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Last-Ditch Effort For Campaign Finance Reform Fails in Senate

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Senate Democrats tried to bring a campaign finance proposal to a votethrough a hostile amendment last night but the measure failed. Republicans ruled the amendment not germane but Democrats requested a vote of the entire chamber to rule on whether it was appropriate. Thirty legislators voted to support the amendment. Those legislators included the four members of the Independent Democratic Conference who have come under attack by advocates for not bringing campaign finance to a vote. Sen. Malcolm Smith who last caucused with the IDC voted against the amendment. Smith is currently under indictment for fraud and bribery. Sen. Ruben Diaz, who conferences with Democrats, also voted against the measure. All of the Republican conference voted against the amendment. Democrats had a press release ready blaming the Republican/IDC conference for the amendment's failure but all of the IDC did vote for the amendment.

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Thompson to Unveil Plan for Housing Authority Today (NY 1)

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Despite failing to come to a deal on a campaign finance reform the state senate nearly voted on a bill that would have enacted a public financing campaign at around 10:20 tonight.

Senate Democrats introduced a hostile amendment to a bill crafted to allow the use of old-school lever voting machines in New York City's mayor primary and runoff elections this year.

Republicans ruled that the hostile amendment was not germane to the bill but Sen. Gustavo Rivera argued for it. The entire body took a vote on whether the amendment was germane.

The vote was 30 for the amendment--2 votes short of what were needed. All of the Independent Democratic Conference that has been chastised by advocates for not bringing campaign finance reform to a vote in the senate and most of the Democratic conference voted for the bill. Democratic Sens. Ruben Diaz and Malcolm Smith voted against the amendment. Sen. Simcha Felder who was elected as a Democrat but conferences with Senate Republicans also voted against the amendment.

Smith is under federal indictment for trying to bribe his way on to the Republican ballot for NYC mayor.

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Yesterday the names of 9 individuals caught on wiretap by Sen. Shirley Huntley were made public. Six of those individuals were sitting Democratic State Legislators. The list includes already-indicted Sens John Sampson and Malcolm Smith and their colleagues Sens. Jose Peralta, Velmanette Montgomery, Ruth Hassel-Thompson and Eric Adams. Two political operatives were also taped as well as Councilman Ruben Wills. Huntley, who was facing her own legal troubles, invited pols to her home under the ruse that she had a broken ankle and then recorded them. Taped parties reacted in different ways to finding out their names were on the list. Officials said eight one of the recorded parties are under investigation for wrongdoing. Sen. John Sampson was indicted earlier in the week on embezzelment charges and he is just the latest in a long line of state legislators facing federal indicments. Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to convene a Moreland Commission if legislators don't pass major elections and ethics reform.


Other Stories We're Following

Lawmakers Demand Edits to Lopez Sex-Scandal Report (NY Times)

Council OKs Paid Sick Leave (Gotham Gazette)

Albany Reporters Officially Protest Being Blocked From Hearing (Capital)

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Sen. Shirley Huntley was having trouble with the FBI so she called up her colleagues and had them over to her house — to wiretap them.

According to court documents, Huntley was hoping to win favor with prosecutors when it came to her corruption case.

Today a judge unsealed Huntley's sentencing document unveiling a list of those she helped record for the FBI. They include several sitting Democratic Senators, a couple political consultants and a sitting Council member. Prosecutors have indicated that at least one of the people named on the list is not under investigation.

So who are these lawmakers and political operatives?

Lets start with the usual suspects: Sens. John Sampson of Brooklyn and Malcolm Smith of Queens.

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A judge has ruled that the names of eight people who spoke on wiretaps with former state Sen. Shirley Huntley can be made public tomorrow.

Huntley, who pleaded guilty to funnelling tens of thousands of dollars in public money to a bogus charity that she operated, wore a wire for federal prosecutors for several months last year.

What makes Huntley's case so interesting is that prosecutors are arguing that the names should not be released because doing so could compromise ongoing investigations. Six of the eight people Huntley spoke to while wearing a wire are elected officials.

Judge Jack Weinstein wrote in his ruling that he isn't worried that revealing these names will ruin any cases.

"Every legislator who has conversed with this defendant will necessarily assume that he or she wasrecorded under the supervision of the FBI," he wrote. "There will be no surprises to the potentially accused by the revelations of their names. Interference with ongoing investigations will be of almost no significance."

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Embattled Councilman Dan Halloran says he will not seek reelection.

The Queens Republican was indicted in a scheme to bribe GOP party heads as a means to secure a mayoral ballot line for Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith. Currently facing federal corruption charges, Halloran said that he would instead focus on clearing his name and restoring his reputation.

"After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign," Halloran wrote in a statement.

Halloran thanked the community and his Council staff, adding that he would continue to "discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council."

In early April, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that Halloran was stripped of all committee assignments. Soon after, the Council's standards and ethics committee began a review of Halloran's role in the scandal.

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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.”

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is calling on recently indicted Assemblyman Eric Stevenson to resign. Silver just issued this statement:

Assemblyman Stevenson's alleged actions as outlined by the federal charges against him are a clear violation of the public trust and cannot be tolerated. I believe that given the evidence that has been presented, he should seriously consider whether he can continue to maintain the public trust. I am encouraging him to resign.

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Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was arrested this morning on charges he drafted legislation in exchange for cash.

The arrest comes only 48 hours after Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested and indicted in a scheme to use bribes to secure the Republican line for mayor. City Councilman Dan Halloran and Republican party officials were also arrested in the corruption case.

But it doesn't end there. Stevenson's arrest came about through a deal with a so-far unamed Bronx Assemblyman who faced felony charges and ratted out Stevenson in exchange for not being prosecuted. However, said Bronx Assemblyman will have to resign from office.

Expect plenty more news on this throughout the day.

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Scandal Raises Questions About Member Items

A recording of a wiretap featuring Councilman Dan Halloran bragging that he could extract tens of thousands of dollars from the City Council to use as a bribe has brought attention back to oversight of the council's member items. Although there isn't evidence Halloran did what he bragged a number of mayoral candidates are using the issue to attack fellow candidate Council Speaker Quinn. Bill de Blasio blasted Quinn at a press conference saying, "these things happened under her watch." Bill Thompson and Sal Albanese also attacked Quinn's record on member items. Republican Mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota called for an inspector general to oversee the council in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Lhota has attacked Quinn's proposal for an NYPD inspector general. “There have been so many accusations over the last four to six years about the abuse of member items,” Lhota told the Journal. “I think it’s about time that the council seriously consider having an inspector general for itself, to oversee what is obviously an area that is ripe for people with bad character.”


Other Stories We're Following

Smith Blew $2 Million in Election Cash (NY Post)

City Leave Police Official Without Lawyer to Defend Protesters Lawsuit (City Room)

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More details have emerged from the arrest of State Sen. Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran. Four local Republicans were arrested as well, including the Bronx party chairman and the Queens party vice chairman. Another worked on John Catsimatidis's campaign but has now been fired. All six were charged with wire fraud and bribery. The senator was also charged with extortion. The money from the bribes was to come from state funding secured by Smith for upstate developers - actually an informant and undercover FBI agent - who would then pay the GOP leaders. Halloran was using council discretionary funds. Smith had previously survived a series of scandals and Halloran was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This is just the latest in a series of Albany scandals.

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With Legacy On His Mind, Mayor Adds 78 More Schools (NY Times)

Who Policies Prosecutors? (WNYC)

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Sen. Daniel Squadron seems to be the first elected calling directly for Sen. Malcolm Smith's resignation following his arrest by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a scheme to buy the Republican line in the New York City mayor's race.

"The charges outlined in today's complaint are simply shocking. This is something that belongs in 'House of Cards,' not an election to decide who will run our city or any part of our government," said Squadron in a statement.

For the uninitiated 'House of Cards' is a totally-awesome take down of corruption in politics and journalism presented in episodic format by Netflix. I highly recommend it.

"Regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges filed against Senator Smith, he has lost the public trust -- and he should resign," Squadron continues. "Scandal after scandal underscores the need for fundamental reform of the system, including laws to create a better campaign finance system and more open and competitive elections, and to disentangle public service from for-profit business."

Squadron is currently running for public advocate.

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Sen. David Carlucci is "shocked and outraged" over the alleged bribery scheme that his fellow Independent Democratic Conference member Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested for today, according to a statement from Carlucci's office.

Carlucci represents Spring Valley, New York and a Senator from Spring Valley is mentioned throughout the complaint against Smith. However, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters today that there is no evidence of wrongdoing involving the Senator from Spring Valley.

Here is Carlucci's ful statement:

Like many New Yorkers, I am shocked and outraged over the alleged misconduct undertaken by various public officials at the state, city, and local government. This conduct is reprehensible in its entirety, and public corruption in any form cannot be tolerated at any layer of government. I look forward to hearing the details of this wide-ranging investigation as they begin to unfold. As the United States Attorney had indicated, in no way whatsoever was I, or any member of my staff, involved in the alleged criminal misconduct and subsequent charges filed this morning. On the contrary, these actions speak to a broader, more fundamental reason as to why I ran for office in the first place – to clean up the culture of corruption that pervades our politics.”Three years ago I came to Albany to shake up the status quo and bring change to our State Capital. While we have made great strides since, there clearly remains much more work to be done. I am committed to working to reform our system of government in a way that increases transparency and holds public officials accountable to the people they serve.

IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein has stripped Smith of his chairmanship and committee assignments and issued a statement saying Smith might want to consider resigning.

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Sen. Jeff Klein has stripped Sen. Malcolm Smith of his chairmanship and committees. In a statement just issued by the Independent Democratic Conference Klein implies that Smith should consider resignation. The move comes in response to Smith's arrest earlier today on charges that he tried to bribe his way onto the Republican ticket in the New York City mayoral race:

These are very serious allegations that, if true, constitute a clear betrayal of the public trust. As a result of these charges, I have made the decision to strip Senator Smith of his committee assignments and of his conference leadership position. By participating in the alleged scheme, Senator Smith breached the trust of the Independent Democratic Conference. I trust that the U.S. attorney's office will act expeditiously to resolve this matter and to ensure that justice is served. Finally, given the level of criminality alleged, I believe that Senator Smith should seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents."

Smith joined the Independent Democratic Conference late last year. The IDC paired with Senate Republicans just as it seemed Senate Democrats had won back control of the Senate. Smith is the only member of color of the IDC. Placards in front of Smith's office listing his committee assignments were taken down earlier today. Klein seems to hint in his statement that Smith should resign. It isn't clear what it would mean for control of the Senate if Smith resigned or if he is convicted.

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A spokesman for state Sen. Malcolm Smith says the former majority leader will be "vindicated" of charges that he conspired to buy a spot on the Republican Party ballot for mayor in 2013.

Smith was arrested this morning by the FBI on charges that were brought in federal court. (Read the complaint below.)

Smith spokesman Todd Shapiro issued this statement: "The Senator has record of 13 years of dedication, hard work and integrity to the people he serves in Queens.He has provided to the heath, safety and well-being of the almost 20 million residents in New York. He will be vindicated when the all the facts in the case are revealed."

Smith led the Senate Democrats when they initially took control of the Senate in 2008. Smith had to cut deals with a number of senators to get that position. Last year, Smith joined the Independent Senate Democratic Conference, which lacked any minority members at the time. Smith was named chairman of the IDC in February of this year.

The IDC touted its seperation from the ethically challenged Demcoratic conference and the fact that they were ready to succeed where the Democrats had failed. But Smith and IDC Leader Sen. Jeff Klein were both part of the leadership structure of the Senate Democrats when they controlled the Senate. Smith's arrest could alter control of the Senate.

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The New York Post reports that State Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested today for trying to bribe GOP leaders into getting his name on their mayoral ballot. He allegedly had Councilman Dan Halloran, a Republican, meet with party leaders and negotiate thousands in bribes. Halloran was also arrested today and is accused of collecting thousands in bribes for himself.

Other Stories We're Following

Kelly Wanted To Instill Fear In Blacks, Latinos: Senator Testifies (NY Times)

Councilman Poses With Man Charged With Photographing Sex-Assault Victim (NY Post)

Report: Millions Wasted By City Board Of Elections In 2011 (Daily News)

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg got personal yesterday with state legislators he blames for failing to enact a speed camera program around schools that he says would stop children from being hit and killed by speeding cars. After the next tragedy Bloomberg suggested: “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” Bloomberg named Sens. Martin Golden, Dean Skelos and Simcha Felder as legislators parents should call to complain.“Maybe you want to give those phone numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed,” Bloomberg said. “It would be useful so that the parents can know exactly who’s to blame.” The speed camera plan was in the Assembly's budget plan but did not make it to the final product. When approached on Sunday during budget votes Golden told the Gazette "I have no idea," when asked why speed cameras weren't part of the budget. He told The New York Times on Wednesday that other areas that use speed cameras have found them "unreliable." Republican spokesman Scott Reif issued a statement saying that, "no one has fought harder or longer" to promote safety in New York City.


Other Stories We're Following

Queens Landlord Accused of Endangering Tenants (NY Times)

Police Chief Appointee Hailed as Bridge Builder (NY Times)

Quinn Denies Being Vindictive (NY Times)

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Being part of the majority coalition in the state Senate pays — at least when it comes to fighting gun violence.

The Aid to Localities budget bill shows that four counties represented by members of the majority coalition are going to share $1 million for the establishment of — or continued operation of — Operation S.N.U.G. programs.

S.N.U.G., which stands for guns spelled backwards (seriously), is an anti-gun initiative started by Sen. Malcolm Smith when he was senate majority leader. Now he is a member of the Independent Senate Democrats, who are power-sharing in the Senate with Republicans. The program is expanding a bit and the $1 million in funding will go to Rockland, Queens, Bronx and Onandaga Couties.

IDC member Sen. David Carlucci represents Rockland County; IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein is from Bronx County; Sen. Dave Valesky is from Onandaga County; and Smith from Queens.

The funding for S.N.U.G. was part of the Senate's one-house budget bill but seems to have expanded in the completed budget.

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There is a bit of a logic problem with the op-ed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's published today after it was announced that there would be a power-sharing agreement to run the State Senate.

Cuomo says in the op-ed that "the Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises."

But, as it happens, the people in charge of the Democratic conference when it was in the majority are currently members of the Independent Democratic Conference: Sen. Malcolm Smith was majority leader and Sen. Jeff Klein was deputy majority leader during the two years Cuomo recalls as "squandered."

And the man that the IDC struck a "power sharing" agreement with, Sen. Dean Skelos, helped plan and iniate the coup that paralyzed the chamber in 2009.

Furthermore, even after the Senate coup was resolved and Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate rejoined the Democratic conference fold, Smith retained the Senate presidency and Klein kept his title as deputy majority leader.

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The New York Post reported this morning that state Sen. Malcolm Smith will join the Independent Democratic Caucus the group that has pledged to help keep Republicans in charge of the chamber.

Smith was Senate Majority Leader in 2009 when Senate Republicans staged a coup with the help of two renegade Democrats, which left the Senate in chaos for weeks.

The Independent Democrats, created and led by Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein, supposedly left the Democratic confernece because of the infighting and absurdity that took place when Smith was "in control" with the Democrats. Smith, however, looks to be setting himself up for a run for New York City mayor on the Republican ticket.

Klein bolted the Democratic conference when Minority Leader John Sampson replaced him as head of the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2010. Democrats lost a number of seats under Klein's watch in the 2010 elections. But Klein and his followers got some perks from Republicans in 2011 while rank-and-file Democrats saw their budgets and staffing slashed.

This year, Democrats have picked up at this moment an undetermined amount of seats — likely enough that if all Senate Democrats were on board they would be back in the majority.

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