Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are you just going to keep watching NYPD police brutality videos online ?

How Can NYC Police Reform Activists Break Free From The Veal Pen ?

In February, NYPD officers used unnecessary and brutal force to detain and arrest an innocent man after he deboarded the Bx12 bus. The New York Daily News wrote a widely cited article about the police department's over-use of force in that incident. In a viral video of the attack, the innocent man screamed for help, asking of bystanders, "Are you just going to watch this sh-t ?"

Police commissioner William Bratton enforces a "broken windows" theory of policing that deliberately targets the poor, people of color, and other minorities for harassment. If the NYPD is left unreformed, then its foreseeable pattern will be more incidents of brutality. And the inevitable question we will all face each time that more and more of these incidents are recorded and posted online will be, "Are we just going to watch these videos -- and do nothing else ?"

In an excerpt of the video of the attack, we ask you this very question :

Join us for a police reform workshop at this year's Left Forum, where we will engage in activities to prompt community groups to renew their calls for reform. To attend the workshop, you need to register to attend the Left Forum ; after that, you can attend other workshops or panels, as well.

ATTEND OUR WORKSHOP : How can NYC police reform activists break free from the "veal pen" ?

Date : Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time : 3:20 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.

Place : 524 West 59th Street, Manhattan -- Session 3, Room 1.92

Join us for an intensive workshop designed to challenge groups and activists, who have voluntarily de-escalated political pressure for police reform by climbing into the "veal pen" following the election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Registration is required to attend the Left Forum.


veal pen
\ vēl pɛn \

a holding cell, where young cattle and activists are restrained to keep their bodies tender, until all of their strengths atrophy in preparation for being butchered by the system.

If you want to take part in the conversation to free activists and community groups from the "veal pen," please join us for this important workshop.

Veal Pen Workshop - The Left Forum 2014 photo VealPenGraphicFacebookEvent_zpse9d5225c.jpg

2014-05-29 Veal Pen Police Reform Workshop - Movement Action Planning - Flyer (Final) by VealPen2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Using political entities, operatives close to mayor exploit campaign finance regulations through ''pattern'' of activities

PUBLISHED : FRI, 23 MAY 2014, 04:18 PM
UPDATED : TUES, 27 MAY 2014, 07:20 AM

Ongoing Levenson-Lewis-de Blasio political activities that may rise to be prohibited ?


Scott Levenson's campaign practices are damaging his brand, will it extend to his clients as well ? (Scrutiny of Advance, Levenson Heating Up * City & State)

What is truly delaying the horse-drawn carriage ban : is it the lack of a draft legislative bill, or is it the federal definition of bribery ? (The Nexus of Campaign Donations, Super PAC's, and Legislation : de Blasio's Mayoral Race and the Delayed Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban [UPDATED] * NYC : News & Analysis)

Last year was the first time when the corrupt Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowed Super PAC’s to influence the municipal elections in New York City. One Super PAC, deceptively called Jobs For New York, spent millions that were largely funded by greedy real estate developers, who were trying to buy off politicians. But one lobbyist, in particular, Scott Levenson, exemplified the worst of Super PAC corruption. So far, one Super PAC and two political campaigns managed by Mr. Levenson have been fined for campaign finance violations, and the city’s campaign finance regulatory authority has indicated that more fines may follow.

The facts surrounding the ongoing political activities of the campaign organizations maintained or controlled by Scott Levenson give rise to an « established pattern. »

Now that the Campaign Finance Board has fined each of Mr. Levenson's Super PAC and the campaign committees of Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and Councilmember Mark Levine, rendering decisions that prohibited coordination took place between the Super PAC and official political campaigns, these determinations may have federal legal implications. The chair of the Campaign Finance Board, Rose Gill Hearn, has been criticized in the past for going soft on some investigations, but she may have shown, with these early Super PAC rulings, an « established pattern » of activites, whereby Mr. Levenson is mainintaing and controlling political entities for the apparent purpose of gaming New York City’s campaign finance regulations, activities, which include :

The situation for Mr. Levenson and his lobbying clients shouldn’t have been allowed to have become so severe. Mayor de Blasio had made a campaign promise to reform campaign finance laws, but the mayor hasn’t proposed any reforms. Indeed, he has no motivation to, not when he and his political operatives stand to gain so much from an ongoing pattern of political activities.

The New York Post has reported that since 2001, the mayor’s political operatives, possibly including Bertha Lewis and others, have been conducting activities with the goal of electing Mr. de Blasio as mayor, a feat they finally achieved last year, possibly with the help of a Super PAC. The Super PAC administered by Mr. Levenson was called NYC Is Not For Sale, but it organized under the astroturf campaign called, Anybody But Quinn. The project to elect the mayor began not long after the Working Families Party was co-founded by Mr. de Blasio, Ms. Lewis, ACORN, several unions, and others.

Ms. Lewis’s post-ACORN, post-New York Communities for Change organization is called The Black Institute, and she shares office space with Mr. Levenson, as did the now notorious Super PAC, which Mr. Levenson administered. Sometimes, all of their ongoing political activities appear just sufficiently distant from the mayor, and sometimes they don’t.


The close relationship between City Hall and the private firms attached to the UPKNYC effort has raised eyebrows amongst government reform activists due to the fact that the mayor continues to rely on large political donations after normal election cycles to advance his own political ambitions, which many see as separate from the many unpopular political decisions he faces as the city's new mayor. (Bill de Blasio’s Old Campaign Operations Live On, in One Form or Another * Politicker)

Once the mayoral race was over, the corruptive role of money in politics cycled out of the NYC Is Not For Sale and New York Jobs Now Committee Super PAC structures and into 501(c)(4) structures, just like money used to cycle from ACORN, to New York Communities for Change, to the Working Families Party, to NYCLASS, and to The Black Institute, depending on whether Mr. de Blasio was facing an election year, or not. How Mayor de Blasio directs the affairs of political entities is by making sure that they get staffed by operatives or lobbyists, who have pledged their loyalty to him. Once vetted, these operatives and lobbyists can be counted on to conduct and participate in the established pattern of activities most beneficial to the mayor. It was announced last week that the purpose of the UPKNYC 501(c)(4) organization was to evolve from advancing the mayor's universal pre-kinder agenda to now being basically a blank check political apparatus. The interchangeability and permeability of these "instruments" staffed by loyalists form the basis of the "enterprise" that allows the mayor, from a phantasmal distance, to essentially order others to do his political bidding.

The mayor's political influence was extended across New York City after his administration installed the lobbying and consulting firm of Berlin Rosen, political operatives who worked on the mayor's campaign, in the media relations role of the mayor's universal pre-kinder initiative. Berlin Rosen maintained the universal pre-kinder messaging for the mayor this way. Berlin Rosen also serves as consultants to a coalition of major police reform groups, Communities United for Police Reform. The latter allows Berlin Rosen to again maintain the messaging coming from one of the mayor's most politically sensitive quarters : police reform activists. Tampering down police reform activists is all the more important to the mayor, especially after the NYPD continues to become embroiled in more racial profiled controversies. It was reported that another political insider and lobbying firm, Pitta Bishop, helped Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with City Council staffing. In respect of City Council staffing, loyalists to the mayor being paid for by special interest donors act as gatekeepers for the mayor's agenda.

Left out in the lurch as a consequence of the mayor's machinations are voters, who had no say in what the messaging was that came out of the universal pre-kinder reform movement. As for other reform movements in New York City, political operatives staffing the political entities working to further the mayor's political ambitions will first check with the mayor before announcing what the reelection-friendly reforms the mayor can approve.

As the roles of money and lobbyists further corrupt government and fair elections, that corruption is only going to get worse, as New York state's campaign finance regulatory authority, the Board of Elections, has eliminated caps on political donations by individuals.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Two prominent Democrats Complain About Cuomo's Pick For Lieutenant Governor

With dissatisfaction growing amongst Democrats, Gov. Cuomo faces a bumpy reelection campaign

 photo Cuomo-Hochul-628x471_zpsa472b03d.jpg

Is Gov. Andrew Cuomo going to get his neoliberal ass handed back to him in the form of collapsing opinion polling leading up to this year's gubernatorial election (à la Christine Quinn in last year's mayoral election) ? One can only hope.

Fred Dicker in today's The New York Post reports that more and more brave Democratic leaders, some of whom can hardly be called on to form a coalition for anything, are speaking up in a rare unified voice of dissatisfaction with Gov. Cuomo's reelection campaign.

Bill Samuels is seriously considering a primary challenge to Gov. Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, based on her work as a bank lobbyist, work that Mr. Samuels rejects as in contravention of the state's progressive sensibilities.

Mr. Samuels, who is described having "millions to spend," could upset Gov. Cuomo's plans for an avalanche reelection margin of victory.

Joining Mr. Samuels in expressing dissatisfaction with Gov. Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor is none other than radical right wing Bronx conservative Democrat, Sen. Ruben Diaz. Generally counted on to espouse bigoted positions on social issues, Sen. Diaz shocked the conscious of middle of the road Democrats when he reasonably objected to Ms. Hochul's selection based on her own incredulous radical right wing rejection of the Dream Act, a proposed state law that would, amongst other things, allow undocumented college students who meet in-state tuition requirements to qualify for state financial aid and scholarships for higher education. The Dream Act is supported by progressive Democrats, but Ms. Hochul has a record of opposing legislation that would end aspects of de jure discrimination against undocumented immigrants.

Democrats have several reasons to be disgusted with Gov. Cuomo. His neoliberal record of closing five New York City hospitals during his first term under the guise of "Medicaid reform" were nothing more than a scorched earth campaign of austerity cuts to healthcare for the poor, the sick, and people of color in the urban neighborhoods of New York City. To undermine pressure for reforms from the political left, Gov. Cuomo enabled a break-away faction of Democratic state senators to form an unholy alliance with Republican state senators to jam the state legislature into gridlock. His recent budget reforms amounted to more tax cuts for the wealthy at the continuing expense of the working class and the poor. Finally, his cockblocking of ethics and campaign finance reforms up in Albany was so foul that federal prosecutors could no longer turn their backs to the governor's alleged obstruction of justice. Government reform activists in New York City are eagerly awaiting to see if a grand jury empaneled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan will hand down indictments of corrupt Cuomo administration officials.

If Gov. Cuomo's reelection is already triggering backlash from disparate corners of the state's Democratic Party, it foretells of a long hot wilting summer for the governor's popularity. Already, the governor is calling on electoral help from the Dan Cantor, New York executive director of the Wrecking Families Party, to fluff his reelection campaign.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Message About Veterans

Bernie Sanders Memorial Day Message to Veterans photo Memorial-Day_zps1a0597b2.png

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Was UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger gay, or are post-death attacks just homophobic attempts at shaming ?

Commenters on various blogs and discussion boards about the spree shooting near University of California at Santa Barbara campus allude to the alleged shooter, Elliot Rodger, being a closeted gay.

Across the reports by many Web sites about the spree killing by alleged suspect Elliot Rodger, many commenters are trying to understand how an otherwise handsome young 22 year old man could still be a virgin, unless the real reason that women "rejected" Mr. Rodger was because of the fact that he was gay, according to these comments.

On one Web site, post-attack criticism of Mr. Rodger not only attempted to shame him about his sexuality, but questions were also raised about his economic status. One commenter wrote, "Most women probably assumed he's gay," on a post that noted that Mr. Rodger's guilt was assured because of "affluenza," a term coined to define the reckless behavior of children of the affluent class. Mr. Rodger was the child of Hollywood assistant movie director Elliot Rodger, who worked on the popular movie, "The Hunger Games."

Some of the "gay" comments appear to be bullying in nature, like one comment, originally posted on PUAhate but reprinted on the Business Insider Web site, which may allude to the kind of online scrutiny Mr. Rodger must have faced while alive. According to the comment, every level of Mr. Rodger's face was deconstructed for sex appeal, and one commenter found that the center part of Mr. Rodger's face was deemed "gay," despite this conclusion being solely based on biased and subjective stereotypes.

One one posting of the shooting on Hollywood Life, which had some early inaccuracies due to the fast-breaking news aspect of the spree shooting story, one commenter wrote that Mr. Rodger "was openly gay," adding that, "I don’t think people would have had any idea of his sexual frustration with women when he claimed to be gay."

Many aspects of Mr. Rodger's life are undergoing intense scrutiny, especially after he wrote what many people are describing as a troubling manifesto, adding to people's impression that the young Mr. Rodger was .

On The Conservative Treehouse blog, one commenter wrote that Mr. Rodger was "gay and really didn’t want to have sex with a girl," a conclusion reached after the commenter had visited Mr. Rodger's Facebook page and viewed Mr. Rodger's spooky, fuck off YouTube video.

Even worse, on a lunatic, conspiracy Web site, Mr. Rodger was deemed a "closeted," self-loathing misogynist, which elicited the fair retort that the homophobic answer to everything is always that a criminal is "gay."

On Facebook comments last night, as word of Mr. Rodger's video and manifesto spread, LGBT activists were troubled by Mr. Rodger's tone, arguments, and motivations. One gay member of Facebook went so far as to compare Mr. Rodger with Luka Magnotta, a Canadian star of gay porn movies, who has been accused of murdering and dismembering a Chinese international student, Lin Jun.

It's too soon to know if Mr. Rodger was actually gay, or whether all of these online comments represent the kind of intense peer pressure and bullying Mr. Rodger must have faced or perceived during his brief, sexually-frustrated adult life.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bill de Blasio - Hospital Closing Crisis Flyer

The wave of hospital closings continue into the de Blasio-Mark-Viverito administration from the Bloomberg-Quinn administration, because lying, cheating politicians, first promise to meet community demands to save our hospitals, but then turn out to fail to live up to their campaign promises.

2014-05-22 Bill de Blasio Hospital Closings Flyer by Connaissable

Former Members of do-nothing Moreland Commission will receive taxpayer-paid criminal legal defense representation

Even investigators of rampant corruption need legal counsel to fend off investigations of corruption, how's that for government integrity ?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has arranged for Michael Koenig, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, a law firm specializing in government investigations, to represent the former members of the do-nothing, now-defunct Moreland Commission. Taxpayers will pay for Mr. Koenig's representation of the Moreland Commission ex-members.

Once empaneled, the members of the Moreland Commission were nominally tasked with investigating runaway political and campaign finance corruption across New York State, but the Moreland Commission never, ever -- not once -- prosecuted any crime. In the run-up to his re-election campaign this year, Gov. Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission, before it exposed any corruption that would embarrass him during a gubernatorial election year that may determine whether he will ever be popular enough to run in 2016 for president of the United States, a victorious dream that eluded his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in part, some say, because of potential controversies in Andrew's young adulthood.

It was reported earlier that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had empaneled a grand jury, which was issuing subpoenas right and left, from Manhattan all the way up to Albany, for records of what exactly the do-nothing members of the Moreland Commission actually did. A member of the Editorial Board of The New York Times, Eleanor Randolph, had previously complained that the Moreland Commission's first interim report was watered down to the point of being practically meaningless. That the members of the Moreland Commission believe that they need criminal defense representation has led some legal observers in the New York City activism circles to conclude that perhaps federal prosecutors were obligated to go on the record about possible forthcoming criminal indictments.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A decade later, the New York City Council is still going through the motions on activists' Constitutional rights

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriquez promised to question the District Attorneys of New York about the prosecutorial crackdown against activists. Why doesn't he ask them about complying with the twin City Council resolutions from 2004 ?

Before a joint hearing of the the New York City Council Public Safety and Finance committees met to discuss a proposed expansion of the NYPD force by 1,000 new officers, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez tweeted that he would promise to call on the district attorneys of New York City to account for the prosecution of protesters. Councilmember Rodriguez, who was arrested when police raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment in 2011, is upset with law enforcement's focus on arresting protesters, like himself and Cecily McMillan, even though such arrests -- and their subsequent prosecution -- violate the peaceful political activities of protesters, acts which are protected by guarantees under the Bill of Rights.

Ydanis Rodriguez photo Ydanis-Rodriguez_zps8ba979d6.jpg

When The New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote about Councilmember Rodriguez's complaints, Mr. Goodwin blamed law enforcement reform advocates for demonising the New York Police Department, but Mr. Goodwin failed to see how, left unchecked, the NYPD's pattern of misconduct and brutality leads to the police department's ruination of its own reputation. Reasonable people can see how the NYPD has had a long history of controversies and scandals, when it comes to failing to respect citizens' First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. Police have gone so far as to make arrests of activists without probable cause, violating activists' Fourth Amendment rights. Police have also violated due process by denying activists' rights to parade permits and other approvals to facilitate peaceful political demonstrations. Based on the extreme abuses by the NYPD, the New York City Council passed a decade ago two resolutions, affirming activists' constitutional rights to peacefully demonstrate without fear of reprisal, arrest, or vindictive prosecution for expressing their political beliefs. These resolutions were enacted following controversies in police tactics following the large anti-war rally of February 15, 2003, but apparently nothing's changed since this, since the police continue to unlawfully target activists for arrest, and prosecutors unlawfully target activists for prosecution.

Councilmember Rodriguez has a checkered record for law enforcement reform. He talks the talk, but when reform activists objected to Mayor Bill de Blasio's appointment of William "broken windows theory" Bratton as police commissioner, Councilmember Rodriguez defended Commissioner Bratton. It's unclear from press reports if Councilmember Rodriquez questioned the city's district attorneys at yesterday's joint hearing about the pattern of oppressive prosecution of activists. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that the district attorneys are answerable to the pressures of their political supporters. But at the very least, the district attorneys should take guidance from the twin City Council resolutions enacted ten years ago.

Locally, it is supposed to be the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, who is supposed to oversee the prosecution of crimes. Instead of focusing on major political and corporate corruption cases, which he rarely appears to prosecute, D.A. Vance rather chooses to obsess with the peaceful political activities of activists. D.A. Vance works for the New York State attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. Both D.A. Vance and Mr. Schneiderman have pretty much abdicated corruption prosecution to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. More so than the others, D.A. Vance is vulnerable to the political realities of how he can run for office. District attorneys in the five boroughs of New York run for office with the approval of the local county political organization. Since New York is overwhelmingly a Democratic Party enclave, the county Democratic Party chair of each borough must approve of each respective district attorney candidate running for office, meaning D.A. Vance would not dare sacrifice his political career by prosecuting political corruption of officials, operatives, or lobbyists loyal to the county political organization, chaired in his case by Assemblymember Keith Wright, which approves of his candidacy. That is to say, D.A. Vance will not prosecute candidates for public office, their political operatives, or big money donors, who may be engaged in corruption, otherwise D.A. Vance risks alienating himself from his own political supporters. Instead, D.A. Vance touts his prosecution record against activists, paralleling the DOJ's own suppression campaign against activists.

It remains to be seen if the scripted gestures of City Council hearings under Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will have the same toothless effect on law enforcement reform as the twin City Council resolutions passed a decade ago under former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The twin resolutions appeared to have no impact on the offices of the city's district attorneys. So long as the government fails to guarantee that police won't use acts of misconduct or brutality against citizens peacefully organizing around their political beliefs, it's difficult to tell how long opponents of reform, like Mr. Goodwin, as well as the city's district attorneys and their political supporters, will be able to benefit from their own constitutional rights. The consequences of demagoguery by opponents of law enforcement reform are obvious : opponents spread fear by predicting spikes in crime to keep the larger citizenry scared of advocates pushing for a reshaping of police tactics. But once one reasons that some citizens have no protections for free speech, assembly, and probable cause, among other rights and civil liberties, one moves the entire citizenry down the slippery slope toward anarchy.


from :
Vol. III, Chapter 7 of
Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn
by Louis Flores

After the February 15 anti-war rally, progressives, including supporters of the NYCLU’s efforts to keep the police in check, pushed the City Council to pass two resolutions. These resolutions came about because of the lingering sting of the anti-war rally’s failure to receive a march permit. That other demonstrations were subsequently denied permits, or were subjected to police actions to subvert demonstrations, added fuel to the fire. The first resolution, which was adopted on February 4, 2004, called upon federal, state, and local officials, including city agencies such as the NYPD, to affirm and uphold the civil rights and civil liberties of citizens wishing to hold political demonstrations in New York City. Christine was one of its sponsors. The second resolution, passed on June 28, 2004, called on all government officials to uphold the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association, and assembly. Again, Christine was one of its sponsors.

These nonbinding resolutions were all that the City Council could muster. There was no more that New York City residents, be they activists or not, could expect in terms of oversight and accountability with regards to the NYPD’s record of violating the First and Fourth Amendments. While it is true that a resolution does lend the authority and influence of the City Council’s support to the cause of protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the City Council was capable of doing more, like withholding funding for controversial police tactics, subpoenaing records of police misconduct and brutality, or referring incidents for further investigation and possible prosecution. But the City Council did neither. In the hearings leading up to the adoption of the first resolution, it was clear that the NYPD was engaging in serious violations. A special report from the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations showed that, “In the aftermath of the numerous confrontations between demonstrators and police at the February 15th rally the Civilian Complaint Review Board (“CCRB”) investigated 54 complaints containing 114 allegations of misconduct by police officers.” Among the NYPD violations the report found was that the police department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit provided to CCRB heavily edited videos in a deliberate effort to disguise the police officers who committed violations. “Thus, many complaints were dropped where the officers went unidentified.” This is how the NYPD operated when it knew its actions were not going to be supervised or subjected to any accountability. How were the City Council resolutions going to address the underlying and ongoing violations of the NYPD ?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Following campaign finance exploitation scandals, Mayor de Blasio neglects campaign promise for reform (Updated)


In spite of New York City campaign finance scandals, The New York Times is adamant to expand the corrupt NYC campaign finance model to the rest of NY State


Little Time Left for Campaign Reforms (The Editorial Board * The New York Times)

Preet Bharara Expands Crackdown on Political Corruption, Empanels Grand Jury, Subpoenas JCOPE Complaints [UPDATED] (NYC : News & Analysis)

Over the week-end, the Editorial Board of The New York Times recommended that Gov. Andrew Cuomo press the state legislature to adopt for New York state the public matching dollar system of the New York City campaign finance model. The only trouble is that that the New York City model is broken, can be gamed, and has become the subject of three federal complaints during last year's election. Furthermore, The New York Times completely ignored outstanding campaign promises made by Bill de Blasio during last year's mayoral campaign to further reform the city's campaign finance system. "The important thing is to respect the fact that we may not like the way the law is, but it's the law," Mr. de Blasio said last year after he was confronted with questions over a controversial Super PAC's attack TV ads against former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "I certainly will put energy going forward into trying to further reform the campaign finance system," but Mr. de Blasio has so far failed to keep true to his campaign promise to reform campaign finance laws. How can the Editorial Board sanely demand that New York state adopt a broken system -- to replace another broken system ?

Scott Levenson NY-CLASS Christine Quinn Bill de Blasio FBI Investigation into Campaign Corruption photo 2014-04-25TheNewYorkDailyNewsFBIReport_zps189d95ac.png

In the past few weeks, FBI agents have been asking questions about the campaign by the animal rights group NY-CLASS to strong arm former Council Speaker Christine Quinn (center) to support a ban on the iconic horse-drawn carriages, two sources familiar with the matter told The New York Daily News. The horse lobbyists in question include Scott Levenson, and they are linked to Mayor Bill de Blasio (inset). (FBI investigating claim that Christine Quinn was threatened by Scott Levenson for refusing to support carriage horse ban during the mayoral race * The New York Daily News)

PUBLISHED : WED, 02 APR 2014, 06:59 PM
UPDATED : SUN, 27 APR 2014, 08:24 PM

The corrupt and exploitable NYC campaign finance model is spreading to the rest of NY State

Lax regulators, loopholes, and public matching dollars that can be gamed will create an avalanche of money for corrupt campaign consultants and lobbyists

Following serious questions about the corruptive influence of Super PAC's in last year's mayoral race -- the first time when the Citizens United Supreme Court decision unleashed unlimited outside spending in New York City's municipal elections -- Mayor Bill de Blasio made a campaign promise to reform the corrupt New York City campaign finance system. Confronted last year about the NYC Is Not For Sale campaign, then candidate de Blasio initially defended NYC Is Not For Sale's attack ads, saying, "People decided to speak out, and that's their legal right. But the fact is in our system, everything can and will be disclosed, and that's what the people require," although, contrary to then candidate de Blasio, the Super PAC got into trouble for failing to fully disclose its activities, as "the people require." At the time, Mr. de Blasio added that he'd be open to later reforming campaign finance laws (presumably after NYC Is Not For Sale sank former Speaker Quinn's mayoral campaign). "The important thing is to respect the fact that we may not like the way the law is, but it's the law. I certainly will put energy going forward into trying to further reform the campaign finance system, but so long as the law is the law, people will make choices within it. That is their right, but I will certainly never ask anyone to engage in such behavior." But so far, the mayor has betrayed his campaign promise to reform the loose campaign finance laws that allow Super PAC's to game elections. So far, the mayor has reformed nothing, even as the Supreme Court in today's McCutcheon ruling, continues the further weakening of campaign finance regulations. And as corrupt as many reform activists alleged that former Council Speaker Quinn was, the use of a Super PAC structure by lobbyists-insiders to appropriate the grassroots activism against former Council Speaker Quinn thwarted activists' efforts to set a public agenda for real reform.

  • RELATED : Despite promises to clean up Albany, good government groups say the budget deal that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders hammered out behind closed doors will do little to stop the rampant corruption that has plagued the state in recent years. (Crooked NY Lawmakers Have Little To Fear From New Laws * WNYC)
  • RELATED : Reform advocates and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tout New York City's public campaign finance system as a model for the state to follow. But some political figures question the Campaign Finance Board leadership. (Campaign Finance Board leadership questioned * Newsday)

The New York State campaign finance model is already corrupt, and special interests, corrupt candidates, and their lobbyists are looking forward to the spread of the New York City campaign finance model to the rest of New York state, for they know that the system can easily be exploited.

In the last New York City municipal election cycle, campaign consultants and lobbyists to leading candidates exploited every opportunity to raise money, in violation of the spirit of campaign finance laws that originally aim to each of restrict the corruptive influence of big money donors and to create a level playing field for all candidates. According to New York City Campaign Finance Board records, independent expenditure groups spent over $15 million in last year's election cycle through largely unregulated special interest spending. But the system can be gamed. One Super PAC, NYC Is Not For Sale, violated city campaign finance disclosure rules, and, when they were caught, they were fined just pennies on the dollar for the infraction amounts. The system makes it very affordable to break the rules. Further, one brief mayoral candidate in last year's election, State Senator Malcolm Smith, almost fixed the GOP mayoral primary as a result of weak oversight and meaningless campaign and election regulations. Another municipal candidate for public office, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, opened multiple campaign finance accounts during the same election cycle, evidence that politicians are addicted to raising money -- and want to keep our broken system of campaign finance, so that it can be exploited when needed.

The only answer to clean elections is to ban all private campaign contributions, to fully fund elections with public money, and to institute stricter regulations on campaign consultants and lobbyists. If Mayor de Blasio were a true progressive, he would ban all private campaign contributions in New York City elections as a model for what a new era of real government reform looks like, setting a pattern that could be spread to the rest of the nation. Learn more about why advocates for "clean money" elections want to ban private donations.

Learn more about campaign finance reform activist Howie Hawkins' gubernatorial campaign.


With John Liu's lawsuit against New York City over conflicted city campaign finance regulators, this makes three federal referrals of elections violations, forcing Mayor de Blasio to lawyer-up, recruit special inside election counsel.

After a wave of federal complaints that have been lodged over electioneering violations in last year's municipal elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio has hired a special legal advisor specializing in election law.

Since Mayor de Blasio and City Council Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and/or their political operatives, are entangled in some of these federal complaints, it should come as no surprise that Mayor de Blasio is now maneuvering to use his public office to defend himself against allegations of wrong-doing that took place during the electioneering of last year's municipal elections.

The three federal complaints lodged following last year's municipal elections :

  1. GOP consultant E. O'Brien Murray argued to the State Department that Patrick Gaspard, a former top White House aide with a deep history in Gotham politics, violated the federal Hatch Act by getting involved in Mayor de Blasio's campaign -- and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito's subsequent election as speaker -- while representing the U.S. in South Africa. (GOP Operative Files Hatch Act Complaint Against U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard * The New York Daily News)
  2. Louis Flores, a local political gadfly who ran a blog and wrote a book criticizing Christine Quinn, has filed a complaint with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s criminal division against Scott Levenson and The Advance Group consulting firm, which came under deep scrutiny during the mayoral campaign. (Federal Complaint Filed Against The Advance Group for Election Work * Politicker)
  3. Former New York City Comptroller and failed mayoral candidate John Liu has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its Campaign Finance Board. He says the board unfairly crippled his campaign by denying him matching funds in last year's race for mayor. (Ex-NYC mayor hopeful sues Campaign Finance Board * AP/The San Francisco Chronicle)

Lax city campaign finance regulators allowed loopholes and exploitation to corrupt the race for the New York City Council Speaker

A series of editorials by the Editorial Board of The New York Daily News slammed City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito during the Council speaker race, first for circumventing city campaign finance laws, and then for exploiting loopholes in the state's campaign finance laws.

"Mark-Viverito has opened a campaign account under state regulations. She is apparently accepting contributions and apparently paying different consultants to advance her cause. Who’s giving her money and who’s getting her money will not be disclosed until after the speaker’s contest is settled," the Editorial Board wrote in the second editorial, noting, "At the same time, hopefuls Dan Garodnick of Manhattan and Mark Weprin of Queens are dipping into campaign accounts to give tens of thousands of dollars to fellow councilmembers and party organizations," before concluding, "None of this is acceptable."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Will GOP Congressmen call for hearings to investigate Attorney General Eric Holder ?

False information from the Department of Justice tricked the U.S. Supreme Court into dismissing a case that challenged the N.S.A.'s unconstitutional surveillance program.

Eric Holder photo ERIC-HOLDER_zps2c9d6f4f.jpg

If the House of Representatives, under Republican Party control, didn't have such a bad reputation, they should hold hearings into how corrupt the Justice Department has become under Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Holder's already been found in contempt on another matter, for failing to turn over documents sought by a committee investigation. If the House had its stuff together, the lies to the Supreme Court would be a natural way to force Mr. Holder to resign from the Department of Justice and to hold the Department of Justice to account. But the House Republicans are part of the problem, too.

Before federal fraud indictment, Melvin Lowe was director at Bertha Lewis's new non-profit

Bertha Lewis, close advisor to Mayor de Blasio, still playing with political fire

The indicted political consultant, Melvin Lowe, served as a board of director of The Black Institute, the current non-profit out of which former ACORN head Bertha Lewis now operates, The New York Post reported today. Mr. Lowe was charged in a federal criminal complaint with federal fraud and tax violations. Mr. Lowe was identified as a board member of The Black Institute in 2012, but he is no longer on the board, according to the group’s Web site, The New York Post reported.

The report by The New York Post raised questions about other board members, as well as the finances, of Ms. Lewis's new non-profit. These questions come as federal prosecutors in New York, led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, are waging a historic campaign against political corruption.

The charges against Mr. Lowe stemmed from a plan to defraud $100,000 from the New York State Senate Democrats' campaign committee. The payment was made to a New Jersey political consulting firm, which the media identified as Cornerstone Management Partners. Cornerstone was run by Elnatan Rudolph, who has a relationship with the lobbyist Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen worked on Councilmember Mark-Viverito's controversial campaign for New York City Council Speaker. Before Mr. Cohen's lobbying firm took the lead on Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign, Councilmember Mark-Viverito was advised by the lobbyist, Scott Levenson, who has years-long ties to Ms. Lewis. Mr. Levenson was ACORN's chief spokesperson as the group was grappling with several controversies that eventually led to the closure of ACORN. To save on rent, Ms. Lewis's new non-profit also shares office space with Mr. Levenson's lobbying firm. The space is roomier now that NY-CLASS, a 501(c)(4) animal rights political group, moved out. For a time, all three entities shared the same office space. Ms. Lewis and Mayor de Blasio have close ties to the Working Families Party, which they both take credit for co-founding. And finally, Mr. Levenson's consulting firm managed several political campaigns last year at the same time he both advised Ny-CLASS and administered a Super PAC for NY-CLASS that are the subjects of several investigations for possibly coordinating their political activities to help elected Mayor de Blasio. In the face of investigations, Mr. Levenson's firm, The Advance Group, has been rapidly downsizing to get rid of witnesses, some government reform speculate.

Given that Mr. Lowe was a director at a non-profit sharing space with The Advance Group, it's not known what relationship might have developed between Mr. Lowe and Mr. Levenson.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

With no effort at reform after past missteps, Dirk McCall keeps exploiting the broken political system

After separating from Gay Men's Health Crisis, Dirk McCall now works for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., in a post many see as a soft landing political operative post.

After separating from GMHC at the end of last year, Dirk McCall, former communications officer for GMHC, now works as the external affairs director for the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Mr. McCall was the former executive director of the now-defunct Bronx Community Pride Center. The Bronx center closed following Mr. McCall's stint as executive director after a prior executive director, Lisa Winters, was accused of stealing more than $143,000 from the non-profit. Prior to that, Mr. McCall worked as a campaign operative for several politicians, and he was a former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, the city's largest LGBT political organization. Prior to that, Mr. McCall worked for the shady real estate lobbyist, James Capalino. Given Mr. McCall's career pattern with many of Manhattan's permanent government insiders, he has learned the ropes of what it means to protect the broken political system from community demands for reform. Because no matter how many "change" elections New Yorkers vote for, or how many "progressive" campaign promises that voters hear, the New York City government keeps on working only for permanent government insider-operatives, their lobbyists, and the clients of those lobbyists.

Mr. McCall's post with Borough President Diaz allows Mr. McCall to remain firmly ensconced within other permanent government insider-operatives in New York City, inspite of his uneven record.

When he worked at GMHC, Mr. McCall once attended a meeting with representatives of the Harlem Ballroom community. Ballroom activists were upset that GMHC was, among other complaints, appropriating Ballroom culture in New York City for its own financial gain, at the expense of Ballroom houses and their artistic members. Mr. McCall did nothing to resolve Ballroom community concerns, leading Ballroom activists to call for Mr. McCall's ouster from GMHC. To this day, the Ballroom community views GMHC with distrust over the way agency officials, including Mr. McCall, disrespected the Ballroom community. One sign of that distrust was expressed when the Ballroom community called for a boycott of GMHC's Latex Ball last year. Mr. McCall's separation from GMHC followed years of controversies at the agency, including how the agency wasted so much money on fundraising expenses in connections with its annual AIDS Walk event and how the agency lost so much money on a controversial move to new office space. Despite the controversies that many viewed to be mistakes by former GMHC CEO Marjorie Hill, Mr. McCall never demonstrated autonomous leadership by showing a different vision for the agency. Instead, as criticism piled up on Ms. Hill for the agency's financial losses, Mr. McCall reportedly arranged for Ms. Hill to receive an award from the Winter Pride gala organized by the Queens Pride Committee. At times, he appeared to be working as Ms. Hill's personal publicist rather than for fighting to serve the agency's best interest. At GMHC, Mr. McCall's philosophy was go along to get along.

In-between Mr. McCall's stints in political posts, some government reform activists question whether Mr. McCall uses his jobs with LGBT community groups as temporary jobs until he gets another political post. When government reform activists try to build support amongst community groups to press elected officials for reforms, the reason why some community groups refrain from building public pressure for reform may be that these community groups are populated by political operatives trying to maintain good networking relationships with elected officials. Political operative-insiders, who work in the non-profit world, are always on the look-out for opportunities to land another well-paying and prestigious political appointment.

And now, after years of cultivating an expansive network of relationships across political and LGBT community groups, Mr. McCall is using those connections to prop up the political career of Borough President Diaz. The political motivations behind this partnership are unclear.

That Mr. McCall keeps bouncing back, no matter how corrupt the finances of community groups like the Bronx Community Pride Center and GMHC are shown to be, is a testament to how the broken political system keeps rewarding political insiders, who know to leave well enough alone. Like a cat jumping off of a hot tin roof, Mr. McCall always lands on his feet.

Mr. McCall is safe at his new post all the way up in The Bronx as this year's AIDS Walk continues to show that GMHC is having trouble turning itself around. The agency's chief fundraiser resigned after the year-to-year cash inflows from AIDS Walk appear to be collapsing. Critics of Mr. McCall don't fault him for making mistakes like any human, but, rather, for the long string of mistakes that leave the LGBT community and voters having to pick up the pieces left by selfish political operative-insiders. So long as critical community groups that underpin the LGBT community in New York City keep hiring from the same corrupt pool of permanent political insider-operatives, it shouldn't be too long before GMHC ends up like the Bronx Pride Community Center : closed.

The only glimmer of hope that government reform activists have is that in the last year, activists were able to oust Ms. Hill from her post at GMHC and former Council Speaker Christine Quinn from public office. There is a hunger within the community for deeper reforms. For New York City government and its key non-profit groups to embrace reforms, activists wonder whether the only way to bring about change is to continue pressing to oust permanent government insider-operatives, like Mr. McCall.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Looking for a donor to make a challenge grant to ACT UP-Paris's crowdfunding campaign

The HIV/AIDS organization ACT UP-Paris has successfully completed an online crowdfunding campaign to raise it's goal of €15,000. Actually, they have exceeded their goal by about €3,000 as of late Friday evening.

Would any philanthropic donors be interested in issuing a challenge grant conditioned on ACT UP-Paris's supporters continuing to raise funds in excess of their goal ? An example of a challenge grant would be a donor challenging ACT UP-Paris's supporters to raise up to €5,000 in excess of the group's original goal, at which point a donor could match 1:1 or 2:1 of this excess amount ? If a donor would pledge to match excess contributions at a ratio of 2:1, this would mean that if ACT UP-Paris's supporters raised a total of €20,000, then a challenge grant donor would look at making a donation of €10,000 to ACT UP-Paris (or, effectively doubling the excess of €5,000) ? This is only a suggestion, and a challenge grant donor would be able to suggest alternative matching ratios and caps on their total contribution commitment.

Any American-based donors interested in issuing a challenge grant, or making a completely private contribution, can contact the group directly by phone at their Paris office : 011 (33) 1 49 29 44 75.

As of Friday evening, 20 days remain before ACT UP-Paris's crowdfunding campaign comes to a close. Contributions can still be made before then through the French crowdfunding platform of KISS KISS BANK BANK.

Please read this very moving essay written by Christophe Martet about the historical impact of ACT UP-Paris.

IBS Support Group in New York City

PUBLISHED : FRI, 16 MAY 2014, 07:30 PM
UPDATED : MON, 28 JUL 2014, 11:09 PM

If anybody is interested in meeting to talk about IBS treatment in New York City, please contact me. You can e-mail me at : lflores22 (at) gmail (dot) com -- thanks.

Over the course of many years, I've had no luck with a long string of gastroenterologists. Some gastroenterologists are useless. I've seen 5 or 6 gastroenterologists in the last many years. My last gastroenterologist was the most caring of them all. We have to change the mindset of doctors : we won't accept and don't deserve to be jilted by the medical community like this.

One idea that people should support is writing to your Congressional representative, asking them to co-sponsor the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2013 (HR 842). HR 842 is supported by members of both political parties and is a revenue-neutral bill. Through this legislation, Congress can direct the National Institutes of Health to allocate existing discretionary resources specifically to IBS and other functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders, which collectively affect about 25% of Americans. Military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. Another idea would be to help garner support to enact a state-wide restroom access law in New York.

This video helps to advocate for support for restroom access for people with GI disorders and diseases. Please contact your New York State Assemblymembers to support the Crohn's and Colitis Fairness Act, also known as the restroom access bill.

Why a support going doing medical advocacy makes sense

From an online community group, I got the sense that it seems like some doctors hesitate to offer treatments that actually make improvements to the lives of people with IBS. There are many reasons for this. Some of the reasons are complex and require organized advocacy, other reasons are simple enough that could probably be solved by just a handful of people. Here are some observations/ideas that I've collected from doing research and conducting interviews with some doctors and with some other people living with IBS :

  • All general practitioners and some GI doctors don't have viable solutions for people with IBS. So much research is coming out on gut bacteria, and I have inquired with doctors about how can people with IBS receive treatments that are informed by this new information about gut bacteria. Specifically, I said that there are some procedures that are approved for people with FGID more severe than IBS, for which people with IBS may benefit from having received, but which are not yet approved. How can people with IBS get approved for these and other experimental procedures ? I was told that experimental procedures can be given to patients in a process to get them approved, but that process is through clinical trials. I asked one doctor how do we start clinical trials for people with IBS ? My doctor told me that we need funding for clinical trials. When I asked how much, my doctor would not say, except that the doctor alluded to major amounts of money. Therefore, any support group for people with IBS has to take the long-view that we need to advocate for funding for clinical trials as a way to speed up the deliver of new treatments for people with IBS, along with the process that could get these new and possibly other treatments approved for more people. The doctor heard what I was saying, but she said that clinical trials would take a long time, and that for right now, there are no immediate solutions, excepting for the use of a few known medications that have already made the rounds amongst the people living with IBS.
  • From one online community that I had briefly belonged to, it seemed like everybody went online to complain about symptoms for which there are no known treatments. As a support group, we can offer each other support, but we should not find it acceptable to hear that there's nothing that can be done, and we should strive to be more than just a place where people complain. One doctor told me that there are some treatments for other known diseases that are still not where we want to be. Therefore, people with IBS are not different than people with other incurable diseases. The challenge for a new support group based in New York City would be to offer the community the right amount of care and support, along with focusing our energy toward finding better treatment solutions.
  • One doctor recommended yoga and relation exercises, but when I asked how do yoga and relaxation help to rebalance our gut bacteria, one of my doctors could not answer my question. As we seek alternative therapies, I think there have to be doctors or advocates to make space for non-traditional therapies, but still hold a space for advancements in rebalancing our gut bacteria. If we can get this support group off the ground, we need to find a doctor or other medical professional, who can help give our support group a grounded medical source of information that has a sensibility for the larger vision about what successful treatment looks like.
  • Another idea that can be examined is if a database of "better" gastroenterologists would be in order.
  • If nothing else, we could create a face-to-face support group for each other, which in and of itself would be great. Some FGID groups, like the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, seem to exclude people with IBS. So, a support group that just meets for people with IBS would be a breakthrough.

If anybody in the New York City area wants to gather and discuss how we can press the medical establishment to offer alternative IBS treatments and to support greater medical research, please let me know. You can e-mail me at : lflores22 (at) gmail (dot) com -- thanks.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Register for the Left Forum to attend the police reform "Veal Pen" Workshop

How Can NYC Police Reform Activists Break Free from the Veal Pen ?

Veal Pen Workshop - The Left Forum 2014 photo VealPenGraphicFacebookEvent_zpse9d5225c.jpg

Workshop : How Can NYC Police Reform Activists Break Free from the Veal Pen ?
Date : Saturday, May 31, 2014
Time : 03:20 p.m. - 04:50 p.m.
Place : Session 3, Room 1.92, 540 West 59 Street, New York, NY 10019

Registration is required to attend the Left Forum 2014 : Register here.

Jane Hamsher appropriated the term “veal pen” to describe how the Obama administration subjugates liberal groups and activists in order to demobilize political pressure for reform from the Democratic left. Join us for an intensive workshop designed to challenge groups and activists, who have voluntarily de-escalated political pressure for police reform following the election of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. To demobilize some police reform groups, lobbyists loyal to the mayor now control the media relations for these reform groups. What has been removed from the messaging from these groups has been the urgency for reform that was present before the mayor won last year’s election. In this workshop, designed for experienced activists, we will undertake a specific action and then strategize about how to create new opportunities for organizing in the area of police reform against a backdrop of this new political landscape. In a real "Veal Pen," the bodies of calves atrophy by design. Under the de Blasio administration, which is sensitive to political pressure from the Democratic left as is President Obama, activists’ ideas for police reform are meant to atrophy by design. Since this workshop is designed to overcome frustrations faced by activists, who refuse to be demobilized, the rigorous activities are intended to stretch participants’ ideas and to draw attention to the Veal Pen.