Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2596 Sat, 24 Aug 2019 05:06:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) WATCH: State Comptroller Candidate Debate https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7989-watch-state-comptroller-candidate-debate-dinapoli-trichter-2018 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7989-watch-state-comptroller-candidate-debate-dinapoli-trichter-2018  img 6200 2

Candidates DiNapoli, Dunlea, Gallaudet, Trichter (l-r) (Photo: MNN)


Watch the first debate in the general election race for New York State Comptroller, among the four candidates who will be on the ballot: incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli, Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter, Green Party nominee Mark Dunlea, and Libertarian Party nominee Cruger Gallaudet. DiNapoli will also appear on the Reform, Independence, Women's Equality and Working Families Party ballot lines on the November 6 ballot, while Trichter also has the Conservative Party line.

The debate, embedded below, aired on Manhattan Neighborhood Network and was moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max.

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WATCH: State Comptroller Candidate Debate Sun, 14 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Comptroller Candidates Debate Powers and Responsibilities of State's Top Fiscal Officer https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7987-comptroller-candidates-debate-powers-and-responsibilities-of-state-s-top-fiscal-officer https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7987-comptroller-candidates-debate-powers-and-responsibilities-of-state-s-top-fiscal-officer comptroller fall

Candidates DiNapoli, Dunlea, Gallaudet, Trichter (l-r) during their first debate


New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat running for reelection as the state’s top fiscal officer, faced his three challengers on Tuesday in the first debate of the general election, hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

The four candidates offered their views on the powers and role of the state comptroller, charged with managing the state’s $207 billion public pension fund, overseeing state and local spending, auditing state contracts and the finances of hundreds of state agencies and authorities, and ensuring that New York’s debt obligations and funding needs are carefully calibrated to current and future revenue.

DiNapoli, who first took office in 2007 following the resignation of his predecessor, Alan Hevesi, amid scandal, was elected by voters in 2010 and 2014. He went unopposed in this year’s primary and is running with nominations from the Democratic Party, Working Families Party, Reform Party, Women’s Equality Party, and Independence Party -- his name will appear on all five lines on the November 6 ballot. His opponents include the Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter, who also has the Conservative Party ballot line; the Green Party’s Mark Dunlea; and Cruger Gallaudet, a Libertarian.

The debate, just over an hour long and moderated by Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max, will air on MNN and be posted to its YouTube channel on Sunday night.

It mostly saw DiNapoli defend his record against criticism from Trichter, a previously registered Democrat who switched his party registration to Republican and received the necessary Wilson-Pakula certificate to run on the party’s line this fall. The back-and-forth arguments between the two largely centered in wonky fiscal issues, some of which it would take an unaffiliated expert on state finances and constitutional powers to wade through (Gotham Gazette is working on a detailed fact check).

DiNapoli stressed that he has been a prudent steward of the pension fund and a strong, independent voice for sound fiscal practices, promoting reform and providing a steady hand both for an office previously mired in scandal and a state going through the Great Recession and its aftermath. Trichter alleged that DiNapoli has been a subpar investment manager and not a forceful enough voice for change in state budget and other fiscal practices where the comptroller has oversight.

Dunlea spent his time reliably offering up suggestions to divest the state pension from the fossil fuel industry and pushing for more accountability and transparency in the fiscal management of state authorities. Gallaudet had little to offer in terms of specific ideas, and instead repeatedly pleaded to viewers to reject the “duopoly” of the Democratic and Republican parties and to cast a ballot for the Libertarian statewide ticket. He said the comptroller race would be a good place for voters to use a “split-ticket,” presumably where they would select a Democrat (Governor Andrew Cuomo) or Republican (Marc Molinaro) in the governor’s race, in order to send a message, but also repeatedly said voters should examine Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe.

DiNapoli States His Case and Defends His Record
“It’s really the office that promotes accountability and transparency in state government and local government as well,” said DiNapoli, explaining the role in his opening remarks. He also took a dig at Trichter for switching to the Republican Party, the party of President Donald Trump, and for claiming to be a financial professional though he has worked as a political operative in the past. Some of DiNapoli’s responses to Trichter, who attacked the incumbent in nearly every answer he gave, were as aggressive as most who’ve followed the typically mild-mannered comptroller’s career have heard from him.

“Unlike Jon, I have my values as a Democrat and have stuck with them all my life...If you have to sell yourself to get the nomination, I don’t think that’s the best standard to be running for office,” DiNapoli said early on.

DiNapoli touted his history of public service, as a local school board member for a decade and then 11 terms as a member of the State Assembly, where he served on the Ways and Means committee, he said. He defended being appointed to the position of comptroller by the Legislature in 2007, a move that was opposed by many newspaper editorial boards, Trichter had noted, arguing DiNapoli was unqualified for the job.

In his time as comptroller, DiNapoli said he has restored the integrity of the office, helped guide state finances through the Great Recession, and grown the pension fund to an all-time high. “That is an enviable record,” he said.

Trichter pitched himself as a candidate who would take a “fiscally pragmatic” approach to the comptroller’s office, banking on his credentials as a public finance expert with years of experience in the private sector as he critiqued DiNapoli’s management of state finances over the last decade-plus. He said DiNapoli had only created an average 6 percent growth over 11 years for the state pension fund, though his target was 7.5 percent, a gulf of $65 billion that he accused DiNapoli of extracting through taxation from municipalities. “The state comptroller has siphoned off local tax dollars ten times more than localities around the country have for their own public pension problems and underperformance,” he said.

Trichter said he would invest the pension fund in passive index funds such as the S&P 500 -- which mirror the rise and fall of the larger market -- and move away from investing in hedge funds and private equity, managers of which he said have received more than $6 billion in fees from DiNapoli’s office since 2007. “He’s paid $6 billion to hedge funds for underperformance,” Trichter alleged.

DiNapoli, in his defense, repeatedly accused Trichter of issuing misleading arguments and outright falsehoods, noting that the state pension fund grew by $100 billion under his tenure, that state pensions are funded up to 98 percent, with a diversified portfolio mitigating risk, and that the state weathered the storm of the recession. He also said New York’s outlook has been more conservative, with a new target of 7 percent growth for the pension system.

“To put all of our money in index funds would be totally irresponsible, to put all your eggs in one basket,” DiNapoli said, noting that hedge funds performed better when markets crashed during the recession, balancing out the poorer performance of public equity funds. “If we did learn anything from the global financial crisis, you have to be diversified.”

Dunlea, who co-founded the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a good government group, and the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, said the pension fund would be $22 billion richer if the comptroller had divested it from fossil fuels ten years ago, even as he praised DiNapoli for divesting from the private prison industry and taking some steps in the direction of fossil fuel divestment.

“When the world is saying an industry has to end, that’s not a wise financial investment to continue somewhere between $6 to $11 billion,” Dunlea said of fossil fuel companies and the state pension fund.

DiNapoli insisted that simple divestment would not solve a problem as large and daunting as climate change and that the comptroller could more effectively push for environmental friendly corporate policies from within the room, as an activist shareholder in major fossil fuel companies.

He touted a $7 billion investment allocation in sustainability initiatives through the state pension fund and insisted that short of broad societal transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, the industry continues to provide a safe return on investment. “Climate’s a big issue and just selling stock in fossil fuel companies is not gonna solve it,” he said. When asked by the moderator if his argument was that fossil fuel companies continued to be a good investment, DiNapoli said “[W]e have to go through a societal change and for now, in the short run, we still are making money from the oil and gas stocks.”

“I don’t like the concept of being the sole trustee,” of the pension fund, said Gallaudet. He said he would urge the state Legislature to create a board to oversee the pension fund rather than have it in the hands of the comptroller alone. DiNapoli sought to demystify the comptroller’s role by noting he is not there making all the investment decisions by himself, far from it, he pointed to his bevvy of internal employees and “advisory committees.”

Audit Power
On the audit powers of the comptroller that allow the office to conduct oversight of state agencies and contracts and public authority spending, the candidates showed some disagreement.

“I think we need to be more aggressive about examining pay-to-play contracts,” said Dunlea, insisting that the comptroller needs to pay extra attention to individuals and entities that make large campaign contributions to elected officials and have business before the state. In particular, he pledged to closely examine local social services departments to ensure that needy people get the benefits they are entitled to receive.

Gallaudet simply said he would use the comptroller’s audit power to “reduce the scope of government,” though he did not elaborate how.

Trichter said the audit power is “one of the more powerful roles of the office,” as he critiqued DiNapoli for failing to use it appropriately. For instance, he alleged DiNapoli had repeatedly audited the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) but failed to unearth its many fiscal troubles even as the subway system has slid into disrepair and its capital funding needs ballooned to nearly $40 billion. “He’s the one Albany politician responsible for finding out what’s wrong with our infrastructure at the MTA before things start to break,” Trichter said, pointing to dozens of comptroller audits of the MTA that he said were outpaced by one New York Times reporter, though he also cited think tanks Citizens Budget Commission and The Manhattan Institute.

DiNapoli, however, insisted he has been a responsible and effective watchdog, including on the MTA. Dismissing Trichter’s criticisms as “crazy notions,” he said he had repeatedly raised the alarm about the MTA, including on its antiquated and failing signal system, and that his office has conducted robust audits of state agencies. “The strength of our audits is the credibility of the work that we do, and in many cases, we’ve effectuated change…We’ve saved taxpayers money through our audit work,” DiNapoli said.

State Budget Oversight
On state budget oversight responsibility, DiNapoli sought to portray the comptroller’s powers as limited, though he acknowledged he has a bully pulpit to advocate for more transparency and accountability. New York State’s budget process is notoriously opaque, and the annual spending document is invariably hashed out in the dead of night, with little public review, by the so-called “three men in a room” -- the governor, the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader -- with a variety of gimmicks, hidden aspects, and unspecified, lump sum appropriations.

“Our role is one of lending a voice,” DiNapoli said. “And what we’ve tried to do with our budget reports, and what we’ll continue to do, is not only focus on the short term but on the long term.” He issued a note of caution about growing budget gaps in the years ahead, insufficient rainy day funds, and the heavy reliance on lump sums that hide the true purpose of spending. “Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Legislature and the governor to make sure that these issues are addressed.”

Dunlea promised to more aggressively pursue budget oversight, pushing for reforms also backed by DiNapoli that give the comptroller more power over state contracting. He also said the comptroller should push harder on tax fairness and crack down on “out of control” debt incurred by public authorities.

“It is within the comptroller’s authority to refuse certifying the budget every year,” Trichter insisted, arguing that under the state constitution, the comptroller can leverage that certification power over the state budget to push for reforms. Though what Trichter is suggesting has never been tested, he believes it would hold up under the precedent set by the 1971 case of Posner v. Levitt in which the New York State Supreme Court’s appellate division ruled that the Comptroller “may have standing to test the validity of the budget, but he is not obliged to do so,” and could not be compelled.

DiNapoli has denied that interpretation. “[H]e’s making things up as he goes along,” he said of Trichter. “The comptroller has no authority to certify the budget. There is no statutory constitutional authority to do that. You can’t make up law.”

“If you’re gonna try to assert an authority that you don’t have, well all you’re gonna do is gum up the works and create more gridlock than you have already,” he added. “You’re gonna end up in court.”

Cross-Examination
The candidates were also given a chance to ask a question of one other candidate, which Trichter and Dunlea unsurprisingly used to question Dinapoli, who is seen as a prohibitive favorite to win reelection.  

Trichter accused DiNapoli of participating in secretive payments to silence the women who were victims of sexual harassment by former Assembly Member Vito Lopez and asked if he would apologize. Dunlea pushed him on how he would avoid conflicts of interest in the future, pointing to a recent news report that showed the former Chief Investment Officer of the state pension fund, Vicki Fuller, joining the board of a company in which the state pension fund was invested.

In both cases, DiNapoli denied the accusation. He insisted that the comptroller’s office put in more accountability measures following the Lopez scandal, and that he had no say in negotiating the payments made to Lopez’s victims, nor were the submissions for those payments made to his office for approval clearly identified as related to sexual harassment. He said that his office certifies thousands of payment requests from the Legislature and indicated the settlements hadn’t appeared abnormal. “Women were victimized. They were entitled to some justice and entitled to compensation,” DiNapoli said. “That was the agreement. We made sure that they were paid. There was no secret payment...and in the aftermath of what happened with the Lopez situation, we did institute changes, more transparency, more accountability...and of course we’ve all evolved governmentally on this issue.”

And DiNapoli pushed back against the alleged conflict of interest, noting that the pension fund is invested broadly in hundreds of companies, that investments were made on the merit and that the former CIO is barred under state law from doing any business with the pension fund for two years. He said that the bulk of the company’s debt that the pension fund purchased three years ago was quite unlikely to have influenced where Fuller landed after retiring from the comptroller’s office this summer.

DiNapoli used his own question to give Gallaudet more time to say anything he wanted, and Gallaudet asked Trichter to explain how he could justify voters backing him given DiNapoli’s strong chances of winning, which gave Trichter another minute to reiterate his case.

Managing State Debt and Federal Tax Reforms
DiNapoli has repeatedly flagged that there is too much governmental debt in New York, for the state government as well as local governments and authorities. On managing such debt, there seemed to be at least some area of agreement among the comptroller candidates on the ends if not the means. Dunlea said again that he would rein in public authorities and make their workings more transparent. Gallaudet conceded, “I have no silver bullet, no easy answers on how to tackle this issue.”

Trichter, however, insisted, “I do have a silver bullet or a magic solution to all of this.” He said the state should end so-called “backdoor borrowing” or incurring debt without getting approval from voters, which is otherwise required by the state constitution and often happens through the public authorities.

“The comptroller has signed off on $32 billion in backdoor debt since he’s been in office in 2007,” Trichter said. “If he refused to sign off on backdoor debt, he could unilaterally end the practice once and for all and institute his own debt policy. This is something he absolutely has the authority to do.” He also noted that DiNapoli himself has supported a constitutional amendment to end backdoor debt.

Yet again, DiNapoli said Trichter was being misleading. “You can’t create authority or powers that you don’t have...It is not our authority, nor should it be our role, to just stop the debt that happens in the state,” he said, while also insisting that his office had reduced negotiated debt where it could do so.

There was little clarity on what the comptroller candidates would recommend or do about the federal tax overhaul passed by the Republican-led Congress and signed by President Trump at the end of 2017 -- reforms that Governor Cuomo and some in both major parties have decried as harmful to New Yorkers. Trichter said the office could not do anything about it and DiNapoli seemed to feel the same even as he praised Cuomo and the state Legislature for attempting to create a workaround for state taxpayers suffering from the reduction in the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), though those attempts may not pan out, he noted.

Lightning Round of Questions
In a brief lightning round, there was no unanimity among the candidates. All of them except Trichter supported extending the state’s soon-to-expire “millionaires tax” on income as well as a $15 minimum wage (Dunlea said it should be $20); Trichter was the only one opposed to the state passing a single-payer health care law, though DiNapoli said it should be federally funded.

Trichter had no answer on whether congestion pricing should be enacted to raise funds for mass transit while Dunlea and DiNapoli supported it (Gallaudet just said he wasn’t opposed). Dunlea and DiNapoli said they want the state’s fracking ban to continue, while Gallaudet and Trichter said fracking should be allowed.

All of the candidates favored holding state government hearings on sexual harassment in the public and private sectors, though Gallaudet said he wasn’t sure about the issue. He also had no opinion on scrapping the much-critiqued Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the state ethics entity often seen as too close to state power brokers, while the other three said they would like to see it replaced with a more independent body.

They all agreed on one lightning round question: closing the loophole in state campaign finance law that allows limited liability companies, which often have opaque ownership, to circumvent individual contribution limits, though Trichter added that it should apply to labor unions as well.

DiNapoli has committed to one other debate, being hosted by NY1 at the end of the month.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Comptroller Candidates Debate Powers and Responsibilities of State's Top Fiscal Officer Wed, 10 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7974-max-murphy-podcast-jonathan-trichter-republican-nominee-for-comptroller https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7974-max-murphy-podcast-jonathan-trichter-republican-nominee-for-comptroller mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


October 03, 2018 - Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller

john trichter 400

Jonathan Trichter, the Republican candidate for state comptroller, joined the show to discuss his candidacy, including his critiques of incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and his plans for doing things differently if elected.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller Wed, 03 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7940-republican-slate-seeks-to-end-statewide-drought https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7940-republican-slate-seeks-to-end-statewide-drought molinaro julie keith john

Molinaro, Killian, Wofford, Trichter (l-r)


With the primary election over and the Democratic statewide ticket in clear view, attention across the state shifts to the general election, with the November 6 vote fewer than 50 days away. Republicans fought no statewide primaries and have had a slate of candidates ready and raring to take on their Democratic opponents. Those GOP nominees have been raising money and campaigning but somewhat crowded out of the conversation as Democrats waged highly contested races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, with a good deal of intraparty fighting that now must be repaired and can offer some fodder for opponents in the weeks ahead.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, both incumbents up for reelection, won their separate primaries on Thursday and now form a ticket to face Republicans Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, and his lieutenant governor running-mate, former Rye City Council Member Julie Killian.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli did not have a primary challenger but will now face Jonathan Trichter, who recently changed his registration from Democrat to Republican and is promising to run the office without political or ideological influence.

In the attorney general race, which will make history no matter the result, Public Advocate Letitia James beat three other Democrats to claim the party’s nomination and must now confront Keith Wofford, a Republican from Buffalo. Both of the major party candidates are African-American, meaning New York is all but assured to have its first black attorney general come January.

In all three statewide contests for state-level seats, there are smaller party candidates running as well, including gubernatorial candidates Howie Hawkins (Green), Larry Sharpe (Libertarian), and Stephanie Miner (Serving America Movement), their lieutenant governor running-mates, as well as candidates for comptroller and attorney general.

Though they face significant headwinds due to New York’s heavy Democratic enrollment advantage and apparent anti-Trump enthusiasm among Democrats, the Republican statewide candidates have been preparing for this roughly seven-week spring to Election Day.

An overview of the Republican statewide slate follows, with additional profiles of the candidates and coverage of their campaigns to follow as November approaches.

Marc Molinaro
Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, has served as Dutchess County Executive since 2012 and was a member of the State Assembly for five years before that. He was nominated unanimously at the State Republican Party convention in May, after Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and State Senator John DeFrancisco withdrew from the race as support of party leaders coalesced around Molinaro.

Molinaro has spent his entire adult career in politics, beginning with election to the Tivoli Board of Trustees in 1994. He was elected mayor of Tivoli one year later; at 19, he was the youngest mayor in America at the time. In 2000, he was elected to the Dutchess County Legislature, where he served for six years concurrently while also serving as mayor of Tivoli. In 2006, he stepped down as mayor and county legislator to run for the Assembly. Five years after that, he ran for County Executive and won with 62 percent of the vote.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Molinaro has mostly eschewed conservative firebrand rhetoric in favor of criticizing Cuomo on a broad range of issues, including mismanagement of the MTA, taxes he says are too high, and a culture of corruption he says Cuomo is at the center of, highlighting the Buffalo Billion scandal in particular. Molinaro has outlined only a few detailed policy proposals, including regarding government ethics and the MTA, promising more to come soon, highlighted by a tax reform package he says will shake up the state.

The GOP nominee appears to mix moderate and conservative principles, while promising that his approach to government is a bipartisan one focused on bringing all voices to the table and finding solutions that make sense, no matter where they might fall on the ideological spectrum. He regularly promises that as governor he would only show allegiance to New Yorkers, not donors or political supporters.

Molinaro has called for term limits for elected officials, ending “pay-to-play” politics, and closing the LLC loophole, though he himself has taken LLC money in this election cycle, in conjunction with other campaign finance reforms. He also says that JCOPE has “no integrity,” and sued it this summer to find out whether it is investigating Cuomo for ethics violations. Molinaro has backed calls for public hearings on sexual harassment in Albany, calls that have been ignored by Cuomo and legislative leaders, including the Republican Senate majority leader, as those top officials designed new anti-harassment laws behind closed doors and passed them with no public review during the most recent budget.

On education, Molinaro has critiqued the culture of high-stakes standardized testing but nonetheless believes the SHSAT should remain in place for entrance to the city’s top high schools. In the Assembly, he voted against raising the cap on charter schools in 2010 along with other Republicans, but his current position on charter schools appears more open. Molinaro supports fracking, which Cuomo banned in the state in 2014, but is an issue that could play well in upstate communities with high unemployment. On the MTA, Molinaro backs New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” plan, but also thinks that the state needs to go after bloated union contracts and bring down construction costs.

Like most Republicans in the state, Molinaro lists one of his top priorities as reducing property taxes, which he says are driving away businesses and individuals who might otherwise locate in New York.

Molinaro has said he has changed his stance since he voted against marriage equality while in the Assembly and said he opposes expansion of abortion rights, but is not supportive of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade or undo current New York laws, which pre-date Roe and further limit choice. He has taken a somewhat vague stance on gun control, criticizing Cuomo’s signature SAFE Act as going too far, but hesitating to discuss what changes he would pursue if elected.

While the Cuomo camp has worked to tie Molinaro to President Donald Trump, referring to him as a “Trump mini-me,” the Republican nominee has tried to distance himself from the president, whom he says he did not vote for. Molinaro supports the president’s tax reform law but has criticized its slashing of the state-and-local tax deduction, and has taken a far less hostile tone toward immigrants. He called for an end to the Trump administration’s immigrant-family separation policy, though he is not in favor of New York becoming a “sanctuary state.”

In order to win, Molinaro will have to persuade a combination of Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats to choose him over Cuomo and others on the ballot. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

Julie Killian
Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, became the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor shortly after losing a special election for State Senate in Westchester to Democrat Shelley Mayer. She had unsuccessfully challenged now-Westchester County Executive George Latimer in 2016 for the same Senate seat, which Latimer held at the time.

Like Molinaro and many Republicans in the state, Killian is focusing heavily on what she characterizes as the state’s burdensome taxes, which she says are causing a “brain drain” from New York to Connecticut and the south. Like Molinaro, Killian has been critical of the cultures of corruption and sexual harassment in state government.

Keith Wofford
A native of Buffalo with a working class background, Wofford is a Harvard-educated attorney and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray, an international white-shoe law firm based in New York City. He previously worked as a senior securitization analyst at Moody's Corporation.

Wofford became the first African-American Republican nominee for attorney general at the May convention. “The first thing the next attorney general has to do is to get the corruption in government under control,” Wofford said in a campaign video released Monday. “The corruption we tolerate in our state government is holding us back.” Just last week, the night of the Thursday primary, Wofford’s campaign launched its first television ad, part of a $3.25 million ad buy which will air statewide. The ad buy is indicative of Wofford’s strong early fundraising, possibly helping him compete against James, the Democratic nominee, who had to spend much of her initial haul on a tough primary.

A first-time candidate with little name recognition across the state, Wofford indicated in Monday’s video that he wants to use the office of attorney general “to make sure that we have an environment, legally, that makes it possible for jobs and business to grow in this state.” He also wants the office to focus on “the big villains, the people who are doing real damage to citizens and taxpayers,” though he did not explain who those villains are.

Painting himself as an outsider to he political system, he said he doesn’t have to cut deals to be elected, which could be seen as a dig at James, who won her primary with help from Cuomo and the Democratic establishment. Wofford has also promised to tackle the opioid epidemic, leveraging the office’s power to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In interviews, Wofford has signalled a far different approach than the current office has taken to respond to federal policies under Trump. “The last attorney general [Eric Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this year amid domestic abuse allegations] talked about resisting the federal government and it was clear...that was motivated to establish a partisan political position,” he told the Watertown Daily Times last week.

On Tuesday Wofford announced his intention to, if elected, immediately begin investigating what his campaign called “systemic corruption involving state and local government officials across the state.” In doing so, Wofford sought to distance himself from James, who has said she will seek legislative approval of the authority to broadly investigate public corruption, which she and others have said the attorney general does not currently have.

“Unlike Democratic candidate Letitia James who has said she must receive the Legislature’s authorization to investigate corruption, the law is clear that the People’s Lawyer has both the constitutional and statutory duty and right to represent the people’s interests,” Wofford said in a press release. “From day one as New York State Attorney General, I will use every tool at my disposal to fight corruption and protect taxpayers.”

Jonathan Trichter
Trichter was until recently a registered Democrat who worked for Eliot Spitzer’s successful attorney general campaign in 1998. He had to obtain special permission from the state Republican Party to run on its line against Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli.

By trade an investment banker who once worked for JP Morgan, Trichter has been actively involved in government and politics, with broad experience. A public finance expert, he was the policy director for Harry Wilson, the Republican businessman who ran for state comptroller against DiNapoli in 2010. Trichter later worked for Wilson’s corporate restructuring firm, MAEVA.

In his campaign launch video, Trichter described the comptroller as a Superman of sorts, with “an office that could be more powerful in Albany than a locomotive and could leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Trichter has pledged to release detailed policy papers laying out his positions. He has already published four papers that dive deep into the state’s pension system, which he believes has been underfunded and mismanaged while DiNapoli has been in office.

His strategy for victory, laid out on his campaign website, seems to also rely on linking DiNapoli to the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who first led the appointment of the comptroller to his seat to fill a vacancy brought about by public corruption. Trichter has promised to bring a cold eye of data analysis and no political interests to the office, only focusing on what is best for taxpayers.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought Tue, 18 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7810-statewide-candidates-file-july-fundraising-numbers https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7810-statewide-candidates-file-july-fundraising-numbers Cuomo check

Gov. Cuomo at a funding event (photo: The Governor's Office)


With less than two months till the September 13 primary election, candidates running for state office filed campaign financial disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections by the Monday deadline, showing fundraising and expenditures from a six-month period between January 16 and July 16.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, the two-term incumbent Democrat who is running for reelection, continues to maintain an overwhelming funding advantage with more than $31 million in his campaign coffers. Cuomo raised more than $6 million since January and spent about $5.3 million in the same period.

Cuomo’s campaign attempted to tout the number of small-dollar donations it received, likely a response to criticism of the governor’s reliance on wealthy donors and contributions from Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). The campaign said 57 percent of the number of donations received were for less than $250. But those donations only added up to less than $64,000, eliding the fact that nearly 99 percent of the total value of the fundraising came from big donors, including $500,000 in corporate donations and $2.5 million from LLCs and PACs. Cuomo also received 69 separate contributions from the same individual, Christopher Kim of Long Island City, which his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, the actor and education activist, called an attempt to “astroturf” his campaign (New York Times reporter Shane Goldmacher found that Kim shares an address with a Cuomo aide; several other Cuomo aides, relatives of aides, and long-time associates gave Cuomo small donations in an apparent attempt to inflate his small-dollar numbers).

Nixon, who has staked her campaign on small donors, has been issuing scathing critiques of Cuomo’s fundraising practices that she says are a symptom and cause of a pay-to-play culture in state government. Nixon brought in about $500,000 in the last six months, paling in comparison with Cuomo’s haul, and spent about $274,000. Her campaign has noted that she received more than 30,000 individual contributions since she launched her campaign, and that 97 percent of those were small-dollar contributions. She has just under $658,000 in cash-on-hand.

Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor who doesn’t have a primary challenger, raised more than $1.1 million and has spent $250,000, leaving him with $887,000 with four months to go until the November 7 Election Day. Molinaro’s general election competition will become more clear after the Democratic primary is settled, but there are several smaller party and independent candidates running. His running-mate, Julie Killian, does not appear to have filed her discloure yet, but Molinaro's campaign filing shows a $45,000 loan from Killian herself, as reported by Nick Reisman of Spectrum News.

Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins brought in $24,000 and spent $7,000 in the filing period, leaving him just under $17,000 in his campaign account.

Former Democratic Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who only jumped into the governor’s race last month and is running as an independent, and her running mate Republican Michael Volpe, the mayor of Pelham, together raised $409,000, spent $247,000 and have $162,000 in cash on hand. The two plan a general election ticket on the Serve America Movement ballot line, for which they are petitioning with the help of the organizers of the new movement.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe, who, like Miner, is petitioning his way onto the general election ballot, has raised $115,000, but his expenditures amounted to $154,000, leaving him with a negative balance of just above $13,000.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat seeking a second term alongside Cuomo, faces New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams in the primary, which will be Thursday, September 13. Hochul reported an intake of $1.25 million and had only spent $150,000 in the same time. She has about $1.24 million at her disposal. Williams’ fundraising report was delayed in being published to the Board of Elections website, something the campaign said was over "technical issues" and Hochul criticized him for.

"Our campaign's financial disclosure report was filed on time Monday evening but there were technical issues that we are working with the Board of Elections to immediately address," said William Gerlich, a spokesperson for Williams' campaign, in a Tuesday statement. Gerlich said Williams had raised nearly $200,000. When the report was finally published, it showed Williams having raised $183,469.62 and spending $137,967.13, to leave a balance of $45,502.49. However, the campaign appeared to take in several corporate contributions over the limit, and a subsequent need to refund several thousand dollars.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in a primary and on a joint ticket in the general.

Four candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, in a spirited race that has seen several of them posting strong fundraising numbers.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James was chosen as the Democratic Party’s designee at its state convention. Before her disclosure was posted to the BOE website, her campaign claimed it had raised more than $1.1 million in just two months, and nearly 60 percent of the contributors gave $200 or less. According to the actual filing, James raised exactly $1,165,897.55 and spent $174,417.04, leaving her campaign $991,480.51 in the bank.

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor who unsuccessfully challenged Governor Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary, is running for attorney general, pledging to refuse corporate, LLC, and PAC donations. Teachout showed about $551,000 in fundraising from more than 10,000 individual donors -- 97 percent of her funds came from donors who gave less than $200 -- and has spent about $284,000. She has $314,000 in cash on hand.

Former Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve raised $300,000 in total for her bid for attorney general and spent about $50,000. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney reported a $1.1 million haul and spent $145,000, but his campaign told The New York Times last week that he has another $3.1 million in funds raised for his congressional reelection that he believes he can use in the statewide race. He is running for both offices simultaneously, with the state AG primary set to determine whether he stays on the November ballot for congressional reelection.

The latest filings also revealed that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing accusations of physical abuse by several romantic partners, triggering the Democratic primary, returned $982,000 to campaign contributors. He still has several million dollars in the bank.

Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for attorney general, raised more than $1 million in total and has only spent about $25,000 since entering the race. He is not facing a primary.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, an incumbent Democrat, isn’t facing a primary opponent this year either. He reported raising $683,000 since January and spent $351,000. He has about $2.6 million in his campaign account, eclipsing his two general election opponents.

John Trichter, until recently a registered Democrat, received the Republican Party’s nomination for comptroller. Trichter has only raised $156,000 and spent $18,500. He has about $138,000 in his campaign chest. The Green Party’s Mark Dunlea is also running for comptroller and has $5,000 in campaign cash.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Note: This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Jumaane Williams' campaign and additional information.

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Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers Tue, 17 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000