Thursday, July 31, 2014

MORE ETHICS PROBLEMS : Cuomo's corrupt budget machinations intersect with state and local prosecutors

REUTERS EXCLUSIVE : Gov. Cuomo intervened in BNP Paribas settlement deal to get $1 billion more for New York state fund

Gov. Cuomo has claimed that the state is broke, that it can neither afford to support community hospitals, nor fully finance the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge ; meanwhile, the state is rolling in new billions in Wall Street fines

In an update to a blog post from last December about the Hunger Games behind the New York City and New York State budgets gimmicks, now comes Reuters with an exclusive story detailing the billions in windfalls from Wall Street corruption settlements.

The biggest revelation in the Reuters article was that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) had bullied Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance out of an extra $1 billion from his original $2.2 billion share of the mammoth $9 billion settlement paid by the French bank BNP Paribas to end investigations into the bank's violation of banking sanctions against the nations of the Sudan, Cuba, and Iran.

Gov. Cuomo won the additional $1 billion on top of a $2.24 billion slice that the state was already set to receive, bringing Albany's cut of the BNP Paribas settlement to a whopping $3.29 billion. For the office of the Manhattan DA, Mr. Vance kept $449 million, and the government of New York City kept $447 million. The balance of the BNP Paribas settlement, $4.5 billion, was kept by the U.S. federal government. The settlement has already been paid and divided up, according to the Reuters report.

New York State's haul of $3.29 billion is in addition to the IPO-sized $8 billion Medicaid waiver that the Obama administration granted to New York State following Gov. Cuomo's scorched earth campaign of austerity cuts to the state's Medicaid program. Gov. Cuomo's Medicaid cuts were so draconian, leading to healthcare service cuts and hospital closings, that some Medicaid patients are suing the state in a federal class action lawsuit to roll back some of Gov. Cuomo's cuts. The $8 billion Medicaid waiver is expected to be paid, in the form of extra budget allocations, over a period of five years, according to Capital New York. The Reuters report referred to another possible $500 million that New York State received in settlements from Standard Chartered Bank and ING Bank NV. A further $700 million, not included in the Reuters report, was received by New York State after banking giant Credit Suisse pled guilty and paid to end an investigation into the bank's controversial tax evasion operations.

Gov. Cuomo, a neoliberal Democrat, is facing a tough reelection this year following endless controversies surrounding the political machinations at play in his decision to prematurely close a corruption-fighting panel, the Moreland Commission. As a result of a pattern of interference with the investigation panel, Gov. Cuomo is vulnerable to a possible federal criminal investigation for obstruction of justice, amongst other likely charges. Under normal circumstances, the governor would use these extra state resources for pork barrel projects to buy up large voting blocks he needs to win a glorious reelection by a margin of victory wider than his father's, which has been said is his goal. But nobody knows what the governor is doing with the approximately $12.5 billion in new-found revenue.

Some of the Medicaid waiver is meant to go for healthcare services, presumably to help fund the state's expansion of Obamacare under Medicaid, but when the governor recently announced a plan to bend back the infection curve for HIV/AIDS in the state as part of a landmark effort to effectively end the AIDS crisis, his politically-timed announcement only promised to allocate a measly $5 million for this effort, an amount that some AIDS activists do not believe in enough to do outreach in some of the hardest-hit communities. If there is an $8 billion pot of dedicated healthcare resources available that is supplemented with another $4.5 billion in Wall Street settlement monies, why is the governor only allocating $5 million in next year's budget to ending the AIDS pandemic in New York State by the year 2020. Achieving this noble but ambitious goal in less than 6 years with a kick-off budget of only $5 million seems unrealistic.

It doesn't add up.

In the last year, the Cuomo administration kept saying that New York State could not afford to bail out Long Island College Hospital, or LICH, in Brooklyn, but yet here is the governor sitting on a pile of billions while hospitals are closed and Medicaid home care services are uniformly being cut for people most in need. More generally, when New York State planned to build a new $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge, the governor initially proposed funding some of the construction costs with a controversial loan of over $500 million from a state environmental fund in a bizarre budget maneuver. Government reform activists were horrified by the governor's budget gimmicks. Activists demanded to know how the governor planned to really pay for the costs of the new bridge, and the release of the financial information was stalled until finally the state government released redacted financial plans, keeping voters in the dark about how Gov. Cuomo intended to pay for the new bridge -- in spite of having billions in resources.

Similar criticisms can be made of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has garnered hundred of millions of dollars in Wall Street settlement monies for the city's coffers. The city is also poised to raise approximately $1 billion from the proceeds of the sale of zone-busting air rights around Grand Central Terminal. With these resources at hand or on the horizon, the mayor did nothing to bail out LICH, either, and as progressives demand all the resources to finally end homelessness for youths in the city, the mayor keeps stalling, afraid to part with the city's millions, and, like Gov. Cuomo, refusing to account for his plans for these jackpots.

Of the hundred of millions of dollars of the Wall Street settlement monies remaining with the Manhattan DA's office, some of that money is being allocated for costly tech contracts to upgrade police capabilities, whilst other parts of the Manhattan DA's proceeds will be used to pay to upgrade security at public housing developments. These two areas are plagued by corruption. New York City has a history of approving and funding outsourced technology projects, like CityTime and the ECTP 911 emergency call system that have led to combined cost over-runs nearing $2 billion, because there is no oversight. The security at the city's public housing developments is grossly inadequate, and even after millions of dollars are allocated to improve security doors, security cameras, and other measures, those improvements never seem to materialize. Since there is no taxpayer oversight of the city's five district attorneys' offices, taxpayers have no watchful eye supervising these gargantuan settlements. Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, for example, faces city, state, and possible federal investigations over using funds seized from criminals to pay for a campaign consultant.

As the Reuters piece pointed out, Gov. Cuomo saw these billions, and he sent his loyalists to upset sensitive settlement negotiations until he managed to enlarge his cut. Even New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has clashed over proceeds in respect of still yet another settlement, that one involving $613 million (not reflected in the amounts indicated above) from JPMorgan Chase, only to be similarly challenged by Gov. Cuomo, too. But nobody knows what really happens to this money, or to the budget offsets that they create, once politicians become involved. At first, DA Vance had planned to send his office's entire $2.2 billion (before the governor slashed that by about half) to a federal asset forfeiture fund, which appears to be some kind of slush fund of the U.S. Treasury.

Do Gov. Cuomo, the district attorneys, and the mayor plan to account to voters where all this money is going to, and who can account to voters how this money is actually being used ?

Where is the transparency ?

As federal prosecutors continue their possible criminal investigation into the governor's interference with the Moreland Commission, government reform activists wonder why the state attorney general and local prosecutors have been loath to serve as a check on the governor's political over-reach. Perhaps Gov. Cuomo's heavy-handed budget machinations, which intersect with the budgets of state and local prosecutors, serve as one possible explanation. If all things were equal (and they are not), is Gov. Cuomo trying to starve prosecutors of the resources they need with which to investigate political and campaign corruption ?

RELATED


Gov. Cuomo intervened in BNP Paribas settlement deal to get $1 billion more for New York state fund (Reuters)

Inquiry Widens Into Hynes’s Spending as Prosecutor (The New York Times)

Gov. Cuomo pleas for federal help on Brooklyn hospital closures (The New York Daily News)

New York State board approves scaled-back loan for Tappan Zee Bridge project (The New York Daily News)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mayor de Blasio "too busy" to follow Moreland Commission scandal, even as it may yet ensnare him

Should Mayor de Blasio worry about The Advance Group federal complaint that was referred to the Moreland Commission ?

In Orwellian twist, Mayor de Blasio professes Gov. Cuomo's "integrity," even though the Cuomo administration is under federal investigation over the corrupt closure of the Moreland Commission

When asked earlier today by reporters about the Moreland Commission scandal engulfing the Cuomo administration, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "I'm not following it, because I have a lot of other things to do."

The mayor, just back from a 10-day vacation to the Italian Riviera, is acclimating himself to a new political landscape upended by an ethics controversy that may claim the political career of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who disbanded a corruption-fighting panel known as the Moreland Commission at the end of last March.

In the wake of protestations by government reform activists, who opposed Gov. Cuomo's unseemly closure of the Moreland Commission, Mayor de Blasio strong-armed the Working Families Party two months ago into endorsing Gov. Cuomo's reelection campaign. Now that Mayor de Blasio is vulnerable to a political backlash for having endorsed a candidate under possible federal investigation, the mayor is trying to distance himself from the governor's scandal.

However, as federal prosecutors conduct their promised due diligence of the unfinished Moreland Commission's corruption investigations, amongst the information that prosecutors will be reviewing is the federal complaint against The Advance Group, which was referred to the Moreland Commission after it was filed with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Last year was the first time when the corrupt Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case allowed big money campaign contributors to compromise the integrity of New York's municipal elections, ensnaring the de Blasio mayoral campaign in the activities of a controversial Super PAC managed by The Advance Group.

RELATED


Mayor de Blasio is too busy to follow Moreland Commission brouhaha, but hails Cuomo's "integrity" (The New York Daily News)

The Advance Group Federal Complaint Referred To Moreland Commission (NYC : News & Analysis)

Mayor de Blasio privately asks Working Families Party to back Gov. Cuomo for reelection (The New York Daily News)

Cuomo and de Blasio : Give Back Extell Campaign Donations

Petitioning Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio : Give back Extell campaign donations photo cuomo-de-blasio-change-dot-org-petition600_zps4068cb38.jpg

Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio profited from huge campaign contributions from a wealthy real estate developer now being engulfed in scandals.

Following controversies that Extell Development Company had been subpoenaed by the Moreland Commission and that Extell won approval from City Hall to legally segregate low-income residents to use a separate "poor door" building entrance, why are Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo keeping campaign contributions from Extell ?

Sign the Petition : Cuomo and de Blasio : Give Back Extell Campaign Donations (Change.org)

By some estimates, Mayor de Blasio accepted over $18,000 in campaign contributions from Extell, related entities, or related individuals. For his part, Gov. Cuomo accepted over $300,000 in campaign contributions from Extell-related donors, according to some press reports.

If not for the reason that Extell was the target of investigation by the Moreland Commission before the panel was disbanded, then for the reason that Extell is forcing low-income residents to use a segregated entrance -- Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo need to disgorge Extell's campaign contributions.

RELATED


Petitioning Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio : Give Back Extell Campaign Donations (Change.org)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Corruption of New York City Council slush funds leads to another guilty verdict, this time for Ex-Councilmember Dan Halloran

PUBLISHED : TUES, 29 JUL 2014, 09:36 PM
UPDATED : MON, 04 AUG 2014, 11:05 AM

Amongst the charges for which former Councilmember Halloran was found guilty was plotting to funnel $80,000 in City Council slush funds as bribes to others

Melissa Mark-Viverito photo melissa-mark-viverito-speaker600_zps9c5db6f9.jpg

Controversy over City Council slush funds continue under the new Council speaker, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito

Former New York City Councilmember Daniel Halloran was found guilty today by a jury, concluding a federal trial for corruption charges stemming from his arrest for participating in a scheme to buy the GOP ballot line for State Sen. Malcom Smith, a wannabe mayoral candidate in last year's municipal elections.

Former Councilmember Halloran's accepted money in what was described as a bribe for his role in the corruption scheme. In exchange, he had pledged, in part, to use $80,000 in City Council slush funds for further bribes in this corruption scheme. Former Councilmember Halloran had planned to funnel the $80,000 from the monies awarded to him by the City Council speaker, who, at her discretion, awards member items to Councilmembers for further payment to various nonprofit groups. The practice of distributing member items from the speaker's discretionary fund has been a historical source of corruption in the City Council. Government reform activists also see the use of these slush funds as ways to keep community groups locked up in proverbial "veal pens," preventing, for example, some community groups, such as VOCAL-New York, from pressing for a complete overhaul to end corruption at the New York Police Department.

Previously, three Councilmembers : Larry Seabrook, Hiram Monserrate, and Miguel Martinez, and two former council staffers of then Councilman Kendall Stewart : Asquith Reid and Joycinth Anderson, have been charged in connection with corruption related to the slush fund scandal.

After former Councilmember Halloran's arrest, his slice of the slush funds came under review by former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was once the target of a federal investigation into her own, larger slush fund scandal. After the outcome of last year's municipal elections, former Speaker Quinn was succeeded by Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker. Speaker Mark-Viverito had promised to reform the politically-corrupt process of doling out the Council's slush funds. However, this year, Speaker Mark-Viverito sparked controversy when she was caught allocating millions of dollars in slush funds to a charity group founded by one of her key campaign consultants. This year's allocation of slush funds were further complicated when Councilmember Ruben Wills was arrested on unrelated corruption charges. Councilmember Wills' cut of this year's slush funds were reportedly to be divided up amongst groups in his Council district at the direction of Speaker Mark-Viverito's office and other Councilmembers of the Queens delegation, Capital New York reported.

As the U.S. Attorney for New York's southern district, Preet Bharara, continues his campaign to prosecute government corruption cases, former Councilmember Halloran's conviction shows voters that federal prosecutors know where to keep looking : at the role that the Council's slush funds plays in elected officials' machinations to "sell out their offices."

How many more Councilmembers and their staff must be ensnared in corruption cases by federal prosecutors before the Council's slush funds are either reformed with true integrity or ended entirely ?

RELATED


Former Councilmmember Dan Halloran Found Guilty in Corruption Case (The New York Observer)

Another campaign consultant tied to Council Speaker Mark-Viverito in still yet another controversy (NYC : News & Analysis)

Quinn in the Slush (New York Magazine)

Lulu heroes and zeroes : End the City Council’s legal bribery (The New York Daily News)

City Council members can’t prove they donated bonuses to charities (The New York Post)

Bill de Blasio voted for "poor door" before he was against it

Extell Development Company, the developer behind the building that won permit to operate segregated entrances based on tenant income, was the target of a subpoena of the now-defunct Moreland Commission.

Now that the U.S. Attorney's Office possesses the Moreland Commission's investigation files, will it expand inquiry into how Extell won approval for de jure segregation at its building at 40 Riverside Blvd. ?

One of the wealthy real estate developers that was the target of a subpoena issued by the now-defunct Moreland Commission was Extell Development Company, a developer with notoriously close ties to the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). Extell is also the developer of the controversial building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan that now segregates tenants to use different entrances, based on income.

The use of the "poor door" was approved by the Democratic Party-controlled City Council in a 2009 vote. In a report in The New York Post, it was said that Mayor Bill de Blasio voted for the provision that allowed Extell to force low-income tenants to use the "poor door."

During last year's mayoral race, Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly accepted over $18,000 in campaign contributions from Extell, according to calculations prepared by Mayor de Blasio's rival, Sal Albanese. Mr. Albanese's calculations were published last year by Crain's New York Business.

Last year, Extell became the subject of interest for Moreland Commissioners investigating the pay-to-play corruption in Albany. It was reported that Extell made over $300,000 in related campaign contributions to the campaign committee of Gov. Cuomo in the time leading up to when Gov. Cuomo signed into law tax breaks reportedly worth $35 million over a ten-year span for another of Extell's developments, the $2 billion super luxury condominium tower on West 57th Street known as One57.

If the corruption-fighting investigators of the Moreland Commission were interested in the corrupt pattern of pay-to-play in politics that invited large campaign contributions to fix legislative outcomes, then will the way Extell won its de jure segregating "poor door" provision approved by the City Council merit the same kind of scrutiny as did the $35 million tax breaks signed into law by Gov. Cuomo ?

RELATED


Bill de Blasio voted for luxury building ‘poor door’ (The New York Post)

Sal Albanese Blasts Rivals For Accepting Corrupt Real Estate Donations (Crain's New York Business)

In Mayoral Race, Attacking Real Estate Industry but Taking Its Cash (The New York Times)

Extell, Silverstein, Thor hit with subpeonas over tax breaks (The Real Deal)

Extell upped Cuomo donations during tax bill talks : State law granting One57 an abatement could shave $35M in costs (The Real Deal)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Former Moreland Commission co-Chair William Fitzpatrick Issues Statement to Press

Former co-chair of the now-defunct Moreland Commission, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, issued a press release Monday morning, addressing various issues over the premature closing of the troubled anti-corruption investigation panel. Federal authorities are investigating allegations that officials with the Cuomo administration steered investigators away from the questionable fundraising and other activities of some of the governor's big money campaign contributors.

For Immediate Release From Da Fitzpatrick 7-28-14 by Nick Reisman

Cuomo to be in Buffalo today, as ex-Moreland Commission figure testifies before a federal grand jury

Andrew Cuomo's obstruction of the Moreland Commission : a moment of truth for New York's political reporters

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. this morning at the University of Buffalo, his first public appearance since a damning article in The New York Times last week accused the governor of directing criminal investigations away from his political allies. The governor's appearance is timed to overshadow the Grand Jury testimony of Heather Green, who was the assistant to the former Executive Director of the now-defunct Moreland Commission, Regina Calcaterra.

To further establish Gov. Cuomo's obstruction of the Moreland Commission's investigations, will the media examine allegations of corruption by Cuomo allies : the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the Partnership for New York City (PFNYC), and the now-shuttered Committee to Save New York (CSNY) ?

If Gov. Cuomo truly obstructed the corruption investigations by the Moreland Commission, what were his motivations ?

By all accounts, the media has reported that Gov. Cuomo was acting to hide the questionable fundraising and other activities of his big money campaign contributors and other political supporters -- people, who had business before the state. If true, the actions of Cuomo administration officials to carry out Gov. Cuomo's obstructive orders will undoubtedly become the focus of some of today's Grand Jury testimony.

What light can Health Green show on Cuomo administration officials' backchannel communications with Ms. Calcaterra, the former Moreland Commission executive director, who was Gov. Cuomo's plant on the investigative panel ?

Whose pay-to-play activities were the governor trying to hide ?

So far, we know that the Cuomo administration was sensitive to the activities of REBNY, the Extell Development Company, the campaign commercial-related firm Buying Time, and the Committee to Save New York (and its funders) from coming under scrutiny. As the press looks for angles to keep alive this complicated story of obstruction of justice, will the press have the guts to further investigate the apparent pay-to-play implications of the questionable fundraising and other activities of Gov. Cuomo's big money campaign contributors ?

We know how whistleblowers have had to deal with intimidation and retaliation from the Cuomo administration. How do intimidation and retaliation of the press factor into allegations of obstruction ?

In a roundtable of reporters on last Friday's Inside City Hall on NY1, Senior editor for Politics and Policy at WNYC Radio, Andrea Bernstein, spoke about the hostility that reporters must put up with from Cuomo administration officials over criticisms in the press. Will reporters back down under the Cuomo's retaliatory mode in the fallout of the Moreland Commission scandal, or will reporters find the courage to finally report the whole truth about the years of pay-to-play corruption in New York State politics ? Stay tuned.

RELATED


Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission (The New York Times)

Cuomo should shoulder blame for defunct anti-corruption panel, say irate commission members (The New York Daily News)

Cuomo, Astorino to Be in Western New York as Fallout from Corruption Report Continues (Time Warner Cable News)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Voters have more choices than to just vote Gov. Cuomo out of office after he corrupted the Moreland Commission [UPDATED]

PUBLISHED : THURS, 24 JUL 2014, 11:31 PM
UPDATED : SAT, 26 JUL 2014, 08:30 PM

The demise of the Moreland Commission : The high price of avoiding a fundamental overhaul of the broken political system

Andrew Cuomo - Moreland Commission Scandal - Commission Accomplished photo AndrewCuomo-CommissionAccomplished_zps2cbda66d.jpg

In the lengthy The New York Times report about the Cuomo administration's relentless obstruction of the independent investigations once being conducted by the now-defunct Moreland Commission, the newspaper of record finally named names : that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was apparently serving the best interests of large campaign contributors -- amongst them, the Real Estate Board of New York ; the Extell Development Company, developer of the $2 billion luxury condominium tower on West 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan ; and the donors to the Committee to Save New York, a controversial 501(c)(4) charity group that acted as Gov. Cuomo's political arm -- instead of the best interests of voters.

As federal prosecutors piece together the pattern of activities over a period of time that may have broken state or federal laws, which form the corrupt political machinations that thwarted subpoenas, concealed political activities, and altered reports -- leading to the politically-motivated, premature closure of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, voters are left having to examine the high price society pays to keep corrupt politicians, like Gov. Cuomo, in office. What keeps the broken political system so corrupt and corruptible ?

With the media fallout from the lengthy article in The New York Times and a possible federal investigation threatening to end Gov. Cuomo's political career, voters will probably not be shocked, once they learn the answer.

Intimidating, retaliating, and controlling officials or witnesses

Gov. Cuomo's power, it is now being revealed, stems from his control-freak nature, his need to badger his opponents into submission, his need to stack the political deck in his favor from the outset. One way he does that is by relying on help from powerful lobbying groups, like the Real Estate Board of New York, or REBNY as it is known for short. REBNY is a powerful lobbying group of extremely wealthy real estate developers. They are also a source of large campaign contributions at both the city and state levels. The lengthy article in The New York Times was perhaps the second time over the course of a decade when REBNY got singled out for scrutiny for its role in packaging large campaign contributions to political candidates in apparent exchange for special, insider access to government officials, who determine government policy or shape laws that impact the real estate industry. The last noteworthy time when The New York Times came close to outing REBNY was when reporters identified real estate developers as amongst the largest campaign contributors to the early-identified New York City mayoral candidates in the 2009 election cycle. Real estate developers were rushing to donate maximum amounts of campaign contributions before new restrictions were set to take place, which would limit the amount of money that business interests seeking business before the city could donate to candidates for public office. That previous article was a reflection of the realities in New York City politics, namely, that when real estate developers seek municipal approval for zone-busting real estate projects -- from the controversial, tax-payer assisted Hundson Yards project, to the $1 billion luxury condo conversion of St. Vincent's Hospital -- the city's politicians always acquiesce to developers' demands. Money not only buys insider access, but it apparently buys approvals of the city's development permitting process, a fact that The New York Times doesn't always make clear.

Obfuscation is the trick that keeps voters in the dark to the pattern in political corruption. Some of the same corrupt developers, who donate to Gov. Cuomo, also make campaign contributions to municipal politicians, all in an effort to game the broken political system. Two members of the Rudin family, owners of Rudin Management Company, made campaign contributions to Gov. Cuomo's campaign committee in the sum of $35,000. Other contributions, totaling $50,000, originated from a limited partnership in the name of the address of a Rudin office building on Park Avenue. The leader of the Rudin family is William Rudin, a board of director of both REBNY and a powerful Chamber of Commerce-like group known as the Partnership for New York City, or PFNYC for short.

In the 2009 New York City mayoral election cycle alone, owners of Rudin Management Company made contributions nearly totaling $30,000 to the campaign committee of former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. These campaign contributions were made in the lead-up to Rudin's application for what eventually became a $1 billion luxury condo conversion of St. Vincent's Hospital. The hospital, in Speaker Quinn's Council district, needed her approval in order for the rest of the City Council to act in nearly unanimous lockset to rubber-stamp Rudin's zone-busting permit application. Tens and tens of thousand dollars in campaign contributions explains why healthcare activists heard, "We'll see you after the election," from the Cuomo camp in 2010, and heard nothing from former Speaker Quinn after her troubled reelection in 2009.

A decade ago, when the wealthy landlords of several of the city's Mitchell-Lama buildings were contemplating exiting the affordable housing program, REBNY lobbied the New York City Council -- and won -- a package of low-cost loans for the wealthy landlords that did nothing to expand affordable housing to New Yorkers. Instead, the financial benefit of such packages, on top of existing Mitchell-Lama subsidies and tax breaks, was to pad the bottom line of the city's wealthy Mitchell-Lama landlords, and that decade-old, low-cost loan package was spun as a way to incentivize wealthy Mitchell-Lama landlords to voluntarily remain in the affordable housing program without any newly-won guaranteed rent caps, much less rent reductions, for low- and moderate-income tenants. Whatever REBNY wants, REBNY gets.

To the corrupt enablers of the broken political system, reforms, of any kind, need to be blocked

Overseeing REBNY for almost three decades now has been Steven Spinola. In the lengthy report in The New York Times, Mr. Spinola was singled out for having written a controversial memo to REBNY members, asking the membership to make campaign contributions to Democrats in the State Assembly, a move that the Moreland Commission's chief of investigations, E. Danya Perry, found to be indicative that large campaign contributors believed that making political donations could determine legislative outcomes. The wealthy landlords and developers, who comprise REBNY, invest tens of thousands of dollars in political candidates over the course of their careers, amounts that can sometimes reach six figures for a single politician. Like all bean counters, real estate interests expect a return for this investment. That's why no major zone-busting real estate development has ever been turned down in New York City over the last decade or so, with the possible exception of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan for a West Side stadium. That project was doomed from the start, because it would have competed with the wealthy Dolan family's interests in Madison Square Garden. In New York real estate circles, wealthy interests rarely want to create conflict between competing interests, because any conflict would draw scrutiny to the unseemly lobbying process that developers would rather keep below the public's radar. Fixing the outcome of zone-busting real estate permit applications depends on keeping the broken political system in place, where large campaign contributions can have an influence in legislative or zoning application processes -- outcomes upon which big business interests can rely.

According to the lengthy report in The New York Times about the demise of the Moreland Commission, Gov. Cuomo was trying to avoid any scrutiny of his real estate supporters, for example, the REBNY lobbying group or Extell, the real estate developer. Like Rudin, Extell is another wealthy real estate development company that has made sizable campaign contributions on both the municipal and state levels. A partial listing of campaign contributions by individuals with connections to Extell shows that over $16,000 in campaign contributions were made to former Speaker Quinn's mayoral campaign committee and that a partial listing of still yet other donations were made to Mayor de Blasio's winning mayoral campaign committee of at least $6,000. More on the role of Extell on influencing building policy under the de Blasio administration later.

On top of trying to avoid scrutiny of developers, Gov. Cuomo and his enablers, including Regina Calcaterra, manipulated the workings or censored the work product of the Moreland Commission. Even though the Moreland Commission has been shut for several months, some media reports indicate that Gov. Cuomo continues to pay Ms. Calcaterra her full executive director salary, even though the commission is now disbanded, raising questions amongst political bloggers as to what exactly Gov. Cuomo is paying Ms. Calcaterra to do, i.e., remain quiet about the background political machinations that drove the Moreland Commission into the ground ?

But the corruptive influence that appears to drive the political machinations for the Cuomo administration is not limited to the real estate industry. Another group, the PFNYC, has also exerted great influence in the Cuomo administration, according to government reform activists. The PFNYC is a powerful group of business executives from some of the nation's largest corporations, which operate out of New York City. Together, REBNY and the PFNYC were heavily involved in the Committee to Save New York, or CSNY for short, a pro-Cuomo charity group that raised over $16 million in contributions to advocate in support of several political issues. CSNY disbanded before the group was required to disclose the sources of its contributions.

The PFNYC, a member group of CSNY, is headed by Kathryn Wylde, the media's go-to-person for pro-business talking points. Ms. Wylde was a chief advisor to former Speaker Quinn, according to one political blogger, and her influence can be felt across the political spectrum in New York government. Although Gov. Cuomo vehemently denied that he was a shill for the PFNYC, there's no realistic way possible that pro-business groups would raise over $16 million and spend most of it on TV commercials supporting the Cuomo administration's agenda if the pro-business groups weren't expecting something in return. When Gov. Cuomo denies a quid pro quo on a scale of this magnitude, he is not being fully forthcoming with voters. That Mr. Spinola at REBNY and Ms. Wylde at the PFNYC can raise these amounts of contributions without public scrutiny is tantamount to government, but yet nobody calls for an end to the loopholes that allow lobbying groups to game the political system in their favour. No elected official, not even those whose campaign planks purportedly represent "progressive" values, dare to close the loopholes and champion for campaign finance reforms. No politician on the take from wealthy landlords or real estate developers dares to overhaul the corrupt municipal process that reviews billion-dollar zone-busting real estate development deals known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP for short. Here's why.

Millions of dollars in 501(c)(4) money and hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions are meant to block reforms

The only way that big business interests can keep fixing the outcome of permit applications and legislative processes is keep in place a system where only big money campaign contributors get insider access to elected officials. This is the roadblock to a complete overhaul of the broken political system, and it is this roadblock that very few media outlets fully expose. The lengthy article about Gov. Cuomo's backroom machinations to sabotage the Moreland Commission named a few names, like Mr. Spinola, REBNY, Extell, and the CSNY. But notice how Ms. Wylde and the PFNYC were left out. Also left out were the possible corrupting influence of $17,500 in campaign contributions made to Gov. Cuomo's campaign committee from the wealthy Kestenbaum family, founders of the Fortis Property Group, which eventually won the zone-busting development rights to convert Long Island College Hospital, or LICH, into what could amount to a billion dollar luxury condo complex in the fancy Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. Official government policy outcomes always match the relentless pattern of campaign donations. The fix is in.

For years, thousands of healthcare activist from across New York City have been frustrated by newspaper articles by the hospital beat reporter, Anemona Hartocollis, who has never -- not even once -- mentioned how big real estate developers are corruptive influences that secretly cheer for the early closure of community hospitals across the city in order to bid pennies on the dollar for redevelopment rights to real estate sites that can gross revenues of several hundred millions to perhaps into the billions. Behind the media bias in articles like these, many healthcare activists and political bloggers believe, are the powerful business interests of REBNY and the PFNYC. It isn't just big business interests, which try to influence the media to disconnect the dots back to big business interests ; elected officials don't want that kind of scrutiny, either, because of the paper trail that large campaign donations link elected officials back to big business interests. If in respect of the Moreland Commission, the governor was able to successfully steer the Moreland Commission members away from troublesome links to the CSNY, then it wouldn't be that much more difficult for big business interests and elected officials to team up to steer the media away from troublesome links between former Speaker Quinn and Rudin Management Company in respect of the $1 billion luxury condo conversion of St. Vincent's.

Behind why voters can be deceived is the unshakeable public perception that the media does not fully report the whole truth about political corruption. The voter anger at former Speaker Quinn in her own Council district in 2011 was a harbinger that her political career was over. This voter anger was never fully reflected in media reports at the time. A close parallel to today is the growing political anger in Brooklyn, which is now directed at Mayor Bill de Blasio, over the closure of LICH in his very own borough. After the lessons learned from the spectacular failure of former Speaker Quinn's mayoral campaign, some media outlets have woken up to the voter dissatisfaction that hospital closures create amongst voters, meaning the sense of Mayor de Blasio's betrayal of the LICH community is slowly emanating from Brooklyn to the rest of the city, but still no thanks to key reporters at The New York Times, like Ms. Hartocollis. The larger story about hospital closings, which the media fails to report, is that Gov. Cuomo exacerbated these hospital closings under his controversial Medicaid Redesign Team, a panel that was steered to recommend draconian cuts to Medicaid, so much so that some of the Medicaid cuts are now being challenged in court. The hospital closings made under the Medicaid Redesign Team were spearheaded by Gov. Cuomo's hatchet man and Wall Street banker, Stephen Berger, but this fact is not widely reported by the media, misleading voters into thinking that hospitals are failing for business or commercial reasons, instead of the fact that hospital closures are actually central to Gov. Cuomo's austerity program. It's not that former Speaker Quinn or Mayor de Blasio are excused for their failed efforts to save St. Vincent's or LICH, for example, but that former Speaker Quinn and Mayor de Blasio have refused to fully educate voters about the power play dynamics playing out in political back rooms, decisions they make no doubt under the influence of big money contributions by real estate interests vying for lucrative luxury condo conversions of the real estate assets of failed hospitals.

Voters don't fully see the truth about the corrupt decisions government makes, and one lengthy article in The New York Times about Gov. Cuomo's corrupt machinations to undermine the Moreland Commission isn't enough and doesn't repeat facts enough times, for the necessary messages to permeate throughout the electorate. Indeed, voters found out too late how Gov. Cuomo's office had managed to intimidate the former Albany Bureau Chief and the former political editor of The New York Times, a political machination, which may explain why some government reform activists rightly perceived a bias from former metropolitan editor Carolyn Ryan, who espoused a bias in support of the political marionettes of the PFNYC, like former Speaker Quinn.

Meet some of the victims targeted by the broken political system enabled by Gov. Cuomo and his supporters : Whistleblowers, activists, voters, and even some government officials

On the same day when Seema Kalia was set to testify before the Moreland Commission in 2013, at the invitation of Ms. Calcaterra, Ms. Kalia says, she was arrested and hauled to Rikers Island, where she was locked up for almost six months. Ms. Kalia's arrest prevented her from testifying before the Moreland Commission about financial improprieties, which, she says, involved institutions, such as Trinity School and the law firm Wachtel Lipton Rosen & Katz, with political ties that could be traced back to Gov. Cuomo. Prior to her arrest and incarceration, Ms. Kalia provided a summary of her expected testimony to Ms. Calcaterra during a telephone conversation that they had shared. The issues of corruption, which Ms. Kalia expected to bring before the Moreland Commission involved potential tax improprieties, amongst other issues. Ms. Kalia had attempted to reach out to the Moreland Commission with her information after the district attorney for Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, refused to investigate, Ms. Kalia said. Like with other whistleblowers, who had separately tried to directly contact Moreland Commission members about corruption after local authorities refused to investigate, the Moreland Commission never formally promised to investigate Ms. Kalia's referral. Part of the retribution Ms. Kalia has had to endure since blowing the whistle on corruption has been the loss of custody of her children, some political activists believe. Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult to believe that the Cuomo administration or the institutions implicated in Ms. Kalia's testimony would go to great lengths to retaliate against a witness, but the Cuomo administration has a definite pattern of hostility toward whistleblowers.

In 2013, Gov. Cuomo's director of state operations, Howard Glaser, publicly excoriated a state engineer, Mike Fayette, in an act of public retaliation for Mr. Fayette's unauthorized communication with the press. The year before, the Cuomo administration objected to a critic of the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Jeffrey Monsour, being appointed to serve on a panel discussion on developmental disabilities. The Cuomo administration reversed its objection after criticisms of the administration's backlack were published by The New York Times. Also in 2012, Gov. Cuomo himself publicly retaliated against Ravi Batra, a founding member of the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE for short, creating a hostile environment for Mr. Batra, who resigned in protest over allegations that Gov. Cuomo attempted to steer control over JCOPE. From compromising the investigations of the Moreland Commission or JCOPE to retaliating against whistleblowers, these are examples of a pattern of corrupting political activities relating to Gov. Cuomo's obsession with keeping his official acts in alignment with the expectations of big business donors to his campaign committee.

The unmistakable pattern of political activities points to how the Cuomo administration seeks to manipulate or restrict the communication by whistleblowers or state employees set to speak before panels or with the media. Retaliation is commonplace. Like each of Mr. Monsour, Mr. Fayette, and Mr. Batra, Ms. Kalia has been excoriated in the media. As federal prosecutors reportedly investigate the political machinations of the Cuomo administration to thwart the investigations of the Moreland Commission, left unreported is how are each of these whistleblowers going to receive justice. Will Ms. Kalia see her charges investigated and her children returned ? Will Mr. Monsour and Mr. Fayette be guaranteed workplaces that are free of hostility and retaliation ? Can the other commissioners serving on JCOPE be assured of independence from the Cuomo administration ? And can the Cuomo administration amend its public statements about Mr. Batra, to restore public confidence in the integrity of whistleblowers like him ?

The Cuomo administration's apparent political backlash directed at critics isn't isolated to a few, vocal activists. The broken political system overseen by Gov. Cuomo and enabled by his generous campaign contributors also runs rough shod over large sections of the general public. Residents of low income housing, for example, become ensnared, too. Extell, the real estate developer, was founded and is headed by Gary Barnett, a member of REBNY's executive committee and board of governors. Mr. Barnett through his company, Extell, is represented in the media by the lobbyist and campaign consultant, George Arzt. Mr. Arzt is a controversial figure in New York politics, because, over the last several years, he has made over $90,000 in campaign contributions to various politicians, knowing that money is the corrupt grease the spins the squeaky wheels of government.

Recently, Extell won approval from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to segregate tenants of affordable housing units to through separate entrances of apartment buildings. The separate entrances approved for low- and moderate-income tenants is colloquially referred to as the "poor door." How could the de Blasio-Mark-Viverito administration, one which likes to advertise its "progressive" aspirations, approve such a regressive and discriminatory practise ? It all comes down to the influence that large campaign contributions by donors, like Extell, and the corrupting influence of lobbyists, such as Mr. Arzt, exert over the political process. Since Gov. Cuomo is owned by Extell, the Democratic governor is in no position to check the de Blasio-Mark-Viverito's new "poor door" policy, effectively leaving unchallenged Extell's discriminatory new entrance policy. The announcement of Extell's controversial new policy came as Mayor de Blasio was departing for a 10-day vacation that includes stops along the Italian Riviera. Real estate developers get exactly what they want.

Left unchecked, the broken political system that allows even corruption-fighting investigation panels, like the Moreland Commission and JCOPE, to become corrupted, works to further undermine the public's faith in the democratic process and in the judicial system. Who will volunteer to serve on future Moreland Commissions if high-ranking state officials can obstruct the commissioners' independent investigations ? Ms. Perry, the Moreland Commission's former chief of investigations, fought back against the meddling by the Cuomo administration. Now, Ms. Perry, as well as other Moreland Commission members, such as Kathleen Rice and William Fitzpatrick, may very well have to account for their actions before federal prosecutors, a task that will no doubt clear the names of some, based on the reporting of the Cuomo administration's serial acts of obstruction. However, this is an undue burden that should not have to accompany public service, and it will act to deter future public servants from coming forward to accept similar government appointments.

Also left unexamined is why Gov. Cuomo chose the vehicle of a Moreland Commission to conduct his investigation into corruption in Albany. Why a Moreland Commission, and why not task the state's attorney general's office with this task ?

Again, the public is left in the dark about the political machinations that touch upon the state's judicial system. The state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, holds an elected office. To run for office, Mr. Schneiderman seeks the endorsement of the same corrupt political operatives that are responsible for enabling government and campaign corruption. Mr. Schneiderman seeks endorsements from the county chairs of the Democratic Party, political clubs, and other politically-active nonprofit groups. Mr. Schneiderman relies up campaign consultants and political lobbyists for electioneering work, and Mr. Schneiderman must raise campaign contributions to fund an expensive state-wide election campaign. Two readily-identifiable limited liability companies related to the real estate developer Tishman Speyer bundled at least $70,000 in campaign contributions to Mr. Schniederman's 2014 campaign committee. Rob Speyer is Co-Chief Executive Officer of Tishman Speyer, and he also serves as Chairman of REBNY. Anytime an office holder must rely upon contributions to a campaign committee, that generally opens the door to that elected official being potentially owned by his or her campaign contributors or other political operatives. Indeed, as the political scandal of the demise of the Moreland Commission has befallen upon the Cuomo administration, Mr. Schneiderman, who himself appointed some of the commissioners, has made the politically-calculated move to remain silent, to the detriment of voters' interests.

The same criticisms apply to the various local district attorneys around New York State. Any of these local district attorneys could have opened up investigations into the various examples of government or campaign corruption across New York state, but the district attorneys don't, for the very same reasons that the state's attorney general is conflicted about investigating and prosecuting cases of government or campaign corruption : cases consisting of violations of local or state law that involve the potential for the prosecution of significant political or government individuals pose special problems for local and state prosecutors, precisely because local and state prosecutors belong to the same corrupt political system that breeds government and campaign corruption, leaving only federal prosecutors relatively independent enough to mount such investigations and to bring such cases, if warranted. Given how the Obama administration has politicized the Department of Justice, government reform activists and political bloggers are gambling that Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District, has the fortitude to see through a massive investigation into government and campaign corruption that could potentially yield a once-in-a-century renewal in government integrity.

The false choice proposed by The New York Times

On the day the lengthy report was published in The New York Times, the media worked itself into a stampede, hopping on the bandwagon to report about the Cuomo administration's apparent obstruction of justice in the proceedings of the Moreland Commission. The day after, the editorial board of The New York Times published an editorial, presenting voters with a choice : keeping their elected representatives in office, or voting them out.

This is a false choice.

Voters don't just have a choice to vote out corrupt elected officials. They also have a choice to demand an overhaul of this broken political system. The continued short-sightedness by The New York Times points to how voters are not fully informed about the true depths of corruption in government.

In last year's mayoral election, the voter backlash against the perceptions of community betrayal and public corruption during the 15 years of former Speaker Quinn's political career became co-opted by a Super PAC, NYC Is Not For Sale. The voter backlash and the Super PAC's co-opting measures played out for the public and the media to see. However, the media was limited in its ability to fully scrutinize the behind-the-scenese political activities and finances of the Super PAC, which were apparently being coordinated with official campaign committees and which involved controversial sources of funding and the sharing of other resources that cast questions about impropriety and possible illegality over the activities of the Super PAC. But these questions were largely raised after it was too late -- either after Mayor de Blasio had taken the lead in opinion polls or after he had won the Democratic mayoral primary. The deliberate lack of media scrutiny of Mayor de Blasio's campaign resulted in voters getting another neoliberal hack Democrat for mayor, who espouses the racist broken windows theory of policing and whose administration approves separate-but-equal poor doors for residents of affordable housing units.

Similarly, just voting Gov. Cuomo out of office based on voter backlash to his record of corruption and neoliberalism isn't enough. Voters must elect a change agent outside of the corrupt two-party system. Leftists need to leave the Democratic Party. As advocated by this blog, voters are encouraged to look at the record of Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins' campaign platform calls for ideas that would overhaul the broken political system by ending opportunities for corruption. His proposals for reform include a Clean Money bill that would fund full public campaign financing, meaning, a ban would have to be instituted on all private campaign donations. This radical step is the only way to cut out the undue influence of Mr. Spinola, REBNY, 501(c)(4) charity groups like the CSNY and the mayor's corrupt Campaign for One New York, Ms. Wylde, the PFNYC, Extell, Rudin Management Company, and other big money campaign contributors that enable corrupt politicians, like Gov. Cuomo, therefore keeping the political system broken and corruptible to big money donors. Even in the face of one week's worth of intense media scrutiny and even a possible federal investigation, big money real estate interests have cavalierly denounced any intention to stop funding big money donations to politicians, like Mr. Cuomo. REBNY is unapologetic for apparently fixing the legislative outcomes based on their large campaign contributions.

While you check out Mr. Hawkins' platform, look up other issues you care about. You might find his untethered approach to overhauling the corrupt political system refreshing. If Mr. Hawkins campaign is not for you, then please support a campaign with idea that match his for boldness.

Voters have more options than just voting Gov. Cuomo out of office.

RELATED


Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission (The New York Times)

Gov. Cuomo’s Broken Promises (The New York Times)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Public Advocate Letitia James better be ready to stand in for Mayor de Blasio, at the rate he's flouting campaign finance laws

How much longer can the mayor and his army of lobbyists violate the spirit of campaign finance laws, before they trigger possible corruption investigations ?

Funneling campaign-like donations to Mayor de Blasio's political arm through shady limited liability corporations

JUST ONE WEEK AFTER Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial 501(c)(4) charity group, the Campaign for One New York, published its list of donations and expenditures, drawing heavy media scrutiny and criticism from good government groups, The New York Post reported that firms with ties to unions seeking favorable school bus union contracts made stealth contributions to the mayor's shady nonprofit group partly through the use of cloaking corporations or relatives of principal owners of bus companies.

One bus company with $90 million in contracts, Careful Bus Co., made contributions to the mayor's political charity of almost $10,000 through a number of pass-through entities, including 88th Street Self Storage Inc. and First Investors Equipment Leasing Corp., according to The New York Post. Another donation made to the mayor's charity came from a bus company with approximately $110 million in contracts, L&M Bus, and L&M Bus made its contribution of $15,000 through a limited liability company acting as a pass-through entity, Stable Realty LLC. The LLC shares the same Brooklyn address as L&M Bus. Other contributions from bus company-related entities were made by the brothers Chris and Joseph Termini, who made contributions of $10,000 without disclosing their ownership interests in two transportation firms they own. Another contribution to the mayor's charity was made from Richard Caparella, who is the brother-in-law of Careful Bus co-owner Marty Hoffman.

BerlinRosen, which managed Mr. de Blasio’s successful mayoral campaign and is now managing the mayor's political arm, the Campaign for One New York, refused to comment on fundraising irregularities noted in the review by The New York Post of the Campaign for One New York's finances.

Government reform activists are only now beginning to see how arrogant the de Blasio administration is when it comes to flouting the spirit of campaign finance laws. Last week, when the press began to scrutinize the finances of the Campaign for One New York, many good government groups denounced the mayor's dependence on big money contributions to his political nonprofit group. “It makes it seem as if public policy and the people’s business is up for sale to the largest bidder,” Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, told The New York Times.

Mayor de Blasio's reliance on funneling campaign-like donations from big money interests through limited liability corporations is reminiscent of the same loophole used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a program that has come under further scrutiny by the press for allowing structuring campaign contributions in a way to violate campaign finance regulations and on contribution limits. Already, a political operative with close ties to the mayor, Scott Levenson, is reportedly under investigation for allegedly coordinating political activities between official campaigns he managed with the political activities of political action committees, which is a violation of campaign finance laws. The pattern of political activities surrounding the mayor have also drawn further criticisms.

A new Sienna College poll published this week shows that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers believe that state politicians are corrupt. So far nobody has looked into how voters perceive municipally-elected officials, although we may have some insight from one of the elected officials' peers. When Public Advocate Letitia James was campaigning for Rep. Charles Rangel in June, Ms. James reminded a crowd at Memorial Baptist Church in Harlem of her leadership experience and her position in the line of succession to the Iron Throne at City Hall. “If anything should happen to Mayor Bill de Blasio,” she said, “you are looking at the next mayor of the City of New York.”

RELATED


School bus firms try to hide $40K in donations to mayoral nonprofit (The New York Post)

Bill’s cash grab : The mayor sidelines political-money controls he once praised (The New York Daily News)

Campaign For One New York Lobbying Group Adopts de Blasio’s Agenda (The New York Times)

Lobbying Group Aiding de Blasio Spent $1.7 Million in First Half of 2014 (The New York Times)

Alarm raised about ‘‘dark money’’ behind de Blasio’s LICH - Fortis letter (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

The Campaign for One New York has received a total of $1.7 million in less than seven months - and about three-quarters of that, $1.2 million, came from just five donors (The New York Daily News)

Campaign for One New York Raised Nearly $1.8 Million to Coordinate Political Activities In Support of de Blasio's Agenda (The Wall Street Journal)

Voters Are Not Surprised When Albany Pols Get Indicted, Siena Poll Says (The New York Observer)

Public Advocate Letitia James ready to step up during Mayor de Blasio's Italian vacation (The New York Daily News)

NYC Campaign Finance Board to Fernando Cabrera: Give back our money (The New York Daily News)

Monday, July 21, 2014

US Ambassador to South Africa meddling in New York politics -- again

Patrick Gaspard is back to his old political tricks, with more possible violations of the Hatch Act

The unrelenting political activities of a U.S. State Department ambassador to prop up the Democratic Party's political machine in New York

America's ambassador to the nation of South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, is once again engaging is political activities that some critics say may violate a federal law that prohibits such involvement by federal government employees.

Ambassador Gaspard has been engaged in behind-the-scenes political machinations to support the candidacy of Michael Blake, who is campaigning to seek the New York State Assembly seat vacated by Eric Stevenson after he was convicted of bribery in January, The New York Post reports, adding that, Mr. Blake is a "protégé" of Mr. Gaspard.

The federal Hatch Act aims to limit the ability of U.S. politicians to use federal employees for activities of political parties. This reform stemmed from allegations that Democratic Party officials exploited government employees for political gain during the New Deal, but the electioneering regulation restricts federal employees, with few exceptions, from all political parties from engaging in political activities.

This isn't the first time that Ambassador Gaspard has flouted Hatch Act regulations. Today's article in The New York Post mentions that prior to reportedly lobbying the healthcare union SEIU 1199 into endorsing Mr. Blake, Ambassador Gaspard was engaged in political activities in support of the reelection campaign for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

Prior to that, a New York Republican Party political operative, E. O'Brien Murray, lodged a Hatch Act complaint with the State Department, accusing Ambassador Gaspard, a former top White House aide and the former top political operative with SEIU 1199, of violating restrictions on political activities by getting involved last year in Bill de Blasio's mayoral campaign. Ambassador Gaspard appeared to further flout the Hatch Act by reportedly lobbying in favor of City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito's selection as the new Council speaker. All of Ambassador Gaspard's electioneering activities were conducted while serving as an ambassador under the U.S. State Department.

How many times will prosecutors, intent on cleaning up corruption in New York politics, keep allowing Ambassador Gaspard a green light to exploit his office, position of influence, and federal resources accorded to him in relation to his position in the U.S. State Department, if any, for electioneering activities to benefit Democratic Party candidates for public office ?

RELATED


State assembly candidate Michael Blake’s ‘ragged’ efforts for ‘hope and change’ (The New York Post)

GOP Operative Files Hatch Act Complaint Against U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard (The New York Daily News)