Soros-Backed Group Bemoans Public Financing Compromise

The group supported by Jonathan Soros, Friends of Democracy, blamed both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders for compromising on a public financing system that limits the donor-matching program to the state comptroller’s race.

In a statement from Friends of Democracy’s David Donnelly, the group accuses Cuomo of an “abdication of leadership” in the final push to include a statewide public financing system.

“Friends of Democracy is deeply disappointed with the failure of Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to address the systemic corruption in Albany through a comprehensive publicly funded Fair Elections program. Governor Cuomo’s abdication of leadership during the budget process resulted in little or no reform when an historic opportunity was at hand. One silver lining is the Senate Republicans’ willingness to vote for public funding for one state office as a pilot program. While we vigorously disagree with the scope and the content of this pilot program, we are encouraged that the vote may be a sign of openness for further negotiations.”

Cuomo had included a statewide campaign financing system in his January budget proposal that was based on the New York City model.

However, the final agreement limits the system to the comptroller’s race and is considered a “pilot” program.

Senate Republicans have been staunchly opposed to the use of taxpayer funds for elections, but did agree to a host of ethics reform legislation under the umbrella bill known as the Public Trust Act that tightens anti-corruption and bribery penalties.

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is now attempting to negotiate a new, phased-in public financing proposal to be considered in the coming weeks.

What happens with public financing by the end of the June legislative session could have deep political ramifications down the road.

Advocates had hoped for some action in the budget process, considering that the governor tends to hold maximum leverage in the negotiations. A broader program could shore up his left flank as well as he heads into re-election.

Friends of Democracy is a deep-pocketed organization that has vowed to get involved in state legislative races heading into the election season.

Cuomo To Skip Nassau Dems’ Dinner Tonight

The legislative budget debate, which is expected to drag on into the night, is preventing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from attending a Democratic dinner in Nassau County where he was scheuled to co-headline a tribute to retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said he received a call from Cuomo aide Joe Percoco a little over an hour ago with the bad news. But Jacobs also received a heads up last night that the way things were shaping up at the Capitol, it was possible Cuomo would need to stay in Albany to make sure the budget vote went smoothly.

Jacobs and Cuomo have been at odds lately, thanks to the chairman’s call for the governor and his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, to reject the Independence Party’s endorsement in hopes of starving it out of existence.

Astorino, who was unlikely to receive the party’s nod anyway, quickly heeded Jacobs’ call. But Cuomo has hedged, preferring instead to let Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano blast Jacobs at an unrelated Red Room press conference.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Jacobs, a former state Democratic Party chairman, insisted his difference of opinion with Cuomo on the Independence Party has nothing to do with the governor’s decision to skip tonight’s dinner.

“We knew going in when we picked this date that there was a distinct possibility that the governor would not be able to attend because budget wrangling would be going on in Albany,” Jacobs said. “And as I understand it, there is a lot of budget wrangling going on in Albany.”

Jacobs said Pelosi is still scheduled to attend the event, as are a number of McCarthy’s congressional colleagues, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Latimer: Astorino’s Kids Are ‘Political Props’

Sen. George Latimer, a Westchester County Democrat, has been deployed to respond to County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s announcement this morning that he and his wife have decided to have his kids opt out of the upcoming Common Core exams to protest the controversial curriculum.

In a statement, Latimer, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee, accused Astorino of sinking to a “new low” by “using his children as political props to make points that are pure fiction.”

“Mr. Astorino’s latest venture into the absurd includes blaming Bill Gates for the creation of Common Core standards and Governor Cuomo for implementing them,” Latimer continued. “We need to set the record straight.”

“Governor Cuomo has been a strong voice for parents and students in opposing the flawed implementation of common core. On this very day, the state is passing laws he proposed which eliminate all testing for kindergarten through second grade and negate common core test scores for all students.”

“This is the kind of strong leadership we need – not the type of attacks and stunts that puts political posturing ahead of public policy. Governor Cuomo deserves our thanks for his substantive vision and forceful leadership.”

Astorino has been hammering on the Common Core for some time, calling it yet another unfunded mandate handed down to local governments (in this case, the school districts) by the state. He has also said he would eradicate it completely if he’s elected governor in November.

The slam on Astorino for using his kids as “political props” seems unfair. It’s not as if he’s the first elected official to highlight family members to make a point during a political campaign. Actually, it’s a time-honored tradition to involve one’s children and spouse to demonstrate familial ties to the voters. In this case, the Astorinos are joining many other New York parents in opting their kids out of what they consider onerous and unfair testing.

New Public Financing Bill Would Phase In System

State lawmakers in the Senate are negotiating a new public financing proposal that would phase in a donor-matching system by 2020, sources familiar with the talks said.

Under the proposal, Senate and Assembly candidates would be eligible for the public financing system by 2016, with all statewide offices eligible by 2020.

The new proposal is the subject of closed-door talks with Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, Deputy Republican Leader Tom Libous, Senate Republican Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cathy Young and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco.

The bill will be considered in the “coming weeks” according to one source, making it one of the more closely watched items in a post-budget legislative session.

The proposal is an alternative – and a far broader one – than the public financing pilot program included in the state budget that would apply only to this year’s state comptroller’s race.

The pilot program, which advocacy groups say doesn’t go far enough, is expected to be approved by both the Assembly and Senate on Monday.

Klein To Introduce Broader Public Financing Bill

Independent Democaatic Conference Leader Jeff Klein has agreed to introduce a broader public financing measure, sources said on Monday.

The plan will allow the public protection-general government legislation to go through intact, which includes a measure to create a pilot program for the state comptroller’s race only.

The compromise version of the public financing system is opposed by advocates and good-government organizations who had hoped for a broader, statewide version of the program.

Klein had been working behind the scenes on Monday to modify the current pilot program that had been introduced Friday night.

Now, Klein turn his attention to pushing a larger public financing plan outside of the budget that would be based on the New York City model of the 6-to-1 public matching program.

Comptroller Tom DiNpaoli himself is against the budget proposal.

“After eight years of my call for campaign finance reform, I am disappointed that my public financing proposal was not enacted,” DiNapoli said, referring to a version of the pilot program he introduced. “The process was flawed: I was excluded from the negotiations, and it appears a historic opportunity was missed for comprehensive campaign finance reform and public financing for all statewide and legislative offices. There are also questions on whether this proposal can be fairly and reasonably implemented in such a short time frame.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco said earlier that talks were underway to change the proposal, suggesting “tweaks” were in store for the proposal.

A vote in the Senate for a larger public financing proposal would likely face a steep climb: Senate Republicans remain opposed to any measure using taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns.

DeFran: Public Financing Changes Being Discussed

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco confirmed Monday afternoon that discussions are underway that might produce “tweaks” to the public financing proposal in the agreed-to 2014-15 state budget.

The budget proposes what amounts to a pilot program for public financing that would only impact the state comptroller’s race.

Advocates for statewide system, as well as Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein are pushing for a broader public financing proposal in the final spending plan.

“I’m against public financing of elections. As far as providing a fund that’s available without taxpayers money, that’s up to negotiation,” DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, said. “If people want to voluntarily contribute to a fund, but that’s not public dollars.”

The issue remains open for discussion even as the Senate and Assembly begin voting on various budget bills.

The measure with the public financing language is contained in the public protection, general government portion of the $138 billion spending plan.

“There’s still discussions about that and it’ll be resolved before we have to close down the budget debate,” he said.

It remains unclear what the scope of the changes will be, though DeFrancisco downplayed their impact.

“There might be some tweaks, but I don’t think there’s going to be tweaks that make a big difference,” he said. “But those tweaks are being discussed.”

Democrats Knock Astorino Ahead Of Gun Rally Appearance

The group fronted by Westchester County Democrats is launching a pre-attack on Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino for attending a pro-gun rights rally that the New York chapter of the National Rifle Association is staying away from.

“A good sign you’re out of touch with average New Yorkers: when you’re willing to associate with groups more extreme than the N.R.A.,” said the group known as the “Astorino Truth Squad.”

Tom King of New York Rifle and Pistol Association told The Daily News’ Ken Lovett he won’t be attending the Albany event on Tuesday, which will also feature businessman Donald Trump and 2010 candidate for governor, Buffalo’s Carl Paladino.

The rally against the SAFE Act, a signature gun control package Cuomo pushed through the Legislature in 2013, is also expected to touch on other issues for the conservative base of the Republican Party, ranging from hydrofracking and abortion.


McCain To Headline Zeldin Fundraiser

US Sen. John McCain will headline a fundraiser in support of state Sen. Lee Zeldin’s congressional run on April 22 in New York City.

Tickets to the event is being held at a private residence on E. 70th Street in Manhattan (which happens to be the building where Christopher Cox, son of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, is listed. Ed Cox and his wife, Tricia, are listed as hosts). Tickets start at $1,000 and run as high as $5,200.

McCain, a senior senator from Arizona and the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, endorsed Zeldin last October, saying his “service in the military, as a federal prosecutor and in state government demonstrate his deep commitment to advancing causes greater than his own self-interest.”

Zeldin is seeking the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in November. He is being challenged for the GOP line by George Demos.

MoveOn Pressures Gibson, Grimm With Minimum Wage Poll

MoveOn today released a series of PPP polls of 13 “vulnerable” GOP House districts – including two in New York – that show a majority of voters in each support the idea of raising the federal minimum wage, which has been a top priority of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.

The NY-19 poll, which appears below, shows 60 percent of Rep. Chris Gibson’s constituents support raising the hourly wage at the federal level from $7.25 to $10.10, while 36 percent are opposed and 4 don’t have a position.

Fourty-four percent said they would be less likely to vote for Gibson if he voted against raising the wage, while 27 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for him and 26 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference.

Gibson is facing a challenge from Democrat Sean Eldridge this fall. MoveOn members plan to demonstrate outside Gibson’s Cooperstown offices at noon tomorrow to demand he support an increase in the minimum wage also to deliver petition signatures from constituents.

Similar actions are scheduled outside the offices of every House member whose district was polled, including Gibson’s Republican colleague, Rep. Michael Grimm, in NY-11. Grimm is facing a challenge this fall from former Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia.

NY 19 Minimum Wage Polling Results by MoveOn_org

Silver: Charter School Language ‘Onerous’

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called the budget “on balance” a good spending plan for New York, but expressed dissatisfaction with both compromises on charter school protections for New York City as well as a pilot program for public financing.

“I think there are a lot of good features in this budget,” Silver said. “This budget is all about compromise. There are things I would not like to see in this budget, but on balance I think it’s a good budget.”

On the plus side of the column, Silver pointed to the $300 million in pre-Kindergarten funding for New York City, as well as relief aimed at low-income renters.

But he pointed to concerns over protections for charter schools that had been pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in recent weeks.

“I think the charter school material is a little onerous on the city of New York, unprecedented compared to any other part,” Silver told reporters on the floor of the Assembly.

He added he wished the agreement on public financing that would create a year-long pilot program for the comptroller’s race had gone further.

“If I had a choice as we passed in our resolution a full campaign finance legislation of all offices for election,” Silver said. “But this is a good first step and after this experience we can evaluate what it’s like on a statewide basis and it can be an impetus for the future.”

Advocated for public financing are still pushing for a broader public financing package in the budget even after the bills have been printed.

Silver, meanwhile, insisted a spending plan is still on track to be passed before the April 1 deadline because appropriations measures are being. Several budget bills will not pass the aging requirement until after midnight tonight.

“The budget bills are done. The language may not be complete today,” Silver said. “That’s still a timely budget. The appropriations are perfectly on time. That’s the key.”