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Anthony Weiner has raised $829,000 since he declared his campaign for mayor. Taxi drivers and dispatch employees gave him over $12,000 the day he announced his opposition to Bloomberg's outer borough taxi plan. Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign has the most cash on hand -- nearly $6 million, compared to $4.8 million for Weiner. Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota pulled in $516,000 between May and July but spent $732,000. Scott Stringer raised $110,000 in the four days following Eliot Spitzer's announcement that he was challenging Stringer in the comptroller race. That number is more than Stringer raised in nearly a year of fundraising before. In state election news, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $115,000 in campaign funds during the past six months to pay legal bills stemming from his involvement in the Vito Lopez harassment scandal. And 80 percent of the cash Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised this election cycle came from donors who gave $10,000 or more. Meanwhile, the senate's Independent Democratic Conference announced that it has $2,835,000 on hand.
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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics has lifted the veil on how legislators make their outside income and, perhaps, where their loyalties lie. Legislators all make a salary of $79,500 a year for their work and are reimbursed for travel. Many also earn stipends for their positions on committees.
The filings drawing the most interest from journalists and advocates are from legislative leaders who are also known to work for law firms — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein.
According to his filings, Silver makes at least $350,000 and up to $450,000 a year as council at Weiz & Luxenberg. Silver has long been criticized for acting in the interest of trial lawyers.
Silver was recently attacked for killing changes to the citys' scaffolding law that would have allowed juries to consider whether the action of workers had any impact on accidents. Current law puts the onus on the shoulders of the building owners and contractors. The changes were seen as detrimental to trial lawyers. Skelos pulls down $150,000 to $250,000 a year as council for Ruskin Moscou Faltischek. The law firm recently set up a lobbying branch.
Klein earns between $50,000 and $75,000 a year in guaranteed payments from his law firm Klein Calderoni & Santucci LLP.
On a day when a Siena poll showed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's job approval rating drop to 50 percent from previously stratospheric digits, the governor took to the air to admit that two of his major policy points will not come to a vote this session.
Cuomo blamed the Independent Democratic Conference for not bringing his women's agenda and campaign finance reform measures to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
"I think it’s a mistake for the IDC, who are theoretically Democrats,” Cuomo told Susan Arbetter during an interview on “The Capitol Pressroom.” “It’s not what they said initially, and I think that’s what’s giving people pause. Women’s Equality, especially, campaign finance, public finance, what they’re really saying is, these are going to be election issues next year. And they’re not going to take them up governmentally."
Earlier in his term, Cuomo enjoyed high approval numbers and was able to tap what seemed like unlimited reserves of political capital to get the Legislature to do what he wanted.
If Cuomo's poll numbers continue to drop — as they have since he forced a gun control package through the Legislature earlier this year — then legislators will have even less hesitation to challenge his agenda.
Two female Assembly staffers have filed federal and state lawsuits against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The women allege that Lopez repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances. In one case Lopez reportedly told a staffer she should have sex with a Cuomo administration official to get a housing bill passed. The lawsuits allege that Silver provided "assistance" to Lopez that allowed him to continue harassing the women. Silver came to a secret settlement with two other women who Lopez harassed and allowed Lopez to hire the two staffers who have since brought other sexual harassment claims and these two lawsuits. The incidents have shined a spotlight on the culture of sexual harassment in Albany. Lopez resigned his seat after intense pressure and facing a vote that would have expelled him. He is still likely to face over $300,000 in fines from the legislative ethics board. Silver has apologized for his handling of the incident but has brushed off calls for his resignation.
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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is weathering criticism for his handling of recently-resigned Assemblyman Vito Lopez's harassment suit. In response, he's announced plans to create an independent investigator for sexual harassment complaints and mandatory reporting of them. Many are calling for the speaker's resignation, including one Assemblyman who threatened to leave the Democratic conference if he didn't step down. Silver has apologized for authorizing a secret settlement in Lopez's harassment suit, but says resignation is "ridiculous." The scandal may have weakened his bargaining power, but he has a strong grasp on power in the state. Gov. Cuomo has reportedly decided not to call a special election to replace Lopez to keep him from wielding influence over his successor. The governor also says the harassment scandal proves the need for passage of his women's agenda.
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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced he is moving to expel Assemblyman Vito Lopez last night. Silver, facing a firestorm of criticism for his office's handling of the Lopez sexual harassment scandal is looking to take decisive action as soon as Monday. Silver refused to expel Lopez last year as the scandal broke but stripped Lopez of his seniority and committee assignments. Now, with more criticism focused on his office following the release of the Joint Commission on Public Ethic's damning report, Silver says he plans to introduce a resolution that according to his spokesman Michael Whyland will be, "voted on Monday to ask the Ethics & Guidance Committee to consider the full JCOPE report and to recommend appropriate sanctions including expulsion of Assemblymember Lopez." Earlier Thursday Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters the Assembly shouldconsider expelling Lopez. “The reaction from the legislature should be zero tolerance,” Cuomo said. “If he doesn't resign, he should be expelled.”
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The state's ethics commission issued a report yesterday that not only detailed a torrent of inappropriate behavior by Assemblyman Vito Lopez but that tore into Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his staff for shielding the lawmaker. At one point after two women made sexual harassment complaints against Lopez the report states that Silver's office relocated the women to other positions which enabled Lopez to hire two more women who he also harassed. The report details Lopez asking a staffer to give him eye drops for pink eye, demanding staffers share hotels with them, forcing them to feel his tumors, looking for a large apartment in Albany to share with one of them and perhaps most shockingly Lopez demanded a female staffer continue massaging his hand after the woman told Lopez she was uncomfortable because she had been raped in college. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics' report was released after a special prosecutor found no criminal wrongdoing by Lopez or Silver. Lopez issued a statement saying he was under attack by people wishing to destroy him. JCOPE's report was released by the legislature after facing mounting pressure. Members of the legislature also tried to redact large swaths of the report relating to the performance of Assembly staffers during the matter. JCOPE, which has members appointed by Silver, did not authorize an investigation into the behavior of Silver and the Assembly in the matter. Yesterday, Silver's spokesman defended him in a statement and Silver renewed his call for Lopez to resign.
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The State Legislature seems to be a in rush to get out of town.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon SIlver has cancelled today's scheduled session. "Why?" you ask. Well, for ethics training of course!
Sort of. The Assembly has been scheduled to undergo ethics training today for sometime but the session was going to go on later in the day.
However, it was decided the ethics training could run late.
Meanwhile, the Senate has called off session for Monday and Tuesday citing the Jewish Holiday Pesach Sheni.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics released a statement threatening to make the findings of their investigation into disgraced Brooklyn powerbroker and Assemblyman Vito Lopez public.
JCOPE has been looking into the scandal involving sexual harassment allegations against Lopez that led Speaker Sheldon Silver to pay out a settlement to Lopez's accusers and eventually strip Lopez of his legislative perks. JCOPE finished its investigation and forwarded it to the Legislative Ethics Commission according to the law so that they can measure punishment for Lopez and possibly Silver.
But Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan requested earlier this year that the Legislative Ethics Commission refrain from releasing the report as he continues a criminal investigation into Lopez. But JCOPE isn't interested in waiting. JCOPE has been accused of being a toothless watchdog in the past weeks as legislative corruption scandals have bloomed.
The ethics panel says it will go ahead and release its findings if the Legislative Ethics Commission doesn't.
Here is JCOPE's statement:
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and his conference presented a package of reform legislation last week that includes creating a system to recall state officials. One thing that is not on the Republican's to-do list is public financing of campaigns.
"It is the same old, same old public financing pitch" Kolb said of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's plan for a public campaign finance system. "That idea is not going to happen upstate beause people don't want tax dollars going to campaigns."
Senate Republicans are also against public funding of campaigns and are holding a hearing in New York City in May to look at corruption in the system. The city's public finance system has been held up as a more ideal system by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democrats.
When asked if he expected to hear stories about political corruption, Kolb responded: "I would hope so. This keeps being used as a model for reform, but we've seen that there have been problems. Look at John Liu and the irregularities with his fundraising, and he is using the public system. You also have the problem of having only rich people being able to run for public office. Bloomberg can write a check and go after a legisaltor who did something he didn't like. He can take the regular guy right out of the mix. So, I think we should have public hearings."
As for a recall system, Kolb says he does not think being able to recall officials will create instability in Albany or the need for more campaign cash. Kolb points out that 19 other states have the ability to recall officials, and around 12 legislators have been recalled in 36 recall elections that have taken place. The New York law would require a pettition with signatures equaling 20 percent of the voters in the official's last election.
Corruption in Albany Means Tons of Cash For Legal Fees
State officials have spent nearly $7 million of campaign cash on legal fees related to criminal and ethics investigations into them since 2004 an analysis by The Daily News and the New York Public Interest Group finds. Senate Democrats have proposed a rule banning legislators from spending campaign cash on legal fees. The analysis found that lawmakers have spent $2 million of campaign cash on legal fees in the last two years alone. That spurt is boosterd by former Sen. Carl Kruger who spent $1.5 million of his campaign cash on legal fees. Kruger is currently serving seven years in prison after pleading guilting to a number of corruption charges. Other major spenders are former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, former Controller Alan Hevesi and Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
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Legislators returning from a spring break that saw the arrest of two of their colleagues on corruption charges find themselves in a new Albany where ethics reform is at the top of everyone's to-do list. And everyone has got a plan.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unveiled his plan for public financing of campaigns today that includes six-to-one matching funds that would be paid for by taxpayers who opt in on state tax forms and with money recovered from securities fraud.
Silver's plan did not address the Wilson Pakula law that allows for cross-party endorsements. The law has come under scrutiny since state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, was arrested on corruption allegations that he tried to bribe his way onto the Republican line for New York City Mayor.
The group that took perhaps the biggest hit from the recent scandal was the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference that had appointed Smith the chair of their five-memmber conference.
The IDC expelled Smith and, last Friday, issued its own campaign finance reform plans.
Following a week littered with indicments and arrests of state legislators and their cronies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the airwaves to talk reform.
Cuomo didn't get into specific fixes today, but floated the targets of possible reform — Wilson Pakula, the enforcement wing of the state Board of Elections and cross-party endorsements. “These are crises, but they’re also opportunities,” Cuomo said. He added that he would want to "pull back the lens and do as much as we can."
RELATED: For a look at Cuomo's previous efforts to fight legislative corruption and what others think can be done to fight it, check out today's stoy: "Can Anything Be Done About Corruption in Albany?"
Cuomo also took time on Susan Arbetter's Capitol Pressroom to address Fred Dicker's latest column in The Post that said Cuomo is plotting to use recent scandals to overthrow Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Cuomo and Dicker used to be two peas in a pod with Cuomo appearing regularly on Dicker's show to float ideas until Dicker began attacking Cuomo for a more liberal agenda.
“I’m a partner to Assembly Speaker Silver, I’m a partner to Dean Skelos and Sen. Klein on the other side. But it is wholly up to the legislative bodies to select a leader,” Cuomo said. “I would never even for a moment try to influence that decision. And, again, in this case I don’t see what the Speaker had to do with any of these purely personal individual acts by two Assembly people.”