Here and Now

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

Voters in five states – Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware – go to the polls in presidential primaries today.

Donald Trump will hold a press conference at 9 p.m. at Trump Tower in Manhattan. (725 5th Ave.)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveils his fiscal year 2017 executive budget at City Hall in Lower Manhattan this afternoon.

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

Headlines…

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders aired a stubborn position on the election: If he loses the Democratic nomination, he will help Hillary Clinton in the fight against Republicans. But he is not giving up on central parts of his platform.

Donald Trump and Clinton expect to strengthen their claims on the presidential nominations in Tuesday’s primaries, but a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll underscores the serious challenges they face to heal divisions within their own parties.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich would make a great running mate for Trump, according to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said he was now “100 percent” behind the Manhattan billionaire. Giuliani also likes former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as a potential VP pick.

Sherrod Brown, the populist Democratic senator from Ohio, said that he has no interest in serving as Clinton’s vice president, distancing himself from the job as reports floated that he could be considered.

Since Trump began his campaign for president, the 68-story tower on Fifth Avenue that bears his name has become a magnet for more than tourists, drawing protesters and the once-scarce city dweller.

“How did a felon from Long Island get on stage among a group of former police officers endorsing Donald Trump before the New York primary?”

Longtime Suffolk County prosecutor John Scott Prudenti regularly collected thousands of dollars from local defense attorneys for the use of his boat, potentially violating county ethics and professional conduct standards.

As the political upheaval from several investigations into possible wrongdoing swirled around him, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to focus on his policy agenda.

In a short news conference, NYC de Blasio said “unequivocally” that no laws were broken by his fundraising operating, that any suggestion that he sought to circumvent state campaign finance laws was “outrageous,” and that the big question was what or who had prompted an inquiry by the Manhattan DA.

“(W)hen you see something done in this kind of fashion, when you see an inappropriate leak, when you see the law being misconstrued in such an obvious fashion, of course it begs the question of motivation,” de Blasio said. “But I’ll leave it to all of you to uncover those motivations.”

The Daily News: “De Blasio’s claim is an insult to New Yorkers’ intelligence. What the mayor and his lawyer leave out is that the mayor and his staff grabbed money from favor-seekers and then took full command of committees that were supposed to make independent decisions as to how the funds were to be spent.”

De Blasio’s top money man, Ross Offinger, funneled $50,000 of “publicly untraceable” campaign cash to help Long Island Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky win a crucial race for the state Senate. The donation is listed in the state Board of Elections’ database as coming from A&J Contracting, a little-known firm incorporated in Dover, Del.

The criminal probe into de Blasio fund-raising efforts for state Senate Democrats could make an already-unpopular mayor even more toxic in Albany and doom many items critically important to the city.

A top executive at an “incubator” office-space firm bundled the largest contribution to de Blasio’s re-election bid from her bosses and others — while the company was lobbying the city over a Financial District conversion project.

A longtime community affairs detective wrapped up in the sprawling NYPD corruption probe was suspended after he put in his retirement papers yesterday.

Although his office cannot mandate repairs to the voting system, de Blasio announced that the city would spend $20 million to improve the Board of Elections, provided it would agree to a series of changes aimed at addressing the problems with last week’s primary.

Lawmakers and advocates are welcoming plans for $20 million to spur reforms at the city’s Board of Elections, but they also say a broader overhaul on both the city and state level is needed, in the wake of election-day complaints and reports of purged voter rolls.

More >

Cruz-Kasich Partnership Not Going Over Well With Some GOP Leaders

We’ll find out Tuesday, if John Kasich and Ted Cruz’s temporary alliance against Donald Trump pays off. But the initial reaction, at least from some high-profile New York Republicans was not good.

Trump supporters Carl Paladino and Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, gave the expected answers when asked about the partnership. They said Cruz, who can’t mathematically reach the 1237 delegates needed for the nomination, is changing the rules for his own benefit.

“He’s a desperate career politician. I don’t think it will work. I think it will actually backfire on them. You’ve seen the massive turnout, turning out because the voters know they’re frustrated and angry about the direction of our country under Barack Obama,” Collins said.

“One way or another, Trump’s gonna win this thing and that’s sort of predestined. Why, because he’s the best candidate and because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of the American people,” Paladino said.

Perhaps more damning though were the comments from downstate Congressman Peter King, who was Collins’s guest in Western New York, Monday. King has been no fan of Trump, criticizing him in February after he refused to condemn Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

“I voted for Kasich mainly because I do still have some questions for Donald Trump but I’m not opposed to him. Actually, I’ve had some contact with him after the last several weeks,” King said.

King has made clear how much he does oppose Cruz though. He said last week he’d “take cyanide” if Cruz won the GOP nomination.

“Ted Cruz is a fraud and him to somehow spend all his time in Washington attacking what he called the establishment and now playing an establishment game that’s just going to… again, he’s not the guy who can do this,” King said.

The congressman said he’s not worried about the appearance of a fractured party. He said Republican voters are more energized than Democrats and he’s predicting a victory this fall… just hopefully not for Cruz.

High-Speed Rail Debate Comes Up Again In Western New York

It’s not exactly a new debate. New York politicians have been talking about a high-speed railway connecting the state’s biggest cities since at least the early 1990s. 

Monday, during the grand opening ceremony for the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, may have opened the floodgates again. Slaughter mentioned that she and Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, were looking for money to fund high-speed rail between Buffalo and Rochester to double down on the state’s economic development investments.

“Because they’re building SolarCity over there, there are going to be hundreds of jobs, thousands of jobs, and we’re with AIM Photonics here (in Rochester), that there would people that could move back and forth in a half an hour on some high-speed rail and the workplace could move from one place to the other, depending on their skills, without having to move from where they live,” she said.

After the event, Slaughter clarified she remains in favor of the project across the state. Despite success in places like Europe and Japan, Congress has been slow to support the multi-billion dollar funding needed for high-speed railways around the country.

“High-speed rail is way behind in this country and there are places that we have financed pretty heavily that have it already. It’s our turn. We need to spend some money on ourselves,” Slaughter said.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York said he also supports high-speed rails but concedes there aren’t enough resources to build them right now. He said there are ways to find those resources though.

“We should do it. Right now, there isn’t the funding but if we were able to tie international tax reform, tax all that money that the companies have overseas and put that in an infrastructure bank, there could be a trillion dollars of infrastructure funding and you could get the kind of funding we need for high-speed rail,” he said.

It didn’t take long for critics to come out. The Republican candidate for Slaughter’s seat, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, said he can’t believe the topic’s come up again.

“It’s quicker and it’s cheaper to drive from Buffalo to Rochester than it is by rail and that’s not my opinion,” he said.

Assini referenced a 2014 environment impact analysis done by the state Department of Transportation. Although the study shows faster trip times from city to city with a high-speed rail, he said that doesn’t factor in drive time to the station and boarding times.

Furthermore, Assini said the money would be better spent on investing on New York’s complex system of roads and bridges.

Extras

Well, that didn’t last long.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has landed a big interview with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump after the warring pair agreed to end their feud.

Trump’s campaign has picked up another top adviser as it seeks to professionalize its day-to-day operations, this one coming most recently from Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.

In her closing ad before tomorrow’s East Coast primaries in five states, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is looking past the primaries with a message of unity. Her new ad, “Love and Kindness,” presents a positive message of coming together and protecting each other.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the leak of a damning memo alleging he and his team violated campaign finance laws was nothing more than a dirty political hit job.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. confirmed that his office received a letter from the state Board of Elections in mid-January referring possible illegal fundraising activities by de Blasio’s team during the 2014 state Senate races. He would no go into detail.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent more personnel to help battle the Ulster County wildfire.

Frankfort Village Mayor Frank Moracco was arrested this week on charges of official misconduct and petit larceny. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Another candidate for the Buffalo School Board – Colleen E. Russell, an ally of Carl Paladino – was knocked off the May 3 ballot today when a judge ruled she had only 498 valid signatures on her petitions to run for the seat, two short of the 500 required.

The White House is launching a $100 million program to spur tuition-free community college programs across the country.

Trump on Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s food tour of the Bronx: “I have never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion.”

Thousands of Staten Island homeowners will get a $183 break on their water and sewer bills this year under a proposal by de Blasio.

A company hoping to link the Constitution pipeline to industrial customers along its route in the eastern Southern Tier is sticking with its plan and optimistic the interstate pipeline will be built.

The Obama administration’s proposal to allocate nearly $2 billion in emergency funding to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in the United States should be approved quickly by federal lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said during a visit to Buffalo.

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.

The Department of Financial Services has issued guidance to inform health insurers of their responsibility to provide health insurance coverage for maternal depression screenings.

With two weeks to go before a decision is due, New York City officials are still making noise behind the scenes about concerns with Altice NV’s proposed acquisition of Cablevision Systems Corp.

Advocates for eliminating New York’s tax on tampons are confident state lawmakers can strike a deal to make it happen, despite an apparent difference of opinion on bill language.

Onondaga County officials never bothered to notify the Onondaga Nation this month that they were about to break their 2011 promise to give the nation a piece of land on Onondaga Lake, the nation’s attorney said.

A leading lobbyist for the local real estate industry, Desmond Ryan, will retire as executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island at year’s end after 25 years.

SD-36: HTC Endorses Bailey For Senate

The Hotel Trades Council, a politically key labor group that has grown in influence over the years, has endorsed Jamaal Bailey for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson.

“Jamaal Bailey’s lifelong commitment to serve his community is without par, and on behalf of all of our members in this district and across the state, we are proud to endorse Jamaal Bailey for State Senate,” said Hotel Trades Council Political Director Jason Ortiz. “Our members have fought hard and secured significant victories statewide for the working men and women of New York, and we need leaders like Jamaal who will continue fighting with us in Albany. We proudly endorse him and will work hard to ensure he represents the 36th State Senate District.”

HTC is a comparatively small labor group, but has over the years burnished a reputation for nimble politics and voter mobilization.

Bailey, a Bronx district leader, has close ties to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who was chair of the Bronx committee until he was elected to the chamber’s top post last year.

Hassell-Thompson is leaving the Senate at the end of the legislative session in June to join Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration as a special advisor on housing issues.

LCA Show Is May 24

The LCA Show, one of the oldest annual gridiron dinners in the country that skewers Albany politics, will be held May 24.

The folks behind this year’s program have released a trailer, below, satirizing the post-legislative leaders meeting press scrums (That’s Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco and Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy playing reporters).

Tickets for the event can be purchased in the LCA press room or by calling (518) 455-2388. A free dress rehearsal will be held the night before, and guests are asked to bring a canned food donation.

NY-13: O’Donnell Raises For Wright

Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell is fundraising for the congressional campaign of his Albany colleague, Assemblyman Keith Wright.

O’Donnell in a fundraising email sent Monday praised Wright’s time in the chamber, pointing to his support for women’s rights and economic justice concerns.

“I know that social and economic justice are Keith’s priorities. He stands with Planned Parenthood and fights to ensure that women can make their own healthcare choices,” he wrote in the email. “Together we advocated for affordable health coverage. Keith’s work ensures New York continues to protect and create affordable housing and give tenants the power to advocate for themselves. We need Keith to be a voice for our community’s values in Congress.”

O’Donnell did not enter the race to replace retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel last year in the 13th congressional district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Manhattan.

Wright is competing for the seat alongside seven other Democratic candidates, including Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Sen. Bill Perkins dropped his bid for the seat earlier this year.

In the email, O’Donnell pointed to the support Wright has received from elected officials ranging from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the praise from former President Bill Clinton.

Schumer Proposes Bill To Curb ‘Swatting’

Swatting – you may or may not have heard of it. It’s the act of calling in a fake police situation, like a bomb threat or a hostage situation.

“Swatting, which is on a dramatic increase, is not a prank. It’s a serious, serious problem but the law is minimal,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said.

Schumer said they’re finding there are a lot of reasons people make these calls which cost municipalities time, money and resources.

Sometimes it is a prank. Sometimes it’s criminals trying to divert law enforcement somewhere else.

Maybe most peculiar, Schumer said they’re finding a trend where video gamers, playing online, send law enforcement to the homes of other gamers when they’re angry they lost.

The Senator from New York said his bill will help put an end to a lot of that. It changes the federal penalty to include a maximum of eight years in prison and forces the perpetrator to pay the costs incurred because of the fake call.

The bill also proposes making it a crime for a person to block his or her phone number when calling law enforcement.

NY-22: Babinec Wants 28 Pages Of 9/11 Report Declassified

Congressional candidate Martin Babinec on Monday joined the push to release 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report, which are speculated to provide detail on the involvement of foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia in the attacks.

“I believe in the American people and know that they can handle the truth of whatever is in the 28 page report,” said Babinec, a businessman who is running on the Independence Party line in the 22nd congressional district.

The 28 pages of the government commission’s report remain classified, but lawmakers from both parties in recent months have been pushing for their release.

The documents are believed to show the level of support the Saudi government’s role in the attacks and the government’s relationship with the hijackers. Concerns have been raised, however, that the release of the confidential portion of the report could hurt the U.S. government’s relationship with Saudia Arabia, a key ally in the Arab world.

“Whether it’s grappling with both the old and emerging threats of terror or realigning our economy to face the challenges of the 21st century we need to have an honest and frank conversation with the American people,” Babinec said.

NYPIRG: Reinstate Purged Voters

The New York Public Interest Research Group is calling for the reinstatement of more than 126,000 voters who were purged from voter rolls ahead of New York’s presidential primaries last Tuesday.

“Too many questions remain about this purge,” NYPIRG said. “How could one person order the purging of so many in violation of State Law. Who else knew? What protocols were either not in place or not followed to prevent this scandal?”

In a statement, the good-government group said the city and state investigations should weigh whether to bring criminal charges in the incident.

“The Board of Elections must release a step-by-step uniform statement detailing exactly how each of their five borough offices conducts voter purges before any further action is taken,” the group said. “A similar statement should be provided concerning voter registration protocols and procedures for placing voters on the ‘inactive list.’”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week announced he was launching an investigation into the removal of the voters from the rolls, which was city Board of Elections officials now say was done through a clerical error. The chief clerk at the board’s offices in Brooklyn has since been removed.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, too, is auditing the much-maligned city Board of Elections over the matter.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday his administration was making $20 million available to the city Board of Elections in order to modernize its training and notification systems.

“The Board of Elections is an outdated organization in dire need of modernization – and we need to make these changes now,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We cannot allow a single voter to be disenfranchised because of the Board of Elections’ outdated operations. These common-sense reforms will bring much-needed transparency, modernize practices, and help ensure we do not experience an election day like last week’s again.”