and learning later that the cash had been funneled to Democratic candidates for state Senate. The businessman said his donations were “100 percent legal” and that he had “zero control and zero knowledge” over where the funds were directed.

De Blasio again denied criminal wrongdoing in his campain’s fundraising activities weren’t illegal and said that he thought he was being singled out in a series of investigations by people and organizations that don’t agree with his policies.

The mayor has endorsed legislation to restrict the role of lobbyists and others with business before the city from bundling donations for candidates.

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who in February announced he was considering a bid for New York governor in 2018, has decided not to run. He’s leaving politics altogether in favor of a career in academia.

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will be sentenced today in a corruption case that brought to light his extramarital affairs with two women – a former staffer-turned-lobbyist and a former assemblywoman – details of which are still emerging.

The NYPD has revoked the gun carry permits of more than two dozen people who got them through a shady middleman indicted for bribing NYPD cops working in the department’s Licensing Division, sources tell the NY Post.

Voters will cast their ballots today to decide who fills six seats on the Buffalo School Board, but it could be days before some of the races are settled, due to a large number of write-in ballots that need to be hand counted.

The New York Times dings Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, who is being sued by the state attorney general for flouting the governor’s executive order for an outside investigation in the case of a police officer in Troy who fatally shot a black motorist named Edson Thevenin.

More >

Cuomo Says Percoco Told Him About Consulting Work, But Not Specifics

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged on Monday evening his former top aide Joe Percoco had told him he planned to take on additional consulting work while also working on his re-election campaign.

While Cuomo was aware Percoco would be taking on additional work outside of government, he was not told of the specifics.

“Joe left state service and went into the private sector,” Cuomo said. “He consulted for my campaign. I knew he might be accepting consulting jobs for other companies.”

Percoco, a longtime confidant for Cuomo, is at the center of a corruption investigation stemming from a key economic development project in western New York, the Buffalo Billion.

“I’m saying I know Joe Percoco for many years and he is a good man and I would be shocked if he did anything wrong,” Cuomo told reporters in New York City. “But let’s get the facts and then we can all make a decision.”

Financial disclosure filings made available on Monday by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics show Percoco was receiving as much as $125,000 in consulting fees from companies that have business before the state, including COR Development. The company has contracts related to the Buffalo Billion program.

Percoco’s wife also received consulting work from a LLC that has ties to businesses with state contracts as well.

Cuomo said it’s “totally allowable” for someone to leave the state payroll, as Percoco did in 2014 to run the re-election effort, and take on private consulting work.

“It was consulting,” Cuomo said. “He was serving as a consultant for my campaign and he said he might be doing consultant work for other clients.”

Cuomo has spoken with Percoco in recent days, saying the matter is a “deeply troubling situation.”

Percoco is not just any other government aide. He’s a deeply trusted member of the Cuomo inner circle who started work in the public sector with Cuomo’s late father, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Percoco has worked with Cuomo in a variety of capacities, including his time at the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the state attorney general’s office.

The conversation, Cuomo said, was on a “personal basis” and that Percoco is “distraught and his family’s distraught. It’s painful. It is a very painful thing.”

“Joe and his family, his wife and his kids I know very well,” Cuomo said. “This is just a terrible situation for him first of all, for his family. It’s terrible. I don’t know another word for it. I think it’s very important the facts come out, because right now we have a lot of questions, we have a lot of questions, but we have very few facts.”

The federal investigation has reportedly focused on Percoco, as well as lobbyist Todd Howe, who has represented before the state SUNY Polytechnic, a key player in high-tech businesses that are being wooed to upstate New York.

At the same time, a company that is seeking to build a power plant in Orange County is being eyed by federal investigators.

The Buffalo Billion itself has been a key program for Cuomo, who has frequently touted the economic gains made in western New York during his time in office.

“It’s important for me to be able to say to the people of the state of New York the Buffalo Billion is being run well and their tax dollars are being protected,” Cuomo said. “Buffalo is buzzing in a way it hasn’t been buzzing in a long time. I want to say to the people of this state you should have confidence in the way this program is being operated because we have the best mind brought in to investigate, soup to nuts.”