Harlem Politicos Endorse Hochul

From the Morning Memo:

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul added several endorsements by Harlem politicos on Wednesday.

Notable figures include NAACP New York President Dr. Hazel Dukes and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, along with former Congressman Charlie Rangel, State Senator Brian Benjamin, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, Assemblyman Al Taylor, and Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez.

Among New York focused issues like $15 minimum wage, paid family leave and the Excelsior Scholarship Program, the politicians made note of Hochul’s support of the SAFE Act, noting, “She has stood up to the NRA which has resisted even the most common-sense reforms.”

As a member of Congress and Erie County clerk, Hochul had received an “A” rating from the NRA.

With New Yorkers rights at stake from the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, Kathy is proud that New York is fighting back. New York has stood up to Donald Trump to denounce the influence of white nationalists, defend voting rights from Trump’s justice department, and protect immigrant families from Trump’s inhumane family separation policy and out-of-control deportation force.

Hochul has successfully garnered national endorsements from the likes of former presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and former vice president of the United States Joe Biden, as well as key green lights from the state Democratic Party and women’s groups, i.e. Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood.

However, the race for the lieutenant governor nomination remains up in the air.

Hochul is currently embroiled in a battle over finances with her opponent, Brooklyn New York City Councilman Jumanne Williams, who recently cross endorsed with actress turn gubernatorial candidate, Cynthia Nixon. For the past several weeks, Hochul’s campaign has railed against Williams, first for his failure to submit campaign finance disclosure report to the Board of Elections on time—owed to a technical issue—then taking issue with several campaign contributions over the BOE limit, which the Williams campaign insisted would be returned.

Hochul has even gone as far as to release an attack ad on her opponent, highlighting the City Councilman’s debt and foreclosure of a former business venture. The video ad prompted a Williams-Nixon response, dubbing Hochul’s effort in line with “racial dog whistling and poor shaming.”

In September, Hochul faces Williams in a Democratic primary. As of July’s BOE filings, her campaign war chest boasts over $1.2 million dollars to assist in her re-election bid.

Latimer, Stewart-Cousins Endorse James; Abinanti Goes for Teachout

A coalition of Westchester elected officials endorsed NYC Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James for state attorney general at a press conference in White Plains today.

Among others, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and state Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins added their names to a growing list of Democratic elected officials who are following the governor’s leader in supporting James to fill the vacancy left by the abrupt resignation of ex-AG Eric Schneiderman following sexual harassment and abuse allegations lodged against him.


“Tish James has spent her career fighting for progress on issues that matter to me and matter to people in Yonkers, throughout Westchester, and across New York State,” Stewart-Cousins said. “She has been instrumental in uplifting working families, has lead the charge on securing women’s rights, has fought for accessible and affordable healthcare, and has defended our most basic rights. I know that as Attorney General, Tish James will continue to build on this record. I look forward to working with Attorney General Tish James and a Democratic majority in the Senate to pass progressive legislation that improves the lives of New Yorkers.”

Stewart-Cousins’ decision to back James is particularly noteworthy, given the fact that a number of insurgent primary challengers to former IDC members have cross-endorsed one of the public advocate’s opponents, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout.

James faces a four way Democratic primary in September. Also in the running are Hudson Valley Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and former Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve. A Siena poll out this week showed James with a modest lead over her opponents, but pollster Steve Greenberg characterized the race as wide open and competitive this far out from the election.

Since James received the governor’s support at the party convention back in May, Teachout has been highlighting her independence from Cuomo, whom she unsuccessfully challenged in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. Today, Teachout received the endorsement of another Westchester elected official, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who said:

“Zephyr Teachout sees the big picture. She is an independent corruption fighter who is not beholden to big money or the political establishment – free to use her legal expertise to take on Washington and Albany. She gets it that those who the Attorney General may investigate should not finance the Attorney General’s campaign.”

Abinanti is the second member of the Assembly to endorse Teachout. The first was Capital Region Democrat Phil Steck, who also cited the candidate’s independence as the main driver behind his decision to back her.

Williams To Return Contributions ‘Accepted in Error’

A campaign finance report made public Thursday on behalf of Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Jumaane Williams included three donations that exceeded the $5,000 limit for corporate contributions.

Aside from surpassing that limit, $50,000 worth of donations may have originated from same source, which is also not allowed under state elections law. If he is forced to return the funds, Williams will deplete his campaign’s bank account and cripple his spending capability.

Responding to questions via email about whether these contributions would be returned if deemed to be accepted incorrectly, the campaign spokesman, William Gerlich, said:

“In the past filing period, our campaign received contributions which we now realize were accepted in error. On recognizing this, we will be returning these donations.”

He did not specify which contributions in particular will be returned.

The promised refunds come as the campaign of Williams’ opponent, LG Kathy Hochul, threw down the gauntlet this week, issuing four days worth of queries about the whereabouts of his disclosure report.

A submission mix-up on the Williams campaign end, attributed to technical difficulties, initially stalled the report’s release for three days. But once it was made public, red flags were immediately raised.

In a statement Thursday evening, the Hochul campaign called on the State Board of Elections to investigate Williams’ finances, claiming his disclosure report “shows thousands of illegal corporate donations in excess of state limits.”

Hochul’s campaign says Williams should comply with BOE law and return the $35,000.

“New Yorkers deserve better than the disappointing and troubling actions from the Williams’ campaign. We demand he refund the $35,000 immediately in accordance with the law.”

The campaign issued a follow up plea just before 5 p.m. today:


On April 12, 2018, Councilman Williams illegally accepted $50,000+ from multiple corporations all leading back to one person who receives multiple city contracts in his district. Apparently the Councilman does not feel the rules apply to him.

Not only did his campaign file 3 days late, they also blatantly ignored campaign finance laws that attempt to limit corporate influence because clearly that’s not a priority for him. Councilman Williams, let voters know when you’ve finally refunded the $35,000 in accordance with the law. New Yorkers deserve better from their leaders.”

The Williams campaign emailed several minutes prior to the release, stating in the quote at the beginning of this blog post their intention to refund contributions.

Hochul reported raising $1.2 million over the past six months, and has $1.24 total cash on hand.

Over 70 percent of her donations hail from individual donors, according to the LG’s campaign, and over 60 percent of those individual donors wrote checks for $500 or less.

*This article has been updated on 7/27/18 3:30 p.m.

In the second line, $35,000 worth of donations has been updated to $50,000.

Hochul Presses Williams on Campaign Finance Disclosure

Airs of impatience wafted through the lieutenant governor’s race Wednesday morning.

Beginning at 10:44 a.m., the Hochul campaign issued four emails pressing opponent New York City councilman Jumanne Williams to release a copy of his campaign finances, posing a “friendly reminder” to the Brooklyn Democrat. The emails state Williams is not only two days behind Board of Elections’ July 16th filing deadline, but claims he “did not take the filing deadline seriously.”

This is the second day the Hochul campaign has called on Williams to release his campaign filings.

The emails speculate, “What exactly is the councilman hiding? Do the rules apply to him?” before a follow-up poses a possible solution to Williams’ disclosure report predicament. The fourth email, sent at 12:31 p.m., includes an attachment received by the Hochul campaign from the BOE reminding candidates that even though they may have submitted a report, it is to verify receipt and accuracy of the report itself. There lies the rub.


CT Hochul williams campaign finance 071818

10:44 a.m.


“Councilman Williams’ campaign financial disclosure is nowhere to be found, yet we are two days past the filing deadline. Voters continue to be left in the dark on how much the Councilman has raised and who exactly is supporting his campaign. Timeliness around a deadline and transparency have always been a priority for our campaign. We can factually say that hasn’t been the case thus far for the Councilman.

Councilman, please let us know when you’re able to get around to disclosing your report. I guess better late than never? The voters are waiting.”


11:45 a.m.


“After two days and multiple requests for comment on why there was no campaign financial disclosure filed for Councilman Williams, the Councilman’s campaign belatedly and vaguely conveyed approximate top line numbers instead of releasing the report that was allegedly submitted to the Board of Elections. What exactly is the Councilman hiding? Do the rules not apply to him? Release the copy of the report you sent to BOE. The voters deserve to know.”


12:23 a.m.


“The following email was received by the Hochul campaign from the Board of Elections after our financial disclosure was submitted (on time):

This email could not be clearer: “It is your responsibility to verify RECEIPT and ACCURACY of your report.” Councilman Williams did not take this filing deadline seriously. What exactly is the Councilman hiding? Do the rules not apply to him? Release the copy of the report you sent to BOE. The voters deserve to know.”


12:31 a.m.

**Updated with attachment of screenshot in release**



“The following email was received by the Hochul campaign from the Board of Elections after our financial disclosure was submitted (on time):

This email could not be clearer: “It is your responsibility to verify RECEIPT and ACCURACY of your report.” Councilman Williams did not take this filing deadline seriously. What exactly is the Councilman hiding? Do the rules not apply to him? Release the copy of the report you sent to BOE. The voters deserve to know.”

The Hochul campaign submitted their report to the BOE on time, having filed under Friends for Kathy Hochul, totaling over $1.24 million cash on hand. With less than two months until primary elections on September 13, Hochul is keen on defeating her opponent, releasing a campaign ad criticizing Williams’ LGBTQ and women’s rights record. She’s received a number of notable endorsements, both on her own and via a Cuomo-Hochul ticket, but as she faces a primary, Hochul is running separately from Governor Cuomo.


Jumaane Williams’ campaign clarified that their financial disclosure report was filed on time, as per the Board of Elections’ Monday, July 16 deadline, but due to technical issues, a finalized report has yet to be released. The campaign is working with the BOE to rectify the problem.

“Our campaign’s financial disclosure report was filed on time Monday evening but there were technical issues that we are working with the Board of Elections to immediately address.”

The campaign maintains they’ve raised almost $200,000 and are confident going into the September primary.

“Our campaign has built strong momentum over the past several months thanks to our grassroots donor base, so we are very well positioned to win this September.”


Edie Windsor’s Widow Slams LG Candidate Williams in Cuomo/Hochul Ad

Judith Kasen-Windsor, the widow of the late LGBT/gay marriage battle icon and activist Edie Windsor, appears in a new TD ad on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and LG Kathy Hochul, slamming Hochul’s Democratic primary opponent, Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, for his personal opposition to same-sex marriage.

Kasen-Windsor’s support of Cuomo and Hochul is not new. She endorsed the Democratic incumbents back in June, and ripped Williams for his positions on both gay marriage and abortion.

At the time, a spokesman for Williams said the councilman “100 percent supports” both gay marriage and abortion – an assertion that Williams made himself back in 2017 when he was trying (unsuccessfully) to become speaker of the Council.

In 2013, Williams said he would not want to overturn Roe v. Wade and believes women should have access to abortion, while still being personally opposed to it. On gay marriage, he said: “I personally believe the definition of marriage is between a male and a female, but that has nothing to do with my belief that government has to recognize everybody’s relationships as equal.”

The ad was released by Hochul’s campaign, which made no mention about where and when it’s running, who made it or how big the buy is – assuming there is one. Also, Kasen-Windsor mentions both Cuomo (twice) and Hochul (once) in the spot, though technically speaking, the two are running separately in the September primary.

The ad also mentions Cuomo’s primary opponent, actress/activist Cynthia Nixon.

The general election ballot won’t be set until after the primary, and it’s possible that Cuomo could end up running with a partner not of his choosing – in other words, Williams – if the councilman manages to defeat Hochul, a former congresswoman and ex-Erie County clerk.

Hochul went through this once before, with speculation that she could be a weak link for Cuomo in the 2014 primary, when she faced off against net neutrality guru and Columbia Law School Prof. Tim Wu, while Cuomo was battling Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout. Hochul defeated Wu, receiving just slightly less of the vote (about 60 percent) than Cuomo did (about 62 percent).

There has been some speculation that since the bulk of the primary vote comes out of New York City, where Williams is fairly well known, Hochul could be in more trouble this time around. She has been redoubling her attention on the downstate region of late, and this week reported raising $1.2 million.

“I was married to Edie Windsor, a champion for gay rights who took the fight for marriage equality all the way to the Supreme Court and won. Today, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee threatens our progress and our equality.”

“Two years after marriage equality became New York’s law, Cynthia Nixon’s running mate Mr. Williams said, and I quote: ‘I personally believe the definition of marriage is between a male and a female.'”

“New York will not go back. We need leaders like Governor Cuomo who are 100 percent committed to LGBTQ rights. New York must lead the way on LGBTQ rights and we can count on Kathy Hochul and Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

Lobbying Expenses Tumble In First Six Months Of 2016

Lobbyists spent $120.2 million on efforts to influence government in New York over the first six months of 2016 — an 8 percent decreased over the same time period last year, according to a report from the Joint Commission On Public Ethics.

The report released on Monday by lobbying and ethics regulators found the top lobbying entities this year so far have been the New York State Nurses Association, which spent $2.3 million — nearly double than what the group spent in the first six months of last year.

Other major lobbying efforts were conducted by the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, the coalition assembled to successfully push for a minimum wage increase to $15. The group, led by 1199SEIU, spent $2 million.

Families for Excellent Schools, an education reform group that backs charter school expansion, spent just over $2 million. The New York State United Teachers union, meanwhile, spent $998,126.

Uber Technologies Inc., which unsuccessfully sought to expand ride-sharing services in upstate New York, spent $752,974, the report found.

The bulk of the money among the highest spending groups was used on advertising and events, not lobbyist retention or compensation.

Kasirer LLC was the top billed firm from January through June, with $5.27 million in earnings.

Overall, there are 6,452 individual lobbyists registered with the state who represent 4,360 clients.

JCOPE Releases FAQ On Grassroots Lobbying Regulation

Amid ongoing concerns being raised over an advisory opinion that would require consultants to inform lobbying regulators when they seek to influence an editorial board’s opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has released a set of frequently asked questions on the regulation.

The FAQ comes amid blowback from consultant firms — and editorial boards — over the advisory opinion that is aimed at having public relations consultants who engage in “grassroots” lobbying campaigns register as lobbyists with the state.

JCOPE has insisted the regulation is not aimed at having journalists register with the government or have PR representatives divulge conversations with reporters.

Rather, JCOPE’s advisory opinion is aimed having consultants reveal when their effort “controls the delivery” of a clients issue through an editorial board.

From the FAQ:

Does a consultant who communicates with the media have to register as a lobbyist?

Generally, no. However, if a paid consultant “controls the delivery” of a message by encouraging an editorial board to support a position on a specific government action favorable to a client, then the consultant may need to register with the Commission and disclose information about the underlying client relationship. Factual communications with reporters are not covered by this opinion.

The full FAQ on grassroots lobbying can be found here:

FAQsLobbying Advisory16-01_CONSULTANTS_GRASSROOTS.pdf by Nick Reisman

Ride-Share Companies Assemble Politically Connected Teams

rideshareRide-share companies in the last several years have assembled a team of high-profile and politically connected lobbying and consulting organizations to influence city and state government in New York, records at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics show.

Lobbying for ride-share apps will likely continue to play a key role in the 2016 legislative session, as both Uber and its competitor Lyft are seeking entrance into the upstate New York market.

Both companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars so far this year alone: Uber fought back against a New York City Council proposal the company believed would have hindered its growth in the five boroughs. Lyft, meanwhile, was shut out of operating upstate cities, and is now seeking a regulatory insurance framework to do so.

As such, both companies already have in place high-profile lobbying shops, according to the most recent data.

Lobbying filings show Lyft has retained Berlin Rosen, a consulting firm with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and has done campaign work for a host of elected officials, including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Lyft has also turned to David Yassky LLC, run by the former taxi commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On the state level, Lyft this year retained Albany Strategic Advisors, the firm that includes CEO Allison Lee, a prominent Albany lobbyist.

Uber, meanwhile, has on its side Patrick Jenkins & Associates, a lobbying firm founded by an ally of the new Assembly speaker, Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie.

Dentons, a firm that includes Democratic former Sen. Craig Johnson — who has close ties to Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference — was also retained by Uber this year to lobby both the state and on the local level.

On the communications front, Uber has also in recent months hired Matt Wing, a former press secretary for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as Josh Gold, a former political director for the Hotel Trades Council who also conducted de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten campaign.

Still, the fight over expanding ride sharing could be a contentious one, and reignite the feud between Cuomo and de Blasio.

Cuomo has signaled repeatedly he supports ride sharing in upstate cities and said on Wednesday he would back a statewide system to oversee and license Uber and Lyft, a move that could supersede New York City’s oversight.

“You would have a statewide license and then local governments could do local regulations,” he said. “But you would have a statewide license for statewide operators. When you think about it, it can’t work otherwise.”

Education, Labor Dominate Lobby Spending In First Half Of Year

commoncoreA group that pushed for the education investment tax credit spent more than $5 million on the effort, according to a report from lobbying and ethics regulators released on Thursday.

The report, which examined lobbying data for the first half 2015 in New York, found the Coalition For Opportunity In Education was the top-spending entity during the legislative session. The group sought the approval of a tax credit that is aimed at spurring donations to public schools and scholarship programs that benefit private and parochial schools.

Ultimately, the tax credit stalled in the state budget and later on the legislative session, despite a strong push by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The report found that overall the top lobbying entities spent $23.4 million during the first six months the year. Total lobbying spending accounted for some $131 million between January and June 2014.

But the entity was just one of several education-oriented groups that spent heavily on trying to influence legislation as issues ranging from teacher evaluations to charter school expansion stoked debate at the Capitol.

The report found the New York State United Teachers, the umbrella group for the state’s teachers unions, spent the second-highest amount, $3.8 million.

NYSUT was opposed to the tax credit, but the labor union had its hands full on other key issues, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to once again overhaul teacher evaluations, weaken teacher tenure laws and strengthen charter schools in addition to the perennial push for more school aid. More >

JCOPE: A ‘Record’ Year For Lobbying

Those lobbying state and local government spent a record $226 million in 2014 trying to influence public officials, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the state’s ethics and lobbying regulations.

The report from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found the lobbying in Albany and around the state accounted for a record $226 million last year.

Topping the list: Families for Excellent Schools, a group that backs education reform measures as well as strengthening charter schools. The group spent $9.6 million on advertising and events.

In second place, the New York state United Teachers union spent $3.2 million — a figure that does not include the millions of dollars the labor group spent on campaign contributions and related advertising.

Overall, education spending was a major driver of lobbying costs last year, accounting for $15.6 million of the nearly $25 million spent by the 10 largest lobbying entities.

The report issued on Wednesday is actually late; it was required to have been released by March 1.

Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, LLP remained the top lobbying shop in New York, reporting $11.2 million in reimbursed expenses and compensation. The firm also boasts the largest number of clients in the state, 181.

They were following by Park Strategies, the firm co-founded by former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato, which reported $7.8 million in compensation and expenses.

A record amount of money was spent on in-house and retained lobbyists, $194.2 million.

Advertising money for lobbying campaigns hit a three-year high of $16 million.

2014_ Annual Report_ Final.pdf by Nick Reisman