Faso slaps Heaney and anti-Faso super PAC with cease-and-desist

John Faso, a Columbia County Republican running to fill the open seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District, has slapped his GOP primary opponent Andrew Heaney with a cease and desist letter to stop “knowingly spreading falsehoods in his advertisements and public statements.”

And Heaney’s response: Sue me!

The letter, sent from Faso’s attorney and released via his campaign, says Heaney, his campaign treasurer and the New York Jobs Council, an anti-Faso super PAC that’s been running ads against Faso, should publicly retract the “deliberate falsehoods and stop using related advertisements” being used against him.

“The most important qualities voters should look for in an elected official are character and integrity,” Faso said. “By making and recklessly repeating these false charges, Mr. Heaney has demonstrated that he is willing to say and do anything to advance his political career.”

But in a statement Heaney, a Dutchess County heating oil executive, defended the statements as true. The political advertisements refer to a 2010 settlement that Faso’s former law firm, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, made with the office of the former  state attorney general, now-governor Andrew Cuomo.

Stemming from a pension pay-to-play scheme, Manatt paid a $550,000 fine and agreed to a five-year ban from appearing before any public pension fund in New York. The firm admitted no wrongdoing.  The settlement said that the firm worked as unlicensed financial broker working to help companies win business with New York’s massive pension funds. Manatt received fees for successfully placing an investment with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, but its other efforts failed.

The settlement says one partner of the firm, who is referred to only as an “Albany-based partner/lobbyist” and who practiced law, government relations and lobbying, introduced alternative investment firms to pension funds that included the New York State Common Retirement Fund, New York City pension funds and the New York State Teachers Retirement System.

“The Albany-based partner/lobbyist was not licensed as a placement agent or securities broker; nor did he include these activities on his New York State or New York City lobbying disclosure forms,” the settlement says.

Though Faso was not named in the settlement, he was subject to its terms like the rest of the firm of more than 400 members. When Faso left the firm in 2013 he was no longer subject to it. Faso has said he never acted as a placement agent in the firm and was never subpoenaed. Bill O’Reilly, Faso’s campaign spokesman, has previously said the investigation into Faso was politically motivated.

“The facts are the facts: John Faso was politically targeted in 2010 by a famously vindictive Andrew Cuomo; he was parsed to the minutia, and found to have done nothing wrong,” O’Reilly said.

At the time, Faso was identified by some outlets as the Albany insider in the settlement. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said Faso was one of the people who helped secure investments. The Times Union cited a source close to the investigation arranged or tried to arrange investment firms and state pension funds.

Despite the letter Heaney, in a statement, doubled down on the issue Thursday, saying that Faso is the unnamed person in the settlement and challenging Faso to sue the campaign.

“John Faso is the ‘Albany-based partner lobbyist’ who was sanctioned by the Attorney General for violating state laws, he knows it, the press knows it and absolutely everyone in Albany knows it. But like his Albany pals Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, John Faso thinks he is above the law and will lie to the people of the 19th Congressional rather than admit his crimes. John Faso, please sue our campaign! We would run to court eager to prove what everyone knows,” Heaney said.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is retiring. The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

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Middletown judge plans to run for county court

Middletown City Court Judge Steve Brockett plans to challenge Orange County Court Judge Robert Freehill for his position when the Republican incumbent runs for another 10-year term this fall.

Brockett, a full-time city court judge for 11 years, announced Wednesday he will seek the Democratic, Independence, Working Families and Green Party ballot lines for the county court race. In his announcement, he touted his experience presiding over Middletown’s drug-treatment court and his helping to establish the county’s first mental health court in 2009.

“As a husband, father and lifelong Orange County resident, I understand the importance of keeping our communities safe,” Brockett said in his statement.  ”My full-time service since 2005 in one of the busiest local courts in Orange County has prepared me to be County Court Judge.”

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Bob Bishop drops out of race for NY-19

Bob Bishop, a Delaware County hay and alfalfa farmer, dropped his bid for the Republican nomination in the 19th Congressional District Tuesday and endorsed fellow Republican John Faso.

Bishop said in a press release that “the time has come for the Republican Party to unite behind our strongest candidates if we are going to reclaim our country for our next generation.”

Bishop was in a three-way GOP race with Faso, a Columbia County lawyer and former state Assembly minority leader, and Andrew Heaney, a Dutchess County heating oil executive.

Bishop and Heaney had been battling to frame themselves as the outsider candidate in the race and Heaney supporters had been challenging the petition signatures of Bishop, saying they were fraudulent.

That challenge brought the ire of Bishop, who attacked Heaney for the move, even as Bishop’s campaign said the state Board of Elections eventually upheld enough signatures to keep him on the primary ballot. But on Tuesday Bishop dropped out and gave a full-throated endorsement of Faso.

“Part of being a leader is recognizing when another individual is the best person suited for a position. John Faso has shown us that he has what it takes to best represent our interests,” Bishop said.

Bishop had also lagged severely in fundraising behind Faso and Heaney. While Faso and Heaney have raised more than $1 million each so far, Bishop had only raised roughly $28,000.

Heaney, through a statement, said Bishop’s departure sets up “a clear choice between John Faso, a 30 year lawyer-lobbyist and failed Albany politician versus Andrew Heaney a political outsider and conservative small businessman who wants to change the corrupt culture in Washington, D.C.”

Faso called Bishop’s endorsement “a meaningful one” and said he looks forward “to his friendship and counsel both as a candidate and as a member of Congress. ”

Bishop is the second Republican to drop out of the race. Assemblyman Peter Lopez dropped out earlier this year, saying his father was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Heaney and Faso, along with Democrats Zephyr Teachout and Will Yandik, are vying for the seat being being vacated by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson. He’s leaving at the end of his term this year to lecture at Williams College in Massachusetts next year.

The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

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Schmitt releases web ad for Assembly race

Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican planning to run for Assembly seat this fall, has released an Internet campaign ad that will soon be aired in the 99th Assembly District.

The 2 minute, 30 second commercial features scenes from Schmitt’s campaign kickoff in New Windsor on April 9, and excerpts of speeches that Schmitt and supporters such as Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Assemblyman Karl Brabenec made at that event.

Schmitt is seeking the Assembly seat now held by James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat serving his second term in Albany. Skoufis, who had considering running for Senate this year, announced last month he would forego a Senate run and seek reelection to the Assembly instead. The 99th District consists of nine Orange County towns and Stony Point in Rockland.

Here’s Schmitt’s forthcoming ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB-EAPfMMBk

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Mystery donation buoys anti-Faso super PAC

The New York Jobs Council, the super PAC that’s been attacking congressional candidate John Faso, took in $25,000  in cash from a mysterious entity out of Lakewood, N.J.

The New York Jobs Council, in a report from the Federal Election Commission, reports that it raised $46,000 in the last quarter. The super PAC has been lodging attacks ads and mailers against Faso, who’s in a Republican primary race with Andrew Heaney and Bob Bishop to take over the 19th Congressional District seat.

The biggest donation, according to reports, came from “Investment Partnership,” which donated $25,000 on February 3. The entity lists its address as 1 Airport Rd. in Lakewood, N.J.

An online search lists the address as the location of Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf P.C., a lawfirm co-founded by Lawrence E. Bathgate II, Heaney’s father-in-law. A secretary at the firm Friday said Bathgate was in Europe and wouldn’t be back until Monday but the website says that Bathgate ”is involved in all aspects of the firm’s business.”

Heaney married Leslie Bathgate in 2000, according to a New York Times wedding announcement. Lawrence E. Bathgate II was the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee under President George H. W. Bush from 1987 to 2002, according to the announcement.

David Catalfamo, Heaney’s spokesman, has previously said that Heaney contributed to the super PAC before he was a candidate but he’s not involved in running it now “in any way.” Super PACs are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money in races but they’re not allowed to communicate or coordinate with specific candidates.

The donation came around the same time that the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit in Washington D.C. formed in May 2015, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against Heaney requesting an investigation into what it says is illegal coordination between Heaney’s campaign and the New York Jobs Council.

Heaney’s spokesman has denied any wrongdoing from the campaign and said the complaint traces back to Faso and their battle for the 19th Congressional District.

The New York Jobs Council has spent roughly $71,000 in television and direct mail all opposing Faso, a former state Assembly minority leader, lobbyist and lawyer from Columbia County. Heaney is a heating oil executive from Dutchess County.

The PACs biggest single expenditure  in the last quarter went to Clark Hill PLC, a Washington D.C.-based law firm. It paid them $18,525 in legal fees.

Faso, Heaney and Bishop are vying for the GOP nomination in the June primary. Two Democratic candidates, Zephyr Teachout and Will Yandik, are also competing for the seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Gibson, a retired Army colonel who is leaving to become a lecturer at Williams College next year.

The 19th District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

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Poll: 97 percent in NY want ethics reform

A nearly unanimous field of poll respondents in New York have a pretty clear idea how they want state lawmakers to spend their final weeks of the legislative session in Albany this year: passing laws to curb corruption.

That seemed to be the mandate when work began in January with the odor of two major corruption convictions thick in the air. But even with the empty seats of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to remind them, lawmakers stripped Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ethics reforms from the budget and have yet to reconcile the different reform priorities of the ruling conferences, the Assembly Democrats and the Senate Republicans.

Lest there be any doubt about public opinion on this matter, 82 percent of New Yorkers answering a Siena College poll released Tuesday declared it “very important” that the Legislature pass “new laws to address corruption in state government” before lawmakers call it a year in mid-June. Another 15 percent deemed such laws “somewhat important,” making it 97 percent in all who want such legislation.

No other topic exceeded that level of importance in voters’ minds. They placed a higher priority on passing anti-corruption laws than on combating heroin addiction, reforming Common Core education standards and expanding affordable housing.

“The problem is clear, but voters don’t agree on all solutions and they are decidedly pessimistic that Cuomo and the Legislature will address the corruption issue before the end of session,” Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement.

Most poll respondents agreed with Senate Republicans on a dispute that has blocked a seemingly obvious reform: stripping convicted lawmakers of their state pensions. The Senate has proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose that penalty on any public employee convicted of a job-related felony, but Assembly Democrats — bowing to pressure from public employees’ unions — have backed a separate measure that would apply only to elected officials, judges and certain other employees.

Lawmakers have 18 session days left to pass laws before their year is scheduled to end on June 16.

Ongoing headlines will make it hard to avoid the corruption subject as they churn through their bills. Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday for taking nearly $5 million in kickbacks disguised as attorney “referral fees.” Skelos is due to be sentenced on Thursday.

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Democrats weigh charges of disloyalty within ranks

A special panel of Orange County Democratic Committee members held two hearings this week on charges of party betrayal lodged by former office seekers in Monroe and Newburgh who were spurned by fellow Democrats.

One set of allegations was brought by former county Democratic Chairman Jonathan Jacobson, who tried unsuccessfully last year to unseat the City of Newburgh’s Democratic mayor, Judy Kennedy. The other was filed by Dan Burke, a former Monroe town councilman who lost his reelection bid last year. Both Jacobson and Burke are demanding the party expel committee members who publicly opposed them or campaigned for other candidates.

The hearing on the Newburgh complaint took place at Hamptonburgh Town Hall on Wednesday evening. Jacobson, who is chairman of Newburgh’s Democratic committee, presented his case against 11 committee members who backed Kennedy instead of him. Kennedy had lost the Democratic primary to Jacobson but ran on the Independence Party line and won a three-way race in the general election.

Jacobson’s targets declined to participate in the hearing. Newburgh Councilwoman Karen Mejia, a Kennedy supporter Jacobson wanted to boot, tendered her resignation at the outset rather than submit to what she described on Friday as a farce. “I just wanted to be done with this,” she explained. “It’s just such an unnecessary drama.” She questioned how Jacobson could accuse other Democrats of disloyalty after he tried to defeat a Democratic incumbent.

Other Democrats Jacobson hopes to oust left after reading aloud a statement that said, “We will not participate in a closed deliberation that violates our most fundamental principles of justice–and of the Democratic Party.”

The subcommittee set up by Orange County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge to consider the disloyalty accusations held a separate hearing this week on Burke’s demand to remove six Monroe committee members, including the town chairman, Tom Kemnitz, and his wife, Myrna, who is a county legislator. They had repudiated Burke last October after he voted in support of an annexation request that would expand Kiryas Joel by 164 acres.

Broge said afterward that the subcommittee will now weigh the charges and make recommendations to the party’s Executive Committee on what action, if any, it should take. The Executive Committee meets Tuesday at Limoncello restaurant in Goshen; it is unclear if the subcommittee’s recommendations will have been presented by then.

Any committee member removed by the party is free to run again for a two-year term in September.

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Updated: Heaney plays up Trump connections with endorsement

Update: I’ve added comments from Faso’s campaign spokesman within the story.

Congressional candidate Andrew Heaney has endorsed Donald Trump for president and called for New Yorkers to unify behind him to “take back our party and our government from the lobbyists and career politicians.”

Heaney, a Dutchess County Republican and heating oil executive who’s vying for the GOP nomination in the 19th Congressional District, parlayed his endorsement into an attack on his primary opponent, John Faso.

“Imagine Albany today if Donald Trump was governor,” Heaney said in a release. “John Faso and his lobbyist buddies would be on the sidelines, powerless, instead of selling out the voters for pipelines or big pharma profits,” Heaney said.

Heaney said Trump has tapped into the concern of people who haven’t had increases in income in more than 20 years. He also played up Trump’s connection to Dutchess County, and himself. Heaney sent out a photo of Trump holding a baseball cap with Heaney’s name on it, which appears to have been taken when Trump visited Dutchess County last month for a primary rally.

“Through his philanthropy, business relationships and personal ties, Donald Trump has long had a special relationship with Dutchess County and in many ways is a favorite son,” Heaney said.

The endorsement prompted a response from Bryan Lesswing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee down in Washington D.C., calling Trump a “misogynist.”

“Donald Trump’s popularity is plunging on all fronts due to his offensive rhetoric of putting down women and his dangerous views that make our country less safe, and Andrew Heaney thinks he should be president,” Lesswing said. “As the Republican primary continues in New York’s 19th congressional district, it will be entertaining to watch Andrew Heaney and John Faso compete for who hugs Donald Trump and his misogynistic views tighter.”

Dain Pascocello, Faso’s campaign manager said Faso has said for months that he would back the Republican nominee.

“Isn’t it rich that Mr. Heaney, a New York City carpetbagger who supported Barack Obama for president, is suddenly Mr. Republican? It’s truly amazing what he’ll do and say to benefit himself,” Pascocello said.

Heaney has been framing himself as the outsider in the GOP primary contest, a banner that Bob Bishop, who Heaney has tried to knock off the ballot, has also tried to do. Faso has attacked Heaney for his past contributions to President Barack Obama and connections to New York City while Heaney has knocked Faso as being an insider and lobbyist.

The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

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Maloney asks local employers to “ban the box”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney recently sent a letter to employers in his district urging them to eliminate the customary question on job applications that asks prospective workers if they have criminal records.

His letter, part of a national “Ban the Box” movement, argues that asking job seekers that question at the outset clouds the employment prospects for people with criminal convictions by causing them to get screened out, even if they are otherwise qualified for the work they are seeking. “Our criminal justice system is broken from start to finish,” Maloney wrote in the letter. “We say we want folks who serve their time to get a job when they leave the system, but all too often the job applications they fill out make it impossible for them to get a fair shot. ”

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat representing New York’s 18th Congressional District, is also a sponsor of the “Fair Chance Act,” a bill that would drop the criminal-record question from job applications at federal agencies and contractors.

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Team Heaney objects to all of Bishop’s 1,897 petition signatures in NY-19 race

Supporters of GOP congressional candidate Andrew Heaney filed paperwork Monday accusing his primary opponent, Bob Bishop, of filing fraudulent, false and invalid designating petitions.

In order to get on the June primary ballot candidates need to file 1,250 valid signatures with the state Board of Elections. Bishop filed 1,897.

The objections against Bishop were filed with the state BOE by Jason Page, Darin Page and Lorrie Morse, from Hyde Park, Rhinebeck and Port Ewen, respectively.

Morse is an event manager for Heaney’s campaign while Darin and Jason Page have both donated to Heaney’s campaign. In the 245-page filing, the three say “each and every signature on each and every page” of the petitions is invalid.

“Each and every signature collected by the following subscribing witnesses are challenged on the basis of permeating fraud, including the falsification of signatures, entry of material false statements in the witness statement, maintaining, entering and  or conspiring to enter a false voter registration, and other fraudulent acts which should invalidate the entire petition,” the filing says.

Bishop, a Delaware County hay executive; Heaney, a Dutchess County heating oil executive; and John Faso, a Columbia County lawyer and former state assemblyman, are all vying for the GOP nomination in June for the 19th Congressional District. The district includes Ulster and Sullivan counties.

In general, challenging petition signatures are par for the course in trying to knock opponents of election ballots, though Bishop has accused Heaney of employing “Gestapo tactics to silence voters” and citing a quote from Heaney in a Poughkeepsie Journal story where he said the objections are just procedural.

Most of the objections are technical in nature, including illegible signatures, not signing in ink or not having page numbers. Others claim that the witnesses made false statements. Heaney’s campaign manager, David O’Connell, has said that while the rules are “rigged by and for insider-lobbyists” they’re following the law.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, isn’t running for another term in the district.

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