Suffolk Mess

While there may be a major decision ahead for Governor Andrew Cuomo in the developing Suffolk County government mess, today he said that he has not yet “reviewed” it or “gone through it in any depth.”

Last week Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called for the resignation of Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, alleging that, among other misdeeds, Spota “allow[ed] violent criminals to go unpunished in order to protect your friends” and describing the District Attorney’s office as a “criminal organization.”

Those are extraordinarily powerful accusations that, if true, warrant removal from office and criminal prosecution.  Cuomo figures in to this episode because under Article XIII of the state Constitution he holds the power to remove the District Attorney.  Cuomo is not responsible for criminally investigating Spota, but he may face a decision to act on removal of Spota.

Spota, in office since 2001, has a growing list of problems.  Former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, a longtime Spota deputy and hired as county police chief on Spota’s recommendation, recently pled guilty to beating a suspect in custody and then covering up the episode.  The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District is reported to be investigating both Spota’s office and a top deputy of Spota’s on “a wide array of allegations.”

Adding to the twists  in this story:  Spota and Bellone are both Democrats, and Bellone has a strong relationship with Cuomo.  Stay tuned.

Here’s Cuomo’s response today:

Grand Conspiracy

Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected, but did not expressly deny, the notion advanced by Mayor Bill de Blasio that Cuomo is behind the current investigations of de Blasio’s 2014 senate campaign fundraising efforts.  de Blasio has pointed to the efforts by a longtime Cuomo staffer, now in a specially created post at the state Board of Elections, at fomenting the investigations as driven by Cuomo.

Cuomo did not directly deny having any role in having the mayor and his fundraising investigated, instead saying that “[t]he only thing I know about the investigations on the mayor is what I read about in the newspaper.”  Going on to say that if there is a “grand conspiracy” against the mayor the U.S. Attorney, the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York Attorney General are all part of that “grand conspiracy” as they are each investigating the mayor’s fundraising.

Cuomo was responding to NBC 4’s Andrew Siff during a Manhattan press conference.

Cuomo Press Q&A: The Bus Edition

Governor Andrew Cuomo emerged today after days out of the public eye, taking questions from the press at a Manhattan bus garage.  Cuomo’s appearance focused on the introduction of 75 newly designed buses, beginning today, on MTA routes in Queens and the MTA’s ongoing development of an app allowing LIRR and Metro North customers to purchase train tickets on mobile devices.

Cuomo spoke with the press afterwards, taking over a dozen questions with many focused on the investigations and controversy swirling around his “Buffalo Billion” program.  Among the Buffalo Billion related questions were the review of Joe Percoco’s disclosure form revealing outside income from Buffalo Billion vendors, details of Cuomo’s last conversation with Percoco, the recent disclosure by Solar City of a reduction in the expected number of jobs, why the Public Authorities Control Board delayed a decision of funding certain payments related to Solar City and whether public money funding the Buffalo Billion was treated “as sacred” and if so, why an investigation is occurring.  Other question topics included how Cuomo’s love of cars and motorcycles affects his actions on mass transit, the ongoing investigations of Mayor de Blasio’s fundraising efforts in the 2014 senate elections and  whether Cuomo has been questioned in those investigations, current legislative efforts at retroactively extending the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, the developing troubles of Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota and whether Cuomo will act to remove Spota, the likelihood of “ethics reform” passing in this legislative session, the timing of an inspector general’s report on the 2015 Dannemora prison escape and Cuomo’s planned trip to Italy.

Here’s the full Q&A:

Photo Gallery: Skelos Sentencing

IMG_7073Dean Skelos, former New York State Senate Temporary President and Republican Majority Leader, was sentenced today in federal court on corruption charges.  Skelos received a five year prison sentence, while his son Adam received a six and a half year sentence.

IMG_7077Father and son arrived separately but departed together, navigating a media crush each time.



After both Skeloses had made it into a waiting car a family member had a brief altercation with a reporter.  Grabbing a reporter’s wrist, A nephew of Dean Skelos, Basil (Billy) Skelos, grabbed a reporter’s wrist and flung her phone across the street.  After being surrounded by press as he walked away Basil Skelos was stopped by the NYPD and charged with misdemeanor assault.


Our full photo gallery is here.

Kasich Campaign Photo Gallery

Ohio Governor John Kasich is expected to announce his withdrawal from the Republican presidential race this evening.  We’ve covered his campaign extensively, with a focus on his efforts in New Hampshire and New York, from being one of 17 “major” Republican candidates to now being the last of those 17 to surrender to Donald Trump’s electoral success.

Kasich Town Hall - New London

We have a wrap-up Kasich photo gallery, available here.

Solo, Silent, Shoved (Updated)

Solo, silent and shoved.  That’s how former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrived for his sentencing in Federal District Court this afternoon.

Silver headed in through an alley, looking for  a side door and trying to evade the horde of photographers awaiting him.  He made it to within about 40 feet of the door before being besieged, trying his best to continue to move.  He did not speak, pausing briefly as his hat was knocked out of his hand.  A hard glance and a quick grab got him his hat back and, with a push from a U.S. Marshall, he stepped inside and headed to hear his sentence.

His departure was even more tumultuous.  Silver and his lawyers emerged from that same side door into a pack of dozens of reporters, photographers and videographers, speaking very briefly.  As the press pack pulsed around Silver and his lawyers an intra-press argument erupted and Team Silver headed toward Centre Street, about 75 yards away.   A half dozen U.S. Marshals barked commands and pushed the unruly press pack as Silver shuffled along, both a captive of the pack and its focus, his usual inscrutable expressions particularly useful for this short journey.

Photo Gallery:

Our photo gallery is here.


de Blasio Press Q&A: The Motivation Edition

IMG_6951Mayor Bill de Blasio vigorously defended his 2014 fundraising for state senate candidates Monday in the face of explosive allegations by a New York State Board of Elections official.  de Blasio was unequivocal in insisting that neither he nor his “team” violated campaign finance laws in his 2014 efforts at electing Democratic state senate candidates and effecting a change in control of the senate.  He hammered at the “motivation” of that Board of Elections official, Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, a former staffer for Governor Andrew Cuomo and appointed by Cuomo to a specially created position at the Board of Elections.  A memo written by Sugarman describing that fundraising as involving “willful and flagrant” violations of the law has prompted criminal investigations the Manhattan District Attorney and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Mayor de Blasio defended his fundraising as legal and appropriate, while lamenting the current campaign finance system.  Terming the Citizens United decision as “one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court”, de Blasio urged “full public financing of elections” while criticizing the current system.  He repeatedly referenced Sugarman’s motivation in writing that memo, alluding to but not expressly mentioning Governor Cuomo and de Blasio’s seemingly endless conflicts with the governor. Continue reading

Quiet Cruz

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz passed quietly through Manhattan’s Upper East Side today, attending a closed-press campaign event at the Metropolitan Republican Club.  Accompanied by his wife Heidi, Cruz spent just over an hour with an audience of about 100-150 people.


Cruz has been attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio during the primary, running ads declaring that de Blasio is “tearing this City apart”, but those tears were not readily apparent on a beautiful sunny morning a short walk from de Blasio’s mayoral residence.  Arriving close to 20 minutes ahead of his scheduled speaking time, Cruz’s leisurely car unloading drew a few beeping car horns and prompted a woman to get out of her car and shout for Cruz’s car to move.  That slight bit of normal city friction was as dramatic as the scene became; no protesters appeared and only four identifiable members of the press witnessed Cruz’s arrival and departure.  Even the few passers-by who asked what was happening expressed little interest or emotion over Cruz’s visit.

The Senator successfully ignored press questions on arrival, but was thwarted on departure as a former Republican candidate greeted him and invited a press question.   After answering one question Cruz continued on his way, climbing into his waiting car and rolling across a sun-dappled 83rd Street.

Photo Gallery:  Our photo gallery of Cruz’s appearance is here.


NYS GOP Dinner (Updated)

Trump, Kasich & Cruz.  That was the underwhelming lineup at the New York State Republican Committee annual gala Thursday night, as the well-timed dinner was held just five days ahead of New York’s presidential primary.  The black tie dinner was a world apart from most of the candidates’  campaign appearances, high on money and low on anger.  The wealthy, politically connected audience bore little resemblance to the crowds at most 2016 Republican events in this anger-dominated election.

Trump spent much of his speech recounting various real estate projects in New York City, omitting the angry stream-of-consciousness musings that define his campaign rallies.  Kasich spoke as a late-served dinner appeared on the tables while Cruz spoke to a talking and shrinking audience.  Continue reading

Kasich On Cuomo

“I’m not here to give a grade to the governor of New York.”  Ohio Governor John Kasich mostly avoided commenting when I asked him about fellow governor Andrew Cuomo’s relationship with the Republican-controlled New York State Senate and Cuomo’s overall performance.  Kasich did favorably mention an instance of working cooperatively when Kasich was in Congress and Cuomo was HUD secretary, but then quickly moved to discussing his own ability to work with Democrats without further discussing New York.

Kasich spoke during a press Q&A in Jericho – his full press Q&A is here.

Kasich Q&A: The Peacock Edition (Updated)

IMG_6840Republican presidential candidate John Kasich spoke with the press today following an MSNBC town hall recorded in Jericho, New York. Network appropriate peacocks roamed the grounds of the Milleridge Inn, site of the town hall, occasionally squawking as Kasich spoke.

Question topics included advice or promises for young voters struggling to make it economically, how he can overcome his current gap in convention delegates, undocumented immigrants and the possibility of offering a path to legalization (but not citizenship), what he would say if either of his daughters “came out as gay”, his view of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s relationship with Republicans in the state senate and whether he’s lost any delegates due to inadequate organization.

Photo Gallery:

Our photo gallery of Kasich’s visit is here.

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