September 5, 2012 - 4:37 PM
ALBANY – Let the theorizing begin.
A renegade group of state Senate Democrats, which broke with their conference to form an independent group that often sides with Republicans, has made an eye-opening donation: $6,500 to Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat.
Kennedy, not a part of the group, has appeared often in press briefings with his fellow Senate Democratic conference at the Capitol and often votes with Senate Democrats.
So, the $6,500 from the Independent Conference Committee given on August 21: Does it mean something broader, like Kennedy leaving the door open to joining the group?
Add in the $6,500 donated to Kennedy on the same day by Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who heads the independent caucus, and the intrigue grows a bit more.
Kennedy did not immediately return a call for comment. The donation was reported today in Board of Elections filings. [UPDATE: Kennedy just called to say he is a "proud Democrat and I'm going to remain a member of the Democratic conference.'' He said the support from Klein's group is "an indication that Democrats can and will unite behind their common vision.'']
But Klein, who helped the freshman Kennedy win his first election to the Senate, said there have been no discussions with the Buffalo Democrat about joining the breakaway group. “I think he’s a great senator. He’s been a pleasure to work with,'' Klein said this afternoon.
Democratic sources say Kennedy gave advance word to Senate Democratic leaders that the money from the IDC and Klein was coming and that his loyalty rests with the Democratic conference.
Still, Klein, a political chess player who fancies himself thinking several moves at once, is clearly either trying to stir up some trouble for Senate Democratic leaders or planning for future possible defections depending on the outcome of the November elections – or both.
Klein said his group is also backing another Senate Democrat who is not part of the IDC: Senator Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan.
-- Tom Precious
September 5, 2012 - 3:32 PM
September 5, 2012 - 2:31 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A remarkable change in attitude toward the subject of same sex marriage has permeated the Democratic National Convention here this week, as acceptance seems to grow following its legalization in several states and its inclusion in the party's national platform this week.
While the subject was only tenderly mentioned when the party last convened in 2008, speaker after speaker at Tuesday's session -- including first lady Michelle Obama -- extolled the party's embrace of same sex marriage.
September 5, 2012 - 2:25 PM
If freshman Sen. Mark Grisanti is the first political protection priority for Senate Republicans, the campaign bankrolls aren’t showing it – yet.
The latest disclosure reports with the state Board of Elections show the Senate Republican Campaign Committee has spent $90,000 the past several months on the Buffalo Republican’s re-election efforts.
That is well below the $271,000 the central campaign account unloaded on the campaign for GOP challenger Bob Cohen in Westchester County, $222,000 for incumbent Sen. Roy McDonald of Saratoga County and $186,000 for GOP challenger Eric Ulrich in Queens.
In the head-to-head contest in next week’s GOP primary between Grisanti and his Republican challenger, Kevin Stocker, Grisanti has a comfortable lead in the money race. The incumbent lawmaker has $72,000 in the bank – after having spent $480,000 on various campaign expenses over the past year. Since the end of January, Grisanti spent $232,000. In the past two weeks, Grisanti – illustrating some concern, nonetheless, about the under-funded Stocker – spent $138,000, with most of that going for advertising, mailings and consultants. [There are rumblings in conservative quarters that Stocker is being taken seriously by Grisanti forces.]
Stocker, however, is having cash flow problems with just a week before next Thursday’s primary. His new report shows that he is $626.33 in the red. In the most recent two-week reporting period, Stocker raised $2,650 while spending $20,500, leaving his campaign, when all previous amounts are factored in, with a cash deficit.
-- Tom Precious
September 5, 2012 - 11:34 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention has been moved indoors because of the possibility of thunderstorms, convention organizers said today.
Originally scheduled for 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, the final night of the convention now will be held in Time Warner Cable Arena, the 21,000-seat venue that's the site of the first two days of the convention.
That means people who stood in lines sometimes stretching for a half-mile to get tickets will end up disappointed. But Steve Kerrigan, the chief executive officer, said the campaign would reach out to those ticket holders, with the president set to hold a conference call with them Thursday afternoon.
In addition, "we will work with the campaign to ensure that those unable to attend tomorrow's event will be invited to see the president between now and Election Day," Kerrigan said.
The National Weather Service said there is a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms Thursday afternoon, with that chance falling to 20 percent by the 10 p.m. hour when the president is set to speak.
Still, it has rained every evening in Charlotte since Saturday, and many delegates have openly fretted about getting drenched on the convention's last night.
Some Democrats also said they were worried about Republican hecklers in the larger venue, since tickets were given away to anyone who asked. Some also feared that no-shows on a rainy night could lead to lots of empty seats and an embarrassment for the president.
Republicans jumped on that last possibility. Kirsten Kukowski, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told Associated Press that "questions about enthusiasm for the event" preceded the change in venue.
Convention organizers did not say how much the change in venue would cost.
-- Jerry Zremski
September 5, 2012 - 11:33 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told reporters today that she won't be running for president.
Asked by reporters whether she had any interest in running, she answered with a flat-out "No."
What's more, she said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- seen by many as a Democratic front-runner in 2016 -- would make a great president.
Speculation about Gillibrand's possible national ambitions spiked after she decided to speak Thursday before the Democratic delegation from Iowa, which holds the nation's first presidential caucuses every four years.
But in her talk with reporters today, Gillibrand said she was doing that at the invitation of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and in part to boost the congressional campaign of Iowa Democrat Christie Vilsack.
Still, Gillibrand is maintaining a much higher profile than Cuomo during this week's Democratic National Convention.
Cuomo will be in town for one day and has one public speaking engagement, at the Thursday breakfast for New York delegates.
Gillibrand, in contrast, spoke to the delegation this morning and will appear this afternoon at an Emily's List event "Celebrating Women's Leadership."
In addition, she appeared on PBS Tuesday and will be a guest on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart at 11 p.m. tonight.
Gillibrand's national standing has been rising in part because of her "Off the Sidelines" effort to get women elected to public office.
-- Jerry Zremski
September 5, 2012 - 11:30 AM
State GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox issued a statement with terms like "cover-up" and "hush money" and called upon Silver to resign.
"Faced with a member of his caucus who had on multiple occasions sexually harassed female staff members, Speaker Silver neglected to refer the matter to the Assembly Ethics Committee and instead took an active role in covering up the abuse, including paying over $100,000 of taxpayer money to the victim, who did not request confidentiality," Cox said. "Silver's actions were unethical and wholly unbecoming of a member of the New York State Assembly, let alone its speaker.
"Additionally, the speaker's use of public money to settle these claims is questionable at best, and may in and of itself be illegal," he added. "For the sake of female officials and staffers in the Assembly - and indeed for the sake of all New Yorkers - Sheldon Silver must step down as speaker of the New York State Assembly."
--Robert J. McCarthy
September 4, 2012 - 1:11 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If there is one phrase that dominated Sen. Charles E. Schumer's rah-rah speech before the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, it was "middle class."
The senator made the case for President Obama's re-election by pointing out that middle-class incomes have declined for the first time since World War II, and that hopes for the American dream could even be further reduced under a President Romney.
"This election will be decide by ... who can convince the middle class that their programs, policies and vision can get them out of the rut they're in," he said.
"Perhaps the greatest sin of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party is one of narrowness -- narrowness of experience, narrowness of perspective and narrowness of vision," he added. "Mitt Romney seems to believe that if you help him and people like him, that's all you need to do to help the middle class."
The senator defended Obama policies that stimulated infrastructure investment and poured money into education, but blasted Romney for proposing looser business regulations that he said will hurt "workers, the environment and the middle class."
Indeed, the theme of New York's delegation is plastered all over its posters and buttons in an apparent appeal to middle class voters: "New York State -- Progressive Capital of the Nation."
--Robert J. McCarthy
September 4, 2012 - 12:14 PM
ALBANY – A state ethics agency spent a minute in public session this morning before going into executive session to consider whether to launch a formal investigation of the sexual harassment case swirling in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics is weighing details of allegations against once-powerful Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez that he sexually harassed and groped two female staffers. A separate ethics panel headed by lawmakers last month sided with the women in the episode and Lopez was recently stripped of his Assembly committee chairman’s job and has lost his leadership of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
JCOPE could also include in its investigation, if it proceeds, to try to unravel what happened surrounding a separate case earlier this year in which Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver OK'd a $135,000 cash settlement to two other women who accused Lopez of harassment. Silver has since acknowledged he mishandled the case by OKing the confidential settlements – which included $100,000 in taxpayer money -- and said all such settlements will go to the legislative ethics panel for investigation.
Silver, in Charlotte for the national Democratic Party convention, told reporters he asked Lopez to resign last week; the lawmaker declined. Lopez has denied wrongdoing.
JCOPE, whose top staff includes individuals with long ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, needs to have eight of its 14 members OK an investigation of the episode. If a case involves a lawmaker, two of those eight votes must come from legislative appointees of the same party of the accused lawmaker. That means the appointees of Silver and Senate Minority Leader John Sampson must go along with launching a formal probe; Silver has said he welcomes JCOPE looking into the matter.
A JCOPE spokesman this morning suggested the panel might not make public its decision whether or not to investigate the case. A couple dozen reporters and camera crews were quickly ushered out of the JCOPE meeting room as the panel -- spread out between the Albany meeting room and remote sites via internet video in Buffalo, Syracuse, and several downstate locations -- went into executive session this morning.
UPDATE: The panel let reporters back into the meeting room at 1:22 pm. By 1:23, it was over, and the board declined to reveal the outcome of its session.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Silver, whose office would presumably be among the first to be notified if JCOPE is starting an official probe, said this afternoon no word had come yet from the state ethics office on the matter.
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About Politics Now
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 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 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.
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.
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