Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Michael Mulgrew: Governor Cuomo Is For Sale

Much of this isn't new information about how education reformers are rigging the political system, having been covered well by others including Chris Bragg in the Times Union on Sunday and Eliza Shapiro at Capital NY in February, but now the NY Times has it too.

Read the whole piece, but I just want to highlight the part that relates to the governor:

Among the backers of StudentsFirstNY are major donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and to the Republican majority in the State Senate, two of the three parties to all negotiations. Emails and interviews show that StudentsFirstNY has been in regular contact with the governor’s office since his re-election.

At the same time, the two groups have become a major nuisance to Mr. Bloomberg’s successor as mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who campaigned on reversing some of his predecessor’s policies and is friendly with the city teachers’ union.

The groups have delivered a drumbeat of attacks on Mr. de Blasio’s education policies, in television advertisements, rallies where parents upbraid the mayor for not confronting what they call an education crisis, and weekly, or at times daily, emails to reporters. Amid this onslaught, Mr. Cuomo and the Senate delivered a rebuke to the mayor this year by agreeing to only a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools. (By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent, was initially given control for seven years, then received a renewal for six.)

In language that echoed that of important figures in both groups, Mr. Cuomo suggested that Mr. de Blasio had to earn the right to govern the city’s schools.

“Next year we can come back,” the governor said, “and if he does a good job, then we can say he should have more control.”

The governor speaking in reformyist terms with language coming straight from the reformers?

You don't say.

Here's more:

Making teacher evaluations more dependent on test scores, reforming tenure and increasing the number of charter schools in the city were all priorities of StudentsFirstNY and became significant pieces of the governor’s agenda for the 2015 legislative session, which he announced in his State of the State speech on Jan. 21.

Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, as well as interviews, show that Mr. Cuomo and his senior education advisers were in close touch, by email and telephone, with Ms. Sedlis and her board members in the weeks after the governor’s re-election last November.

On Dec. 9, for example, the governor met with Ms. Sedlis and several of her board members at the Harvard Club to discuss education policy issues, a spokesman for StudentsFirstNY said.

The governor’s proposals, particularly one that would base 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations on their students’ test scores, stirred fierce opposition from state and local teachers’ unions, as well as many principals and parents.

“If you look at the governor’s State of the State speech, it was almost taken word for word from their website,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said of StudentsFirstNY.

“We’re going to just tell everyone the governor is basically for sale at this point, because that’s what it is,” Mr. Mulgrew added. “It’s not a belief system.”

For once, I agree with Mulgrew.

Must be a blue moon out there.

In any case, the article details some of the money the hedge fundies have given to Cuomo and state Senate Republicans to pass their education reform agenda, covers the record "shadowy" millions Families For Excellent Schools has spent on lobbying without disclosing who's donating to them and points out that this is probably all legal because of the way the law is in New York.

If you've been following Cuomo and his hedge fundie/reformer buddies, you know they've had a close relationship for years.

As Cuomo began his run for governor, he met some hedge fund managers/education reformers at what was billed as not a "formal fundraiser," just a meet-and-greet where some hedge fund managers/education reformers could get together and talk reform with Candidate Cuomo.

Cuomo left with plenty of promises for future campaign cash:

 After hearing from Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Williams arranged an 8 a.m. meeting last month at the Regency Hotel, that favorite spot for power breakfasts, between Mr. Cuomo and supporters of his committee, Democrats for Education Reform, who include the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.

Although the April 9 breakfast with Mr. Cuomo was not a formal fund-raiser, the hedge fund managers have been wielding their money to influence educational policy in Albany, particularly among Democrats, who control both the Senate and the Assembly but have historically been aligned with the teachers unions.
Mr. Cuomo also has expressed support for charter schools. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to answer questions about the breakfast at the Regency, but Mr. Williams said it had gone well.
“We said we were looking for a leader on our particular issue,” he said, and as a result, when Mr. Cuomo is next required to disclose his contributors, “You will see a bunch of our people on the filing.”

When Eva Moskowitz was playing victim for having a couple of Success Academy school co-locations turned down by the NYCDOE, it was Andrew Cuomo himself who suggested a big Albany rally to stick it to de Blasio and make sure charters got either guaranteed co-locations or rent for space paid for by NYC:

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.

The moment proved to be a turning point, laying the groundwork for a deal reached last weekend that gave New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation, including a right to space inside public buildings. And interviews with state and city officials as well as education leaders make it clear that far from being a mere cheerleader, the governor was a potent force at every turn, seizing on missteps by the mayor, a fellow Democrat, and driving legislation from start to finish.

Mr. Cuomo’s office declined on Wednesday to comment on his role.

The coordination between the reformers and Cuomo was evident before he was elected and has continued to this day, with reformers and their backers spending handsomely to donate to either Cuomo or some of the shadowy groups that push his agenda (Families for Excellent Schools is one of the current groups, but let's not forget the Committee To Save New York, the PAC that pushed Cuomo's agenda with millions of dollars in ads before it shut down when the law was changed and it would have had to reveal its donor base.)

Cuomo is as corrupt as can be, completely in the pockets of the hedge fund managers and education reformers, but given the way the laws are written here in New York, much (or all) of this corruption is legal, depending upon how you parse it.

To that end, Families for Excellent Schools hired the former state regulator on lobbying to oversee their lobbying operation so that they know exactly where the line of legality and bribery is:

Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $1.6 million on New York lobbying so far this year, has an issue-oriented nonprofit arm that would have to disclose its benefactors. But the group does almost all its lobbying through its apolitical arm, which does not have to report its donors under New York lobbying laws and can take tax-deductible donations.

The apolitical arm spent a staggering $9.7 million on Albany lobbying in 2014, but did not disclose a single donor.

Such apolitical nonprofits, categorized as 501(c)3 groups, face restrictions from the Internal Revenue Service on how much they can spend on lobbying — a likely reason why such nonprofits are exempt from disclosing their donors under New York law.

The heavy lobbying spending as defined by New York law, plus the IRS restrictions on lobbying by such nonprofits, could raise potential issues regarding the group's tax status.

But David Grandeau, an attorney for Families For Excellent Schools and former top state lobbying regulator, has maintained that the IRS definition of lobbying is far narrower than the one found in New York law, a distinction that he says makes the heavy New York lobbying spending by the group permissible under federal regulations.

The group's lobbying spending has also dropped this year from its 2014 heights.

Grandeau said last year that the group had "correctly disclosed its spending in New York state, and we are confident that our activity is within the limitations allowable."

There you have it - all legal, or so says the former state lobbying regulator, now on the hedge fundie/education reformer payroll.

Corruption is endemic in New York State, as we've seen from the corruption cases taking down much of the political leadership in the state, including five former state Senate Majority Leaders, one Assembly Speaker and the state Senate Deputy Majority Leader.

But none of that has cooled the corruption going on in public education policy where the Masters of the Universe have rigged the system such that they run Albany and have a governor dangling on their strings, using their talking points as he successfully pushes for implementation of their legislative goals and public policy.


  1. Corruption is endemic and Cuomo is an unprincipled shill for hedge fund billionaires. But the people of New York seem to do nothing about it. Obviously few if any Republicans would be any better, and when Cuomo is faced with a primary challenge or a 3rd party challenger, the same people who lambast him now will vote for him again.

  2. What about:

    He was in the news a few days ago with Biden, to tell New Yorkers he was fixing LaGuardia Airport. So inappropriate, disgusting. He is trying to bypass DiBlasio. Trying to be the mayor, governor, and apparently a Federal official at once.

    Any opt out movement has to also address this bastards demise. He thinks he's God.

    A blue moon will appear this Friday.

    1. In this "ONE" case, Cuomo does control the airports through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The City--and the Mayor--have no control over LaGuardia or JFK airports.

    2. New York City OWNS Laguardia Airport. The Port authority is the operator. It sits in the borough of Queens It is named after former NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. .

  3. I will add, Cuomo had NO business sitting with Biden on this matter. They are trying to bypass DiBlasio. He is trying to get his foot in the White House. Recognize the slithery behavior for what it is.

  4. It's just a matter of time for Cuomo. Spitzer was like a saint compared him (and for all his faults I really liked him). He's hoping all these characters will save him; they won't.

  5. I think the LaGuardia Airport thing with Biden is actually very revealing.

    Its fairly sharp proof that Cuomo WILL NOT be indicted. There is simply no way that Biden would appear with Cuomo in such a public venue if the White House thought that Cuomo would have an indictment on FEDERAL charges. Really. In fact, the Biden/Cuomo thing can be read as a "Cuomo is clean and relevant on the national stage" coming out party. Cuomo seemed pretty isolated not just within his party, but just in general lately...that gave me a small seed of hope. No longer. The Biden/Cuomo thing was proof that Cuomo remains and will remain a central northeast power center.

    So, lets assume that he's who our Gov. will be for the remainder of his term, if not a 3rd term.