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John Kaehny

John Kaehny

  • Mass Mailer Loophole Gives State Legislators Advantage in City Council Races

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    The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer


    Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an

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  • Thanks to a Push, Democratic County Organizations Slowly Grow Digital Footprint

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    The New Queens Democrats recently formed (photo via NQD on Facebook)


    When Sahand Shahrabani moved to Forest Hills, Queens in 2013, the recent college graduate had one goal: to get involved in local politics. But a Google search turned up eerily sparse results for Democratic clubs in the borough and no trace of the Queens County Democratic Party.

    “They don't have Facebook and there’s no website. I was definitely surprised and disappointed by the lack of web presence,” said Shahrabani, now 29.

    During the 2016 presidential race,

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  • Government Watchdogs Push 'Clean Contracting' Reform in Albany

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    Alain Kaloyeros in 2016 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    A coalition of budget and transparency watchdog groups are calling on the Legislature to pass, and for Governor Cuomo to sign, comprehensive “clean contracting” legislation in response to the bid-rigging scandal that rocked the state Capitol last year and continues to reverberate.

    Specifically, at a Wednesday press conference the groups called for restoration of reviewing powers to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for all state contracts exceeding $250,000, an end to non-academic

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  • Will Latest Indictment Give New Life to Ethics Reform in Albany? Don’t Bet On It

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    State Sen. Rob Ortt (photo: @SenatorOrtt)


    Corruption charges brought against a member of the state Senate Republican majority Wednesday have provided an opportunity for Democrats to jumpstart the seemingly dormant conversation on government ethics as state budget negotiations enter their final week.

    Senator Rob Ortt, of Niagara County, pleaded not guilty in Albany County Court Thursday morning, following his indictment on three felony counts of filing a false instrument, ...

  • Since State of the State, Cuomo Silent on Ethics Reform

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office, flickr)


    For the second year in a row, in his January State of the State, Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out an ambitious ethics reform agenda that touched on a variety of issues and aimed at restoring public trust in New York State’s scandal-plagued government. But, also for a second year in a row, Cuomo has not followed up with any discernible public push to rally support for that

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  • In Wake of Charges, Cuomo Promises Change, Offers Few Details

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    A day after United States Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled a myriad of corruption charges against two of his closest allies and some of his biggest donors related to their abuse of the state’s economic development programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to announce he was expanding the program that sparked Bharara’s investigation.

    Cuomo publicly acknowledged the “truly disappointing” allegations and told the gathered crowd that his

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  • Federal Corruption Charges Confirm Systemic Flaws in State Economic Development System

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    Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office on Flickr)


    After laying out multiple corruption and bribery charges against nine players involved with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development program, including his former aide and close friend Joe Percoco, family friend and confidante Todd Howe, and a number of major developers and Cuomo donors, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused to say whether the governor is a target in the probe or if it is reasonable to hold him accountable for the conduct of the people he empowered.

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  • Praise, and Recommendations, for City's Open Data Progress

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    Council Member Vacca (photo: @JamesVacca13)


    There are two years to go before the deadline set by the city’s 2012 Open Data Law, which requires city agencies identify and publish all their citywide aggregated public data online. At a Wednesday afternoon oversight hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Technology, open data and civic technology advocates offered praise for the city’s progress thus far and recommendations for the city to meet its goals.

    Open data is considered a vital transparency

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  • Cuomo Seeks to Undermine Comptroller’s Check on His Power

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    Cuomo, left, and DiNapoli, middle, in 2012 (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent assertion that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli should “educate himself” and that the comptroller’s audits on state economic development projects are “dead wrong” and “opinion” drew a lot of attention. Many Albany observers took it as a sign of Cuomo’s growing sensitivity to criticism about his signature projects.

    Those projects, like the Buffalo Billion, are the subject of a

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  • Assembly to Begin Implementation of Technology-Based Reforms

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    photo via The Governor's Office


    Earlier this year, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced he would implement a series of recommendations -- proposed by the Assembly Workgroup on Legislative Process, Operations and Public Participation -- designed to increase transparency, efficiency and participation in the chamber. Some of those changes were voted on as rules reforms, others were made as pledges. But many of them that deal with

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  • Two Months On, Buffalo Billion Investigator’s Contract Remains a Mystery

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    It has been two months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Bartz Schwartz would conduct an “independent review” of the state’s signature Buffalo Billion economic development program and yet Schwartz’s contract with the state remains either unfinished or under wraps. On April 29, following the news that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had subpoenaed some of Cuomo’s closest allies in conjunction with an investigation into bid-rigging and other possible improprieties, Cuomo and

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  • Cuomo Appears to Give Up on Legislature Closing LLC Loophole

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    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • For Review, Cuomo Chooses Outside Agent Over Existing State Investigators

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    Scheiderman, left, & Cuomo, center (photo via The Governor's Office on Flickr)


    More than a month after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, would head an “independent investigation” into the Buffalo Billion economic development program, it remains unclear whether Schwartz has begun his

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  • Buffalo Billion Probe: Bad Apples or Broken System?

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    Gov. Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office)


    As U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office issues a storm of subpoenas to the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his close associates in relation to the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development program, the governor and his aides have delivered a consistent message: the investigation targets the dealings of a few bad apples, the governor wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing and he wants to get to the bottom of the situation as quickly as possible.

    “I’ve said to all my people, and I’ve said to

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  • For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open

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    Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r), June 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office)


    As negotiations over the state's $150 billion budget sputtered on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up pressure on legislators to accept a deal. Speaking with reporters, Cuomo implied legislators could jeopardize a potential pay raise if they can't deliver an on-time budget.

    "So they're gonna need to be able to make that case not just to the pay commission but to the people of the State of New York in November when they go to seek re-election," Cuomo said. "So

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  • Oft-Criticized Ethics Watchdog Names Cuomo Aide as Executive Director

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    Gov. Cuomo gives an ethics reform speech in 2015 (Governor's Office via flickr)


    The state's independent ethics commission took the first official ethics-related action in Albany since the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Tuesday when it appointed a man with ties to both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders as its new executive director.

    Seth Agata, who JCOPE - the Joint Commission on Public Ethics - says it hired after a nine-month,

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  • Cuomo's Public Schedules Offer Little Information

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    Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the

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  • Assembly Announces Internal Reform Plan to Mixed Reviews

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    Assembly Speaker Heastie (photo via The Governor's Office)


    On Thursday afternoon - after session, at the end of Sunshine Week - the Assembly's year-long path to greater transparency and participation took a major step as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced recommendations made by his reform committee and pledged to enact them.

    The proposals - some actual rules changes, others pledges - are designed to empower members through the committee process

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  • Bharara Visits Capital He Upended

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    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (photo: @SDNYnews)


    For the last year a siege mentality has dominated the New York state capitol. And in some respect, Albany, or at least the political denizens who dwell within the capitol, does appear to be very much in the cross hairs of a conquering army headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The main roads into town feature digital billboards flashing entreaties from the FBI urging New Yorkers to "REPORT CORRUPTION," along with a number for

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  • Boards to Offer Peek Into New Ways to Access Campaign Finance Data

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    (photo via @NYCCFB)


    On Friday morning representatives from both the New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board will come together to outline updates to their reporting systems and take questions from candidates, journalists, watchdogs, and others.

    John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, the good government group hosting the event along with Civic Hall, where it will take place, said he is most excited to have representatives

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  • Good Government Groups Point to New Evidence of Need for Major Ethics Reform

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    L-R: Silver, Cuomo & Skelos in 2011 (photo via the governor's office) 


    New York's leading good government groups gathered at Manhattan's Foley Square Wednesday to call on the New York State legislature and the governor to take immediate action to reform public ethics laws. The press conference, held in the shadows of a federal courthouse where one of New York’s most

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  • Spurred by Buffalo Billion, Reformers Look to Fix State Business Subsidies

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    Cuomo in Buffalo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)


    United States Attorney Preet Bharara's attention has been drawn away from his normal stomping grounds to Buffalo, intrigued by what critics say is a shadowy network of state authorities and state-controlled non-profits handing out large business subsidies and contracts with little to no oversight.

    Watchdogs say that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, through SUNY Polytechnic head ...

  • Klein's 'Newspaper' Touts His Ability to Bring Home the Bacon

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    Sen. Klein's "newspaper"


    The latest edition of the "newspaper" being published by state Senator Jeff Klein features frontpage news celebrating his ability to bring cash home to his Bronx district.

    "UFT, educators herald Klein's $1.5M support for community schools," reads one frontpage headline.

    Another: "Community applauds Klein for securing $250K for Hudson River Greenway study."

    The timing is interesting given that the latest edition of "Riverdale Record" - circulation 37,000 - hit mailboxes just as Klein and the large sums

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  • Newest Prison Sentences Remind of Limited Movement on Even Agreed Upon Reforms

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    Albany leaders (photo: The Governor's Office via flickr)


    Last week, two former New York State Assembly Democrats were sentenced in federal corruption cases. While the punishment bestowed upon each may warn current lawmakers to toe ethical lines, progress on concrete reforms aimed at curbing the type of behavior that landed William Boyland Jr. and William Scarborough in prison has been slow to materialize.

    Boyland Jr., of Brooklyn, received 14

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  • Mostly Questions and Criticism Ahead of Cuomo Email Summit

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    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    On Friday - the Friday of Memorial Day weekend - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a summit on email retention policy. It is a much-anticipated meeting that a large number of key stakeholders don't see a need for, and it's unclear what attendance will look like in terms of representation from the major entities in state government being called together to agree on a uniform approach to keeping and deleting official emails.