Diana still sitting on $331,000 in campaign cash

Former Orange County Executive Ed Diana has been out of office since 2013 and hasn’t gotten any campaign donations since 2012, but he still has around $331,000 in unspent loot in his account, according the semi-annual disclosure reporter his treasurer filed this month.

He had spent only $2,650 in the preceding six months, on tickets to fundraisers for Republican office holders and payments to his treasurer, the Orange County Citizens Foundation and the Orange County Republican Committee.

Diana reported no further restitution payments to his account by his former treasurer, Carmen Dubaldi, who has admitted stealing $120,000 from the accounts of Diana, state Sen. Bill Larkin and Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt and is awaiting sentencing. Dubaldi, who has acknowledged pilfering $90,000 from Diana over seven years, returned $61,800 to Diana last year, but he is supposed to repay the full amount he took and also reimburse Diana and Larkin for about $23,000 in forensic accounting fees, prosecutors said in court in April.

Unlike Larkin, Diana hasn’t amended his past disclosure reports to itemize the unauthorized withdrawals that Dubaldi made and the many contributions he never reported in order to cover his tracks.

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Neuhaus: Cruz should have skipped convention

The New York delegates, being New Yorkers, had been a loud and rowdy bunch all along, even before Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hit the stage on Wednesday. Standing in their midst at the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland that night, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus could hear calls of “Say it!” reverberating as Cruz held forth, making it more evident the longer he spoke that he had no intention of endorsing his party’s nominee for president, Donald Trump.

Boos erupted when Cruz concluded by urging Republicans to “vote your conscience” and leaving it at that. Neuhaus, driving home from the convention on Friday, said he was immediately accosted by a TV reporter for an interview after Cruz’ speech, not saying precisely whether a boo had crossed his lips before then. But he said Cruz had made a bad decision and should have stayed home if he couldn’t endorse Trump, as many other former Trump rivals — including Ohio’s own governor, John Kasich — did.

“I don’t think he did anything except hurt himself,” Neuhaus said. “I don’t really fault Cruz on it. I just wouldn’t have come.”

Not a huge Trump fan himself, Neuhaus said the nominee’s acceptance speech was “a little long,” but that he had done better at following the teleprompter and refraining from his usual riffing. What most impressed him were “the people behind him,” starting with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence –  a “very balanced and strong guy” that Neuhaus thinks will help make Trump more palatable to doubters. He also liked Mike Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who spoke during the convention, and political commentator Laura Ingraham, whose speech he ranked second best.

His highest accolades went to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who gave a high-volume speech on law enforcement and public safety — the best of the convention, for Neuhaus — and also met for an hour with the New York delegation to speak further on that theme.

In spite of the pre-convention security jitters, Neuhaus said Cleveland felt “totally safe” while he was there, with police officers “from as far away as California and Texas” helping local police blanket the area, and no signs of tension or friction with protesters that he could see.

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Brabenec leads Albany delegation in 2016 expenses

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec of Deerpark led the region’s Albany delegation in reimbursements for travel, meal and overnight lodging for this year’s legislative session, nosing out two colleagues with comparable totals and long – but slightly less long – driving distances to the capital city.

The state Comptroller’s Office has added to its website two spreadsheets with expenses for all senators and Assembly members for the first six months of 2016, which encompasses the full legislative session that ended in mid-June. The expenses are broken by so-called per diem payments for meals and lodging for days when legislators are working in Albany, plus travel expenses. Travel costs generally consist solely of gas mileage but in some cases also include train, bus and taxi fares, tolls, parking charges and plane tickets for conferences.

Out of 11 lawmakers representing pieces of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, the three who live farthest from Albany – Brabenec, Sen. John Bonanic and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther – each got reimbursed by the state for around $11,000 in expenses. Five lawmakers had lesser amounts, and three – Sen. George Amedore (R-Rotterdam), Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R-Schoharie) and Assemblyman Frank Skartados (D-Milton) – didn’t apply for any reimbursements.

Per diem payments are fixed regardless of how much lawmakers actually spend: $59 for meals for each day trip, and $59 for meals and $115 for lodging for overnight stays. Here are the totals for each of the eight lawmakers who claimed expenses:

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark: $11,268

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh: $11,084

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope: $11,065

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford: $9,350

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury: $7,952

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston: $7,166

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford: $5,301

Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson: $292

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Canterino has Democratic backing to keep Legislature seat

Orange County Legislator Phil Canterino has played an unusual card in his competition with fellow Republican James O’Donnell for his Legislature seat: he convinced the Democratic Party to give him its ballot line for the general election in case he loses a GOP primary to O’Donnell.

Canterino, a former Goshen councilman appointed to county office by Town Board members in the 21st District to replace Democrat Shannon Wong after she departed last year, must run for election to serve the final year of Wong’s unexpired term. O’Donnell, a retired state police commander who served as former County Executive Ed Diana’s second-in-command, had competed against Canterino for the Legislature appointment, and is now running against him for election with the support of the Republican Party.

No Democratic candidates filed petitions for the race by Thursday’s deadline. Instead, Canterino, who may have endeared himself to Democrats by opposing past efforts by Republicans to privatize the county nursing home, filed a Democratic petition with the authorization of the Democratic Party. He also filed a Working Families Party petition, a usual third-party line for Democratic candidates.

Both Canterino and O’Donnell have filed Independence and Conservative petitions, and O’Donnell also filed a Reform Party petition – a new line for Republican office seekers in New York. The Conservative Party authorized both to run on its line, setting up a second primary in September for the two candidates. It’s unclear if there will also be an Independence primary.

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Seven state lawmakers in region face contested races (updated)

State Senate and Assembly candidates filed election petitions with the state Board of Elections over four days this week, laying out the scorecard for primaries in September and the November general election. The upshot: out of 11 Senate and Assembly districts crossing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, seven incumbents face contested races, three will get a free ride to re-election and one open seat has multiple candidates running.

The unopposed candidates are Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope; Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh; and Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie. The open seat is Assembly District 101, which Republican Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is vacating to run for Congress.

Two incumbents face primaries. In Assembly District 98, John Allegro, a leader of the United Monroe citizens group, has filed petitions to challenge freshman Assemblyman Karl Brabenec for the Republican nomination. And in Assembly District 104, Beacon City Councilman Ali Muhammad will compete against Assemblyman Frank Skartados for the Democratic line.

Here’s the lineup of candidates and the petitions they filed by Thursday’s deadline:

(Update: candidates were required to file campaign financial disclosure reports by Friday. For each candidate for whom a report was available, the amount of cash in his or her coffers as of July 11 has been added to the list.)

Senate District 39

* William Larkin Jr.: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $242,468

Chris Eachus: D, WF, WE

Cash on hand: $47,833

Senate District 42

John Bonacic: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $708,026

Senate District 46

* George Amedore: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $218,541

Sara Niccoli: D, WF, WE

Cash on hand: $116,753

Senate District 51

* James Seward: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $404,602

Jermaine Bagnall-Graham: D, WE

Cash on hand: $776

Audrey Dunning: D, WE

Cash on hand: $1,836

Assembly District 98

* Karl Brabenec: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $6,488

John Allegro: R

Cash on hand: $9

Krystal Serrano: D, WE

Cash on hand: $1,695

Aron Wieder: D, I

Cash on hand: $171

Assembly District 99

* James Skoufis: D, WF, WE

Cash on hand: $117,904

Colin Schmitt: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $26,215

Assembly District 100

Aileen Gunther: D, I, WF

Cash on hand: $124,266

Assembly District 101

Arlene Feldmeier: D

Cash on hand: n/a

Maria Kelso: R, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $278

Brian Miller: R, I

Cash on hand: $991

Assembly District 102

Peter Lopez: R, I, C, Ref

Cash on hand: $8,513

Assembly District 103

* Kevin Cahill: D, I, WF

Cash on hand: $67,096

Jack Hayes: R, C

Cash on hand: n/a

Assembly District 104

* Frank Skartados: D, I, WF

Cash on hand: $2,234

Ali Muhammad: D

Cash on hand: n/a

William Banuchi Sr.: R, C, Ref

Cash on hand: n/a


* denotes incumbent

R = Republican

D = Democrat

I =Independence

C = Conservative

Ref = Reform

WF = Working Families

WE = Women’s Equality

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Larkin raises $165,000 in campaign loot in 2016 (updated)

Sen. William Larkin Jr. collected a tidy $165,000 in campaign cash in the last six month, leaving him with around $242,000 on hand for expenses for his re-election fight against Democratic challenger Chris Eachus, according to the financial report the Cornwall-on-Hudson Republican’s campaign filed Monday with the state Board of Elections.

Larkin’s campaign submitted the report four days before the filing deadline, perhaps to trumpet the robust fundraising after a year of headlines about his former treasurer, Carmen Dubaldi, embezzling (and later returning) money from the accounts of Larkin and two other Orange County politicians. The 88-year-old lawmaker is due to file petitions this week to run for a 14th Senate term. Eachus, his opponent, is an Orange County legislator from New Windsor who challenged Larkin in 2012 and gave him his closest election race in recent memory.

Larkin’s largest contribution in the latest report was a $10,000 check from Elbridge Gerry, the Harriman family scion who lives in Long Island and is active with the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen. Not far behind was the $9,000 donation from Time Warner Cable.

Larkin got $5,000 checks from each of the following: Thomas Weddell, managing partner for the Newburgh accounting firm Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni & Weddell; the employees union for United Water, a water company serving Rockland County and part of New Jersey; Mediacom, a cable TV company based in Blooming Grove; Crystal Run Transformation Services, an offshoot of the Crystal Run Healthcare medical network, based in the Town of Wallkill; and Dale Hemmerdinger, chairman of the Manhattan real estate company ATCO.

Update: Eachus reported on Friday that he had raised $48,000 — including $10,000 he loaned his campaign — in the two months since he entered the race. His biggest contribution was an $11,000 check from the Fighting for Children PAC, a group advocating for legislation to lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits against people accused of sexually abusing children – a bill that Senate Republicans blocked.

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Maloney denounces Oliva response to Dallas attacks

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney upbraided his Republican challenger on Friday for suggesting on Twitter that the shootings of police officers during a protest in Dallas could be attributed to “racial division” that President Obama has sown “for political gain” since his first run for president eight years ago.

“Now the country is reaping a nightmare,” GOP candidate Phil Oliva concluded in his tweet.

Maloney, responding on Twitter, said Oliva’s tweet offended him as a father of an interracial family, was racist and demanded an explanation. He later called it disturbing that his opponent’s first instinct was to “stoke racism,” rather than honor the victims or call for unity.

Oliva removed the tweet and and conceded “it was wrong” in a Twitter response to Maloney, saying it was a day for prayers, not finger-pointing. He issued a statement elaborating on what he had meant.

“Like millions of Americans I hoped for the ‘post-racial’ society that President Obama promised in 2008.  Sadly, today we have so much racial division, and I believe the President, as the leader of our nation, shares in the blame for that. But today is a day for mourning the murdered police officers, not a time to point fingers; that’s why I removed the tweet.  We need to heal as a nation.”

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Senator introduces Maloney’s bill on public defenders

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced Thursday that U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey will sponsor a bill that Maloney introduced in April that would allow federal class action suits against states that effectively deny poor criminal suspects proper legal representation by underfunding their public defender systems.

The bill, known as the Equal Justice Under Law Act, would allow defendants to sue for ineffective representation before they’re convicted, reducing the possibility that those who are wrongly convicted must fight for exoneration while incarcerated. The sixth and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution guarantee all criminal defendants a lawyer, but Maloney and others argue that right is diluted when public defenders are burdened with excessive caseloads because of underfunding.

“Fifty-three years after the Supreme Court reaffirmed our constitutional right to an attorney, public defenders are still juggling hundreds of cases and defendants are still meeting their lawyers only minutes before entering a guilty plea,”  Maloney said in a press release about Booker’s sponsorship of the bill. “Our criminal justice system is broken, and that disproportionately hurts poor Americans. The Equal Justice Under Law Act introduces a vital step to repair our broken system by giving indigent defendants the tools they need to secure their right to effective counsel before it is too late – giving all Americans, regardless of the size of their paycheck, equal justice under the law.”

In New York, where counties bear the cost of indigent defense and long groused that it’s an unfunded state mandate, state lawmakers voted last month for Albany to gradually take over responsibility for the expense. Orange County officials say that under the plan, the state will begin assuming a share of the costs in April 2017 and shift the remainder over the next six years. Orange County has budgeted to spend $2.7 million on Legal Aid and $2.5 million on assigned counsel in 2016.

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Skoufis announces bid for third Assembly term

Assemblyman James Skoufis announced Thursday that he’ll seek reelection, underscoring shortly before he and other candidates file their petitions to run for state Legislature what he already had said in April, when he decided to run again for Assembly rather than seek the Senate seat held by Republican Bill Larkin.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal over the last four years,” the Woodbury Democrat said in a press release. “Still, there’s more work to be done creating jobs, controlling taxes, protecting our Hudson Valley quality of life and cracking down on public corruption. I’m up to the task and ready to attack this agenda as aggressively as ever.”

Skoufis, who’s seeking his third term representing the 99th Assembly District, will be challenged in November by Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican who ran unsuccessfully in a GOP primary for the Assembly seat in 2012 and has been campaigning for months with no Republican rivals. Assembly and Senate candidates file their petitions next week.

“I’ve worked hard every single day to make real progress on the issues that matter most to Hudson Valley families,” Skoufis concluded in his release. “And now that I am engaged to be married and plan to raise my family right here, ensuring we have top notch schools and helping to control property taxes is taking on a whole new significance.”


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Supporters rally behind expelled Newburgh Dems (updated)

Supporters of 11 people expelled from the City of Newburgh Democratic Committee because of a party split in last year’s mayoral election have released a set of photos and short descriptions of the expelled members to protest what they feel were unjust “disloyalty” charges lodged by the committee’s chairman and ultimately affirmed by the Democrats’ county leaders.

The city’s Democratic chairman is Jonathan Jacobson, the former longtime head of the Orange County Democratic Committee and a losing candidate for Newburgh mayor last year. He beat Mayor Judy Kennedy in a Democratic primary last September, but she went on to defeat him in a general election by running on the Independence Party line. The campaign caused a bitter division among Newburgh Democrats and provoked “disloyalty” accusations even before the election.

Jacobson later brought party-disloyalty charges against 11 committee members who supported Kennedy instead of him. One, City Councilwoman Karen Mejia, quit her committee seat in disgust before a hearing on the disloyalty charges in May. The county Democrats’ executive committee removed the other 10 in June, affirming the recommendations of a party hearing panel. All are free to run again in September to try to reclaim their committee seats.

Here are the expelled committee members and the descriptions of them supporters provided this week, accompanied by a statement saying that “these people worked tirelessly to help Newburgh move towards a positive future” and calling their removal “short sighted, arrogant bullying.”

Dr. Benilda Jones, CEO, Imaging Success Group, Inc; Chair, City of Newburgh Human Rights Commission

Kippy Boyle, Member, Conservation Advisory Council

Fernando Cardona, Retired IBM Executive

Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History, Columbia University; Member, Newburgh Board of Ethics

Lisa Daily, Retired teacher, Chairman of Newburgh Planning Board, Chairman of Land Bank

Deborah Danzy, Senior Community Health Promoter, Planned Parenthood

Karen Eberle‐McCarthy, retired Professor of Spanish, Mount St. Mary College; Officer of Latinos Unidos, Member Downing Park Planning Committee

Brian Flannery, 16‐year Member, Newburgh Democratic Committee

Mary Elin Korchinsky, Retired NECSD Teacher, Community Volunteer

Karen Mejia, Councilwoman, City of Newburgh Human Rights Commissioner, mother

Ramona Monteverde, Director of Operations, Safe Harbor; Member, Newburgh Planning Board

(Update: Jacobson responded in an interview on Friday that the Democratic committee members were “duty-bound” to support the party’s nominee after the primary or else keep quiet. Those who couldn’t do so and wanted to remain active for the general election should have quit their committee seats and started their own organization, he said. As for the civic-mindedness of the expelled members, he said: “There’s no question that they’re all part of the community. Everybody’s part of the community – that’s not the point.”)

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