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U.S. Attorney seeks documents from state ethics agency

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has launched probes into corruption in Albany, has sent a subpoena to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics seeking information about allegations against public officials and lobbyists the agency has received since being created about two years ago.
Citing unnamed sources, the New York Post and Daily News both reported this afternoon that the Manhattan-based federal prosecutor wants information about probes JCOPE has conducted involving state officials, lawmakers and lobbyists.
The latest probe by Bharara comes just weeks after he sought -- and got -- a truckload of materials from an anti-corruption panel that Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed last year and shut down after cutting deals with lawmakers as part of the budget for a limited, pilot program for taxpayer-funded campaigns and tougher anti-bribery penalties. Bharara has raised questions about Cuomo eliminating the Moreland Commission at a time when the panel still had open investigations underway.
John Milgrim, a JCOPE spokesman, declined comment other than to say that his agency "routinely works with other law enforcement agencies on various cases.''

Paul Ryan to headline Collins fund raiser in East Aurora

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   One of the top names in national Republican politics -- Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- will highlight a June 2 fund raiser for Rep. Chris Collins and other GOP congressional efforts in East Aurora.
   Collins said Wednesday the former vice presidential candidate will appear at the estate of Jerry Jacobs Jr. to raise money for the Collins campaign, his new leadership political action committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
   "He told me just the other day he has not been to Buffalo since he was a kid," Collins said of Ryan, "and as a protege of Jack Kemp, he really wants to come to Jack Kemp's town."
   Sources close to the affair say organizers hope to raise as much as $350,000 for the Collins campaign and the other Republican entities that all aim to elect more Republicans to the House of Representatives.
   Collins has proven adept during his short time in Congress at attracting top names to the area to raise money for GOP causes, including House Speaker John Boehner last year and Majority Leader Erie Cantor earlier this year.
   "it speaks well for the 27th Congressional District and where I stand with the leadership in helping the GOP grow our majority," he said. "I want to be part of the team."
   Indeed, Collins established a PAC in February called CHRISPAC (Congressional House Republicans In Service) which he launched in conjunction with Cantor's appearance at a local fund raising event. Since then the leadership PAC -- a concept normally associated with top House members -- gave $20,000 to Republican congressional candidates, including $2,000 to David Jolly, the Florida Republican who recently won a special election for a vacant House seat.
   Others involved in the June event include businessmen Paul Harder, Anthony Gioia and William Gacioch, all of whom have supported Collins in the past.

Golombek steps up Senate exploration; Zellner remains uncommitted

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Democrat Joseph Golombek Jr. addressed the Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association on Monday night in his most serious demonstration to date of his interest in running against Republican State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti this year.
   The North District Council member, who unsuccessfully ran twice for the Assembly in recent years, made his case before an influential group that will have a significant say in deciding between him and Hamburg Trustee Laura Palisano Hackathorn for the Democratic endorsement.
   In the meantime, Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said he remains impressed by Hackathorn's campaign effort but is open to hearing more from Golombek following a meeting with him last week.
   "I have not committed to anyone at this point," Zellner said. "Laura is doing a good job, but now that Joe has put his toe in the water, we'll see how it plays out."
   "I think he is definitely serious," he added.
   Zellner said he believes that Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens, who heads the State Senate's Democratic election efforts, remains strongly committed to Hackathorn. He said some of Golombek's more conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriage could cause concerns among Senate Democrats.
   The chairman said Golombek also fielded "tough questions" during Monday's meeting regarding lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender issues. He said the party will endorse a candidate by late May.

Video: Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski continues work on a series about fracking, a story about GOP efforts to reach out to female voters and breaking news as Congress returns from recess.

Buffalo's credit ratings yield savings

By Jill Terreri

The city borrowed $33 million on Wednesday for major capital projects at rates of less than 2 percent. 

The city's strong credit ratings drew 18 bidders for $33 million in short- and long-term bonds the city sold to finance upgrades at Coca-Cola Field, the Buffalo Zoo and Erie Basin Marina, among other items. In prior years, only six firms had bid on city bonds. 

The city borrowed $25.6 million in long-term bonds at an interest rate of 1.88 percent, and sold $7.4 million in short term notes at a rate of .29 percent. Both interest rates were less than what the comptroller's office expected. 

"Buffalo's rising bond ratings, as well as favorable market conditions have resulted in outstanding interest rates for the city," said Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder. 

The city has credit ratings of A+ from Standard & Poor's, A1 from Moody's and A+ from Fitch. 

The long-term bonds, which will mature in nine years, were purchased by Guggenheim Securities, one of 13 bidders. The short-term bonds, which are one-year notes, were purchased by Raymond James. 

The borrowing will cover about two years worth of capital projects, those ready to be bid out this year, and projects from prior years that were not ready in the past. 

North, Niagara GOP back Grisanti

By Robert J. McCarthy|

   Republicans in Buffalo's North and Niagara districts unanimously backed Mark J. Grisanti for re-election to the State Senate Tuesday.
   The new support marked a show of strength for the incumbent, who is facing at least one primary opponent in attorney Kevin T. Stocker and possibly County Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick as well.
   In the meantime, Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy has shown no preference for any candidate and has not ruled out an open primary with no endorsement by party leaders.

Paladino ends 'Draft Trump' effort

   Carl P. Paladino -- Donald J. Trump's most vocal champion -- has finally ended his quixotic effort to draft him for governor.
   And to nobody's surprise.
   Just as more and more speculation surrounds Trump's interest in buying the Buffalo Bills, Paladino said he will no longer try to convince the party to turn to the Manhattan billionaire. Paladino, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, said he had deferred to the wishes of presumptive nominee Rob Astorino, who noted that Paladino's constant complaints were hurting his efforts.
   "Rob convinced me that to further support a draft Trump campaign while saying that Rob can’t raise money and doesn’t have the name recognition was hurting him," Paladino said in a letter to state GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox, "so I am dropping the Trump initiative and I will ... support Rob's ability to raise money."
   But Paladino took one more shot at Cox, whom he accused of dealing with a "losing strategy."
   "You have a strategy and identity problem with the Republican base upstate and on Long Island," Paladino told Cox. "They are the framework of the coalition necessary to beat Cuomo. They include Democrats, Independents, Republicans and Conservatives, (the gun owners, Independents and Reagan Democrats who are fed up with the liberal bubble).  They will not engage because they don't trust the losing strategy of you and the candidate."

Grisanti airs first campaign ad of 2014

By Robert J. McCarthy

The campaign for the 60th State Senate District is already under way -- almost seven months before Election Day -- with ads on television sponsored by Republican incumbent Mark J. Grisanti.

Entitled "Would You?", the spot that began airing Tuesday features local citizens reacting to the question: "Would you support using taxpayer money to pay college tuition for illegal immigrants?" -- the essence of a failed proposal advanced earlier this year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Grisanti calls the reactions of those citizens "negative."

"I'm proud to have taken the lead on stopping this ill-considered proposal. I also strongly opposed the governor's plan to pay college tuition for prison inmates," Grisanti said Tuesday. "Finally, I also honored my pledge to oppose taxpayer funding of political campaigns by voting against that portion of the state budget.

"This ad is the first of many that will continue to highlight my fiscally conservative voting record in the Senate," he added.

Grisanti is expected to face a tough Republican primary this year, with attorney Kevin T. Stocker already campaigning and County Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick contemplating a challenge. Hamburg Trustee Laura Palisano Hackathorn is expected to receive the Democratic endorsement, while some Democrats have not ruled out the possibility of another Democrat entering the race.




Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today the Common Council will meet and is expected to approve a labor contract with Teamsters, who repair city water lines. The caulkers are in line for 2 percent raises, retroactive to 2007. Lawmakers are also expected to approve a $75,000 settlement with a retired police lieutenant who said she was discriminated against by the city. 

A measure that would revive the city's public art program, which requires that 1 percent of capital project spending goes toward public art, is expected to be adopted today. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall" »

Cox continues criticizing Cuomo on Moreland Commission

By Robert J. McCarthy

   State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox is not letting up on his criticism of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his handling of the Moreland Commission to probe corruption that Cuomo appointed last year.
   Cox again on Monday called on Cuomo to reveal who in his administration may have interfered with commission investigations, after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asked for files of the commission the governor recently disbanded.
   "Andrew Cuomo's meddling corrupted his own corruption commission," Cox said. "The governor must reveal who in his office interfered with the Moreland Commission, how they did so and for what reasons."
   Cox last month also rapped Cuomo and his commission for looking the other way on close political allies like Buffalo political operative G. Steven Pigeon after the state Board of Elections voted unanimously to probe the WNY Progressive Caucus -- a political committee that last year raised money for opponents of Erie County Democratic Headquarters and that has close ties to Pigeon.
     Cox then referred to several complaints registered with the Moreland Commission about the caucus, to which Pigeon contributed $100,000 of his own money, and which spent $267,000 overall in support of candidates opposed by Headquarters (which has never enjoyed a close relationship with the Cuomo political operation in recent years).

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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 |