November 6, 2013 - 11:27 AM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, this morning was taking a victory bow after some important GOP local victories around the state on Tuesday. Skelos and his Republican colleagues are looking for any hints from voters that they might be willing to help keep the GOP in partial control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
The words, or some of them, from Skelos:
The resounding victories by Republican county executives in Nassau and
Westchester counties, county executive candidates in Orange, Rockland,
Montgomery and Chautauqua, as well as triumphs by a mayoral candidate in
Binghamton, comptrollers in Nassau and Erie, along with turning a
Democratic county legislature from Democrat to Republican in Erie and to a
supermajority in Chautauqua, are all important victories for hardworking
taxpayers and their families.
In addition, they have sent a very powerful
message about the future of the Republican Party in New York State,
particularly in the New York City suburbs and across Upstate.
New Yorkers want their public servants at all levels to focus on reducing
taxes, partnering with the private sector to create new jobs, and bringing
competence, functionality and leadership back to government. That's what
County Executives Mangano and Astorino, County Executive-elects Neuhaus,
Day, Ossenfort and others, along with Republicans in the State Senate who
represent many of the same communities, have worked tirelessly to do.
November 5, 2013 - 11:57 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- It was his plan first floated two years ago, so here is the reaction from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to passage of the statewide ballot measure authorizing development of up to seven non-Indian casinos:
"The passage of Proposal One is a big win for local governments, school districts, and taxpayers across New York State. This vote will keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in neighboring states right here in New York, while increasing revenue for local schools, lowering property tax taxes, and bringing proper regulation to the industry. This vote builds on the landmark agreements we reached with Native American tribes this year, ending expensive court battles and unnecessary discord and restoring hundreds of millions of dollars to local governments. Since taking office, my administration has focused on reviving the state's economy, and today's vote will further pave the way for the creation of new jobs, construction, and increased tourism in communities across the state."
November 5, 2013 - 6:39 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY – The state’s largest union has turned on its potent political machine to get voters out for today’s statewide casino referendum.
Mario Cilento, the state AFL-CIO president, ordered his union into high gear to spread the word about its backing of Proposition One. In an off-year election, where turnout across most of the state will be low, the political operational support that unions are giving Proposition One could be a key component if the casino expansion plan wins tonight.
The work done by the AFL-CIO does not include other member-to-member outreach efforts by individual unions, such as those representing hotel workers and teachers, who are part of the umbrella labor organization.
The AFL-CIO, which represents 2.5 million public and private sector workers, has done the following:
• Sent 200,000 pieces of mail to a targeted group of unionized voters identified as swayable and likely to vote today;
• Sent another 500,000 mailings in local campaign races around the state that also mention the AFL-CIO’s support of Proposition One;
• Made 300,000 phone calls to union households urging a yes vote;
• Run door-to-door canvassing that, with its computerized phone banking operations, has reached a total of 500,000 union members;
• Handed out literature at worksites;
• Had people all day today at 300 “high volume’’ polling sites in voter-rich New York City, where pre-election polls show the casino plan winning a majority of residents' support.
November 5, 2013 - 4:29 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- NY Jobs Now, the pro-casino group pushing for Proposition One on today's statewide ballot, has grabbed a few more last-minute donations to finance its advertising, mailings and get-out-the-vote campaign.
With new donation disclosures coming in this afternoon to the state elections board, NY Jobs Now, which is composed of casino and union interests and has worked with aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on the casino effort, has now reported raising $3.9 million in the four weeks of its existence. How it has specifically spent all that money won't be known until early December when post-election reports are due at the elections board.
The newest donations coming in during the past 24 hours include $50,000 from the Washington-based Teamsters union, $25,000 from the Las Vegas-based casino company Bally Gaming, and $25,000 from the Kansas City-based EPR Properties, a real estate investment trust with money invested in the entertainment and recreation industries.
The $3.9 million does not include hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional pro-casino efforts that are being made directly by would-be casino developers.
The main anti-casino group, Coalition Against Gambling in New York, says it expects to spend about $1,000 on its campaign.
November 4, 2013 - 4:02 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Andrew Cuomo 2014 Inc., the governor's re-election campaign account, didn't reach the $28 million level with tiny, little donations.
Expect that to change when the governor files his next report in January, thanks to the Piano Man.
Team Cuomo 2014 is raffling off for $5 per ticket the chance to sit in the front row of Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom when Billy Joel plays at Cuomo's Dec. 3 birthday party/campaign fundraiser. "Are you a Billy Joel fan? Of course, you are!'' reads the invite. Give $5 and you are "automatically entered in a sweepstakes'' for the seats, it adds.
"With a contribution of $50 you will automatically receive 10 entries into the sweepstakes,'' it further proclaims.
And if you act in the next one hour ... oh, wait, that's an infomercial.
It's uncertain how many chances a "rock star" gets. That's the level you reach if you donate $50,000 to Cuomo's campaign for the event. Those giving $1,000 will be called "supporters,'' but an online payment form notes there are "limited quantities'' of those tickets available.
November 4, 2013 - 1:11 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants the world, or maybe just Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to know that he's not stirring up any trouble when it comes to questions about whether a state anti-corruption panel should take a look at Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.
With lawmakers and Cuomo battling over the legal authority of the governor's Moreland Commission, there has been grumbling within legislative quarters that maybe the anti-corruption panel ought to take a look at Duffy and his recent job interview with a Rochester business group. Duffy also chairs the regional economic development councils that give out hundreds of millions of dollars annually to local groups around the state for job creation efforts.
But Silver issued a statement this afternoon that offered nothing but praise for the governor's lieutenant.
Silver said: "I have known and worked with Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy for many years, first as Rochester’s chief of police and later as that city’s mayor, and he has always been a strong advocate for his community. It has been my privilege to serve with him for nearly three years and my admiration for his skill and energy has only grown.
"Unquestionably, Bob Duffy has done an outstanding job as lieutenant governor both in representing the Cuomo administration and in addressing the interests and concerns expressed by New Yorkers in every region of our state. I consider Bob a friend and colleague who brings integrity and character to our government and I hope he will continue to serve our state for many years to come.''
The New York Post today reported that Democratic and Republican legislators are gearing up to ask the Moreland Commission to look at Duffy. It comes after Ed Cox, the state GOP chairman, last week called on the Moreland Commission to investigate Duffy for any possible conflicts regarding his job interview and his administration's duties.
November 1, 2013 - 10:26 AM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- In a sign it could be worried about next Tuesday's casino referendum, a pro-gambling political committee raised $675,000 in just one day on Thursday, new filings with the state elections board show.
The NY Jobs Now group, whose biggest donors are gambling companies and unions, has raised a total of $3.65 million in the past four weeks. It has at least two ads running statewide and is flooding mailboxes with campaign literature. The $3.65 million does not include hundreds of thousands of dollars in other money being spent on individual, pro-casino campaigns by several companies and union get-out-the-vote efforts. (An anti-casino group on Thursday began running its first and only ad on a single downstate TV channel.)
The latest donors to the pro-casino group, which has been getting advice from advisers to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, gave at the rate of $28,000 an hour on Thursday.
The donations included $270,000 from a hotel workers union and $250,000 from Genting New York. Genting, which runs a big casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens and is thought to be interested in developing a casino in the Catskills if the casino expansion referendum passes next week, had previously given $500,000 to NY Jobs Now. Genting is part of a Malaysian-based casino company.
How and where the group is spending all the cash won't be known precisely until early December when more complete disclosure forms next have to be filed with the elections board.
October 31, 2013 - 6:12 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- A new political committee has begun running an ad downstate using the long-ago words of Mario Cuomo against the plans of his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to expand casino gambling.
The advertisement is being run by the Committee Against Proposition 1, which listed a post office box in the Catskills town of Youngsville on its state board of elections registration form. The committee was not organized before the election agency's recent final filing deadline before November 5; it could not, as a result, be revealed how much the group has raised or spent.
The major anti-casino group, the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, said it is unaware of the group or its activities. Anti-gambling groups have been wondering for months if an out-of-state casino operator might drop a last minute ad in New York to try to block any new casino competition from emerging in New York, though it is unknown how this new organization is funded. Officials with the group could not be immediately reached for comment.
UPDATE: Stephen Shafer, head of Coalition Against Gambling, said the ad is being funded by Catskill Mountainkeeper, a environmental group located in Youngsville. The group appeared with lawmakers today at New York's City Hall to oppose Proposition One.
The ad uses the position of former Gov. Mario Cuomo from a generation ago -- he was against the spread of commercial casinos -- to challenge the position of Andrew Cuomo's proposal on next week's ballot to add up to seven casinos in the state. [State of Politics, a YNN blog, reported that NY1, also a Time Warner channel, will be running the ad from now until election day.]
Release of the ad comes as a pro-casino group began airing two new statewide ads.
UPDATE: Mario Cuomo released a statement tonight distancing himself from the claims in the new ad. "I made those statements in 1994. A great deal has changed in 20 years. The New York that I was dealing with was a different place. We didn't have casinos on every border. Gaming was only in Las Vegas and Atlantic City,'' he said in a written statement.
Mario Cuomo said his statement was made before New York legalized racetrack-based casinos and before casinos came to other states and provinces surrounding New York. "So if you want to vote with Cuomo, vote yes on Proposal One,'' he said.
October 31, 2013 - 11:00 AM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY --NY Jobs Now Committee, which has gotten most of its funding from gambling companies, is out with two new statewide ads promoting Proposal One in next week's elections.
The group has raised at least $3 million the past month and it is running a campaign against anti-casino groups that have no real money to spend.
Neither television ad shows an actual image of a casino, but there are plenty of images of cooks working in a kitchen, people walking along a waterfront and pretty outdoors scenes. They also use the term "gaming,'' not "gambling.'' The ads do address a worry by some casino proponents by telling viewers they have to flip over the November 5 ballot to be able to vote on Proposal One and the other five statewide propositions.
The first ad talks of the potential job claims.
The second ad talks of some newspaper editorial support.
October 30, 2013 - 8:11 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY -– With lawmakers pushing back against his Moreland Commission, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finding himself in a near daily fight with the Legislature, especially the coalition that controls the state Senate that had been among his most reliable allies in Albany.
Things worsened Wednesday on two fronts: Senate Republicans went to court to block subpoenas issued by Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission and legislation was introduced seeking to make Moreland Commission’s independent from the governor.
Senate Republicans filed papers in a state court in Manhattan seeking to quash the subpoenas issued by the Moreland Commission. The commission has sought an array of information about the central Senate Republican campaign committee and its activities during the 2012 elections. Separately, it also wants detailed information about the outside incomes of state lawmakers.
The Senate Republicans hired Washington lawyer Michael Chertoff to handle the case against the Moreland Commission; he was the secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush.
In a written statement, Chertoff said the commission is engaged in a “partisan witch hunt’’ that violates free speech and political association.
In response, the Moreland Commission said state law grants it the power to conduct the investigation. “We had hoped the Senate Republicans would willingly cooperate and they did not. We will prevail in court,’’ the commission said.
Meanwhile, Staten Island senators Andrew Lanza, a Republican, and Diane Savino, a Democrat who is part of a breakaway group of Democrats who formed a coalition with the GOP to run the Senate, sponsored legislation aimed at reducing the governor’s role in Moreland panels and shedding more transparency on its work.
“The conduct of this commission and the possible involvement of the executive branch in the decisions of the commission has raised concerns about the accountability and effectiveness of this commission’s objective,’’ a legislative memo by Lanza and Savino states. “Potential or actual conflicts of interest divert from the true mission of any Moreland Commission.’’
The legislation's provisions would preserve all documents created by Moreland commissions in the state archives and set new membership rules for members of the panel intended to reduce the influence of the executive branch.
While Cuomo as recently as last week at a public event talked of how well his administration has worked with lawmakers, the nice talk from surrogates is clearly over.
Rodney Capel, executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls, said that in the time it took Lanza to draft a press release he could have disclosed his outside income. “What exactly is he hiding and why is he deploying every distraction tactic available to do it. Don’t his constituents have a right to know who he works for?” Capel said.
"And to his co-sponsor Diane Savino -- who has acted as a shield for Republicans working to block votes on public campaign financing and women's equality -- I have two words: register Republican,’’ he added.
Savino called it "extremely disappointing to see a member of my own party respond to calls for greater transparency in government with such vitriol and hostility.'' She noted how it was her independent Democratic conference that helped Cuomo get some of his major policy proposals approved this year.
"Maybe if Mr. Capel and his allies were less worried about protecting their (campaign) housekeeping accounts -- and were more focused on lining up every Democratic vote in the Senate -- we could finally move forward on some of those other more polarizing issues. Until then, he can spare me the bull of find himself another six-figure, no-show job,'' she said this evening.