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Big Tobacco spends Big Money

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Tobacco companies spent more than $7 million during just the first six months of 2013, as much as they did during all of 2011 and 2012 combined, the New York Public Interest Research Group reported Wednesday.

Much of the money was spent lobbying local governments, including Buffalo.

Interestingly, one lobbying firm, Nixon Peabody, represented during the same period in 2011 and 2012 both Altria, makers of Marlboro and other brands, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, whose scientists for years have been producing major reports on cigarette smoking and cancer.

In all, 27 separate lobbying firms represented the tobacco industry in the past couple years, NYPIRG reported. Altria, at $4 million, was chief among the big spenders, not including $300,000 in campaign donations, the group said.

While Senate Republicans received the most in tobacco industry donations, NYPIRG noted that the New York Democratic Party, controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, ended its promise, enacted in 2000, to stop taking cigarette industry money.

Cuomo to extreme conservatives: Stay in New York

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -– Extreme conservative politicians take note: Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t want you putting "for sale" signs up on your lawns.

“I was not saying anyone should leave the state,’’ Cuomo said today in response to the controversial remarks he made last month in a radio interview about extreme conservatives having “no place’’ in New York.

“My position was the exact opposite,’’ Cuomo told reporters at the Capitol today. "We have all sorts of opinions in this state. We have people all along the spectrum. It’s one of the things that makes New York special. We can agree to disagree and everyone has a right to their opinion.’’

A transcript and link to the original interview can be found here.

Astorino starts the official money request

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino isn't saying officially yet that he is running for governor, but the Republican is making it official when it comes to asking for campaign donations.

Here's the letter he sent out this afternoon to would-be supporters:

Thank you for your support. My reelection campaign last fall was a tremendous success. They said we'd be a four-year "accident," but instead we were reelected by a large margin because we kept our promises to the people of Westchester and told them the truth about why we needed to fix county government.

During my first term as county executive, my administration made the tough decisions necessary to right our county's economy. We reduced overall county spending by 5.2%, cut the bloated county workforce by 14% and required, for the first time ever, employee contributions to health care. While the focus of my first term was the county's financial wellness, we also protected the essential services offered to our residents who need our continued help.

On Nov. 5, 2013, the voters demonstrated their support of these difficult decisions by re-electing me by a wide margin to a second term. Now I'm being encouraged to take on a greater challenge. New York State is losing under our current governor, and we must take action before it is too late.

Mr. Cuomo, with his finger perpetually in the breeze, tries to be all things to all people. The plain truth is Mr. Cuomo won't make difficult decisions. His most recent budget is built on false assumptions, borrowed money, and funds he has literally seized from the private sector -- like his $1.75 billion raid on the state insurance fund. This money -- premiums paid by private businesses for workers' compensation coverage -- has been taken by Mr. Cuomo to balance his budget.

As I go around the state, I am hearing the same message from people everywhere: We can't afford to remain dead last in business climate among states and succeed. One of my first challenges as county executive was working closely with PepsiCo to keep their headquarters in the county. Like many companies in New York State, they were ready to pack up and go. After many meetings, PepsiCo not only decided to stay, but they doubled down and are building a larger facility offering even more opportunity and employment in the county. Westchester's unemployment rate of 5.5% is one of the lowest in New York State. We cannot be the state that people and businesses are fleeing from and pretend that we're building a better future for our children. Growth and progress cannot be faked.

I know the hurdles, money being a big one, but also the conventional wisdom that says YOU can't win in this state. Well, that is exactly what they told us in Westchester, and we proved them wrong, twice. With your help we put aside any doubt that a leader who makes tough decisions that are in the best interest of their constituents can be successful. Now let's bring that message statewide. Will you join me again in proving them wrong?

I need to show that we have the backing to make this a successful and winning race. It is no secret that the governor is well-funded, but I believe there is a place here for everyone, and I need your support. Please consider contributing $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 or as generously as you can afford by clicking here. Thank you for all of your past support.

I realize I wouldn't have this opportunity without you and I look forward to what lies ahead.



Astorino pokes at Cuomo on Common Core

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino says Gov. Andrew Cuomo is burying his head in the sand when it comes to the state's controversial Common Core program.

Hours after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and two co-leaders of the Senate demanded a two-year moratorium for the Common Core's implementation, the Cuomo administration said such a delay would be premature before a task force Cuomo wants to create gets to recommend its solutions before the session ends in June. (Cuomo has not yet created the task force and critics say another round of standardized tests under Common Core will be administered in April).

“I don’t need a task force to tell me that Common Core is a disaster and the Cuomo Common Core has been a nightmare for everyone around the state,’’ Astorino, considering a run against Cuomo, said in an interview this evening.

Paladino on Trump: "I see good things coming"

By Tom Precious

COLONIE -- Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino told a state Conservative Party gathering today he believes billionaire Donald Trump is serious about running for governor.
"I feel very solidly we're going to hear good things from Donald Trump,'' Paladino told an audience of Conservative Party leaders at a hotel here outside Albany.
Trump said he had dinner with Trump last week. "I had one question: are you taking advantange of us or are you serious?'' Paladino said he asked Trump.
Paladino said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been "sending out emmisaries" to try to convince Trump not to challenge him this fall. "I see good things coming,'' Paladino said of Trump.

Cuomo: California dreamin' on such a winter's day

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The governor is off in California today for tonight's big fundraiser -- couples are being asked to give up to $50,000 apiece -- at the Los Angeles home of Fox Film Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos. The event is being hosted by an array of Hollywood insiders, whose companies have benefited from film tax breaks by New York state that have been increased for productions made in the state.

The governor's office did not, as usual, put out a schedule for the day showing where Cuomo would be located. The governor's office also is not saying how the governor traveled to California; he often is given an "in-kind'' donation to his campaign of a free flight on a private jet by a donor.

In the interests of transparency, we bring you weather information for Los Angeles as of 1:45 PST: 68 degrees and, naturally, sunny.

Taking brief break from NY fundraisers, Cuomo heads west

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveils his 2014 state budget plan.

But he's not sticking around long to sell it, as he heads to Los Angeles just two days later for a fundraiser whose hosts include insiders from the film industry, a group that has benefited greatly from the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks the state has provided for films and tv shows shot in New York.

The New York Daily News reported this afternoon that couples who give $50,000 at the "intimate" California event will earn the title of "chair.'' Word of the fundraiser comes a day after the New York Public Interest Research Group said 45 percent of all money Cuomo's campaign account has taken in since he became governor has come from donors giving $40,000 or more apiece.

Cuomo reported this week his re-election account has $33.3 million on hand.

GOP to Cuomo: We agree with your tax claim

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave a campaign season sound clip to the Republicans this morning.

Talking during a radio interview about how years of big education aid increases haven't made New York's students the best-performing, Cuomo added that the state can't keep raising taxes to pay for large public school state aid hikes.

"We're the highest taxed state in the nation,'' Cuomo said.

It brought a we-told-you-so response from the state GOP.

"He acknowledged the same thing before he took office so essentially that's a tacit admission that he has failed to change New York's status as the tax capital,'' said David Laska, a spokesman for the state Republican Party.


Cuomo suggests right-wing Republicans might consider another state

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested today that “extreme’’ conservatives don’t fit in with the vast majority of New Yorkers.

“If they are extreme conservatives they have no place in the state of New York,’’ Cuomo said in a radio interview today.

Cuomo defined extreme as being what he called “anti-gay’’ for opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights and favoring legalization of assault weapons.

The governor made his remarks in discussing what he called a battle within the state Republican Party between its conservative and moderate wings. “They are searching to find their soul,’’ he said of GOP leaders on both sides.

"Moderate Republicans have a place in this state,’’ said Cuomo, adding that he has cut deals with such moderates in the Legislature on an assortment of social and fiscal matters for the past three years.

Cuomo said people with far-right views regarding the social issues he raised with the interviewer on The Capitol Pressroom radio show represent just a small minority in New York.

On the issue of campaign finance, Cuomo dismissed as “baloney’’ issues about him raising so much of his re-election funds from deep pocket donors. The New York Public Interest Research group said Thursday that 45 percent of the money Cuomo has raised the past three years – he has, after expenses, $33.3 million in his re-election account – came from people and entities giving more than $40,000 apiece.

“I don’t care if someone gave me a ton of money or gave me no money. It makes no difference,’’ Cuomo said.

Cuomo money machine rolls on

By Tom Precious

Albany – He may be promoting a taxpayer-funded campaign system, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing quite okay playing by the current rules.
The governor reported this afternoon that his campaign raised $7 million in the past six months.
That brings his 2014 campaign bank account up to $33.3 million, an increase from $27.8 million in July. He spent just $1.5 million in the past six months.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, meanwhile, who Cuomo has declined to say whether he will be his running mate this fall, reported raising no contributions. Duffy has not raised a penny in contributions since January 2, 2013.


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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 |