Tkaczyk gives “no comment” over alleged investigation into de Blasio fundraising operation

Former Democratic State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk had no comment Wednesday when asked if she has been subpoenaed by federal authorities as part of an expanding probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising efforts back in 2014.

On Wednesday The New York Times reported that a federal probe of de Blasio’s campaign fundraising had expanded to focus on the mayor’s 2014 efforts to help win a Democratic majority in the state Senate. The article cites unnamed sources who knew about grand jury subpoenas issued this week in the inquiry.

Tkaczyk, reached by phone Wednesday, had no comment as to whether she’s received a subpoena from federal authorities or been contacted by them.

According to the Times article prosecutors are trying to see whether there was an effort to circumvent state campaign contribution limits because county committees have no limits in doling out contributions from people, groups or companies. The article says there’s no indication that de Blasio is a target of the inquiry.

Back in 2014 Tkaczyk, from Duanesburg, was locked in a heated battle to keep her seat in the 46th Senate District from George Amedore, a Republican and former state assemblyman. Tkaczyk ended up losing. The 46th District includes the City of Kingston and eight Ulster County towns.

In the October before the crucial 2014 election the Ulster County Democratic Committee received huge donations of cash stemming from New York City, according to state Board of Elections records. According to a report filed 11 days before the election, 71-85 Lewis Avenue LLC threw $100,000 at the Ulster County Democratic Committee on Oct. 14, 2014.

The person or people behind the LLC are elusive. Its mailing address is 266 Broadway in Brooklyn and registered as a foreign limited liability company out of Delaware.

New York City property records show that a Mike Kohn, CEO of Alliance Property Capital Group, has signed off on documents in the name of the LLC as an authorized signatory on a lease. The Brooklyn-based group is a real estate intermediary group that helps set up real estate financing, according to its website. A call to Kohn was not immediately returned.

New York City lobbying records also show that the LLC hired the firm Slater & Beckerman, P.C., to lobby on its behalf last year. It paid out $22,505 in 2015 to target city regulatory boards regarding real property decisions.

The name of the LLC also shares a similar address to 71 Lewis Ave. in Brooklyn, a Bed-Stuy community facility that Kohn was looking to convert into a housing complex, according to a DNAinfo New York article last year.

The Ulster County Democratic Committee also received donations from three labor-backed New York City organizations on the same day. Those included $102,300 from the CWA District One PAC, $102,300 from 32BJ United ADF and $60,000 from the NYSNA Political Action Committee. The CWA in generally associated with the Communication Workers of America, 32BJ with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, and the NYSNA with the New York State Nurses Association.

That’s $364,600 going to the committee on one day.

About a week later money from the Ulster County Democratic Committee started flowing to Tkaczyk’s campaign. On Oct. 17 the committee transferred $60,000 to her campaign and $100,000 on Oct. 20. Then on Oct. 21 it transferred $170,000.

On Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 the committee transferred two more checks into her campaign account, one for $100,000 and the other for $170,000, respectively, according to state Board of Election records.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Ulster County Democratic Committee Chair Frank Cardinale said he has received no subpoena nor been contacted by federal authorities. He had no comment as to the origins of the LLC cash or if de Blasio had a role in orchestrating the donations.

At the time Crain’s New York wrote, as well as other outlets, that the money was tied to de Blasio’s fundraising efforts.

A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Manhattan had no comment and said they could not confirm if there is an investigation. The FBI’s New York Field Office said the same.

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New Maloney bill aims to deter painkiller abuse

A new bill by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney would attempt to curb the rampant abuse of prescription painkillers by creating an incentive for drug makers to use extended-release capsules and other “abuse-deterrent technologies” when formulating new medicines.

The incentive is approval speed – or at least the absence of delay. Maloney’s bill, co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey, would require the Food and Drug Administration to create an advisory committee to review and solicit public comments on any new drugs that omit abuse deterrents. Drug makers that include those safeguards could bypass the committee – and the added delay it would bring.

The bill also would establish a suggested curriculum to teach doctors about the risks of opioid abuse.

“No single strategy can solve this problem,” Maloney, D-Cold Spring, said in a press release. “We need a comprehensive approach that builds on proven methods and innovative solutions to end the overprescribing of opioids, get drugs off our streets, and expand prevention and treatment efforts.”

Maloney introduced a different bill last month that would help police send low-level drug abusers to treatment programs instead of charging them with crimes. He also held a “telephone town hall” with around 21,000 constituents this year on combating the growing heroin and painkiller epidemic.





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Upstate Sanders support mirrors 2014 Cuomo primary

Two years ago, a little-known law professor and anti-corruption crusader waged an aggressive Democratic primary challenge against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and came away with one surprising upside in the governor’s otherwise lopsided victory: a majority of votes in 30 of the state’s 62 counties, including large swaths of upstate.

On Tuesday, there were echoes of Zephyr Teachout’s upstate success in New York’s Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. As in that 2014 race, the centrist, establishment candidate cleaned up in New York City and the surburbs and scored a jumbo victory statewide, while the more liberal insurgent walked away with much of the remainder of the state.

Locally, Clinton won Orange County by 2 percentage points, just as Cuomo had scored a slender victory in that county in September 2014. And just as Teachout trounced the incumbent by 2-to-1 vote ratios in Ulster and Sullivan counties, so did Sanders beat Clinton by 26 points and 12 points, respectively, in those two counties in Tuesday’s primary.

More overlap: Teachout is currently making her second foray into politics by running for the congressional seat that Republican Rep. Chris Gibson will vacate at the end of this year. And not only has Sanders endorsed her in her primary race against fellow Democrat Will Yandik for New York’s 19th Congressional District, but he has helped her and two other congressional candidates from other states raise campaign money through an email to his supporters. Ulster and Sullivan are among 11 counties in the 19th District.

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Negative campaign flyers circulating in NY-19

Negative campaign flyers attacking Republicans Andrew Heaney and John Faso have been circulating within the 19th Congressional District.

A resident from southern Rensselaer County sent me copies of two mailers he received on the same day.

Faso, a Columbia County Republican, is in a race to replace Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who won’t run again this year. He’s a former state assembly minority leader, lawyer and lobbyist. He and Heaney, a heating oil executive who lives in Dutchess County, are battling for the GOP nomination in the June primary.

One mailer, paid for by the New York Jobs Council super PAC, attacks Faso over his past stances on gun control.

The anti-Faso mailer makes reference to a March 2000 New York Times article, that quotes him saying he supported then-Gov. George Pataki’s gun control laws despite not thinking it would have much impact on preventing gun crime, according to the article.

The mailer accuses Faso of lying about his NRA record, calls him an “insider lobbyist” and has a illustration of a revolver with the barrel twisted like a pretzel.

The other mailer, paid for by Faso’s campaign, accuses Heaney of falsely attack Faso. It calls Heaney a New York City millionaire, a carpetbagger and points out his past campaign contributions to President Barack Obama.

The mailer also says Heaney was “rejected” by the Republican and Conservative parties and before he lived in Dutchess County he lived “alongside celebrities and socialites at one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan” before selling his apartment for $6.65 million and moving upstate.  The claim is paired with a headshot of Heaney in a tuxedo.

Heaney is currently fighting off a Federal Elections Commission complaint made by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit in Washington D.C. formed in May 2015.

The group is requesting an investigation into what it says is illegal coordination between Heaney’s campaign and the New York Jobs Council, claiming the super PAC and Heaney are both using the same consultants, that Heaney established and help fund the super PAC.

Heaney’s campaign has previously said that Heaney did give money to the PAC but that was before he was a candidate and has nothing to do with it now. They call the complaint baseless and a politically motivated tactic by Faso.

According to FEC filings the New York Jobs Council has spent about $71,000 so far in negative campaign mailers and commercials against Faso.

If you see more mailers in the 19th please send them my way at I’ve attached photos of the flyers below.

Posted in Down in D.C., Sullivan, Ulster | Leave a comment

Brabenec rips Democrats for quashing tax bill

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec teed off on the Assembly’s ruling Democrats this week when they again blocked a longstanding Republican bill that would enable school districts and local governments to freeze property taxes for senior citizens and disabled homeowners earning less than $40,000 a year.

The bill, A2733, originated 10 years ago and has never made it out of the Assembly’s Aging Committee. Brabenec, a Republican freshman from Deerpark who was made a co-sponsor of the bill after joining the Assembly last year, said in a press release, “We have some of the highest property taxes in the nation right here in the Hudson Valley. When Social Security and savings are not enough to escape financial instability during retirement, those who have paid into the system for decades and helped make our nation great deserve a break.”

Brabenec blamed “New York City liberals” for blocking the legislation, arguing they “have little concern about property taxes because many of them rent.”

“Their myopic policies are ruining our community, and I will continue to fight for policies that benefit us all,” Brabenec said.

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Skoufis bill would lift LLC “shroud of secrecy”

A state bill introduced this week by Assemblyman James Skoufis would require the creators of limited-liability companies to identify themselves in public documents, eliminating the secrecy with which campaign donors and property buyers can operate in New York under the veil of LLCs.

Under the bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski of Rockland County, anyone forming one of these shell companies would be required to list the names and home addresses of their owners when filing the incorporation papers with the Department of State, and must subsequently report any ownership change within 90 days. Violators could be fined up to $5,000 or sent to prison for as much as three years.

“Deep-pocketed individuals shouldn’t be able to hide behind the mask of an LLC,” Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, said in a press release. “Requiring these organizations to publicly disclose who their beneficiaries are will help law enforcement agencies better combat fraud as well as shine a light on developers seeking to buy up property under a shroud of secrecy.”

Skoufis mentioned as one example a flurry of recent homes sales in South Blooming Grove in which the buyers are identified only as LLCs, without any actual person’s name. South Blooming Grove Mayor Rob Jeroloman, quoted in the bill announcement, said, “Our local families deserve to know the identity of the investors and developers purchasing property on their blocks. By increasing transparency and letting the public know who’s really behind real estate transactions, Assemblyman Skoufis’ proposal will shed light on what is currently a shroud of secrecy.”

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Maloney, two Republicans petition to run for NY18 seat

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and two Republicans vying to challenge him this fall filed petitions this week to run for the New York’s 18th Congressional District seat.

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat serving his second term in office, could have four ballot lines in all in November, having filed petitions for the Democratic line and three other parties: Independence, Working Families and Women’s Equality. Getting the Independence endorsement to run on its coveted line was a coup for Maloney, who didn’t have that line in his first two races for Congress.

Out of a field of six Republicans who initially planned to run, only two filed petitions by Thursday’s deadline: Phil Oliva, a Somers resident and aide to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and filmmaker Ken Del Vecchio of Warwick. Oliva is the candidate Republican committee members have endorsed; Del Vecchio has cast himself as the Trump-like outsider who’s taking on the party machinery. They will compete for the GOP nomination in a primary on June 28 if both of their petitions withstand any challenges.

Oliva also has petitioned to run on the Conservative and Reform Party lines, guaranteeing him a place in the general election regardless of a primary outcome.

Diana Hird, a fellow Cold Spring Democrat who planned to challenge the incumbent from the left in a primary, didn’t file a petition. She told supporters on Facebook that she had come up 44 signatures short of the 1,250 minimum.

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Updated: NY-19 GOP candidate knocks Teachout over Sanders endorsement

Bob Bishop is condemning the recent endorsement that his Democratic opponent, Zephyr Teachout, has received from presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Bob Bishop, a hay executive and farmer from Hamden in Delaware County, is in a three-way GOP primary race in the 19th Congressional  District with John Faso and Andrew Heaney.

Teachout, a Dutchess County Democrat who’s facing a primary of her own against Columbia County farmer Will Yandik, received the endorsement of Sanders this week.

Sanders’s campaign is  sending out fundraising pleas on behalf of Teachout, touting her stances on fighting against political corruption and anti-fracking.

Bishop, in a press release, condemned Teachout for “promoting the endorsement of an admitted socialist.” Sanders touts himself as a democratic socialist.

“The future of our next generation depends of solving the problems facing our country today. Instead of creating common sense solutions, Senator Sanders and Zephyr Teachout think those problems can be solved through increasing the size of government, allowing for more giveaways and raising taxes on Americans. The scary difference between the two is that Zephyr Teachout would propose even more extreme measures than Senator Sanders,” Bishop said in a release.

Teachout’s campaign declined to comment. Bishop has been trailing in fundraising behind Faso and Heaney as of the end of 2015.

Though Bishop says Teachout is promoting the endorsement, her campaign has been fairly silent on it. Her campaign declined to comment on it yesterday when reached by a reporter. Teachout endorsed Sanders for president in December, before she threw her hat in the ring for the 19th Congressional District.

Teachout also did not attend Sander’s rally at Marist College this week.

Update: Since this posting I’ve received a comment from Teachout on Bishop’s statement. Here it is:

“I endorsed Bernie Sanders because he has put important issues like money in politics, corruption, and trade at the center of his campaign. I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of grassroots support from the amazing activists inspired by his campaign. I believe deeply in the power of organized people. This is a special moment in our history.”


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Gibson’s choice in GOP prez primary: None of the above

Rep. Chris Gibson said Thursday he won’t be supporting any of the GOP presidential nominees in the April 19 primary election next week and may instead write in the governor of Maryland or Oklahoma.

Gibson, R-Kinderhook, made the comments while speaking with Alan Chartock on WAMC’s Congressional Corner Thursday. Gibson is not running again in the 19th district but is strongly considering a run for governor in 2018.

You can find the full audio of the interview here.

“I have not supported any of the Republican candidates nor the Democratic candidates, obviously,” Gibson told Chartock.

Gibson said GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders are tapping into strong emotions that are being felt nationwide and in the 19th Congressional District that he represents. It’s a sentiment he agrees with, he said.

Gibson said those emotions stem from frustration over big bank bailouts, fatigue over war, federal educational standards like No Child Left Behind and federal trade policies like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“What I’m suggesting to you is that big banks, big testing, big war, big trade — all of these things the American people felt left out,” Gibson said.

Gibson went on to tell Chartock that Trump is an insincere person to lead on those issues.

“With due respect to all those who agree with me on all those positions, I don’t think Donald Trump is the right guy lead this movement. It’s insincere. Look, he has been on the other side of these issues over time and when I look at the seriousness that is needed from an executive I just want to see more study,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he won’t support GOP presidential contenders Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich either.

Gibson said he couldn’t support Kasich because of his support of Common Core testing standards, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his foreign policy stances that Gibson described as “neoconservative.”

Gibson said he may write in the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, or the governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, during the April 19 primary.

Posted in Down in D.C., Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Up in Albany | Leave a comment

Sen. Bernie Sanders endorses, fundraises for Teachout

Zephyr Teachout

Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has endorsed Zephyr Teachout for congress in a fundraising email sent out Wednesday.

The email to Sanders supporters, titled “Three Democratic women I need in Congress,” says Teachout “literally wrote the book on political corruption and is running for Congress New York.”

“I am going to need progressives in Congress who are willing to continue the fight we started in this campaign,” the email says.

The email goes on to ask recipients to split a $2.70 contribution between Sanders, Teachout and two other female candidates running for congress in the states of Washington and Nevada.

“We are going to win this primary AND elect a Congress willing to stand up billionaire class of this country,” the email says.

A second fundraising email provided to the Times Herald-Record from the Sanders campaign singles out Teachout and touts her fight against fracking and political corruption. They ask recipients to contribute $2.70 to her campaign.

“Zephyr is exactly the kind of person I’d want in Congress when I’m president. That’s why I’m asking you directly,” the email says.

Teachout’s campaign declined to comment on the endorsement.

Teachout, a Fordham University professor and anti-corruption crusader who rents a home in Dutchess County, is running for the open seat in the 19th Congressional District. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, says he’s not running again.

Teachout waged a primary campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Though she lost she beat Cuomo in Ulster and Sullivan counties by ratios of more than 2-to-1.

In December, before Teachout announced she was running for congress, she endorsed Sanders’ run for president.

“I first saw Bernie Sanders speak in early November 1993, in Montpelier, VT. At a lunch, he explained how NAFTA would undermine workers rights, and American democracy. He turned out to be years ahead of his time,” Teachout said in her endorsement.

Teachout went on to call Sanders a “fearless, experienced leader capable of seeing the truth and standing up to big private power, even when it is almost impossibly hard.

Sanders visited the region yesterday with a rally at Marist College in Dutchess County, though Teachout didn’t attend.

Posted in Down in D.C., Sullivan, Ulster | Leave a comment
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