Jeff Klein

Klein Gets Establishment Backing

At the conclusion of her speech on Thursday at the state Democratic convention, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was joined on stage by her Democratic colleagues.

Included among them was Sen. Jeff Klein, the erstwhile leader of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, her new deputy in the conference and a lawmaker who faces an allegation of forcible kissing by a former legislative aide.

Klein has denied the event took place and has called on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to review the allegation.

But Klein, whose conference dissolved and merged with the mainline Democratic conference in an effort to help the party take control of the Senate this year, has received the backing of establishment figures in the New York political world. And the allegation, unlike other men who have been accused of similar actions, has not made him a radioactive presence in New York politics.

Klein was formally endorsed Friday morning by Stewart-Cousins, who would become the first woman to lead a majority conference in Albany if Democrats gain control of the chamber.

“With Donald Trump in the White House, and Republicans controlling the agenda in Washington and stifling progress here in New York, the need for a Senate Democratic Majority has never been more pressing,” she said in a statement.

“We need all Democrats working together, united in our cause of turning New York ‘true blue. I am proud to support Senator Klein and endorse his re-election campaign. By working together, I know we will achieve a functioning Democratic Senate Majority and give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they deserve.”

Klein was previously endorsed by two of the state’s most political active labor unions, RWDSU, which represents retail workers, and the Hotel Trades Council.

“The Hotel Trades Council proudly stands with Jeff Klein and strongly endorses his reelection to the New York State Senate,” said New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council President Peter Ward. “Jeff Klein is a proven leader, who fights tirelessly—and delivers—for labor and all of New York’s working families. We need his continued leadership in Albany.”

Klein faces a primary from Alessandra Biaggi this year. As part of the unity agreement first announced late last year, Senate Democrats would not support those candidates challenging former IDC lawmakers.

Biaggi has been receiving her own share of endorsements, including most recently the Pelham Democratic Committee.

Democrats have also maintained that Klein will face whatever consequences develop should the JCOPE investigation find any wrongdoing.

The former aide who made the allegation, Erica Vladimer, criticized Stewart-Cousins for the endorsement.

“if female elected officials won’t stand up for victims, who will? #TimesUp, Senator,” she wrote in a tweet directed at Stewart-Cousins. “Politics should never get in the way of representing the 10 million women of New York. This is why victims don’t come forward.”

Koppell Dings Klein, Backs His Primary Opponent

Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell, who unsuccessfully challenged his fellow Bronx Democrat, Sen. Jeff Klein, in a 2014 primary, today is announcing his support for the woman currently trying to unseat Klein this September, Alessandra Biaggi.

In a statement obtained by CapTon, Koppell said Biaggi’s election “will send a powerful message and take us one step closer to the progressive Democratic majority we deserve—one that passes stronger rent laws, the Dream Act, real campaign finance reform, and the Reproductive Health Act to firmly protect a woman’s right to choose in New York.”

“Alessandra Biaggi will help enact the progressive agenda that Senator Klein’s IDC/Republican alliance has unconscionably blocked for the past seven years,” Koppell continued. “And she’ll bring new Democratic energy to a State Senate that needs it.”

The timing of Koppell’s announcement is ironic, given the fact that the Senate Democrats came one step closer to controlling the majority with yesterday’s win in a Westchester special election of Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer over Republican Julie Killian.

All that remains now is convincing Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder to reconsider his decision to remain with the Senate GOP through the end of the session – an effort Gov. Andrew Cuomo apparently has personally undertaken – and the Democrats will once again be in charge in the upper house.

But Koppell is apparently siding with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that feels the reunification of the warring Democratic factions in the Senate, which was engineered by the governor a few weeks ago as he started to significantly feel pressure from his own primary challenger, actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, is too little, too late.

The Working Families Party is backing Biaggi and other Democrats who are challenging IDC members, and has not dropped that support in the wake of the peace deal brokered by the governor. (The party is also backing Nixon, which has led to split among its the labor and activist wings).

In his statement, which will be in wide release later today, Koppell accused Klein of empowering Republicans in New York, helping them raise millions of dollars not only to maintain control of the majority, but to further the “Trump agenda.”

According to Koppell, who is also a former NYC Council member, Klein has “betrayed the Democratic Party and hindered the realization of Democratic policies in New York State and nationally.”

Biaggi, a former counsel for Cuomo who also served as a top aide on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said she is “thrilled” to have Koppell’s support, adding:

“He has championed issues throughout his distinguished career in public service that will be top priorities for me — from consumer protection and tenants’ rights to environmental conservation and government reform.”

One might ask just how significant Koppell’s endorsement is in terms of his ability to move voters. As Klein and his supporters would no doubt point out, Koppell conceded the race back in 2014 as the senator was maintaining a 25-percentage point lead on primary night.

It’s also worth noting that back in 2014, Klein announced his intention to realign his then-breakaway conference, the IDC, with the so-called regular Senate Democrats, but then never followed through. Koppell maintained his primary challenge to the senator anyway, running with the endorsement of the New York Times.

ICYMI: Klein Weighs In On Procurement Reform

During a CapTon interview last night, IDC Leader Jeff Klein broke with his power-sharing allies, the Senate Republicans, on the subject of procurement reform, saying he doesn’t see the need for a key espect of a bill they have been pushing to overhaul the way the state awards millions upon millions of dollars worth of contracts.

First, Klein said he feels a three-way agreement on this, or any other issue, is always preferable because that, in his opinion, is “how we move legislation forward in a positive way.” He did not seem terribly keen on the idea that has been voiced by Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and others that the Senate and Assembly should do a two-way deal before the session ends, and then attempt an override should the governor respond with a veto.

For the record, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he, too, would prefer to see a three-way agreement on this.

But the governor has not shown much interest in going along with that state lawmakers and good government groups are pushing on this issue in the way of the Buffalo Billion scandal – even though it touched his own inner circle – saying he would like to see an independent procurement officer that he would appoint, and not a restoration of pre-contract auditing power to the state comptroller’s office.

Klein voiced agreement with the governor on the comptroller issue, but was a little bit vague on who should be doing the contract oversight.

“The way we really police the procurement process is not necessarily giving the comptroller more power, because right now the comptroller of the state of New York has post audit ability,” Klein said. “So, I would assume if there’s a problem, anything you’d spot in a pre-audit you’d be able to spot in a post audit.”

“I think the better way to go is to have some type of independent prosecutor, independent advisory commission, or basically appoint somebody to make sure there’s no bribery in the contracting process, no favoritism in the process. And that sort of prosecutor or investigator of whatever you want to call them would then have the ability to refer that to the proper law enforcement.”

Klein didn’t elaborate on who would be doing the appointing of this independent watchdog, but neither did he specifically voice support for what the governor has proposed.

Klein’s Office Responds To Dem Unity Push (Updated)

As liberal groups allied with mainline Democrats in the state Senate push Gov. Andrew Cuomo to render some sort of party unity in the chamber, the office of Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a statement says he hasn’t spoken to Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins “in nearly a month.”

That would likely line up with the Somos conference, held post-election in Puerto Rico, when Democrats gathered. Earlier in the day, Stewart-Cousins called on Cuomo to bring Democrats together in the Senate, with Democrats potentially having 32 members in the chamber.

“Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins has not spoken to Senator Klein in nearly a month, and so we have no idea what her grand plan is for Democratic unity,” said spokeswoman Candice Giove. “Leaders lead by engaging directly. The IDC will continue to do what’s in the best interest of New York’s working- and middle-class families.”

Klein has been allied in the past with Senate Republicans, but pressure from liberal groups has tightened in the last several hours after Democrats declared victory in the 8th Senate district with John Brooks. Republicans plan on challenging that outcome in court.

Updated: It’s a game of ping pong. Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy in a statement said the two legislative conference leaders have talked frequently and the blow up is an example of the need for Cuomo to broker a truce.

“Leader Stewart Cousins has reached out to Leader Klein numerous times over the last few months and these conversations have been productive,” he said. “This is a good example of why we need Governor Cuomo to fulfill his role as the leader of our party and unite Democrats for the good of New York State.”

Klein Hails FTC Settlement With Herbalife

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Friday praised the settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and Herbalife after the company was criticized for unfair and predatory consumer practices.

The settlement requires the company to pay $200 million and restructure itself, though regulators added Herbalife itself is not a “pyramid scheme.”

Still, the development is a victory for consumers who had been duped by the company, Klein said in a statement.

“Today’s Federal Trade Commission settlement illustrated what we’ve known all along about Herbalife — it’s a company that engages in heavy recruitment tactics, makes false promises to distributors and forces inventory loading,” Klein said. “In New York State I met former distributors who lost their life-savings through Herbalife’s deceptive tactics and now the FTC’s $200 million settlement lays out a path similar to one that I’ve called for to prevent more consumers from getting scammed.”

Klein has blasted Herbalife as a get-rich-quick-scheme that has target low-income people and immigrants. He’s proposed a range of reforms, including having the company operate under a more transparent distribution model.

In the statement, Klein said he was especially heartened by the settlement including new disclosure requirements for the company aimed at benefiting distributors and customers.

“The FTC’s ruling, just as I proposed, includes enhanced disclosures for distributors and customers, limits compensation for recruitment and forbids distributors from telling potential participants that selling this product will lead to a ‘lavish lifestyle,'” he said.

Klein Applauds Cuomo On Day Care Regulations

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Wednesday praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s enactment of emergency regulations designed to strengthen safety at day care centers in New York.

The regulations came after the GOP-led Senate approved the broad strokes of legislation inspired in part by a report issued by Klein five-member conference on day care safety problems.

“Knowing children are safe while in day care will bring great relief to parents across this state. In November, I released an alarming investigation, “The Hidden Dangers in Day Care,” exposing violation-ridden facilities. We’ve unfortunately seen cases where under providers’ watches children were seriously injured and in nightmarish cases children have died,” Klein said in a statement. “This is simply unacceptable.”

The statement also comes after Cuomo criticized the Democratic-led Assembly for not approving the Senate measure at the end of the legislative session.

In a gaggle with reporters in New York City, Cuomo accused the Assembly of playing politics with the bill, which Mayor Bill de Blasio had expressed concerns over.

In response, a spokesman for Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat like Klein, blasted Cuomo for his ongoing feud with de Blasio, saying it had hurt the city on a number of issues ranging from charter schools to mayoral control.

In his statement, Klein made note of a separate bill, which would require report cards on day care facilities in New York City, that has been approved by both chambers.

“I also led the charge to place report cards on every day care in New York City, letting parents see vital information right at the door,” Klein said. “This passed both houses and will soon be signed into law. I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking emergency action yesterday to ensure that children across this state are safe while in day care.”

Bill Would End ‘Formula Deserts’ For WIC Recipients

A group of state lawmakers on Thursday announced a push for a bill that would allow all stores participating in the WIC program to accept checks for prescription formula in effort to reverse a 2014 Department of Health policy.

The lawmakers, Sens. Jeff Klein, Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, announced the legislation along with the release of a report critical of the DOH policy, which mandates WIC recipients only use checks to purchase prescription formula in stores that have pharmacies.

The two-year-old policy wound up cutting off access to available prescription formula in stores nearby for New York City residents.

“The DOH policy change has been a formula for disaster,” Klein said in a statement.

“WIC participants who must buy prescription formula for infants shouldn’t have to travel all over the city to find a store with a pharmacy when a supermarket or small grocer that accepts WIC checks might also shelve this vital product. I will work to make sure that we reverse this policy so our families have access to the nutritional products they need.”

The report released on Thursday found the policy change caused a decline in selection for those receiving WIC checks to find prescription formula for brands such as Enfamil, Ensure or Similac.

Both for the change took effect, there were 1,349 stores where WIC recipients could use their checks to purchase prescription formula in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Now, there are collectively 149 locations where the formula is available.

The Bronx and Brooklyn were also impacted: In the Bronx, 16 zip codes have no stores where those receiving WIC checks can purchase formula; in Brooklyn there is one zip code where there are no eligible stores to purchase formula.

“Due to DOH’s policy change, there are some zip codes in my district where no stores are eligible to sell specialty formula,” said Espaillat in a statement. “That is simply unacceptable. WIC recipients must have access to the products they need to maintain their children’s health and well-being. Allowing neighborhood grocery stores to sell specialty formula, and ensuring those stores are not burdened with fees associated to reimbursement rejections, will restore much needed access to WIC.”

WIC 5-26-16 by Nick Reisman

IDC Leader Says Daily Fantasy Sports Legislation Is Important

The New York State Senate is preparing to address legislation the could legalize daily fantasy sports in New York State.

“That’s something that we need to work on before the end of session,” Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein said.

Earlier this year FanDuel and DraftKings, the two major websites, driving the industry reached an agreement with the Attorney General to stop taking money in New York. The deal allowed for ongoing litigation to be expedited if New York changed the law.

“This is important. I think we have to figure out a way that we can have individuals legally use this service but at the same time make sure we can get some state revenue. That’s something I’m always a firm believer in. If we can get some additional state revenue and invest it into education or other things, that’s something that’s important,” Klein said.

The Buffalo News reports sponsors in the Senate and Assembly are finalizing bills that could hit the floor as soon as Thursday.

“There have not been discussions yet but usually the lion’s share of what we do is usually in the last couple week’s of session so I’m hopeful we’ll address that,” Klein said.

Klein Bill Cracks Down On Firearms Trafficking

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Wednesday announced a bill that is aimed at cracking down on those who traffic illegal guns into New York.

The bill comes after the Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the indictment of a half dozen gun traffickers who were selling 82 pitols, assault weapons and shotguns in New York City.

Under current law, firearms traffickers are charged with a class B felony. Klein’s bill would create a new class A-1 felony elevating existing penalties for gun trafficknig.

The proposal was first reported today by The Daily News.

“These necessary protections will ensure that major firearms traffickers, who put all New Yorkers at risk, will face up to a lifetime in prison,” Klein said. “We must be vigilant against the trafficking of illegal firearms throughout our state, and this legislation will do just that.”

The bill would classify those who sell or plan to sell at least 20 firearms as those “operating as a major firearms trafficker” with a minimum sentence of 15-years-to-life. A maximum penalty would be set at 25 years in prison.

The measure was endorsed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“In the last two years, my Organized Crime Task Force has seized over 300 firearms from gun traffickers, many of whom would have faced the tougher penalties proposed by this legislation,” Schneiderman said. “With this bill, those who believe New York is an attractive market for wholesale illegal gun distribution will be forced to think again.”

Klein Praises Film Scrutinizing Herbalife

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein praised a documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival that shines a critical light on the multi-level marketing company Herbalife.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat, has been deeply critical of company’s marketing and business strategies, which he says takes advantage of low-income minorities.

The movie, Betting on Zero, reviews the company’s feud with investors as well its impact on those who are under its employ.

“Bravo to Betting on Zero director Ted Braun and his team who spent over three years examining the financial harm inflicted on tens of thousands of Latinos across the country by multi-level marketing company Herbalife,” Klein said in a statement. “Six months ago, my undercover research exposed Herbalife as a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme where new recruits lured into a ‘business opportunity’ and wind up losing thousands of dollars.”

Klein backs a bill that would create regulations, oversight and transparency requirements for multi-level marketing companies like Herbalife.

“Shining the light on Herbalife and their deceptive business practices is incredibly important to me and this documentary, which premiered last night at the TriBeCa Film Festival, further vindicates my work protect victims by passing legislation,” he said. “I hope that other regulators take this issue as seriously as Mr. Braun and I do.”