Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Charter School Rally Motto: “Being dumb is so whack.”

Big show from the "underdogs" in the education "war":

ALBANY - Thousands of city charter school kids got a lesson in New York politics - and a performance from Ashanti- as the battle over Gov. Cuomo’s education agenda raged in dueling rallies at the Capitol Wednesday.

The students, many of them from Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Network, got a day off school to take part in a huge rally on the steps of the Capitol that called for an end to the “failing schools crisis” and featured the hip-hop singer and WNBA star Lisa Leslie.

“I think we just need to end the crisis,” Ashanti said afterward. “The kids are suffering the most.”
During her performance, Ashanti told the crowd: “Being dumb is so whack.”

It sure is, Ashanti.

It sure is.

To prove that, take a look again at Families For Excellent Schools' Jeremiah Kittredge go mano a mano with the press yesterday over his ridiculously inflated rally attendance estimate, charges the children were being used as political props and the overall price tag of the rally (which Kittredge refused to divulge):

Maybe they should have had Ashanti do the presser and Kittredge do the song and dance performance?

He was moving his head enough, that's for sure.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Four Minutes Of Families For Excellent Schools Attitude

So a spokesman for the hedge fundie-backed Families For Excellent Schools met with reporters today to talk about the pro-charter rally up in Albany and things got, well, a little strained:

That wasn't the only misstep from the FES spokesman:

He said some 160 organizations took part, and claimed the rally attracted 13,000 participants — an estimate that strained the credulity of many of the reporters on hand, mainly because they had viewed the event with their own eyes. (Also, the group’s permit was for 7,500 participants, which seemed far closer to the visible number of people on hand.)

I'm not sure why Eva Moskowitz and these charter operators and supporters would go to such trouble to put on a PR performance piece like today's rally, then screw all that lovely PR up by claiming a ridiculous attendee count and then getting into a verbal skirmish with reporters.

But that's what they did.

Unforced errors on their end.

Time To Ask Randi Weingarten About The Kathy Hochul Robocalls Again

Back during the 2014 Democratic Primary for lieutenant governor, Cuomo's people started to worry that law professor Tim Wu, Zephy Teachout's running mate, could beat Cuomo's running mate, bank lobbyist Kathy Hochul.

Polls showed that Wu was indeed within striking distance, so the Cuomo campaign had some robocalls go out on her behalf.

One of the political personages taped for those robocalls was AFT President Randi Weingarten.

When Weingarten was criticized on Twitter for making robocalls for the Cuomo campaign (which is what these were, despite her claims to the contrary that they were only for Hochul), she said that Hochul was a reliable advocate for public education and she wanted to support Hochul for that.

There's news some morning that the reliable advocate for public education, former bank lobbyist and current lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul will be one of the politicians feting Eva Moskowitz at her pro-charter rally today:

Gov. Cuomo, unlike last year, will skip a large pro-charter school rally at the Capitol on Wednedsay, but his new lieutenant governor will be there.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul is one of at least nine elected officials scheduled to be in attendance. Many are from the Bronx.

Also set to attend is Senate GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx).

Among the Assembly members said to be coming is Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx), Michael Blake (D-Bronx), Ruben Sepulveda (D-Bronx), Robert Rodriguez (D-Manhattan ) and Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx).


Cuomo, who last year attended the rally and is pushing a host of education reforms this year that includes a expansion of charter schools, will be in Rochester and Syracuse pushing Wednesday is plan to hike the minimum wage.

Let me ask Ms. Weingarten once more, why did she make robocalls for bank lobbyist, Cuomo running mate and charter shill Kathy Hochul?

These are robocalls that helped Hochul beat Tim Wu in the primary and now help push an anti-public education agenda.

Why would a union president who supposedly cares about public education make robocalls for a political campaign that is virulently anti-public education and anti-public school teacher?

The excuse that Hochul is an advocate for public schools doesn't work so well now that she's shilling for Eva Moskowitz and the charters.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cuomo Says Teacher Evaluations, School Aid Are Negotiable

From State of Politics:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has told lawmakers that ethics is his No. 1 priority this year and other contentious issues – school aid, teacher evaluations, and regional infrastructure projects – are negotiable, several legislators said.

The story's by Yancey Roy, it's behind a paywall at Newsday.

More on this as we get more details.

But let me remind everybody out there that NYSUT President Magee and UFT President Mulgrew have already had one semi-secret meeting with Cuomo aides that made it into the news.

I wonder if they have any more semi-secret meetings in the works?

Going To Be A Fun Day For A Rally

Amusing headline from Capitol Confidential on the weather for tomorrow's charter school rally in Albany:

Weather update, or: Does Mother Nature hate charter schools?

This just in from the Capitol Confidential weather desk: It’s going to be a miserable day for a rally tomorrow.

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school network is poised to descend upon the Capitol for a massive outdoor rally Wednesday as charter groups and public education advocates square off again this year amid bold education proposals from the governor. Last year’s event was freezing cold but sunny and featured Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and thousands of smiling children.

This year’s rally? Snow, sleet, rain, wind, mud, clouds, that perfect temperature zone where you think it’s going to be warmer than it actually is. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those late-winter upstate days.

From Eva's perspective, the worse the weather is, the more it reflects positively on the "grit" of her "scholars" and their families.

Looks like they'll be plenty of opportunity to show some "grit" tomorrow.

More Hypocrisy From Cuomo

From State of Politics:

Cuomo, through his aides, has given a chilly response to Senate Republicans for proposing that some financial data regarding live-in girlfriends of elected officials – such as Cuomo’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee – be subject to the same ethics disclosures required for spouses of elected officials. But back in 2009, then-Attorney General Cuomo made that connection himself.

This dovetails nicely with Cuomo's hypocrisy over his administration's email deletion policy.

As attorney general, Cuomo said the following about email deletions:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is no stranger to the consequences of a paper trail. Before becoming governor, he spent four years as state attorney general, a perch from which he witnessed how long-forgotten e-mails could become pivotal during investigations. In 2008, he even accused a top official at the New York Power Authority of “extremely troubling conduct” for deleting e-mails from his BlackBerry as word leaked that he was likely to be investigated by the attorney general’s office.

Now as governor, Cuomo has broadened a 90 day email deletion policy started for the executive chamber in 2007 to the entire state government.

His IT hack said deleting emails as quickly as possible is "a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources.”

Ah, yes - the kind of behavior AG Cuomo called "extremely troubling conduct" becomes standard operating procedure for state government under Governor Cuomo because it's "encouraging good behavior" and prudence.

This kind of prudence will now be par for the course when it comes to trying to get any information out of state agencies.

Maybe we can change the name of the state from New York to Oceania.

Eva Moskowitz Compares Charter School Support To #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Methinks this Moskowitz rhetorical flourish is a reach:

EVA MOSKOWITZ ON ‘BLACK LIVES’ AND FAILING SCHOOLS—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro: “In a letter to reporters on Monday, Success Academy C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz compared what she called New York's failing schools ‘crisis’ to protests over the killings of unarmed black men last year. ‘Only two months ago our city was divided by protests over the loss of black lives,’ Moskowitz said in the letter, referring to nationwide protests over the killings of unarmed black men Eric Garner and Michael Brown. ‘I would argue we are losing more black lives by ignoring an epic educational crisis,’ she added… Moskowitz asked reporters to cover Success’ upcoming rally, which she called ‘the largest parent rally ever seen in Albany.’ [PRO]

You see, making sure children of color have schools to attend where they are forcibly marched in silence, suspended for rolling their eyes or not making eye contact with their young white teacher when he/she snaps his/her fingers, treated to nine hours+ a day of mind-numbing test prep and treated like prisoners-in-training is a civil rights issue.

Cuomo Gives Rupert Murdoch's FOX $52 Million In Film And TV Tax Breaks Through Empire State Development

Gannett's Joseph Spector obtained the record of tax breaks handed out by New York State between 2011 and April 2013 for film and TV production via Empire State Development.

A whopping $472 million dollars has been handed to film and TV companies to make productions in New York, with HBO topping the list with more than $91 million in subsidies, NBC coming in second with more than $83 million in subsidies and Rupert Murdoch's FOX receiving more than $52 million in subsidies.

Spector reports that the tax breaks can add up to 30% of total production costs and come at a price:

Critics said the money for the shows should be used instead to repair the state's infrastructure and fund services.

"Our roads and bridges are crumbling, and yet we're subsidizing Hollywood millionaires to do television productions. It does not make any sense," said Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford.
Conklin Supervisor Jim Finch said his Southern Tier town received $3 million when 500 people were displaced and 200 homes were destroyed in tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2012.

"That's baloney," Finch said when told of the money for Orange is the New Black. "They already make all the millions on the movies, and we get nothing back from the profits."

Before 2013, the state was able to keep the tax subsidy information private, but that changed with a new law passed in 2013.

Governor Cuomo has done quite well with donations from Hollywood movie moguls and the like, as reported by Bloomberg News back in September 2014:

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who added $2.1 billion to an incentive program for the movie and television industry, has collected almost $900,000 in campaign contributions from Hollywood since taking office in 2011.

Cuomo, who lured NBC’s “The Tonight Show” back to New York City from Los Angeles, collected $121,600 from Comcast Corp. and its NBCUniversal unit, campaign-finance records show. Paramount Pictures Corp. Chairman Brad Grey gave $35,000, while Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Lynton and nine other executives donated a combined $45,200. Paramount’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” are among productions that took advantage of New York’s tax-credit program, the most generous in the U.S.

“What makes this industry more special than any industry that would invest here if you paid them to do it?” said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for New York State Policy in Albany, which opposes government subsidies. “The difference is, well, it’s high-profile and it’s really glamorous. And oh, incidentally, it’s run by people who are really savvy, generous political givers too.”

Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat, who ran for governor vowing to clean up Albany’s pay-to-play culture of corruption by limiting contributions, has instead reaped the benefits of a system that allows individuals to give as much as $150,000 per year -- and even more through limited-liability corporations. Federal prosecutors are also probing the Cuomo administration’s effort to stymie investigations by an anti-corruption committee he created and then disbanded before its term was finished. 

In addition, Cuomo got a book deal out of the Rupert Murdoch-owned HarperCollins that is worth somewhere between $700,000 and $880,000 dollars, with $188,000 already paid to Cuomo.

Cuomo refuses to reveal the book contract and won't say what the final total of compensation will be.

The book has sold fewer than 3,000 copies.

David Sirota at IBTimes reported that Murdoch's News Corp received millions in tax breaks out of the Cuomo administration after lobbying both before and after the book contract.

Add the film and TV production subsidies that Murdoch-owned FOX received to the tax breaks that Murdoch-owned News Corp received and there's enough money going from the Cuomo administration to Rupert Murdoch and then going from Rupert Murdoch back to Andrew Cuomo himself to make someone go "Hmmm...."

The Hollywood/Cuomo connections needs more scrutiny, that's for sure.

Cuomo Spokesman: The More You Protest, The Worse It Will Get For You

From Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY:

ALBANY—More than 1,000 teachers and public education advocates marched through the Empire State Plaza concourse on Monday, clogging security checkpoints into the Capitol and rallying on the Million Dollar Staircase in a boisterous protest of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education reform proposals.

Led by New York State United Teachers, the primary opponent of Cuomo’s plans to overhaul the state’s teacher evaluation system and tenure laws and boost charter schools, protesters arrived from around the state in 15 buses as well as by car from local school districts.

Carrying signs and even a cardboard cutout of Cuomo adorned with a NYSUT scarf, they chanted, “hey, hey, ho, ho, this corporate greed has got to go,” “shame on you” and “this is what Democracy looks like.”

Members of both houses of the Legislature attended the rally as it reached the Capitol staircase that’s in between the Senate and Assembly chambers. Assembly education committee chair Cathy Nolan, a Queens Democrat, was met with cheers when she encouraged teachers to continue to fight for school funding and respect for their profession.

“You have to be here to make your voice heard, or you will not be,” Nolan said. “I know it’s not easy, but it matters.”

The response from the Cuomo administration?

Their voices were heard in the hallways outside the chambers, and apparently also by the Cuomo administration, whose offices are on the second floor. Their screams further motivate the governor to pursue his agenda, spokesman Richard Azzopardi said in a statement.

“The governor is fighting to reform a system that spends more money per student than any other state in the nation while condemning hundreds of thousands of children to failing schools over the last decade,” Azzopardi said. “The louder special interests scream to protect the status quo—and today they were screaming at the top of their lungs—the more we know we’re right.”

Classic authoritarianism from Cuomo.

He doesn't care that the polling shows the public backs teachers, he doesn't care that parents and teachers are fighting against his agenda.

All he cares about is ramming through a privatization agenda that has been bought and paid for by his Wall Street and hedge fundie constituency, one that will enlarge the charter school sector, set up more public schools for failure by putting ever more mandates onto them (but not on charter schools!) and put in place a state takeover policy of schools and school districts that will allow private entities to take them over, cancel union contracts and run them the way they want.

Monday, March 2, 2015

NY Post Calls For Cuomo To Override Union Contracts In School Districts

Adam Brodksy at the NY Post has some advice for Governor Cuomo - become more like Scott Walker:

This year, Cuomo’s even pushing reforms the union hates: a tougher teacher-evaluation regime, raising the charter-school cap, taking over failing schools. If his agenda passes, opportunities for kids will likely improve.

Yet even this won’t transform education in New York — or give Cuomo a real legacy.

Remember, in districts like the city’s, it isn’t just a few schools failing. It’s most of them.
Cuomo needs a bolder approach. He’ll need to find a way to bypass the union — or limit its power, perhaps in much the way governors like Bruce Rauner of Illinois and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are dealing with unions in their states.

Yes, Cuomo’s a Democrat, and those two are Republicans. No one expects him to “break” a union, end collective bargaining or shutter schools en masse.

But to see big gains, Cuomo will have to move in that direction. Along with bumping the charter cap, how about creating an environment that lures charter operators?

Overriding contracts with legislation? OKing alternatives — vouchers, private-school tax credits, traditional schools with all-new work rules and management — that foster competition among schools?

Cuomo may think this is too much for bluer-than-blue New York. But if he hopes to make himself viable nationally, he has to prove he can lead his base — not just appease it.

Actually Cuomo is pushing for "failing" schools and even "failing" school districts to be taken over by the state and put into receivership where the teachers contracts can be broken and whole swaths of teachers fired.

Cuomo's also pushing for vouchers for private schools via an education tax credit, an increase to the charter cap, and more accountability measures for pubic schools (but not for charter schools.)

Alas, those privatization Cuomo policies aren't enough Scott Walker for the NY Post - they want even more.

Well, they just need to wait a year or two - I'm sure Cuomo will give it them.

Every year he grows more anti-union and anti-pubic school.

Give him a couple more years and he'll complete his transformation into Scott Walker.

In fact, he's more than half way there now.

NYSUT Writes To Cuomo, Tisch To Ask Why Charter Operators Get To Cancel School For A Political Rally

Via State of Politics, here is part of the letter Karen Magee and Andy Pallotta sent to Cuomo, Tisch and the shill who's filling in temporarilty for John King:

New York State United Teachers is seeking your views on several important questions raised by the upcoming Success Academy event. As a matter of policy, should Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc., as taxpayer-funded public schools, be permitted to close their doors and transport students, parents and staff to Albany for a rally? Even if they use substantial private funds, is this the “right thing for students?”


“If school boards and superintendents in the state’s nearly 700 school districts also wish to close en masse for a day and transport thousands of their students, parents and staff to Albany to lobby for additional state funding, would that be permissible? Would you consider closing traditional public schools for a rally to be good public policy and the ” right thing” for all students?”

Cuomo is of course on the charter school payroll, with charter operators and their supporters contributing significant amounts of money to both his campaign coffers and the state Democratic Party coffers (which has used that money to run ads promoting Cuomo and his agenda.)

He's also expressed much adminration for both charter schools and the people who own, er, run them.

So if I had to guess, I'd say he isn't upset at all that charter operators are closing their schools and heading up to Albany for some made-for-TV PR.

Especially since Cuomo himself was "pivotal" in last years "Let's Close Schools And Cheer For Charter Schools Rally" in Albany:

It was a frigid February day in Albany, and leaders of New York City’s charter school movement were anxious. They had gone to the capital to court lawmakers, but despite a boisterous showing by parents, there seemed to be little clarity about the future of their schools.
Then, as they were preparing to head home, an intermediary called with a message: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to meet.
To their surprise, Mr. Cuomo offered them 45 minutes of his time, in a private conference room. He told them he shared their concern about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambivalence toward charter schools and offered to help, according to a person who attended but did not want to be identified as having compromised the privacy of the meeting.
In the days that followed, the governor’s interest seemed to intensify. He instructed charter advocates to organize a large rally in Albany, the person said. The advocates delivered, bringing thousands of parents and students, many of them black, Hispanic, and from low-income communities, to the capital in early March, and eclipsing a pivotal rally for Mr. de Blasio taking place at virtually the same time.
At his prekindergarten rally, before a smaller crowd at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany, Mr. de Blasio spoke about the value of early education. Not far away, a much larger crowd of charter school supporters was gathered on the steps of the State Capitol. In an act that his aides later said was spontaneous, Mr. Cuomo joined the mass of parents and students. 

I'm glad to see NYSUT trying to put pressure on Tisch and Cuomo over the pro-charter rally, but these people are beyond shame, so I doubt it will get much of a reaction from them.

However it is good to get the news out there that charters are closing their doors on a school day and busing the kids up to Albany for a political rally.

Would the politicians who will speak at the pro-charter rally be so matter-if-fact if public schools closed on a school day and bused everybody up to Albany for a pro-public school rally?

I hope that question makes it into the press coverage of the pro-charter rally this week.

When Does Cuomo's Sociopathic Behavior Come Back To Haunt Him?

Ken Lovett has this quote from an Albany insider over Cuomo's thuggish treatment of his fellow pols in and out of Albany:

“You can run that bullying game for just so long before you’ve p---ed off enough people that it all starts to add up and there’s no one left willing to stand with you.”

When does that point come?

De Blasio's still acting like he thinks he can work with Cuomo.

Assembly Dems just undercut a powerplay Senate Republicans were playing over Cuomo's poison pill 30 day budget amendments.

At what point do the Dems finally say "Screw Cuomo - we can't work with him anymore!"?


Aren't we well past the point where they should have had that epiphany?

Legislation To Stop Cuomo Administration's Email Purge Policy Is Coming

Fred Dicker in the NY Post:

Manhattan Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger will soon submit legislation designed to block Cuomo’s controversial new “burn and shred’’ rule for official e-mail communications.

“With everything that is happening in Albany, it is crucial that we shine a light on the governor and increase transparency,’’ Krueger told The Post.

“To have a policy of deleting ­e-mails after 90 days sends the exact wrong message and is extremely tone deaf to the problems state government is facing.

“Government cannot adopt a ‘burn and shred’ policy,’’ she added.

This legislation cannot delay - it should be passed as soon as possible and sitting on the governor's desk waiting for him to sign - unless he tries shredding it first.

Message To De Blasio: Cuomo is Not Your Friend - Cuomo Has NO Friends

Ken Lovett in the Daily News:

ALBANY — Mayor de Blasio is at his “wit’s end” over the harsh treatment he’s received from supposed good friend Gov. Cuomo since taking office, according to sources who say they spoke directly to the mayor.

De Blasio was seeking advice from people who are close to both himself and Cuomo on what he can do to improve his working relationship with a governor he believes has gone out of his way to routinely embarrass him.

“He was very direct,” one source said. “He just said, ‘I don’t know what to do. Why does he keep coming at me like this? I want it to work.’ He’s at wit’s end.”

Lovett goes on to write that de Blasio thought he would have a better relationship with Cuomo after he saved Cuomo's bacon with the Working Families Party in May and helped ensure Cuomo would not face a third party challenge in the general election.

But it's been business as usual since then - Cuomo's out to screw de Blasio, embarrass him, make him look like a fool.

He did it over de Blasio's Sunnyside rail yards deal, he did it when he closed the subway without telling the mayor first, he did it when he abruptly changed course on Ebola patient restrictions.

The truth is, de Blasio's a fool for thinking he can have a working relationship with Andrew Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo is a sociopath - he has no friends, his own family is rumored to not be too enamored of him, and time and again he demonstrates how the only principles he holds are to his own career.

The only way to deal with Cuomo is to stick a political shiv in him before he sticks it into you.

Maybe de Blasio will learn that one of these days.

Maybe Assembly Dems will too - they just weakened a powerplay against the governor by Senate Republicans by introducing Cuomo's poison pill 30 day budget amendments after the Senate refused to.

What is it with these Dems who look to get along with Andrew Cuomo, look to do his bidding in the hopes that he'll be nicer to them in the future?

They seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

They should get over it finally.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Will Federal Prosecutors Investigate Andrew Cuomo's News Corporation Book Deal?

Fred LeBrun in the Times-Union:

A book deal with HarperCollins over his selective memoirs called "All Things Possible," published last fall, has for months been sold to the public by the governor himself as a straightforward, ethical arrangement with which no reasonable individual could possibly find fault or even question.

True, a lot of money is involved, the better part of a million bucks, and very few books have been sold — around 3,000. Equally true, the contract has not been made public, so we are kept in the dark about its terms — a Cuomo administration specialty.

But it's apparent Andrew Cuomo has made himself an extraordinary arrangement under which he gets to keep some $800,000 when all the installments are paid out, presumably whether another book is sold or not.

What a splendid contract. Almost too good to be true.

And the best part for the governor is the money doesn't go to charity, or back into the state's general fund, or even his campaign fund. It goes right into his pocket.

LeBrun points to the David Sirota report that the Cuomo administration was lobbied both before and after Sheriff Andy was given the book contract by the owner of HarperCollins, News Corporation, and News Corp received tens of millions in tax breaks as a result of that lobbying as reason why a skeptical public and press might want to know the details of Cuomo's book contract.

But Cuomo says oh pshaw:
The INT connected a large number of dots that on paper at least show the appearance of a huge potential conflict, and at the least cast an ugly light on that gobsmacking great book deal of the governor's. When he was asked about the INT revelations, Cuomo dismissed any hint of impropriety. He said: "I have no idea that they lobbied for it. I don't even know what it is, by the way."

That doesn't sit well with LeBrun who says Cuomo needs to reveal the details of the book contract:

So we are to take the governor's word for it. A governor who is almost the definition of a micromanager is telling us he's not aware of multiple lobbying efforts on a number fronts by one of the leading media conglomerates in the world going back to his days as New York's attorney general.
Maybe so. But we should be told a lot more, not less, about this wonderful book deal.

Such as: the contract. Let's see it. The governor claims he got a waiver from his Joint Commission on Public Ethics to publish and market the book. Well, let's see that too. Let's see what restrictions were placed on him, it any, and which commissioners signed off on it. Let's find out from HarperCollins how many of these sweetheart contracts are out there, how unusual this is.

Let's find out who approached whom. Did the governor's agent approach HarperCollins, or vice versa? Under oath would be nice, but how likely is that? Or, for that matter, how likely is it that any state agency or investigative agent will scrutinize the book deal of the century?

They all live in terror of the Dark Prince. Oh, where art thou, Preet?

So far, Cuomo refuses to reveal the details of the book contract publicly.

It's long past time this matter receive some scrutiny.

Will it?

It would seem only the feds can handle this matter.

Will they?

Remember When The Governor's Secretary, Larry Schwartz, Tried To Fix The Sandra Lee "Permit" Problem?

Through a PR rep, Sandra Lee said that she has no business before the state and therefore should not have to disclose her financial information:

ALBANY — State Senate Republicans may want her to publicly disclose her finances, but Gov. Cuomo’s celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, insists none of the companies she owns has business before the state.

“None of the companies Ms. Lee owns lobby or have business before the state,” a Lee spokeswoman said Saturday.

“Ms. Lee and the governor fully comply with all current disclosure laws.”
But the spokeswoman did not respond to a question about deals Lee might have with companies she doesn’t own but do have business before the state.

Cuomo and Lee have lived in her Westchester County house together for years, but because they are not married, she does not by law have to publicly disclose her financial information like the spouses of public officials must do.

Okay - great.

Then Sandra should have no problem disclosing that information and her paramour, Sheriff Andy, ought to have no problem with the disclosure too.

After all, if there's nothing to hide, there's nothing to be afraid of, right?

Except maybe there is something they're afraid of.

Last year it was revealed that Lee and Cuomo refused to get building permits for improvements they made to their house and property and refused to allow the tax assessor to enter the premises to see just how those improvements would affect their property taxes.

The person who pushed back on the press was the governor's secretary, Larry Schwartz, not a Lee PR person:

An email message to Lee at the Food Network was answered by Larry Schwartz, Cuomo's secretary in Albany. He said any work performed at the Lee-Cuomo residence as noted in the USA Today article was "all decorative renovations and they don't require building permits. ... It was retiling, painting, wallpapering. It's like her line of work — decorative. I'm not aware of any rooms that were combined."

And what of the basement remodeling noted in the New York magazine article?

"Again, the key word is decorative," Schwartz wrote in an email. "Window treatments."

Here we have a state employee - one who is paid for more than Governor Cuomo and is the second most powerful figure in the executive branch after the governor himself - responding to Lee's email messages sent to the Food Network.

Gee, how did Larry Schwartz, a state employee in the Cuomo administration, get involved in this matter and doesn't that represent a conflict of interest?

Schwartz is currently still raking in his $181,000+ salary a year in a new position specifically created for him after the administration said he was stepping down from the secretary position to pursue a job in the "private sector."

Schwartz is also the Cuomo administration official who had subpoenas to Cuomo donors from the Moreland Commission "pulled back" during the anti-corruption panel's heyday.

He went in front of federal prosecutors investigating alleged tampering into Moreland by the Cuomo administration in August and is said to be "toxic" now as a result of rumors he will be indicted for corruption.

After the Dicker column reported Schwartz was still on the payroll, Cuomo said he is just cashing in his vacation days and will be gone sometime in March.

Now maybe it's perfectly legal for Lee to have used Schwartz, Cuomo's "fixer," to respond to emails to her at the Food Network even though she's not a state employee and the matter did not touch on state business.

But it certainly smacks of hypocrisy to claim that Lee has no business with the state when she's using the governor's secretary to respond to queries from the press that pose a political problem for her paramour, Sheriff Andy.

Also, you have to wonder, if Andy and Sandy used Larry Schwartz to put out the fire around the Lee permit business, what other items did they use him or other Cuomo admin officials or state employees for?

Cuomo wants to play like he's above politics and corruption in this ethic reforms battle, but the truth is, he's above neither and the citizens of this state need some sunlight to see just how compromised he is or isn't.

Just as Cuomo keeps saying that if teachers are so great at teaching, then they shouldn't worry about being evaluated by his "toughened" evaluation system, I say "If Andy and Sandy have nothing to hide in their finances, then they should have no problem revealing those to the citizens of the state."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cuomo Links State Financial Aid For NY College Students To DREAM Act, School Vouchers

And yet another policy linkage shoved into the 30 day amendments to the budget by Il Duce Cuomo:

Gov. Cuomo’s budget plan would deny nearly $1 billion in state aid to 372,000 legal New York college students if the Legislature refuses to provide tuition assistance to illegal immigrants and tax credits to supporters of parochial schools.

The poison pill was inserted by Cuomo into the state budget last week, but isn’t widely known.


State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long fumed, “This is definitely blackmail. The governor is holding college students hostage. It’s ethically wrong.”

The state spent $935.6 million on Tuition Assistance Program benefits to 372,527 students last year. Grants ranged from $500 to $5,000.

But in amendments to his budget plan, Cuomo linked the release of the TAP grants to expanding eligibility to undocumented residents as well as enactment of the Education Tax Credit.

The way the budget bill is written, the Legislature can’t reject the Dream Act or the tax credit without also wiping out the entire tuition assistance program for nearly 400,0000 college students.

The actual language of the amendment says “funds from this [TAP] appropriation shall not be spent” unless the two other programs are also approved.

Cuomo is calculating that his provocative maneuver will force lawmakers to pass both the Dream Act and the Education Tax Credit to avoid being blamed for scrapping the popular tuition grants.
Asked about the linkage, Cuomo’s office provided a comment the governor recently made on Long Island.

“It’s the best way to get it passed,” he said. “Because they wouldn’t pass it last year, and I think this gives it the greatest likelihood of passing.”

Pretty soon they'll be no other legislation passed in New York State except for the stuff Cuomo sticks into the 30 day budget amendments tied to other things.

I'm not sure when we went from living in a democracy to an autocracy, but that's where we're at these days.

Cuomo - the governor with the 44%-55% job approval rating - is imposing his will on the state like he's The Sun King.

Pass what I want or I kill off all state financial aid to college students.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting Ugly Up There In Albany

From Ken Lovett at the Daily News:

ALBANY - Playing hardball in their fight with Gov. Cuomo, state Senate Republicans introduced an ethics reform bill that would require his celebrity chef girlfriend to disclose her financial information.

The bill, quietly introduced Thursday night by the Senate Rules Committee, does not have a named sponsor. It would expand an existing law requiring public officials’ spouses to reveal their financial information to also cover any person an official resides with and unemancipated children.
Cuomo has lived for years with celebrity chef Sandra Lee.

Since taking office in 2011, he has created a host of different task forces whose members would now be forced to reveal their finances.

Cuomo's response?

Here's one on the record:

"We're happy to review any ethics proposal with the bill's sponsor - whoever that may be," Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said Friday.

Here's one off the record:

An administration official was even more caustic, calling the bill “an interesting concept.’

“If the bill's anomoyous sponsor ever comes forward, we may suggest expanding it to include all girlfriends, even those of married members,” the official said.

Not much to say about this exchange other than - wow.

Albany's cold and snowy this time year, but it also appears to be burning with fear, loathing and hostility.

Of Course The News Corp Book Deal With Cuomo Was A Bribe

Sometimes it's fun to go back and look at something you wrote in the past and see if you were right.

Back in 2014, I wrote this over the news that Andrew Cuomo would be paid $700,000 for a book he was supposed to write for HarperCollins, the Rupert Murdoch/News Corporation-owned publisher:

How many copies of this book do you think Harper Collins sells?

Do they think there's a readership out there for Andrew Cuomo's memoir?

Or maybe they think fans of Chris Cuomo will buy it?

Andrew Cuomo has the reputation for being one of the biggest asses in politics.

I can't imagine the book sells more than a few thousand copies at best.

So why did Murdoch give Cuomo at least $700,000 in compensation for this memoir?

Notice when the contract with Harper Collins was signed - right after his first year in office.

That was when Cuomo and Harper Collins Rupert Murdoch were still best buds (as demonstrated by how Murdoch flack Fred Dicker treated Cuomo in the NY Post.)

Even then, Murdoch had to know that few copies of this book would be sold.

This was a bribe from Murdoch to Cuomo in the form of a book contract.

I can't wait for the book to come out and see how many copies get sold.

I suspect this Cuomo memoir will be up there as a loss-leader, along with Murdoch's other great loss leader, the NY Post.

Then, when it was revealed that HarperCollins was going to run 200,000 copies foe the first printing, I wrote this:

A 200,000-copy first run?

Just who is Harper Collins (owned by Rupert Murdoch, btw) planning to sell this book to?

Let's assume Cuomo's family, friends and loved ones buy some copies.

Let's assume too that suck-ups who work for him buy some.

Let's assume Billy Joel takes $30 out of his drinking fund and buys a copy too.

And let's assume Cuomo's consort, Sandra Lee, forces people in her coterie to plunk down the money for the book to try and drive some numbers.

How many copies sold is that?

Now I've been watching the Hillary Clinton book sales closely, because she got a huge printing for her book too - much bigger than Sheriff Andy got actually, and her sales have not been too good.

Here's Politico on June 17:

Officials with Hillary Clinton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, insist her book has fared well amid reports of weak sales, and that it’s succeeded despite a dramatically altered retail landscape since her last memoir.

The book sold roughly 100,000 copies from the Tuesday when it was released through the following Saturday, according to a Simon & Schuster source. The source added that the book, titled “Hard Choices,” is debuting at No. 1 on the Indie Bestseller List, which reflects sales at independent bookstores.

The 100,000 figure for “Hard Choices” includes pre-orders and e-books, the publishing sources said. Those figures get rolled into the first-day sales.

The New York Times best-seller list, which will be released Wednesday, is another metric people are watching to see how the memoir is faring.

The first 1 million copies printed of the book were pre-ordered by bookstores, although that figure does not reflect how many were bought by customers.


 People close to Clintonland also said the market for books has changed greatly since “Living History,” noting the closure of several hundred Borders bookstores and dozens of Barnes & Noble outlets.

Not a great start for a book that got a $14 million advance.

And it's gotten worse since:

There’s hand-wringing and finger-pointing at Simon & Schuster over the soft performance of Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices,” for which she got a $14 million advance, sources said — and which was replaced at No. 1 on the best-seller list this week by an “exposé” about Hillary and Bill Clinton.

The former secretary of state’s tome sold 161,000 copies in its first three weeks, according to Nielsen BookScan — but 85,000 of those were sold in the first week. That number has dropped sharply to 48,000 and 28,000 in subsequent weeks, with the most recent numbers due out Wednesday.

Simon & Schuster shipped an optimistic 1 million copies to stores. Hillary reportedly got $8 million for her last book for the publisher, “Living History,” which sold 438,000 copies in its first week and more than 1.15 million overall.

Adding insult to injury, the new book was pushed from the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list this week by Edward Klein’s story of the Clintons’ pained relationship with Barack and Michelle Obama, “Blood Feud.” A source close to Hillary has blasted the book, along with its author, as “dastardly” and a combination of “pathological lying, hate and just flat-out creepiness.”
“There’s lots of finger-pointing going on at Simon & Schuster” over the very expensive Clinton deal, a source told Page Six.

Another insider said sales of 161,000 for “Hard Choices” would be “OK” for a normal book without such a big advance and expectations. “It’s an OK number — it’s very solid — a good amount to sell in three weeks,” the source said. “And the book is $35, significantly higher than most.” Also, BookScan only measures 85 percent of the print market, and not e-books.

A rep for Simon & Schuster did not respond to a request for comment. Reports have said the early numbers for “Hard Choices” reflect that it will not sell enough to cover Clinton’s advance, or to sell the million copies shipped, which are sent on consignment, with unsold copies ultimately going back to the publisher.

Now that's the Murdoch-owned NY Post ragging on Simon & Schuster for the absurd $14 million advance they handed Clinton for a book that not too many people planned on buying.

But the Murdoch-owned Harper Collins is likely going to have a mini-disaster on its own hands with the Cuomo book, because it's hard to see how if Hillary Clinton could only sell 161,000 copies of "Hard Choices," Andrew Cuomo is going to sell 200,000 first-run copies of “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life.”

Now I dunno, maybe all the Chris Cuomo groupies out there go out and buy the book and make me eat my words, but I just have a difficult time seeing the $700,000 advance and the 200,000-copy first run printing from Murdoch's Harper Collins as anything other than payback for Cuomo's corporate-friendly policies as governor, in particular Cuomo's pro-charter policies which Murdoch loves.

Murdoch has long been known to use his media outlets to reward friends and punish enemies - he keeps the NY Post open and operating despite its losing hundreds of millions of dollars for just that purpose.

I can't see any business reason why Harper Collins would pay Cuomo $700,000 in advance for his book and print 200,000 copies in the first run other than paying him back for stuff Sheriff Andy did that Rupert liked.

So far, Cuomo has sold less than 3,000 books of the 200,000 copy first printing.

He's disclosed $188,000 in payments from HarperCollins on his finance forms, though we do not now whether he's going to get additional payments for the book despite the poor sales because he refuses to release the contract.

All of this matters because Cuomo is in the middle of taking on the legislature over ethics reform, including increased disclosure of lawmakers' outside incomes, while he refuses to be transparent on his own.

Cuomo says he doesn't have to disclose anything because he's not subject to the same kind of corruptive influences that legislators are - except that David Sirota at IBTimes reported on Wednesday that the Cuomo administration was lobbied on multiple issues by News Corporation both before and after Cuomo signed his $700,000 book contract with the News Corp-owned HarperCollins.

The book deal Cuomo got from News Corporation starts looking an awful lot like a quid pro quo arrangement and/or bribe from News Corporation to Cuomo when you see that the corporation got millions in tax breaks and other goodies out of Cuomo.

How is that different than former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, now under indictment for corruption, taking bribes and kickbacks?

NT2 says it's not in their latest post called "Monetizing The Office":

“Shelly was paid 700k and Andrew was paid 700k. What did they do for that money?”
“Silver facilitated referrals to a law firm and Cuomo wrote a book.”
“Both of them monetized their office.”
“Nah. That can’t be.”
“Really? Would Cuomo have got a book deal without being Governor? Of course not.
Nobody would read a book about him if he wasn’t Governor.”
“Well, nobody seems interested in the book anyway,” we quipped.
“Cuomo personally received $700,000 or more for doing what? He didn’t write that book. You know that. He’s politically smart, but he’s not a reader or a writer. His staff wrote the book for him and that’s another problem.”
“But lots of governors do the same thing.”
“And lots of legislators are rainmakers. You can make the case that Cuomo’s monetizing of the Governor’s office was more egregious than Silver’s because he used staff to do it and it produced less value.”
“Produced less value?”
“Silver received 700k, right? That was for generating referrals for the law firm. And what was the value of the referrals? If he got one mesothelioma case, it might have been worth 100k to the law firm. If he got two it was worth 200k. We don’t know how many referrals he generated.  Maybe it was half a dozen. Maybe it was a hundred. But you know there was some value generated. Now think about Cuomo. He and his government staff produced a book that was worth what?  Well, the book tanked. That means that Cuomo was paid $700,000 for nothing of value.”
“Isn’t this just a bad decision by the publisher? They thought his book would sell. They took the risk on it and they were wrong. That’s the nature of their business.”
“That’s true. But how did the book deal come together. Did he write it and show it to them. No. He got a huge advance and that advance looks like a sweetheart deal. He got a huge up front payment. He’s getting a cut rate on purchases of the book that he can then provide to his supporters for promotional purposes. He also benefits from the promotion of the book by the publisher. He’s making out like a bandit. He monetized his office, didn’t he?”
“When you say it like that, it’s hard to disagree.”
“And we haven’t even mentioned the other side of it. What benefits accrued to the publisher? How did News Corp. benefit? Nobody has looked at that. Nobody has gone back 10 years like Preet did with Silver. What did Cuomo do in office as AG or as Governor that benefitted News Corp.  Silver directed a grant to a hospital for cancer research in 2005 and they called it a bribe in 2015. What did Cuomo do for News Corp during the last 10 years? I’ll bet you could find something, no?”
“This can’t be.”
“This is the world we live in. If Preet can make a case against Silver, he can make a case against Cuomo.”

I'm still skeptical that US Attorney Preet Bharara is going to do to Cuomo what he did to Silver, but it sure seems if Bharara decides to dig into Cuomo's business dealings with News Corporation, he'll find plenty of interesting items to scrutinize.

This News Corp/book deal stuff is in addition to the Moreland tampering that Preet is allegedly looking into already, as well as the subpoenas to donors that Cuomo's secretary, Larry Schwartz, had "pulled back" by the Moreland Commission even as they subpoenaed legislative targets.

Cuomo's pushing ethics reform this budget, claiming he'll shut the government down if the legislature doesn't give him what he wants on ethics reform (i.e., ethics reforms that pertain only to the legislature, not to statewide officials like the governor.)

Here's hoping the feds shut Cuomo himself down with a 7 AM visit and a car ride to central booking over all the criminality he's engaged in.

If they could get Silver on this stuff, you can bet they can get Cuomo too.

But will they?

Cuomo, Legislature Fight Each Other On Multiple Fronts

It seems the legislature is not happy with Governor Cuomo.

Three bills were introduced last night that all take aim at Cuomo:

These bills come on top of the beating Cuomo's IT shill took yesterday over the Cuomo policy of deleting all government email older than 90 days:

ALBANY—Maggie Miller, the state's chief information officer, faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers at a budget hearing Thursday afternoon about the Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting emails of state workers that are more than 90 days old.


Asked again if she had any concerns that the email deletion policy would decrease transparency, Miller said, “I fully support the policy.”

“I think if the New York Assembly announced tomorrow they were going to pick up this policy, [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara would be at the court door making sure it did not,” Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell said, to nervous laugher from lawmakers and members of the crowd.

Also yesterday, Cuomo ratcheted up his efforts to privatize the public school system in New York State by releasing a report that ties "failing" schools to individual lawmakers:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo dropped a political bomb on state lawmakers Thursday — linking their names to chronically failing public schools in their districts in a provocative move to win support for his education reforms.

The governor issued a 200-page report outlining the performance of 178 low-performing schools around the state, including 91 in New York City.

The list includes the names of the state senator and Assembly member who represent each school in an implicit challenge: What are you going to do about it?

I'm not sure how effective this confrontational strategy Cuomo is pursuing on mutliple fronts is going to be.

He's shoved lots of policy proposals into 30 day budget amendments, forcing the legislature to either agree to the proposals or strip them from the budget, he's taking a "My Way Or The Highway" approach to ethics reforms that will only affect the legislature while leaving statewide pols like himself alone and now he's trying to publicly embarrass individual lawmakers by connecting them to his "failing" school list (a list that mirrors the one devised by Families For Excellent Schools, the hedge fund-backed pro-charter group, btw.)

He's pissing a lot of people off and he's got few friends to begin with - adding to his enemies list seems like a short-sighted strategy to me.

More and more Cuomo is coming to resemble Richard Nixon - nearly friendless, besieged on all sides, barricaded in his office and lashing out at everyone and everything.

It would be one thing if Cuomo was just taking on the teachers and the teachers union and cozying up to everybody else.

But that's not what he's doing.

He's made nice with a couple of private sector unions and of course he's very close with his hedge fundie/charter school friends, but other than that, can you think of any other groups that he isn't at war with?

I mean, can you think of another time when 15 different towns began pursuing a secession strategy for leaving New York and joining Pennsylvania?

No wonder Cuomo's going to Cuba.

They don't know him there yet.

Back here in New York, he may win some of these battles, so short-term, this strategy may work.

But there's four more years in his second term, barring something unforeseen, and I can't imagine things are going to get much better for him in the next couple of years after starting out the first year of the second term balls to the wall like this.