State Democratic Ad: ‘Christmas’ For Astorino

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces heat for his handling of the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, the state Democratic Committee is firing back at GOP candidate Rob Astorino for being the “prince of petty corrupt politics.”

The ad is called “Christmas In July” and focuses on various “gifts” Astorino has given to the politically connectdd.

Released Tuesday afternoon, the ad paints Astorino, the Westchester County executive, as a politician who helps secure plum jobs for political allies and family.

The ad also points to Astorino’s $30,000 consulting job for a media firm.

“Rob Astorino trying to talk about ethics is beyond hypocrisy, he is the reigning prince of petty corrupt politics,” said Peter Kauffmann, a state Democratic Party spokesman.

Capital New York reported earlier today that the state Democratic Commttee purchased $281,655 worth of advertising time on July 19, just before The New York Times story detailing the governor’s involvement in the Moreland Commission was published.

Astorino Not Buying Cuomo’s Definition Of ‘Interference’

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino on Tuesday scoffed at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s explanation for his office’s handling of the Moreland Commission, which the incumbent Democrat has insisted was “advice” and not undue interference.

“We didn’t get the straight talk we deserve yesterday,” Astorino said. “We got more dancing around the topic, more lies quite frankly and we heard more different ways to speak of what might actually happen than we should get.”

At a news conference outside of the state Capitol in Albany, Astorino held up a bottle of Clorox bleach as a sign the town could use some “disinfectant.”

“I think nothing better than a little bleach and maybe a little disinfectant will do wonders here,” Astorino said.

The GOP gubernatorial nominee embarked on a multi-city tour of upstate this week to highlight Cuomo’s Moreland Commission controversy, which was renewed last week following an extensive New York Times story.

Astorino has sought to capitalize on the reported interference from Cuomo’s office, which attempted to direct subpoenas away from politically sensitive areas for the governor.

Cuomo on Monday in his first public remarks on the issue insisted his office did not provide any inappropriate influence on the anti-corruption panel.

But Astorino says there is more to the Moreland story than just Cuomo’s response.

“Andrew Cuomo said he would drain the cesspool and do wonders here,” he said. “Right now, he did a deep dive and he’s swimming in that cesspool.”

He also disputed Cuomo’s definition of “interference.” Cuomo insisted the commission was independent because it didn’t act on the efforts by his top aide, Larry Schwartz, to not send a subpoena to a media buying firm that included the governor among its clients.

“Just definition of interference — I’ll read the definition — because it says exactly what it is,” Astorino said. “I mean, what was it? Attempted interference and because it didn’t work, it wasn’t interference?”

Good-Government Advocates: Stay Neutral

A coalition of good-governments are calling on the state Board of Elections to write “neutral” ballot language in the upcoming ballot referendum that would change the state’s legislative redistricting process.

The groups are no doubt mindful of the language for last year’s casino expansion amendment that detailed the positive aspects of the measure — including increased aid for education and lower property taxes.

“On occasion in the past, the language which was placed on the ballot was widely regarded as biased and the Board was criticized by the press and good government groups,” the coalition of groups wrote to the Board of Election. “We wish to avoid such a situation this year.”

The redistricting amendment would create a semi-independent panel to draw new legislative boundaries for Assembly, Senate and House districts for the next round of redistricting in 2022.

The measure was approved by the Legislature in 2012 as part of a mega deal on redistricting, a new pension tier and the expansion of the state’s DNA databank.

Neutral Ballot Language Request-2 (1) by Nick Reisman

Dem Senator: Use Paribas Settlement To End GEA

Democratic Sen. Ted O’Brien on Tuesday called for an end to gap elimination adjustment in education spending using the estimated $3 billion settlement from French bank BNP Paribas.

“Cuts to education funding have devastated local school districts,” O’Brien said in a statement. “We’ve made progress toward alleviating this problem, restoring school funding by $1.1 billion this year alone. But to ensure long-term stability for our schools and pave the way for lasting property tax relief we have to eliminate the GEA. However the GEA has reduced support for education by over $10.1 billion, so we have a lot of work to do. Investing this settlement money in education will allow us to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment once and for all, providing the opportunity for property tax relief and creating a brighter future for Upstate families.”

O’Brien is the latest official in Albany to offer a suggestion as to how to spend the windfall from the settlement.

Senate Republicans have called for an investment in education spending as well as using a portion of the money to pay for tax relief.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has called for a massive investment in infrastructure projects with the money.

O’Brien, a lawmaker from the Rochester area, faces Republican Rich Funke this fall.

Ex-Councilman Halloran Guilty On All Five Counts

A jury today found ex-Queens Councilman Dan Halloran guilty on all five counts of the corruption charges he faced stemming in part from his role in a bribery scheme to sell the GOP line in the 2013 NYC mayoral primary.

US Attorney Preet Bharara issued the following statement:

“With today’s verdict of guilty reached by an impartial and independent jury, the clean-up of corruption in New York continues in courtrooms. As the jury unanimously found, Daniel Halloran played a key role in two distinct political corruption schemes: first, for $20,000, Halloran was willing and able to serve as a go-between to deliver bribes to political party officials, and second he also took nearly $25,000 in cash and illegal campaign contributions to steer $80,000 in City Council money to other bribe payers.”

“Dan Halloran was the lone defendant in the trial that just ended in his conviction, but he is unfortunately not alone in a crowded field of New York officials who are willing to sell out their offices for self-enrichment.”

“This Office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption to secure for the people of New York – regardless of party affiliation – what they deserve: the honest labors of their elected representatives. And we will continue to partner with the FBI, whose outstanding investigative work in this case was instrumental to achieving a just result.”

Halloran, a Republican, was charged with taking more than $20,000 in payoffs from two undercover FBI operatives posing as corrupt developers in exchange for agreeing to funnel public cash to them and to help bribe Republican NYC county leaders to allow Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith, also of Queens, to run Row B in the party’s mayoral primary.

(That race was eventually won by former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who lost the general election in a landslide to the winner of the Democratic primary, current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio).

Testifying in his own defense, Halloran admitted taking the cash, but said he considered the money payment for consulting services and never procured any public funds for the real estate developers/FBI agents.

Originally, Halloran and Smith were once co-defendants, along with former Queens GOP official Vince Tabone. But attorneys for Smith and Tabone opted to accept a mistrial due to a procedural error having to do with Yiddish phone recordings, while Halloran’s attorney decided to proceed as scheduled.

Smith and Tabone will be re-tried in January, and today’s verdict perhaps is not the best omen for them. In the meantime, Smith is seeking re-election, though he has been cast out from both the Democratic Senate conference (which he once led) and the IDC.

Grimm’s Legal Defense Fund Raises $67K

Rep. Michael Grimm’s newly-established legal defense fund reports raising $67,400 last month, nearly triple what Grimm’s campaign raised during the same time period.

Grimm received donations from a mix of individuals, corporations and political action committees. A number of the donors had previously contributed to Grimm’s political campaign.

One donor to the fund was Grimm’s former father-in-law, Jhong U. Kim, who gave the maximum $5,000. Sin ah Kim, who reports living at the same address as Jhong U. Kim, also donated $5,000.

The Air Line Pilots Association PAC and the National Air Traffic Controllers PAC each donated $5,000. Both PACs have been generous contributors to Grimm’s political campaigns.

Grimm got the green light from the House Ethics Committee in early June to create a legal defense fund for legal bills associated with his April indictment.

It’s unclear how much Grimm’s attorney fees are worth, since lawmakers only have to report expenditures. The fund reported spending no money last month.

Full list of donors after the jump: More >

State Democrats: Astorino Failed To Capitalize On Moreland Mess

The state Democratic Committee on Tuesday argued Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino failed to gain any advantage over the last few days despite the controversy surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission.

The state Democrats point to three separate issues that hit Astorino, two of them unforced errors:

  • Astorino compared Cuomo to a “mafia boss” when it came to leaning on the Moreland Commission. The comment then led to Democrats and an Italian American group to roundly blast the comparison as offensive. Astorino in a radio interview this morning on Talk-1300 dismissed the complaints, joking next time he’ll make a “Wizard of Oz” reference.
  • The independent Politifact labeled Astorino’s claim that New York’s post-recession recovery is the worst in the nation as “false.” The Republican’s campaign acknowledged the error and said it would stop reiterating that claim.
  • And Astorino is being deposed in a long-standing and complicated Westchester housing discrimination case — a dispute between the county and federal government Democrats pounced on soon after Astorino announced his campaign.

“Mondays are the worst. On the same day Republican Rob Astorino attempted to go on the offensive, he tripped over his own feet and fell backward into the muck,” said state Democratic Committee spokesman James Freedland. “First he was roundly criticized for using ethic stereotypes to attack the Governor, then a judge ordered him to be deposed under oath in a housing discrimination lawsuit brought on by his willful violations of federal law, and, to top it all off, a nationally recognized fact-checking group called him a liar for falsely trashing the State of New York. Any way you slice it, Republican Rob Astorino had another bad day and proved exactly why this gang that can’t shoot straight is gaining zero traction.”

Nevertheless, the spotlight in many ways remains on Cuomo and his handling of the anti-corruption commission, which continues to be lambasted on “Morning Joe” and in editorial boards throughout the state.

Astorino: ‘Uptick’ In Fundraising Since Moreland Story

There’s been a “tremendous uptick” in his fundraising since The New York Times detailed last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office’s involvement in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino said.

“People not just in New York but around the country are beginning to take notice,” Astorino said on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300. “They’re starting to see this as a winnable race.”

Astorino last week said he secured the backing of Republican governors Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, even as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the head of the Republican Governors Association, has indicated he has no plans to campaign or financially aid the GOP candidate’s campaign.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, has sought to capitalize in recent days on Cuomo’s Moreland troubles, releasing an online video criticizing the incumbent’s handling of the anti-corruption panel.

He also launched a multi-city tour with his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, to knock Cuomo’s ethics record.

Astorino pointed out Cuomo’s been sharply criticized by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program

“This is coming from the left and really exposing Cuomo and driving this story home,” Astorino said.

His efforts to gain some traction from the Moreland controversy have not been without missteps.

Democrats blasted Astorino for comparing Cuomo’s claims his office was making a “suggestion” to the commission to a “a mafia boss coming forward and saying he wants to make a suggestion — an offer you can’t refuse.”

Astorino shrugged off that criticism.

“Give me a break,” he said. “Next time I guess I’ll quote from the Wizard of Oz.”

A reader skeptical of Astorino’s fundraising claims notes the GOP hopeful has made such predictions before that have fallen short.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and the New York City “area” today with no public schedule.

At 8:15 a.m., Sen. Simcha Felder speaks at the Shema Kolainu’s 12th annual Legislative Breakfast, Renaissance Ballroom, 5902 14th Ave., Brooklyn. (NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer will also speak).

At 9 a.m., State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli addresses a “Brooklyn Newsmakers” event sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, 6 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.

At 9:05 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOB gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on 100.7FM WUTQ “Talk of the Town.”

At 10 a.m., DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, NYSERDA president and C.E.O. John Rhodes and others hold press conference on the wood-fire heating industry, Evoworld Inc. at Troy Boiler Works, 2800 7th Ave., Troy.

At 10:40 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on “Live from the State Capitol” with Fred Dicker.

At 11 a.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Christopher Moss will will comment on the Cuomo administration’s role in “directing criminal investigations away from political allies at a press conference,” Broome County Courthouse steps, 92 Court St., Binghamton.

Also at 11 a.m., Queens DA Richard Brown, Sen. Michael Gianaris, and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas will host a press conference at the Queens DA’s office to announce the recent passage of a bill that would crack down on persistent sexual abusers, 3rd Floor Conference Room
125-01 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens.

At 11:34 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on WABC 770 with host Geraldo Rivera.

At 12:15 p.m., Hillary Clinton will sign copies of her new memoir at the Northshire Bookstore, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. (Security is expected to be very tight).

At 12:30 p.m., Moss will repeat his accusations against the Cuomo administration, on the sidewalk in front of the Chemung County Justice Building/Correctional Facility, 211 William St., Elmira.

At 1:30 p.m., Astorino will hold a press conference calling on Cuomo to answer questions about his administration’s role in “directing criminal investigations away from his political allies,” Capitol steps, Albany.

Also at 1:30 p.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed, city officials, housing advocates and real estate executives introduce an initiative intended to increase participation in lotteries to qualify for housing for low-income residents; rotunda, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 3 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio discusses the city’s financial plan at a meeting of the New York State Financial Control Board, Governor’s Office – Board Room, 633 Third Ave., 38th Floor, Manhattan. (Stringer will also attend).

At 3:30 p.m., Astorino will repeat his earlier call regarding the governor and the now-defunct Moreland Commission, Plattsburgh City Hall, 41 City Hall Place, Plattsburgh.

At 5:30 p.m., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hosts “New York Farm Day,” 325 Russell Senate Office Building, Kennedy Caucus Room, Washington, D.C.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Adams, Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson and other officials participate in a “State of Brooklyn Reception” presented by government news organization City & State; Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.

Ay 7 p.m., religious and NYC officials, including Public Advocate Tish James, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, and NYC Council members discuss efforts to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy during a summit; 110-31 Merrick Blvd., Queens.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his administration’s treatment of the now-defunct anti-corruption Moreland Commission, saying his aides offered advice to investigators but that it operated with “total independence.” He called the commission a “phenomenal success.”

“Of course I talked to people,” Cuomo said. “It would be unintelligent not to talk to people. The best evidence of independence is when someone from the second floor says ‘Why don’t you do this?’ And then the chairman says ‘I disagree, I don’t want to do that.’ That’s not a sign of interference. This is demonstrable proof of independence.”

Cuomo was testy with a New York Times reporter who questioned him in Buffalo, saying: “If you had watched the movie to the end, the name of the movie would have been ‘Independence. You named it “Interference.’”

In a ten-minute segment yesterday morning, “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough skewered Cuomo’s handling of the commission, comparing it unfavorably to NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal and to the excesses of Huey Long.

Cuomo’s hand-picked LG running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, doesn’t think the Moreland mess will impact the fall elections.

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo defended his gubernatorial son, saying his is “as honest a politician as we have seen in New York,” adding: “I wish I were as good a man.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino sparked a backlash when he compared the Italian-American Cuomo’s handling of the commission to “a mafia boss coming forward and saying that he wants to make a suggestion, an offer you can’t refuse…That clearly is intimidation.”

The state Democratic Party launched a pro-Cuomo ad blitz as the governor’s office braced for the embarrassing New York Times story about the governor’s handling of the commission.

More >

Time Warner Cable News/Siena Poll: NYers Willing To Gamble On Casinos

New Yorkers in three key regions of the state see both upsides and downsides to the expansion of casino gambling, according to an exclusive Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll.

The survey found registered voters in the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and the Capital Region believe casinos have the potential to create jobs, but could also bring headaches like crime, traffic and gambling addiction.

The poll sought the opinions of voters in the regions designated for commercial casino expansion, ranging from their expectations for the benefits of casino gambling to their concerns over the potential downsides.

Overall, New Yorkers in the economically troubled Southern Tier are the most supportive of casino development, with 48 percent backing the expansion. Support is weakest in the Capital Region, where voters are almost evenly split: 44 percent support and 40 percent oppose.

Voters in those impacted areas remain mixed on the potential outcomes: 37 percent believe casinos will have positive benefits to their region, while 31 percent expect a negative outcome. Twenty-nine percent believe casino expansion will have little real impact on the area.

“The public is quite wise,” said Siena College Polling Institute Director Don Levy. “They see how what appear to be contradictory opinions and you can hold them at the same time.”

Most optimistic about the long-term outcome is the Southern Tier, where 43 percent believe there will be a positive benefit.

A combined 74 percent believe casinos will bring jobs to their area of the state — a component those surveyed believe will have the broadest benefit to their area.

But at the same time, 51 percent say the state has enough gambling.

“A clear majority says I think there are already enough casinos,” Levy said. “The public is not screaming, ‘Let’s go get a casino.’”

Overall, the poll found New Yorkers living in regions due to get a casino resort are largely ambivalent about the impact.

Forty percent say they expect casinos will create jobs, while 29 percent believe the biggest benefit will be increased tax revenue.

When it comes to the downsides of casino gambling, 36 percent predict increased traffic problems because of the facilities, while 26 percent fear an increase in crime.

The poll found the hope for jobs was strongest in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region, where 42 percent believe casino expansion will grow employment, with 38 percent in both the Capital Region and the Catskills expecting a boost in jobs.

“We are back from the depths of a recession, but there continue to be large numbers of New Yorkers who continue to be unemployed or underemployed, but the idea there are going to be several thousands of jobs available is really quite attractive,” Levy said.

The argument that casino expansion will lead to job creation was a key argument made by campaigns supporting the amendment to expand casino gambling last year.

Whether those jobs come, though, remains a question. An analysis by Moody’s Investor Services found the saturation of casinos along the East Coast resulted in downgrade of Atlantic City in New Jersey. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the main supporter of last year’s successful effort to pass an amendment to expand casino gambling, said it’ll be up to the private market to decide the growth of gambling.

“The private market, which reads Moody’s which does this for a living, will make a determination what scale and scope the market can support,” Cuomo said earlier this month.

Up to four casinos will be built in the first phase of construction, with projects selected by state regulators this fall.

The poll of 816 registered voters in New York was conducted between July 20 and July 23. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, with a higher margin of error when broken down by region.

TWC0714 Total Crosstabs 072814 (2) by Nick Reisman