Daily Archives: December 16, 2011

New state ethics commission meets by phone in private

The chairwoman of the state’s new public integrity commission conducted her first meeting of the 14-member group on Thursday and skirted the state Open Meetings Law.

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, who is heading the ethics panel unveiled on Monday, assembled the members by telephone to talk about commission affairs. The one-hour meeting included discussions about hiring staff, setting up a meeting on Tuesday in Albany and agreeing to have only two defined people speak for the organization.

Asked prior to the meeting about the need for advanced notice of the session and opening it, DiFiore said she saw no need to invite the public. The gathering was “an informal telephone conversation amongst the new commission members; how we go forward organizing ourselves,” she said.

Returning a call left at her district attorney’s office prior to her talks with commissioners, DiFiore told a reporter he would not be allowed to listen in on the telephone meeting. She said official meetings of her group will be open as the law allows.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, said the law creating the Joint Commission on Public Ethics allows it to disregard the laws governing other state bodies. The predecessor state ethics entity that was just phased out, the Pubic Integrity Commission, also was not subject to the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Law, Freeman said.

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Oh joy: an e-mail from Carl Paladino

Roughly 72 hours after castigating Jimmy Vielkind for being “the most glaring example of the hideous and dysfunctional Albany press corps” — well, that’s nit-picking, isn’t it? — Carl Paladino unleashed an extended screed about last week’s legislative action and specifically the Kolb-vs.-Cuomo chat that’s based almost entirely on facts that Jimmy’s reporting put into the record. (We chose not to blog on Carl’s initial attack, remembering the line about wrestling with a pig: You’ll get dirty, and the pig might get kinda turned on. But maybe a blog post about Carl isn’t the right place to reference turned-on animals.)

Presented with occasional footnotes, here’s Carl’s latest:

On December 7, 2011, Cuomo called the legislature into special session to hastily pass a tax code reform bill consisting of either a tax cut or tax increase depending on how it’s spun. Only in Albany can you raise revenues by $2.9 billion [1] and call it a tax cut; contrive a budget deficit without having to prove it; promise to cut the size of government and its costs and then do nothing and be praised by the press for being the best government in the history of mankind.

19 million people live under our tax code so changes to it are obviously important but in typical Albany fashion there was perfunctory debate, no transparency, no discussion, no public hearing and the bill was rushed through in “extraordinary session” in one day.

Legislators arrived in the Capitol at noon and then waited until 9:00 pm to go into “conference” to review the bill, ask questions, in other words, do their jobs. 30 minutes later the phone rang and staff told minority leader, Brian Kolb, the call was from Cuomo. He said “Tell him I’m conferencing with my members.” Barely 10 minutes later Cuomo called again, Kolb took the call, returned and said, “Well, I just want to let you know that was the Governor and he told me to tell my members that anyone who votes no will have him in their districts campaigning against them.” The bill had already passed the Senate, would absolutely pass the Assembly, and Cuomo was nevertheless threatening the minority.

The Assembly then went into session and the bill passed overwhelmingly with only 8 no votes. The next day the Albany Times Union reported:


The following is footage of the Governor denying what happened calling it “inaccurate” which is his pattern when getting caught in a lie. Deny, twist, and change the subject. Why would a Governor call the minority conference on a bill that was sure to pass to “explain the merits of the bill?”


YNN interviewed Assemblyman McLaughlin to confirm what many members had said throughout the day about what happened:


Then the Cuomo camp denied but can’t really say what’s “inaccurate.”


Then this classic! This is a republican state Senator, not in the room when the call took place.


Next is the “Friday document dump”, where a statement is released late Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one reads it. This illustrates just how far off the reservation our state government has gone. The Assembly Minority Leader is so historically conditioned to and fearful of the wrath of Cuomo and the corruption of Albany that he pleads that his conversations with Cuomo are “private” and not part of his work for the people.


This non-transparent process allows the illusion that a significant piece of legislation was properly considered and weighed by the legislature without intimidation or compulsion. That is not true. Albany insiders know how corrupted the system has become but incredibly the people of the State of New York don’t know. They are kept uninformed by our scripted, shallow and complicit news media regurgitating press releases and briefings hand fed to them by press secretaries to stay in the good graces of those who control the information. Our compromised and complicit legislators, primarily interested in re-election fail to expose the systemic corruption so they can take home some breadcrumbs that the all-powerful allow them.

Twenty-four hours after describing the contents of Cuomo-Kolb call, Josh Vasto, [2] Cuomo’s spokesperson, said, “The Governor does not discuss details of private conversations.” Really? How can the people of New York trust a Governor who doesn’t discuss details of the people’s work? We have a Governor with an enormous ego who fancies himself a dictator and hides behind the skirt of Vasto.

This year Cuomo, Silver and Skelos fabricated and contrived a $10 billion budget deficit to distract the people from the more critical issues that they did not want to address like real Medicade [3] reform to get at the fraud, waste and abuse; tort, malpractice and workers compensation reform to dramatically reduce health and liability insurance costs and actually lowering regulation, the cost of state government and taxes to create and retain good jobs.

It’s theater, lies, deception and illusion. Albany has functioned for decades blatantly intimidating elected but weak, functionless and complicit legislators who are easily coerced and, as in this case, clueless. The time constraints illustrated in the passage of the tax reform bill show that legislative operating rules and the use of certificates of necessity deny legislators the opportunity to even read the bills they vote on, let alone a have an opportunity to debate the contents for flaws. The failure of legislators to expose this corruption makes them complicit.

As Ezra Stone so aptly put it in “Boss,” “The landscape won’t change.” [4] Men like Cuomo, Silver and Skelos never leave. The system is not designed to cleanse itself of them. They give an illusion of acrimony but their interests align. They work together managing our government and dispensing gratuities for their own ends and those of the special interests who pay for them to stay in office. They’re entrenched and symbiotic. They survive. They hold on to power beyond when they should and in so doing bring waste, corruption and graft to everything while they remain. They want to keep things just ticking along. They fear upheaval and disruption but here in New York they have no fear of the uninformed public which is so trusting of their elected representatives who continue to throw them under the bus.

It is no wonder Cuomo has a 70% approval rating and legislators fear his wrath. Would he have that 70% rating if the people knew what a conspiring and diabolical bully he was? Yes this is the same thoughtless, scheming and valueless politician who at HUD declared that every American should own a home and single handedly started the sub-prime meltdown from which our country has yet to recover. He will not change. A zebra doesn’t change its stripes.


[1] The actual amount of estimated additional revenue is $1.9 billion.

[2] It’s “Vlasto.”

[3] Actually “Medicaid.”

[4] This is a reference to the Showtime series “Boss,” starring Kelsey Grammer as a two-fisted and thoroughly corrupt urban pol. Carl’s always dropping the pop-culture knowledge.


Governor Cuomo Is Optimistic About Bringing Casino Gambling To New York State

During his epic, lengthy interview with radio host and newspaper columnist Fred Dicker today, Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed the future of casino gambling in New York. Due to the harsh economic climate, Governor Cuomo believes legislators are ready to vote for a constitutional amendment ending the state’s ban on gaming.

“All the conversations have been productive and the suggestion is that the legislators understand that this may be necessary at this time from an economic development point of view,” Governor Cuomo said. “In a perfect world, would there be gaming anywhere? Maybe not, but this is not a perfect world and we’re in competition, so all the signs have been positive, but you know, we’ll see next year.”Governor Cuomo said he thinks an amendment could be passed within the next twelve months.

“My thought for this year would be, let’s do our homework, and let’s talk about it, and let’s start to work on it, and let’s put together intelligent committees and do a real study for this year,” Governor Cuomo said.

Though he wants to spend time researching the issue, Governor Cuomo believes casino gambling could be legal before the end of his first term. Passing an amendment requires the support of two consecutive legislatures and a public referendum. Governor Cuomo said lawmakers wouldn’t have to get bogged down in specifics such as the number and type of casinos that would be allowed.

“You’re going to have two years, so you could amend the constitution with language without getitng into what regions, and where and what color are the walls,” Governor Cuomo said. “Defined details here require a lot of thought and a lot of work, so I could see a scenario where you just amend the constitution and we have two years, frankly, to put a system together.”

Recent polls show a majority of New York voters support legalizing commercial casino gambling in New York.