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The Read: Political chatter from elsewhere

Each Saturday on the Politics Now blog, you'll find a list of stories that caught the eyes of The News' political reporters. Here's a sampling of what they were reading this week:

16 worst political dirty tricks," Politico. Take a look back at American political history –- in pictures -- of a variety of allegations and schemes devised to help get people elected. From Garfield and van Buren to Koch and Cuomo to Bush and Gore.

"Peeling the Onion," by Morgan Pehme, City & State. Comedian Joe Randazzo dishes to City & State as he leaves his post as editor in chief of The Onion. Randazzo explains what makes politics so funny and why Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn't.

"Gambling Group Gave $2 Million to a Cuomo Ally," by Nicholas Confessore, Danny Hakim and Charles V. Bagli, The New York Times. The New York Times revealed Monday that gambling interests steered $2 million to a group allied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the governor was developing his proposal to expand casino gambling.

"Casinos Wagered Early on Cuomo," by Jacob Gershman and Eliot Brown, The Wall Street Journal. A fundraiser at a Westchester home in October gave executives from the gambling conglomerate Genting the chance to personally pitch their plans for a Queens casino to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Video: McCarthy on congressional politics, fight for Assembly seat

Congressional politics and a potentially spirited fight for a seat in the Assembly are discussed by News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy and Brian Meyer:

Review live chat with City Hall reporter Aaron Besecker

Audio from Albany: Avi Israel

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.

ALBANY – The morning after a deal was struck on legislation to crack down on a growing epidemic of prescription painkiller addictions, Avi Israel, whose drug-addicted son killed himself last year, was not beaming.

But Israel, standing this morning outside the Capitol office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was the first statewide official to push for a solution, appeared as content as he has in the past year since his son, Michael, died after years of a prescription drug addiction.

Israel, a North Buffalo resident, was one of the citizen lobbyists who pushed officials here to get a deal creating a “real-time’’ database reporting system that doctors and pharmacists will have to check before prescribing certain kinds of drugs with addiction issues.

In an interview, Israel, who wasn’t active before in politics, talks about the path that led to Tuesday’s agreement, the need for the new system and other changes needed for New York and other states to address what health officials have described as an epidemic of people addicted to prescription painkillers. And he describes his son, a young man who killed himself a year ago Monday.

Listen to an interview with Avi Israel:

Click here to download this audio file.

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Amid a series of routine bipartisan votes, the House last week considered two more contentious issues that could have longer-lasting political ramifications.

But Western New York's representatives voted in predictable, party-line ways on both of those measures.

First, the House rejected a proposal to ban abortions that are based on sex selection -- but that happened only because it was considered under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, both voted against that measure, which is no surprise, given that they typically support abortion rights. Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican and abortion opponent, voted for the measure.

Abortion rights supporters and opponents are likely to try to use the issue to rally their respective bases in the coming fall election.

More surprisingly, the House approved a measure that allows project labor agreements on defense construction projects. The reliably pro-labor Hochul and Higgins favored the measure, while Reed opposed it.

Not only was the measure sponsored by a Republican --  Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island -- it also proved that on a rare occasion, a pro-labor measure can pass the GOP-led House.

-- Jerry Zremski


Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.



* FDA Reauthorization: The House passed the Food and Drug Administration Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. The bill would reauthorize and extend the Food and Drug Administration's user-fee programs for prescription drugs and medical devices and establish user-fee programs for generic drugs and biosimilars. Upton said the bill would promote "American innovation by improving the predictability, consistency, transparency, and efficiency of FDA regulation."

The vote May 30 was 387 yeas to 5 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Lenihan slams firing of Ranzenhofer aide

The claims of a State Senate staffer who said she was fired for supporting Republican David Bellavia over endorsed candidate Chris Collins in the 27th Congressional District primary are now prompting a torrent of Democratic criticism too.   

Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan on Tuesday called on Collins to explain any role he might have in the May dismissal of Michelle McCullough, claiming reports of "intimidation" raise questions about how he will conduct his campaign.   

Lenihan said that because McCullough claims she was fired by State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Williamsville, for supporting Collins opponent Bellavia, more explanations are needed.   

"The public deserves to know if Collins played a direct role with Ranzenhofer in costing this public servant her job," Lenihan said. "The time has come for both Collins and Ranzenhofer to come clean and explain why an otherwise good employee was suddenly let go after she circulated petitions for Collins’ opponent." 

The Collins campaign declined to comment on the Lenihan claim.   

The Buffalo News reported Tuesday that McCullough filed a formal ethics complaint against Ranzenhofer, alleging the senator "coerced" his staff to gather ballot petitions for Collins.   

"He has obstructed the fair and due process of elections and violated not only the integrity of his staff but the public trust," McCulloch said in a filing with the agency that has jurisdiction over legislative ethics matters.

—Robert J. McCarthy

de Blasio, NYC mayoral hopeful, due in Buffalo Wednesday

The developing race for mayor of New York moves upstate on Wednesday as Public Advocate Bill de Blasio makes the rounds among potential supporters in Buffalo -- courtesy of former County Executive Joel A. Giambra.   

de Blasio, who ranks second in New York City government as public advocate, is considered a likely Democratic candidate to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2013. Giambra said Tuesday he is sponsoring a Wednesday "friend raiser" at the 31 Club on Elmwood Avenue to bring together potential de Blasio supporters. 

"He doesn't buy this notion that there is a separate upstate and downstate," said Giambra, a Republican. "He wants to build bridges."   

de Blasio is a former New York City councilman who has previously worked for Andrew M. Cuomo and Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is considered a major figure in the 2013 mayoral race, which Giambra said is always of interest to upstaters with family and business ties to the city.   

--Robert J. McCarthy

Swanick vows to end "double dipping;" will not collect legislative pension

Democratic Senate candidate Charles M. Swanick is declaring he will not collect his state pension in a process known as "double dipping" if elected. 

Swanick, who is running in the Democratic primary for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Mark J. Grisanti in November, said Tuesday he will lead by example and not collect the pension earned as a longtime member of the Erie County Legislature should he win the seat. He said he will also not collect the pension he earned as a CSX Railroad engineer.   

"I will not be among the more than 15 lawmakers who collect both a salary and a pension. If elected, on Jan. 1, 2013 I will forego the pension I receive from my service in the Erie County Legislature and my time working for the railroad and will collect only one paycheck for the job I do," he said.   

Swanick said he will also introduce legislation to amend the current New York State system that allows workers to retire and then take “part-time jobs” that do not exceed a $30,000 limit. The rule is often suspended to allow them to exceed the $30,000 salary limit.   

“If elected, I will immediately submit legislation to remove the waiver from New York State law," he said. "I will also lower the limit from $30,000 to $15,000. If departments need the expertise of retired workers beyond what $15,000 will buy, those workers will have to forfeit their pension while they are back on the payroll for the state.”

—Robert J. McCarthy

Recent hires in City Hall

Buffalo has a new special events coordinator and a new director of real estate among its latest hires.

Kimberly C. Trent has been hired to fill the vacant special events position in the Brown administration, a post that pays $70,215 a year. Trent's appointment was effective April 30, and she lived in Orchard Park at the time she got the job, according to documents filed in the City Clerk's Office. She will have to move into the city to comply with the residency requirement for most city employees.

Christie R. Nelson has been appointed the city's director of real estate in the Office of Strategic Planning. Nelson, whose appointment was effective May 29, will earn a starting salary of $72,872.

In City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder's office, the city's chief fiscal watchdog has hired a new special assistant and changed the title of one of his aides.

Continue reading "Recent hires in City Hall" »

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, June 4, 2012


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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |