Working Families Party

WFP Claims Victory in Special Prosecutor Probe

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party is celebrating the end of a protracted legal battle over its efforts in the 2009 NYC elections that lead to the demise of its for-profit arm, Data & Field Services, but ultimately resulted in no charges against the labor-backed party.

Special prosecutor Roger Adler announced yesterday that his investigation of the WFP’s involvement in Councilwoman Debi Rose’s campaign resulted in the indictment of two former aides to the Staten Island Democrat, but no allegations of wrongdoing against the party itself or any of its officials.

In a lengthy statement released late last night, New York WFP Director Bill Lipton slammed Adler, calling him an “unqualified prosecutor with a political axe to grind” who had spent “three years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to reinvestigate allegations…that had already been debunked.”

“This matter never should have been the subject of a criminal investigation in the first place,” Lipton continued. “It should have been treated as a routine administrative matter and examined by the Campaign Finance Board, and Roger Adler himself has admitted as much.”

“Instead, he pressed forward with a full-scale criminal investigation to attempt to inflict political damage on his opponents, while keeping the meter running for himself. By the end, we have no doubt that he’ll have billed half a million dollars in public money for himself.”

“The indictment of a defunct corporation that has been out of business for more than three years is bizarre. But the indictments against the Rose campaign and two campaign workers are especially outrageous.”

“Councilmember Debi Rose is the first and only African American elected official on Staten Island, and it is wrong that her campaign and her volunteers were subject to a different standard than everyone else.”

The US Attorney’s office and the NYC Campaign Finance Board also both investigated the WFP’s 2009 efforts and found no significant violations.

A lawsuit brought by Randy Mastro, a former Giuliani administration deputy mayor, was settled in 2010, requiring some restitution by Rose for “alleged undercharging” by DFS for services provided to her campaign and also structural changes to how DFS operated. Under the settlement, there was no finding of wrongdoing by the WFP.

The WFP hired former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to review DFS, and she recommended that it reconstitute itself as a taxable, nonprofit corporation. The WFP ultimately opted to shut down DFS altogether and pony up $100,000 in legal fees to settle its long-running dispute with Mastro.

WFP: Enact Moreland’s ‘Number One Recommendation’

The Working Families Party in an email to supporters on Monday is pushing the Legislature in the wake of the Sheldon Silver corruption scandal to enact the “number one recommendation” of the defunct Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, which it was says public financing.

“Now is the time to demand that Albany fix the problem,” said State Director Bill Lipton in an email to supporters sent on Monday. “They can start by enacting the Moreland Commission’s number one recommendation: passing statewide public financing of elections to level the playing field between wealthy donors and working families.”

The commission’s preliminary report did list public financing first among its recommendations, which included lower contribution limits, stronger disclosure requirements and better enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

But the Moreland Commission was actually split on whether public financing should be included as a cure for corruption in state government.

In its preliminary report issued in 2013, the anti-corruption panel had a seven-member dissent that was skeptical of whether public financing would have prevented cases like that of former Sen. Malcolm Smith, accused of trying to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot for mayor of New York City.

“Adoption of public financing would not prevent this type of abuse and thus the commission should not endorse it on the erroneous belief it would be a solution,” the dissenters write.

Among the dissenters was Republican Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a close GOP ally for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who he later would nominate to chair the state Thruway Authority.

(There is also some question over the timing of the report’s dissent on public financing, first raised by City and State last year).

With Republicans in full control of the state Senate, the prognosis for public financing continues to be a grim one.

Nevertheless, the WFP continues to push the public financing system, and pushed Cuomo to ensure a system remained in his ultimatum made to state lawmakers on ethics reform.

“If the Governor is serious about fighting corruption in Albany he’ll insure that all five points of the plan he outlined today–including the number one recommendation of the Moreland Commission, public financing of elections–remain in the budget,” the party said.

Metropolitan Public Strategies Hires From WFP

Metropolitan Public Strategies has hired a former Working Families Party staffer to lead its organization operations, the consulting firm on Monday announced.

The group founded by Neal Kwatra, a former top aide to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a former political director for the Hotel Trades Council, is turning to Jess Carrano to become its director of organizing.

Most recently, Carrano was the labor-aligned WFP’s elections director and has been a top strategist with the organization since 2008.

“Jess is simply one of the best organizers in New York State,” Kwatra said in a statement. “Her organizing will be a tremendous asset to our team and the campaigns we are driving. We are really excited about the added dimension her talents give our operation.”

Carrano is credited with helping Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto win his seat in Buffalo, defeating incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti in the party’s few pickups this election cycle.

WFP Plays Offense

From the Morning Memo:

It’s no secret the relationship between Working Families Party and the governor was strained by the 2014 elections, with some on the left feeling Cuomo didn’t hold up his end of their endorsement bargain.

With the 2015 session underway, the party is setting itself up to serve as the governor’s liberal conscience, holding his feet to the fire when it comes to a “progressive” agenda.

Writing in a Times Union OpEd this morning, WFP Director Bill Lipton says the governor’s inaugural address gave the left hope that the infamously centrist and pragmatic governor is shifting back in their direction.

The proof will be in the details of the SoS/budget speech Cuomo delivers tomorrow, Lipton said.

The WFP leader laid out a “working families first” agenda for the governor that includes bridging the inequality gap through a $15 mimim wage, rolling back tax cuts for the rich and big corporations to provide equitable funding for K-through college public education, creating “green” jobs and appointing a special prosecutor to handle police abuse cases.

The WFP is also preparing – for the first time – to release a videotaped response to Cuomo’s speech tomorrow afternoon. And it will be holding post-speech panel discussions tomorrow night in Kingston and Rochester to brief members on the “progressive” reaction to the governor’s address.

“We will celebrate the progressive proposals the governor puts forward, address areas of concern and discuss how New York State could go even further toward being a state that works for everyone,” an invite to the evening events reads.

As it was during the endorsement battle, which saw some on in the activist wing of the WFP support Cuomo’s primary opponent, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, while big labor leaders sided with the governor, the party is again showing signs of a split.

That was evident in the wake of Cuomo’s latest minimum wage proposal, which was hailed by his allies in 1199 SIEU and HTC, (which happen to provide funding to the labor-backed party), but deemed not good enough in an official WFP statement.

The ‘Terrible Year’ According To The WFP

From the Morning Memo:

A year in review video from Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor kicks off with a bit of gloom on the elections front.

“Let’s start first of all by telling the truth: 2014 by and large was a terrible year politically by and large,” Cantor says looking into the camera of a WFP video released this morning. “Democrats were trounced, much of it their own fault.”

And yet, the WFP’s top official says there are a lot of things to celebrate as the year ends, pointing to a growing progressive advocacy movement ranging from climate change to criminal justice reforms.

Cantor, in the video, says there is an “awakening in the hearts and minds of the citizenry” this year even as liberals suffered setbacks at the ballot box.

The Working Families Party enters 2015 as its relationship with centrist Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to be a complicated one after he was coaxed into agreeing to a package of liberal goals in exchange for the party’s ballot line.

Cuomo and WFP officials are trying to work it out, even as much of the liberal agenda — especially campaign finance reform — appears to be dead on arrival now that Republicans are fully in control of the state Senate.

Cuomo, at the same time, will be pushing education policy goals that are likely to favor charter schools and anger the state’s teachers unions.

Look for Cuomo in 2015 to plant progressive flag on law enforcement reform measures — a thornier issue than ever given the assassinations of two New York City police officers following the Eric Garner demonstrations.

WFP And Cuomo: It’s Complicated

The Working Families Party blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement released after midnight, blaming him for the Democratic losses on the state and federal level in New York.

In particular, WFP Director Bill Lipton singled out the governor’s newly formed Women’s Equality Party as a “fake party” and knocked Cuomo for not spending more money to help Democrats retake full control of the state Senate.

“Governor Cuomo promised to take back the State Senate,” Lipton said in the statement. “Instead, he squandered millions on a fake party, and left millions more in his campaign account as New York Democrats in the legislature and in Congress withered on the vine. But he couldn’t sink WFP and we’re not going anywhere, except back to Albany to fight for working families. Our party is needed now more than ever.”

The surging Green Party, meanwhile, appears to have displaced the WFP from Row D.

Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins received 146,564 votes as of early Wednesday morning, with Cuomo receiving 94,593 on the WFP line.

The party was able to clear the 50,000-vote hurdle in to keep its ballot status.

But WFP officials were miffed as Cuomo sought to promote the Women’s Equality Party over their ballot line and sought to frame a vote for the governor on their line as sending him a message.

Cuomo was endorsed by the party in May after pledging to back a host of liberal measures ranging from the Dream Act, to the public financing of political campaigns.

Those measures appear to be in doubt next year with Republicans holding a clear majority in the state Senate.

Gillibrand Boosts Working Families Party

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo presses for votes on the newly formed Women’s Equality Party ballot line, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Saturday sent out a fundraising appeal for the Working Families Party.

In the email, Gillibrand makes a pitch for a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

“Equal pay for equal work. A minimum wage that lifts millions of New Yorkers out of poverty. Real campaign finance reform so more women can run against the old boys’ network,” Gillibrand writes in the email.

“Control of the New York State Senate will determine whether we see decisive wins on these issues, or stagnation and perhaps even lost ground,” she adds.

Gillibrand also name-drops the Democratic Senate candidates running in key districts that could decide control of the chamber, including Buffalo’s Marc Panepinto, who the governor is yet to endorse (Cuomo is torn on the race, considering Sen. Mark Grisanti is the last sitting Republican in the chamber to have supported same-sex marriage in 2011).

Cuomo has endorsed candidates in other battleground Senate races, including Democrats Justin Wagner, Adrienne Esposito and Sens. Terry Gipson, Ted O’Brien and Cecilia Tkaczyk.

At the same time, the state Democratic Committee and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee are also joining forces to send mailers on behalf of candidates.

Nevertheless, Cuomo has been criticized by liberals advocates for not being more forcefully in favor of a Democratic takeover of the chamber this year, which came to a head this week when the governor knocked public schools as a “monopoly” he wants to break by strengthening charter schools.

Gillibrand’s push for the WFP is eyebrow-raising in part because of Cuomo’s efforts to establish the Women’s Equality Party as a permanent party through the next election cycle and Gillibrand’s own backing of electing more women to public office.

The email appeal comes as the WFP is making a concerted effort to have liberal voters vote on their ballot line.

The pressure on the WFP is two-fold: Cuomo’s Women’s Equality ballot line could siphon votes away from the labor-backed WFP, while Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is expected to receive a large number of votes from liberals disaffected by the governor’s economic policies.

Cuomo’s formation of the women-centric ballot line could hinder the party’s efforts at achieving 50,000 votes, the necessary threshold to qualify for the ballot. At the very least, the party’s ballot position — Row D — is potentially at stake this year.

Cuomo has denied that he’s trying to weaken the Working Families Party, whose endorsement he had to fight for back in May. In a WNYC radio interview on Friday, Cuomo insisted the Women’s Equality Party is about enacting the social change of passing the full Women’s Equality Act, and that anything to the contrary is “tortured analysis.”

WFP Gets A Pitch From Whoopi Goldberg

The Working Families Party on Friday received a celebrity boost in a video message from Whoopi Goldberg.

In a minute-and-half video, Goldberg touts the WFP as the “progressive party” that has helped elect officials who in turn have fought to pass measures such as paid sick leave, living wages and support for public transit.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is pushing for votes on his Women’s Equality Party ballot line next week, is not mentioned.

But Goldberg does suggest — as have other WFPers recently — that a vote on the liberal, labor-backed line will be about sending a message.

“Next year could be big. When we stand together and vote, it’s a clear progressive message Albany cannot ignore,” she says.

Goldberg adds: “We can’t wait for them until we elect them. Get out and vote.”

A star-powered GOTV effort isn’t new for the WFP. The party in 2010 had Matt Damon promoting a vote on the ballot line as well; Goldberg jokes in the video she wants viewers to share it on social media and beat his view total.

Meanwhile, the WFP co-chairwoman, Karen Scharff, pushed back this afternoon after Cuomo made reference to the creation of “fringe” parties in a radio interview.

“I’m 5 feet one inches tall, but even little parties can pack a big punch,” Scharff said. “We’ve never been afraid to pressure the big guys to be accountable to women and families.”

Teachout’s Campaign Mananger: Vote For Cuomo On WFP Line

Zephyr Teachout’s former campaign manager is urging liberals to send a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by vote for him on the Working Families Party line.

The eyebrow-raising push came this afternoon in the form of an email from the Working Families Party, which spurned Teachout in May in favor of giving Cuomo the labor-backed party’s ballot line this fall.

“I didn’t agree with the decision by the Working Families Party to nominate Andrew Cuomo for governor this summer,” writes Mike BOland in the email. “Like many progressives, I disagreed strongly with the Governor’s economic policies over the last four years. That’s a big reason why I left the WFP after 15 years to be Zephyr Teachout’s campaign manager. I’m proud of what we accomplished on that campaign. I believe we helped change the conversation in New York politics.”

Cuomo, at the time of receiving the party’s endorsement, pledged to support a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate and measures like public financing, the Dream Act and a $10.10 minimum wage.

At the time, the reasoning for the WFP was that if the party didn’t nominate Cuomo as its standard bearer and went along with a stand-alone candidate for the first time in its history, it’s ballot status could be jeopardized.

But ironically, keeping the WFP’s ballot status, much less its spot at Row E, appears to be increasingly a concern for party leaders and activists as the governor pushes for voters to back him on the Women’s Equality Party line, which is increasingly being seen as a rival for liberals’ votes and potential siphon away support from the WFP.

Teachout, as a Democratic primary opponent of the governor’s, ultimately received 35 percent of the vote, marshaling liberal dissatisfaction with Cuomo’s economic record over the last foue years.

Boland writes in the email that supporting Cuomo on the WFP ballot line would hold him accountable.

“On November 5th, it seems to me that progressives will wake up to one of two worlds: one with a strong WFP holding the governor accountable day in and day out, or one with a weak WFP where corporations and billionaires have even more power in Albany than they do now. For me, the choice between those two scenarios is clear,” he writes.

That being said, he also raises the possibility of the party not receiving 50,000 votes in order to maintain permanent ballot status for the next election cycle.

“In order to stay on the ballot, the Working Families Party needs to win 50,000 votes for Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday. The more votes progressives cast for Gov. Cuomo on the WFP line, the stronger position WFP will be in come November 5th,” he says. “And that is when the real work begins — when we all need to come together to fight for higher wages for workers, campaign finance reform to change Albany, full funding of our schools, and so much more.”

The email comes after Teachout has said she will not endorse in the race for governor.

Earlier today, Cuomo released his WFP-like email calling on supporters to vote for him and his running mate Kathy Hochul on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line.

In that email, Cuomo said he wanted the newly created ballot line to achieve the 50,000-vote threshold next week in order to remain on the ballot next year.

The Cuomo-WFP contretemps were renewed this week after Cuomo called public schools a “monopoly” and escalated a war of words with the statewide teachers union NYSUT.

Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state Democratic Committee, called the back and forth with the WFP “political blather.”

WFP Co-Chairwoman Karen Scharff in a statement earlier today knocked that statement, saying the dispute is rooted in clear policy disagreements over education.

Working Families Party: Vote Our Ballot Line

Facing competition this Election Day from the Women’s Equality Party ballot, the labor-backed Working Families Party on Thursday released a video featuring prominent Democratic women urging a vote for the WFP.

The message of the video is clear: The WFP stands for everything the WEP stands for, and them some.

The video comes though as the Women’s Equality Party — formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year as a way to promote his backing of the Women’s Equality Act — could lead to a potential downgrade in their ballot position, currently Row D.

In the video, elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, says a vote for the WFP is a vote for women’s equality, as well as campaign finance reform and the Dream Act.

“Equality means all of this, and more,” says Karen Scharff, the party’s co-chair, in the video.

Cuomo had to fight for the WFP’s endorsement earlier this year, and ultimately won their backing after pledging to support a full Democratic takeover of the state Senate as well as re-affirm his support for a liberal agenda next year.

But the speculation has been Cuomo formed the Women’s Equality Party in part to challenge the supremacy of the WFP as the left-leaning third party ballot line in the state, or at the very least to make party leaders nervous heading in to Election Day.

Still, women who are prominent in liberal-advocacy politics are not totally on board with the idea of the Women’s Equality Party.

Scharff has been critical of the women-centric party, and in an interview on Capital Tonight questioned the need for the ballot line.

Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan has called the party a “mistake” and said it could lead to a marginalization of female voters.