De Blasio Continues Defense Of Fundraising Activities

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in an interview on WNYC this morning reiterated his defense of his fundraising activities, which have fallen under the scrutiny of state and federal investigators.

At the same time, de Blasio suggested there was a political motivation behind the recommendation by the prosecution referral made by the chief enforcement counsel at the state Board of Elections. Risa Sugarman, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, concluded in a memorandum de Blasio’s political team violated campaign finance laws when aiding Senate Democrats’ efforts in taking over the chamber in 2014.

“Everything was done very carefully, meticulously, with legal guidance all along the way, and consistent with what so many other people have done,” de Blasio said. “So that’s why I’m saying it’s very interesting that now it becomes a subject of these questions.”

De Blasio has been at odds with both Cuomo as well as Senate Republicans since taking office in 2011.

Aides to the mayor, in aiding Democratic candidates, directed large-dollar contributions to county Democratic committees in upstate races, which then turned around and transferred the money to individual candidates.

The practice is a commonplace one, but de Blasio’s push was done a large-scale project that hadn’t been seen before.

“I think we have to figure out some of the motivations behind it, because if we specifically followed every step along the way — legal guidance — and did what other mayors and other leaders have done for years and years under the laws of this state, following the letter and spirit of the law,” de Blasio said. “Well, that is how we are supposed to comport ourselves.”

Subpoenas have been issued to the mayor’s top political advisor, Emma Wolfe, as well as his campaign fundraiser, Ross Offinger, as well as outside political consultants with ties to de Blasio.

Amid Fundraising Investigation, de Blasio To Make Albany Appearance

Amid an ongoing investigating into his fundraising activities, Mayor Bill de Blasio will face his staunchest institutional critics next week in person as Senate Republicans hold a hearing on the future of mayoral control of New York City schools.

NY1’s Zack Fink on Friday confirmed de Blasio will appear in Albany for the hearing, which was called earlier this year by Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino, a Nassau County Republican.

Mayoral control of city schools is due to expire at the end of June. Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a 12-month extension of the program, while de Blasio had sought a permanent extension of the control.

De Blasio faces multiple inquiries into his efforts in 2014 to help Democrats take full control of the Senate as well as his relationships with donors to the Campaign For One New York.

Scrutiny has been placed in particular on the funneling of campaign donations from donors to county Democratic committees that ended up backing individual candidates. The county committees were able to transfer the funds well above the individual donor contribution limits.

De Blasio last testified in Albany in February to discuss the proposed state budget. At the time, Senate Republicans grilled him over whether New York City should be subject to a cap on property tax increases.

Senate Republicans plan to cover a range of issues with mayoral control, including student performance, graduation rates, and “the effectiveness of having a single person accountable for the public school system as compared to the previous community board system.”

A second hearing is scheduled for May 19 in New York City.

NY-3: Martins Elevated In NRCC’s “Young Guns” Program

From the Morning Memo:

Republican congressional hopeful Jack Martins was among the 11 GOP House candidates this week elevated in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.

Martins, a state senator seeking the GOP nomination in the 3rd congressional district on Long Island, was designated with the “contender” status by the committee.

Reaching the status in the program requires candidates to reach certain fundraising and organizing benchmarks in a campaign in a show of candidate strength and viability.

“While our Republican majority continues to work hard to move our country forward, we know there is still more to be done,” said NRCC Chairman Greg Walden.

“These 11 candidates have proven themselves to be exemplary leaders in their communities and they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in Washington. I am confident these candidates will continue to run strong campaigns as they spread the message and values of the Republican party across the country.”

Martins is one candidate in a crowded race to succeed Democratic Rep. Steve Israel.

Three Republicans are competing for the GOP nomination in the district, including Philip Pidot and Martins.

Five Democrats are also running for what is shaping up for a battleground race, including former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

The primary is a closely watched one for Senate Democrats in Albany, given the potential pickup opportunity they would have with the western Nassau Senate district if Martins wins the June primary.

Here and Now

Happy Arbor Day.

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

At 7:45 a.m., the consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Northeastern Conference kicks off, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd., Clinton.

At 8 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli delivers the keynote speech at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Holiday Inn, 308 N. Comrie Ave., Johnstown.

At 8:15 a.m., NY Law School’s CityLaw breakfast series features U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Robert Capers, 185 West Broadway, Manhattan.

At 8:30 a.m., Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton headlines the Eagle Academy Foundation’s annual fundraising breakfast, Gotham Hall, 1356 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, City of Albany Forestry Division workers, volunteers from TD Bank as well as young adults from the South End, the Excelsior Conservation Corp, and the College of St. Rose plant 14 trees to replace others lost to the Emerald Ash Borer and old age, Lincoln Park, Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul convenes the WNY Regional Economic Development Council and makes a funding announcement, SUNY Fredonia, Room G204 ABC, 280 Central Ave., Fredonia.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the 2017 executive budget.

At 11:15 a.m., Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz and parents of Success Academy students hold press conference to announce first court date in a lawsuit seeking to keep the network’s pre-K program running, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11:35 a.m., a pre-taped interview with de Blasio on the executive budget will air on AM 970.

At noon, Hochul joins local elected officials for a groundbreaking at the Rochester Public Market, 280 Union St. North, Rochester.

At 12:45 p.m., DiNapoli visits serval local programs and businesses in Schenectady with Assemblymen Angelo Santabarbara and Phil Steck and Mayor Gary McCarthy and then holds a media availability in front of the Phyllis Bornt Library, 948 State St., Schenectady.

At 1 p.m., NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and local officials cut the ribbon on a new $5.8 million horse riding arena at Ocean Breeze, 599 Father Capodanna Blvd., Staten Island.

At 2 p.m., Hochul delivers remarks at the installation ceremony for SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson, SUNY Brockport Special Events Recreation Center, 350 New Campus Dr., Brockport.

At 5 p.m., Clinton attends fundraisers, with a “Conversation with Hillary” event at the Children’s Museum of New York, and an event in Queens with Democratic Reps. Joe Crowley and Grace Meng.

At 7 p.m., 135 moms, grandmothers, foster moms, aunts, and women sleep out on NYC streets to highlight the plight of homeless youth, 460 West 41st St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Manhattan lawyer Mark Warren Moody has filed a class-action lawsuit against the state and city Board of Elections to overturn the closed-primary system, saying no one should be shut out.

On New York’s presidential primary election day last week, 1,445 people who were denied regular ballots at the polls in Onondaga County refused to take no for an answer – a much higher number than is typical.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was barraged by a fresh round of questions about the investigation into his fund-raising, and reiterated: “(W)e hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity. Everything we’ve done from the beginning is legal and appropriate.”

De Blasio said he looks forward to the “speedy conclusion” of federal and state probes into his fundraising activities, defending himself one day after his office said it had been subpoenaed.

Historians have been hard-pressed to find a mayor who, along with his administration and inner circle, was ever the subject of as many simultaneous investigations — five, at last count, conducted by as many different agencies — de Blasio now faces.

Contributions to housekeeping accounts for Democrats and Republicans alike have hit record levels in recent years, according to a report from the good government group Common Cause of New York.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan says he’ll decide in two weeks whether to give up his safe seat in the lower house and run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Marc Panepinto among considerable turmoil and a strong GOP candidate (Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a seven-member committee to search for the next New York State Police superintendent. He expects recommendations within a matter of weeks.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is calling on Cuomo to add an Assembly representative to that search committee. Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who chairs the chamber’s Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections and is a former sheriff, is on the panel.

In the hopes that it’s not over for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, his local volunteers are watching Erie County election workers this week review the affidavit ballots that were filled out on primary day by voters whose status to vote was unclear.

The Second Circuit has backed Trump in an intellectual property lawsuit filed by a self-described “domainer” who registered domain names with the word “Trump” in them, saying that a district court correctly found the man’s actions violated a federal cybersquatting law.

A suspicious white powder mailed to Trump’s campaign office set off a scare at Trump Tower last night, and was ultimately declared not dangerous.

With the nation on the verge of a presidential election between the first woman to lead a major party and an opponent accused of misogyny, Trump and Hillary Clinton are digging in for a fight in which he is likely to attack her precisely because she is a woman.

In response to the GOP frontrunner’s comment this week that Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate due only to her so-called “woman card,” many took to social media with mock-ups of what those woman cards might look like.

Former House Speaker John Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” and said he wouldn’t vote for him if the Texas senator wins the Republican presidential nomination. Later commenting on the remark, Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, told Newsday that Cruz “gives Lucifer a bad name.”

More >

Chautauqua County Raises Legal Age To Purchase Tobacco To 21

The Chautauqua County Legislature has passed a law raising the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. The legislature voted 13-6 in favor of the measure Wednesday night.

“I think we’re making a great stride for improving the life and the life expectancy here in Chautauqua County,” Legislator Paul Wendel, R, said.

Effective October, Chautauqua is set to become the second county in the state where the minimum legal age is 21. Last year, Suffolk County became the first.

It is also illegal to sell tobacco to people under 21 in New York City and in Nassau and Onondaga counties the age is 19. The topic is being considered by governments across the state including in Albany County and Erie County.

Opponents of the bill believed it infringes on the right of legal adults to make their own decision. They also believe it can have an economic impact on the county.

“There will be little decrease in tobacco sales in the 18 to 20-year-olds because they’ll simply get in their car and drive across county, state border, to purchase the cigarettes. The ban on local tobacco sales will hurt local business and is bad for our local economy,” David Wilfong, R, said.

An amendment was considered to exclude e-cigarettes and vaporizers from the law but ultimately failed.

Extras

Former House Speaker John Boehner described Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” and said that he would not vote for the Texas Republican if he is the party’s presidential nominee. “I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” Boehner said.

Cruz dismissed Boehner’s criticism of him, casting the remarks as just another example of the GOP establishment targeting him, and saying: “He allowed his inner Trump to come out.”

Speaking at a fundraiser for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at the home of a prominent real estate developer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a warm endorsement of the up-and-coming Democrat – a possible challenger to his political rival NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio said again today that he’s confident he and his top aides have always acted appropriately and legally when it comes to his fundraising, adding: “There’s an investigation going on, we’re going to fully cooperate with that investigation.”

A federal appeals court in Manhattan upheld former Queens Councilman Dan Halloran’s conviction for taking bribes and arranging payoffs to help former state senator Malcolm Smith get on the 2013 Republican mayoral primary ballot.

KeyCorp and First Niagara Financial Group Inc. will sell 18 of First Niagara’s branches in the Buffalo, New York, area to resolve antitrust concerns that arose from KeyCorp’s $4 billion acquisition of First Niagara, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat – one of several aspiring successors too retiring Rep. Charles Rangel – dismissed U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s decision to back Assemblyman Keith Wright for the seat, and insisted his endorsements from local elected officials are more important.

Rep. Charlie Rangel is expected to endorse Wright this weekend to replace him in Congress.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are discussing a “potential resolution” of the regulator’s investigation into the agency, bond documents published today show.

For all its ills, New York Penn Station can count one more: toxic contamination on at least two of its tracks.

Pilgrim pipelines opponents say they are buoyed by the state’s rejection of the proposed Constitution Pipeline on the grounds that the developer did not provide sufficient information on the potential impact on water quality.

Rep. John Katko is “disappointed” the DEC rejected the Constitution Pipeline project, calling it a “missed opportunity” to create jobs and lower-cost energy.

Unions whose members would have benefitted from jobs created by the pipeline project are also criticizing Cuomo for nixing it.

A U.S. Senate panel approved bipartisan legislation that would authorize $20 million to reimburse schools that test for lead contamination in drinking water.

The town of North Hempstead is suing Nassau County for the third time over tax revenue withheld to cover tuition reimbursement fees at the Fashion Institute of Technology, for a claim dating back more than a decade.

M&T Bank Corp. has hired former Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz as its administrative vice president of government relations.

A half-dozen major Long Island executives who gave money to retiring Rep. Steve Israel’s 2014 re-election campaign are hedging their bets on the winner of the June 28 Democratic primary by donating to two different candidates, campaign filings show.

Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee have introduced federal legislation to crack down on the use of so-called ticket bot software used to snatch up large chunks of event tickets online faster than people can.

A complaint that a Buffalo police officer allegedly smashed a man’s head repeatedly against a truck window in a road rage incident is under investigation by Internal Affairs officers.

Winter is officially over! The state Office of General Services announced the start of the summer food vendor and farmers market programs on the Empire State Plaza and Harriman Campus.

NY-13: Espaillat Endorsed By TWU

As rival Democrat Keith Wright is endorsed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the campaign to replace Rep. Charlie Rangel, Adriano Espaillat was given the nod for the seat by the Transportation Workers Union Local 100.

The union has backed Espaillat’s previous bids for the 13th congressional district in 2012 and in 2014, both which came up short against Rangel, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“Adriano Espaillat has always stood with working New Yorkers, and for a better transportation network for our city,” said TWU President John Samuelsen. “From helping secure funds to rehab train stations right here in Upper Manhattan to fighting to stop funding cuts to the Second Avenue Subway, Senator Espaillat has proven to be true champion we can count on and I am proud to endorse him for Congress. We need Senator Espaillat in Washington to help build the transportation infrastructure our city needs for the next 100 years.”

Espaillat, a state senator, faces Wright and five other Democrats for the nomination contest in June.

Wright, a state assemblyman and former chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Committee, has been bolstered with a series of endorsements from elected officials, including Gillibrand and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

On Wednesday, Wright released an email to supporters touting the Gillibrand endorsement.

“Keith’s proven that he will fight for our neighborhoods and make sure that hard-working New Yorkers have a fair shot,” the email said. “His record of success and strong leadership has earned the support of many fellow New Yorkers – from the Bronx Democratic County Committee, to leaders from the Upper West Side, to labor organizations, to tenant leaders, and more, New York is uniting behind Keith.”

De Blasio Says He’s Cooperating With Federal Investigation

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Thursday his administration was cooperating with an ongoing federal and state investigation into his fundraising activities.

His comments to reporters in New York City come a day after top advisors to the mayor, including City Hall itself, were issued subpoenas as part of the ongoing inquiry.

“We hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity. Everything we have done from the beginning is legal and appropriate,” de Blsaio said. “There’s an investigation going on. We are going to fully cooperate with that investigation.”

The investigation stems in part from de Blasio’s efforts in 2014 to help Democrats gain control of the state Senate.

Scrutiny is being placed on the common fundraising tactic of county committees receiving large contributions and then passing the money along to Democratic Senate candidates in an apparent effort to avoid fundraising limits. A committee backed by de Blasio’s political supporters, the Campaign For One New York, is also being eyed by investigators.

“We look forward to the speedy conclusion of it,” the mayor saod. “But we will fully cooperate. But since there is an investigation, I can’t go into any detail. That’s an ongoing process.”

The mayor himself has not been issued a subpoena.

However, a consulting firm with close ties to the mayor, Berlin Rosen, was issued a subpoena, including top political advisor Emma Wolfe.

Cuomo Names State Police Superintendent Search Panel

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is turning to some familiar faces for the search to replace retiring State Police Superintendent Joe D’Amico.

Cuomo’s office on Thursday unveiled the panel, which includes a former Erie County sheriff-turned-state lawmaker, a former lieutenant governor and an ex-New York City Police commissioner.

“The State Police play a vital role in ensuring the safety of New York’s families and communities,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Under the leadership of Superintendent D’Amico, the State Police have shown remarkable courage and discipline in their service, and I have tasked this search committee with identifying candidates who will build on that record for all New Yorkers. I look forward to receiving their recommendations in the weeks ahead.”

The search committee includes K2 Intelligence Chairman Ray Kelly, the former NYPD commissioner. Bob Duffy, now the chairman of the Rochester Business Alliance, served as lieutenant governor during Cuomo’s first term and was the mayor of Rochester as well as the city’s police chief.

Cuomo also named Mylan Denerstein, his former counsel, now a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, to the panel.

Former Sen. Michael Balboni, a former deputy secretary for public safety, is on the committee as is Thomas Zugibe, the Rockland County district attorney. Republican Sen. Patrick Gallivan, a former Erie County sheriff, and Rachel Small, the deputy secretary for public safety are on the panel as well.

D’Amico announced earlier this month he would step down from the top post at the State Police after his replacement is found.

Cuomo Vows To Enhance Rail Safety Crossings

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement on Thursday vowed to enhance safety at commuter rail crossings after a disabled vehicle was struck by a Metro-North train in Bedford Hills on Wednesday evening.

Cuomo, in the statement, called the accidents “all too frequent.”

Last year, a train crash struck a disabled car in Valhalla, killing six people, including the person in the car.

“These crossings have caused numerous deaths for years and it happens all across the state. I will not accept the premise that there is nothing we can do,” Cuomo said. “My administration has contacted the federal government, charged with approving grade modifications, and informed them that we must go forward immediately with new design features that create safer crossings.”

Those potential options include motion detectors, alerting cars through painting “danger” areas on the street, voice commands and public information campaigns, Cuomo said.

“I have directed the MTA, which has already been working on options, to have several plans presented next week and asked the federal government to cooperate with their approval in weeks, not months,” Cuomo added. “If we know this system doesn’t work well, we have to act with common sense to change it. And we must act quickly, because enough is enough.”