NY-17: Jones Releases First Campaign Video

Democratic House candidate Mondaire Jones on Thursday released the first video of his campaign that highlights his biography, his family’s struggles against racism and the history-making nature of his candidacy.

“My grandfather used to tell me a story about how when he would walk to school growing up in Virginia, there were white students who got to take the bus,” he said in the video.

“And they would spit on him through the school bus windows as he was walking the dirt path on his way to school. I was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs, and we still needed food stamps to get by. I didn’t come from money. I’m black, I’m gay, and so I don’t see people like me in office very often.”

The video was produced by WIN Media, which has been behind ads for campaigns including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Rep. Lauren Underwood and congressional candidate Randy Bryce.

Jones’s video was released the same day Allison Fine, a former NARAL board chairwoman, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the suburban district to replace Rep. Nita Lowey. Sen. David Carluccci and Assemblyman David Buchwald previously announced their campaigns.

Adoptees Will Have Access To Birth Certificates Under New Law

Adoptees will be able to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate when they turn 18 under a new law approved on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The measure will provide New York adoptees the right to information about their birth and biological parents.

“Where you came from informs who you are, and every New Yorker deserves access to the same birth records – it’s a basic human right,” Cuomo said. “For too many years, adoptees have been wrongly denied access to this information and I am proud to sign this legislation into law and correct this inequity once and for all.”

The new law is meant to remove the restriction placed by government agencies on information made available to adopted people, which in turn would give them a better chance of identifying medical data that can detect and prevent diseases.

The measure was sponsored by Assemblyman David Weprin and Sen. Velmanette Montgomery.

“I am so proud to have been the Senate sponsor of the Clean Bill of Adoptee Rights and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this historic piece of legislation,” Montgomery said. “This has been long overdue. We owe our success to the advocacy of thousands of adult adoptees who have fought tirelessly on this issue for over 20 years. The level of support I received for this legislation from adult adoptees all across the state and the nation was astounding. It is important that they have the right to seek answers about their health, their family history and their heritage.”

Democratic Party Chairman Says ‘Credible Parties’ Will Make Cut

“Credible” political parties will be able to meet a higher threshold for ballot access that could be set by a commission determining the future of how campaigns spend and receive money in New York, Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs in a radio interview on Thursday said.

Jacobs is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointee to the commission determining the guidelines for public campaign financing, and the commission may also take a broader purview of its role and raise the threshold number of votes needed in a gubernatorial race for ballot access.

The current threshold is 50,000 votes, which has been in place for nearly 90 years.

“We have to make sure that people who run for offices on these party lines are running from party lines that are actual credible parties that have some demonstrated level of support,” he said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, adding that “parties that are active, real parties” will be able to meet the new, higher threshold.

The potential for changing ballot qualifications has led to fresh concerns the commission is potentially targeting the Working Families Party, a progressive ballot line that has feuded with Cuomo. But Jacobs, a Cuomo ally, said he did not consider the WFP a “sham party” like the Independence Party, the Serve America Movement or Women’s Equality Party ballot lines.

“They take their real estate, let’s call it what it is, their lease on real estate on the ballot and they monetize it through transactional negotiations with the major parties because it creates a billboard effect,” Jacobs said.

NY-17: Fine Launches Bid For Lowey Seat

Allison Fine, a former national board chairwoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced her bid for the Democratic nomination in the 17th congressional district.

Fine, the founder of the Network of Elected Women who has written about technology for social impact, is running for the seat being vacated next year by retiring Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey.

“I want to lead us into the next chapter for our country; one that is prosperous and fair,” she said.

“Our democracy and economy need fixing. We need to create something new and better. The work of rebuilding our country begins right here at home. And this is my home. I know the issues people in our community face because I face them too. My husband and I pay for our own insurance and have no pensions. We work to put our kids through college, take care of our aging parents, and pay our taxes and bills. This is what keeps me up at night—and I know I’m not alone.”

Fine said she wants to build on the work Lowey has done for the suburban New York City district.

“Every century, Americans remake our democracy,” she said. “This is that time again. It’s time for new voices, especially in Congress where women are greatly underrepresented.”

Former Justice Department official Mondaire Jones, Sen. David Carluccci and Assemblyman David Buchwald previously announced their campaigns.

IG Report Finds Persistent Pattern Of Sexual Harassment And Abuse By Ex-Open Government Official

For years, the state’s leading authority on open government laws would advise reporters, editors, students and members of the general public on how to file for public records and their rights to attend a public meeting while writing briefs asserting the right of the public to know what their government was up to.

But at the same time Robert Freeman was being praised as an ally and advocate for the press in New York, he was the subject of complaints by women, dating back to at least 2003, surrounding allegations that he would kiss women, download inappropriate images to his work computer and send emails to female students and journalists that made them deeply uncomfortable.

Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro on Thursday released a report detailing the numerous allegations against Freeman, the former executive director of the Committee on Open Government, who resigned earlier this year after a report at The Journal News in Westchester County complained about his inappropriate behavior, which state officials had known about for years.

The report details years of behavior — ranging from asking a woman for a kiss to sending emails telling a journalism student if he wanted to touch her — dating back to at least 2003.

Freeman had been the subject of formal and informal complaints over the years, and had been investigated by the New York Department of State. An editor at the Democrat and Chronicle sent a letter to Freeman admonishing him for having a conversation with a reporter that left the woman uncomfortable.

“Mr. Freeman habitually engaged in sexual harassment of multiple women over many years,” Tagliafierro said.

“Given the stature Freeman attained during his tenure as executive director, his role as the sole authority on government transparency, and the power dynamic he repeatedly promoted, many of the women who spoke with my office said they believed it would be futile to report his misconduct. However, there are now multiple pathways for reporting such behavior and my office stands ready to assist anyone who believes they have been victimized by state employees.”

Freeman occupied a unique position of trust for reporters navigating the state’s Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law. He was often referred to as an unfettered expert open records laws and was a reliable person to contact for advice.

But after his firing in June, numerous allegations by women, both co-workers, students and journalists surfaced, according to the report.

Freeman was asked voluntarily to testify to the inspector general about the allegations. He declined.

dos-freeman-1789.040.2019-alb-report-11.14.19 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

NY-27: SuperPAC Targets Special Election Influencers With ‘Enormous’ Anti-Jacobs Mailers

From the Morning Memo:

Conservative super PAC Club for Growth is continuing its assault on the congressional campaign for Republican candidate Chris Jacobs.

The organization, which has already spent tens of thousands of dollars on anti-Jacobs radio and television advertisements, has now launched a direct mail campaign as well. Club for Growth Action, the SuperPAC arm of the group, said it has sent out four separate mailers.

It said the targets are Republican County Chairs, GOP “influencers” and members of the Conservative Party Executive Committee. All of those targets will likely have a say on the candidate designation process when the governor calls a special election in New York’s 27th District.

The messaging is in line with the earlier media buys. They portray the current state Senator Jacobs as a Republican In Name Only (RINO), someone who is pro-Democrat, against President Donald Trump and wastes taxpayer money.

The Jacobs campaign deferred to its past statement which pointed out Club for Growth helped lead an anti-Trump push before the 2016 election, while the candidate has since said he voted for the Republican nominee.

“This false attack has already been disproven, but it is rich that the very same special interest group of career politicians and D.C. lobbyists who led the never-Trump movement is now attacking me for being insufficiently supportive of our president. Another sad example of why the swamp must be drained, but D.C. insiders won’t choose the next member of Congress from Western New York, that decision will be made by Western New Yorkers,” campaign spokesperson Cam Savage said.

However, what stands out about the mailers is their size. Each one is 12 inches by 15 inches, front and back with full color.

People who received the mail have called them “enormous” and “very graphic.” Copies obtained by Spectrum News show $1 postage stamps for each individual piece.

“It’s going to be a difficult process,” one source said of the coming weeks and months after seeing the direct mail.

Club for Growth also said “more is coming” although it did not indicate whether that meant mail, broadcast and digital ads, or all of the above. The organization has interviewed candidate Beth Parlato and prospective candidate Stefan Mychajliw but has not issued an endorsement yet.

CFGA-01-Jacobs CFGA-02-Jacobs CFGA-03-Jacobs CFGA-04-Jacobs

New Campaign Disclosure Law Approved

From the Morning Memo:

A measure that requires campaign committees and candidates to include a “paid for by” disclaimer on print, digital, display and auditory ads was approved this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill in essence aligns New York’s paid campaign advertising disclosure rules with the federal government’s own regulations for ads.

At the same time, the law is meant to end the practice of anonymous mailings during political campaigns.

The legislation is meant to counteract anonymous political spending in New York races, especially on social media platforms, amid a broader concern over the use of sites like Facebook to inject misinformation into the political bloodstream, building on a 2018 law to tamp down on digital communications by independent expenditure groups.

The measure was sponsored by Sen. James Skoufis and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Democrats who represent Hudson Valley districts.

“Voters deserve full transparency when it comes to political communications – and now, finally, they’ll get it,” said Skoufis, who has been targeted by anonymous political ads in the past.

“As someone who was previously targeted by anonymous campaign mailers and robocalls, I know first-hand the confusion caused by these deceptive practices, especially when messages come from seemingly legitimate sources with no ‘paid for by’ disclaimer. We all have a right to vote in honest and fair elections, and this new law is a significant step forward.”

James, In Brief, Says Immigrants Without Health Care Should Not Be Denied Entry

From the Morning Memo:

Immigrants who do not possess health coverage or the ability to pay for care should not be barred entry into the United States, Attorney General Letitia James argued in an amicus brief as part of a coalition with 22 attorneys general and New York City.

The brief comes as President Donald Trump’s administration is being sued to challenge its Health Insurance Proclamation, which is meant to limit immigrants’ entry while they lack health care.

The concern is the move would significantly scale back the number of people who would normally qualify for visas in the United States.

“Trump’s new proclamation is just another thinly veiled attack on immigrants,” James said in a statement.

“Once again, his Administration is undermining the will of Congress and pushing an agenda driven by politics, not policy. Immigrants make great contributions to this country, and we will continue to fight and challenge policies that would inflict great harm to them and our states.”

The brief comes amid a broader debate launched by the Trump administration over the “public charge” rule, which would deny green cards to immigrants who receive forms of public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. That provision is being challenged in court as well.

Here And Now

Good morning! It’s Thursday. Hopefully it will be a little warmer today.

Happening today:

At 9:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will deliver remarks at the 12th annual Upstate Latino Summit. Marriott Downtown. 100 E Onondaga St., Syracuse.

Also at 9:30 a.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will hold a media availability to talk New York City Council legislation being approved. 1 Centre St., 15th Floor, New York City.

At 10:30 a.m., the Public Service Commission will meet. 19th Floor, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Assembly Correction Committee Chair David Weprin and Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol will take testimony to examine the adequacy of alternatives to incarceration and pretrial services in light of recent criminal justice reform initiatives, and find ways to better support these sentencing alternatives. Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Members and leaders of the Long Island Chapter of New York Communities for Change; Nassau DSA; Elmont Cultural Center; Long Island Activists; residents and community leaders who live in Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s State Senate district will protest outside his office against his donations from real estate interests. 55 Front Street, Room 1, Rockville Centre.

Also at 11 a.m., members of the New York City Council will hold a news conference to discuss DACA. City Hall Steps, New York City.

Also at 11 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will make an announcement at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th St., New York City.

At 12:45 p.m., advocates will deliver a letter to Gov. Cuomo calling on him to act as offensive coordinator and craft a managed plan to equitably transition the heating sector off of natural gas entirely. The War Room, 2nd Floor, NY Capitol, Albany.

Headlines:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last January was briefed on a closed-door vote of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics as the panel was deciding whether to investigate his former aide, Joe Percoco — a leak that was investigated by the inspector general.

Meanwhile, a donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to settle an investigation with JCOPE over a contribution to the mayor’s non-profit that backed his agenda.

Border counties in New York near Pennsylvania are offering a test case over whether an increase in the minimum wage can cost jobs and hurt businesses.

In western New York, Republican and Conservative leaders are upset Gov. Cuomo is expected to call a special election for ex-Rep. Chris Collins’s seat on the same day as the April presidential primary.

New York officials have identified hospitals and nursing homes that contain a deadly fungus.

Could Bishop Richard Malone be resigning? According to a media report out of Rome, it could be imminent.

The Rockville Centre Diocese is challenging the constitutionality of the Child Victims Act, a move not being taken up by the church in Albany.

The estate of Jeffrey Epstein is considering a special program that would provide settlements to those who had accused him of sexual abuse.

A Roman Catholic bishop named by Pope Francis to investigate the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, New York, has himself been accused of sexual abuse of a child, an attorney for the alleged victim notified the church this week.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expanding its OMNY tap-and-go fare payment system to all five boroughs.

The public campaign finance commission at a meeting on Wednesday proposed matching taxpayer funds with large campaign donations — a move decried by advocates.

The legal battle between the Erie County Clerk’s Office and New York state over granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants continues on.

Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis has shown an outsize interest in a piece of “zombie” property in western New York.

Attorney General Letitia James’s office is accepting complaints leveled against National Grid as Gov. Cuomo’s office pushes the company to end its natural gas hookup moratorium.

Developers at Long Island City are eyeing the parcel of land that had once been proposed for Amazon and are conducting a “listening tour” to avoid the same fate as the online retail giant’s plan for Queens.

Gov. Cuomo has touted his administration’s efforts for local economies in upstate New York — arguing both jobs and businesses are returning — but that claim is only part of the story.

New York City lawmakers ripped the efforts of the de Blasio administration to combat toxic lead in buildings.

Former TV reporter Trish Bergin, the ex-girlfriend of Billy Joel, will run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Peter King.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi has been named to the powerful House Armed Services Committee, a prominent position for a freshman Democrat, his office announced on Wednesday.

Salaries for teachers rose for the eighth straight year as the number of them working declined, new numbers show.

School officials on Long Island, including the teachers union, complained New York’s foundation aid formula for schools is broken and convoluted.

Protestors demanded the resignation of a New York City school board member who called Asians “yellow folks.”

The jury is set in the corruption trial of former Suffolk County District Thomas Spota.

The impact of tourism in Saratoga County is approaching $1 billion, according to the Saratoga Hospitality and Tourism Index.

The New York City Police Department was forced to destroy juvenile fingerprints it illegally stored in a database.

Police have charged a Manhattan landlord with assault and criminal mischief after an altercation Tuesday stemming from a NY1 investigation into complaints from tenants who say they have been without heat and gas for weeks.

The fight for former St. Clare’s workers continues with the Schenectady County Legislature affirming its support for retirees.

Racist graffiti found inside a Syracuse University dorm late last week continues to draw reaction from students on campus from both the message and the response from university officials.

The Rochester Teachers Association has rejected the school district’s proposal to layoff 168 teachers.

City officials in Glens Falls have proposed a measure that is meant to reduce the tension at rallies of pro-Trump supporters.

Nine out of ten cigarette smokers start the habit in their teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s one reason the age to buy tobacco products is now up to 21-years-old statewide.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul joined other state and local leaders from Niagara and Orleans counties to showcase 20 projects Wednesday inside Somerset Town Hall.

In national news:

Public testimony began for the first time in the impeachment proceeding against President Trump, with diplomats describing their experience in how pressure was brought against Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

As revealed during the testimony, a call from the ambassador to Ukraine at a restaurant to President Trump is being considered a stunning breach of security.

Republicans are discussing ways of potentially extending the impeachment process in order to scramble the Democratic presidential primaries, which begin in January.

Acting Ambassador Bill Taylor testified the president cared more about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son than helping Ukraine.

Like the Clinton and Nixon impeachment inquiries before, the public hearing put the president’s private demons on display for the American public.

President Trump’s meeting with the leader of Turkey led to little tangible progress.

Roger Stone’s defense in his perjury trial has been to wrap himself tightly to his support for President Trump.

Farm purchases have created a snag in the ongoing U.S. and China trade talks.

Nearly a half century after it was first proposed, the Equal Rights Amendment is back, gaining another step toward ratification.

From the editorial pages:

The Buffalo News tells partisans on Twitter to take a deep breath before posting.

The New York Post praised the bipartisan goodwill between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Peter King.

The Times Union says Albany should not jeopardize the strides made in community policing amid talk of scaling back its police force.

From the sports pages:

Jacob deGrom was named the NL Cy Young Award winner for the second straight year.

Monroe County GOP Legislators Propose Limiting Authority Of New Democratic County Executive

A week after electing Monroe County voters elected their first Democratic county executive in nearly three decades, the Republican-controlled County Legislature proposed rule changes to reduce the power of the office.

The Checks and Balances for Legislative Equality (C.A.B.L.E.) Act would amend the county charter and administrative code to limit how much the county executive could spend without legislature approval and who he could appoint to key county positions.

The proposal would lower the spending threshold from $20,000 to $5,000. County lawmakers would also oversee any new positions which would be created, as well as salary adjustments.

All 17 current GOP legislators signed off on the legislation.  Their majority decrease to a 15-14 split come January when new Democratic County Executive Adam Bello also starts his term.

None of them were available for comment Wednesday but the spokesperson for outgoing Republican County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo weighed in.

“The CABLE Act of 2019 ensures a co-equal branch of government providing residents across Monroe County greater transparency and oversight on how their tax dollars are spent,” spokesperson Jesse Sleezer said. “The County Executive respects and supports this legislation.”

The minority conference is crying foul though. They said Republicans are more interested in “protecting their friends” than serving county interests and called the proposal an insult to voters.

Bello agreed.

“Well, I think the change that’s most troubling to me is that they’re attempting to change the county charter after the fact to remove powers from the county executive to build a team to implement the policies and proposals the voters asked for last week,” he said. “The voters asked for us to start to roll up our sleeves, put politics aside and start to impact the challenges facing this community.”

Because the amendments were introduced as matters of urgency, they skip the usual legislature committee process.  A public hearing and likely vote will come at a December meeting, the final full legislature meeting before Bello takes office.