Some facts and heard-on-the-streets

A collection of recent observations:

  • It is so rare these days, and yet so welcoming, to see some bi-partisan action on anything. In that spirit it is noted here that Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter held a joint press conference last week to chastise the bankrupt Bon-Ton store chain for its plan to void gift cards for customers who held those pieces of plastic when the chain announced its decision to close. I can’t recall the last time I was in a Bon-Ton store, but on behalf of all those current holders of Bon-Ton gift cards, I say thank you.
  • It should be noted for the record that Schimminger and Walter have also often sung from the same hymnal about issues concerning Governor Cuomo’s economic development activities.
  • And in the spirit of unity Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that he supports Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s continued presence on this year’s Democratic ticket. What took so long?
  • Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is moving his way down on his quest for electoral re-incarnation – from being a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination; to a candidate for the Reform Party designation for governor; to a candidate for the Republican nomination for state comptroller. Those checks he wrote to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats seem to bother people like Republican County Chairman Nick Langworthy and the state Conservative Party. That’s the problem with all that pesky information on the internet – it’s just hard these days to keep anything secret.
  • The editor of the Buffalo News reported recently about a shortage of newsprint, so maybe that’s been the problem, but the News hasn’t printed a word about Erie Community College’s proposed 2018-19 budget which the College’s Board of Trustees approved on April 26th and sent on to the County Executive. You would think that a budget that held the line on tuition and projected that enrollment is stabilizing would have at least deserved a paragraph or two on the news-in brief page. For that matter, why wasn’t the inauguration of the College’s new president reported?
  • Speaking of that ECC budget, inquiring minds might wonder how well the projection of constant enrollment and level tuition figures will hold up, as well as the projected benefit costs and some other expenses. And how much real revenue will ECC actually earn from having up to 65 of its students living in Canisius College dorms next academic year?
  • The News has reported on City Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s analysis of Mayor Brown’s proposed 2018-19 City budget. Schroeder’s report shows millions of dollars in likely overestimated revenues and millions more in underestimated expenses. The City’s once substantial fund balance is running low. The Mayor defends his budget and the Common Council still needs to weigh in on the Mayor’s plan, which also raises taxes and fees for the first time in many years. All this could well lead to the re-institution of the hard Control Board for the City.
  • State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last week released an audit of the Erie County Water Authority, which you are reading about first here on the Politics and Other Stuff blog. The audit didn’t get into things like the redundant layers of senior management that the Authority operates with, focusing instead on the lesser topic of information technology management. The Comptroller’s office found that:
    • The Authority has 696 network user accounts that have not been used in the last six months, with 75 accounts last logon being over four years prior and 377 network user accounts that have never been used. [How could an organization with less than 250 employees have that many network user accounts?]
  • Five of 10 tested employees visited social media, shopping websites and personal email which could expose the network to virus attacks or compromise systems and data.
  • In addition, sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to Authority officials.

 

 

  • The Erie County Medical Center transmitted its 2017 annual report to state and county officials several weeks ago. Growth in business and activities has paid off handsomely for the corporation’s senior management. CEO Thomas Quatroche’s salary is listed at $847,596 (it was $762,085 in the previous year); part-time general counsel Anthony Colucci III’s salary was $565,590, compared with $527,825 in 2016; chief financial officer Stephen Gary was paid $499,039, compared with $449,039 in 2016; vice-president of communications & external affairs Peter Cutler earned $189,423 in 2017; and the chief operating officer Andrew Davis’s salary was $473,557.
  • Newly elected Assemblyman Erik Bohen is evidently in for another challenge from County Legislator Pat Burke in the September Democratic primary. Given the contested primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, look for turnout to be substantially higher than what occurred in the April 24th Special Election, which should work to Burke’s advantage (I know, I wrote the same thing about the party advantage in the Special Election.) Bohen’s real disadvantage will be that he can’t count on Republican and Conservative votes to pull him through a Democratic primary. Incumbency, often an advantage, will mean basically nothing to Bohen, who will have less than five months under his belt as the Assemblyman prior to the primary, and is shunned by both Assembly Democrats and Assembly Republicans.
  • The Democratic primary for attorney general should turn out to be really interesting, particularly if Preet Bharara enters the race. That would probably scare away most of the other contenders for the office. As for the interim appointment that the Legislature may (or may not) make for the AG position, selecting Solicitor General Barbara Underwood would certainly make sense for many reasons. So why do I think that that will not happen?
  • The decision of Buffalo News management to skinny down the daily edition, cut sections and cut staff undoubtedly makes sense economically for the paper. Nonetheless it is a sad development, and it might not be the last of the cuts we will see at One News Plaza. Those of us who have been around town for a while remember well (but not always fondly) the days when the Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Courier-Express battled things out pretty much every day. When the News first started publishing a Sunday edition they ran television ads using the old Spanky and Our Gang song, “Sundays will never be the same…” That turned out to be so true. But this week’s decision means that Mondays through Saturdays will never be the same either.

WNY firms and organizations employing state lobbyists spent $4.58 million in 2017

This post is Trump-free. I cannot say that it is politics-free, but readers can make their own judgments about that.

One of the earliest posts on this blog reviewed the list of Western New York firms and organizations that employed lobbyists in 2014. You can find that post here. Here are the links for the lists in 2015 and 2016.

Lobbying is a big business in New York State. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) annually publishes a list of lobbying activity. In 2017, according to JCOPE, a total of $240.1 million was spent on lobbying work in the state. This number was down about $2.6 million from the previous years.

Statewide, the major lobby clients are pretty consistently related to the activities of educational institutions and health care, although in 2017 Uber Technologies ranked number 2 with $2.2 million in spending. In 2017, the Greater New York Hospital Association led the list of clients, spending nearly $2.9 million.

Statewide, the major lobbyist firms move around a bit in the top ten list from year-to-year. In 2017 Kasirer LLC lead the list of lobbyists, ranked by total compensation and reimbursed expenses ($11.5 million).

There are hundreds of lobbyists in the state and thousands of clients. This post drills down to the clients based in Western New York employing lobbyists in 2017. Total spending by local firms and organizations in 2017 was $4.58 million. As has been the case in recent years, the local lobbying business is dominated by the firm of Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates (MMC).

MMC is owned and operated by former Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello; former Republican Party leader Vic Martucci; and former Deputy County Executive and Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Carl Calabrese. Their client list has grown substantially both in terms of the number of clients and the revenues that the business produces.

There are other players representing local clients in Albany and in local government business; the JCOPE report deals with both. Some have a significant client list and there are some local connections to the firms as noted below.

Certain firms and organizations basically represent themselves in the lobbying work and are so noted in the following list. As to the firms involved, here is a code for the firms that had local business in 2017, along with some local connections to those firms:

AC          Ascension Consulting (George Maziarz)

BA          Barrett Associates

BW         Brown & Weinraub

BSJ         Bolton St. Johns (Jack O’Donnell; Camille Brandon)

CHC        Capital Health Consulting

CG          Capitol Group

CC           Carreau Consulting

CPC        Corning Place Communications

DA          Dickinson Avella

E3           E3 Communications (Brian Gould)

EA           Empire Advocates

FWC       Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne

GT          Greenberg Traurig

HH          Hadley Horrigan

HSE        Harter Secrest Emery

HSA        Hinman Straub

JRD         J.R. Drexelius

KN          Karen Nicolson

LS            Lawrence Schillinger

MR         Malkin & Ross

MPP      Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

MMC     Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese

PL           Patricia Lynch

PG          Parkside Group

PS           Park Strategies (Joel Giambra; Alphonse D’Amato)

PBD        Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno

RM         Richardson Management (Richard Winter)

SA           Sheridan Associates

SPA        Statewide Public Affairs

UC          Upstate Consultants

And finally, here is the list of 110 local firms and organizations that employed lobbyists in 2017:

Client                                                                    Lobby Firm          Total 2017 Expenses

5380 Frontier Ave. Energy                            BSJ                         $6,310

Albright-Knox Art Gallery                             MMC                     $22,500

Applied Science Group                                  PS                           $21,067

Archer Daniel Midland                                 MMC                       $36,000

Assn. for Career & Tech. Education            BA                           $25,410

Assn. of Ambulatory Surgery Centers        E3                           $46,956

Association of Electrical Workers                                              $146,593

Association of Home Inspectors                  PG                          $12,000

Assn. of Plumbing,Heating,Cooling Con.   CG                          $16,261

Athletic Trainers Association                       CC                           $39,996

Baker Victory Services                                   BSJ                         $37,013

Brooks Memorial Hospital (Kaleida)          PS                           $10,540

Buffalo & Erie Co. Naval Military Park      BSJ                         $13,013

Buffalo & Erie Co. Botanical Gardens        MMC                       $4,000

Buffalo City Cemetery                                   FWC                       $37,247

MMC                     $24,000

Buffalo Computer Graphics                         BW                         $32,956

Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors                                   $78,943

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus               MMC                      $36,000

Buffalo Niagara Partnership                                                       $12,900

Buffalo Professional Firefighters               E3                           $24,000

Buffalo Sabres Foundation                          PS                           $93,207

Buffalo State College                                                                     $31,548

Buffalo Zoo                                                      MMC                     $24,000

Canisius College                                                                             $850

Catholic Health System                                  HH                         $45,000

Center for Elder Law & Justice                     KN                         $137,438

MMC                     $8,000

City of Lackawanna                                        MMC                     $36,000

Coalition for Community Building              MMC                     $27,000

County of Niagara                                           MMC                     $50,000

Creative Structure Services                          MMC                     $18,000

Delaware North Companies                         BSJ                         $144,763

DA                          $121,219

Delta Sonic                                                       MMC                     $15,000

Developmental Disability Alliance             JRD                         $40,958

District Council 4, Painters                           PBD                        $26,022

D’Youville College                                          MMC                     $90,000

ECMC Foundation                                          MMC                     $1,500

Empire State Passengers Association        PL                           $10,022

Enterprise Lumber & Silo                            UC                          $12,089

Erie County Medical Center                         MMC                     $40,000

Erie County Water Authority                       HSE                        $40,348

Evans Bank                                                       RM                         $5,000

Evergreen Health Services of WNY             MR                         $12,000

Fallon Health Weinberg                                 HSA                        $60,468

Frey Electric                                                      RM                         $7,560

GAR Associates                                                 MMC                     $27,500

Gates Circle Holdings                                      E3                           $36,000

Globe Metallurgical                                         UC                          $62,587

Greenman Petersen                                        MMC                     $36,000

Hamburg Brewing Company                        MMC                     $11,000

HealthNow New York                                    MMP                     $36,000

Independent Health Association                                                $120,000

SA                         $52,000

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries       LS                           $30,040

John W. Danforth Company                         MMC                        $36,000

PS                             $11,064

EA                           $36,000

Kaleida Health                                                 MMC                       $108,000

Lactalis American Group                               MMC                     $60,000

Liberty Communications                               PS                           $32,140

Maid of the Mist Corp.                                    PL                           $50,935

Mensch Capital Partners                               MMC                       $36,000

Modern Corp.                                                  MMC                       $22,500

RM                           $25,060

Monterrey Security                                        BSJ                         $12,669

Natl. Assn. of Industrial Office Parks         MMC                     $36,000

National Fire Adjustment Company          PS                           $19,640

National Fuel Gas                                          AC                           $10,000

E3                           $24,800

GT                          $60,205

National Fuel Gas                                                                           $13,154

SPA                         $20,928

HSE                         $4,682

Neighborhood Legal Services                     BSJ                            $8,325

New Era Cap Company                                 BSJ                           $50,910

Niagara County Community College         PS                             $21,276

Niagara Falls Bridge Commission              PS                            $109,013

Niagara Falls Memorial Med. Center        AC                            $14,000

BSJ                            $3,581

Niagara Falls Water Board                          E3                             $2,200

Niagara Frontier Auto Dealers Assn.        HSE                          $24,748

Niagara Frontier Transportation Auth.    MMC                       $74,000

NOCO                                                                E3                           $24,000

North Tonawanda PBA                                 CPC                        $13,477

Parkview Health Services                            MMC                       $18,000

People, Inc.                                                       BSJ                         $36,760

People, Inc. Foundation                                MMC                       $9,000

Phillips Lytle                                                   MMC                        $36,000

Pyramid Management Group                      PG                            $30,382

Postprocess Technologies                             MMC                       $6,000

Power for Economic Prosperity                 E3                              $43,500

Prosurix                                                           MR                            $15,073

Public Housing Auth Directors Assn.        EA                              $30,000

Regional Community Service Programs  MR                             $55,680

Rigidized Metal Corp.                                   BSJ                            $49,255

Riviera Theatre                                             RM                             $5,000

Rosina Food Products                                 MMC                          $36,000

Roswell Park Cancer Institute                  GT                               $35,047

BW                              $45,395

Save Ontario Shore, Inc.                            MMC                           $30,000

Save Our WNY CPC                                     CHC                             $12,000

Seneca Nation of Indians                           MMC                          $110,000

HAS                            $120,876

$50

Shea’s O’Connell Preservation Guild       MMC                          $30,000

Sinatra and Company                                 MMC                          $36,000

Snyder Corp.                                                 MMC                          $36,000

SUNY Fredonia                                                                                 $513

TM Montante Development                        E3                              $42,000

Toski & Co.                                                      RM                            $20,060

Town of Cheektowaga                                  BSJ                            $37,013

Town of Tonawanda                                    E3                               $30,000

Trocaire College                                            E3                               $54,000

University at Buffalo                                                                        $200,960

Upstate Niagara Cooperative                                                         $6,105

Raul Vazquez, M.D.                                      MMC                           $36,000

Villarini & Henry LLP                                  SPA                             $7,103

Western New York Energy                         PS                                $27,187

Western New York Healthcare Assn.                                            $7,400

Western New York Law Center                  BSJ                              $37,013

Wheatfield Gardens                                      RM                              $20,000

William Schutt & Associates                       MMC                           $18,000

WNY Women’s Foundation                                                             $2,319

Schneiderman resignation shuffles the deck

We live in a time when news, real news, flies by us at warp speed. It is often hard to digest and analyze a story before the next big one comes along.

That being said, the Eric Schneiderman story that broke yesterday must have set some sort of record. The New Yorker article appeared online at about 6:45 pm. Schneiderman resigned by about 10 pm. Gee, there was hardly any time for other pols to call for him to resign before the deal broke.

Schneiderman may be gone but his legal problems might not be. Here’s an incredible bit of irony (make that a double dose of irony): His office has just begun an investigation into the work of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. for Vance’s handling of a Harvey Weinstein matter. Yesterday Vance announced that his office would start an investigation into Schneiderman’s case.

All this is amazing. During the past twelve years the governor, state comptroller, and attorney general have resigned in disgrace. The Speaker of the Assembly and Majority Leader of the Senate were removed along with many members of the state legislature.

The timing of all this adds to the political intrigue. Section 41 of the Public Officers Law provides that a vacancy in the office of attorney general shall be filled fill by joint ballot of the State Senate and the State Assembly. Given that Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the Legislature, an appointment to the office will be a Democrat. The law does not provide a timeframe for when such an appointment must be made.

Article IV of the State Constitution provides that the qualifications for the office of attorney general shall be the same as that for governor, lieutenant governor and comptroller, namely: United States citizenship; at least 30 years of age; and a resident of the state for at least five years.

There are at least a dozen names already floating out there for an interim appointment – more on that follows. How quickly the Legislature might want to act on an appointment is unknown at this time.

Complicating matters a bit more, the Democratic State Committee is scheduled to meet on May 23 and 24 on Long Island to select its candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. There has already been some confusion about whether Governor Andrew Cuomo wants Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul to run for another term. Now there is another spot on the party ticket that is up in the air.

Would there be some coordination between who the Legislature might appoint on an interim basis, and who the state party would designate as their candidate for attorney general, or would they go their separate ways? Would it even matter?

In 1994 a vacancy in the office of attorney general occurred when Robert Abrams resigned. The Legislature appointed Assemblyman Oliver Koppell, who then lost a primary to Karen Burstein. Burstein lost the general election to Dennis Vacco.

So whoever the Legislature might appoint, or whoever the State Democratic Committee might designate, the process of selecting the next elected attorney general is not going to be resolved anytime soon. One simple solution would be for the Legislature to appoint an interim AG who would not run for the office, and then let the party convention and the September primary sort things out.

The Republicans, by the way, have been focusing on Manny Alicandro, an attorney from Manhattan, as their AG candidate.

Here is a list compiled by Politico of potential Democratic candidates, in alphabetical order: Preet Bharara, Jeff Dinowitz, Mike Gianaris, Kathy Hochul, Brad Hoylman, Letitia James, Todd Kaminsky, Joe Lentol, Stephanie Miner, Danny O’Donnell, Kathleen Rice and Helene Weinstein. Bob McCarthy reports in the Buffalo News that Leecia Eve of Buffalo is also a potential candidate.

Hochul continues to say that she wants to stand for re-election for lieutenant governor, maneuvering by the governor’s team notwithstanding. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner notes that Hochul does not have a law license in New York State, although she is a law school graduate. But as noted above, the qualifications for attorney general are pretty simple and Hochul qualifies.

An intense Democratic primary is likely. If he chooses to run it would seem that Preet Bharara would be the odds-on favorite, even though he has never run for office and currently has no political organization in place. If he won Donald Trump would have reason to be nervous, but so would lots of other politicians in New York State.

For Republicans who might be cheering Schneiderman’s demise, I would suggest that any and all Democratic candidates for New York AG will promote an aggressive approach to any investigations into Donald Trump and Michael Cohen that have already begun or that may occur in the future.

Being a state attorney general these days can certainly be a major challenge and a great opportunity for any ambitious politician. So, let the games begin.

A historical footnote

The suggestion about Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul being mentioned as a possible candidate for attorney general brings to mind a story that former Erie County and New York State Democratic Chairman Joe Crangle told me and countless others a couple or more times over the years.

In 1966, in Joe’s second year as county chairman, the New York State Democratic Party held its nominating convention in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It was the last such convention. By 1970 the party began choosing its statewide candidates by primary election.

Frank Sedita was Mayor of Buffalo at the time and he had an interest in being the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor. Joe gave it a shot, but the New York City pols who controlled the convention wanted to run Howard Samuels for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Frank O’Connor. They suggested to Crangle that Sedita should instead run for attorney general against incumbent Republican Louis Lefkowitz. Crangle had to go back to Sedita to break the news.

Which he did as follows: “Mayor, wouldn’t you rather be a general than a lieutenant?” To which Mayor Sedita replied, “yes, I would rather be a general.” And so it went.

Throwing people under the bus, in Washington and Albany; candidate transparency

In the political world we now live in there are certain personal characteristics that seem to have blossomed. Forgive me for using a pretty word for it, since the blossoming in this case is the type that leads to dandelions, crab grass and poison ivy.

Last Saturday’s performance by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Dinner certainly hit a nerve with many people. Margaret Sullivan, former editor of the Buffalo News and currently the media columnist for the Washington Post, had an excellent article yesterday suggesting that for the sake of journalism the Correspondents Dinner should be discontinued. I am no fan of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the personal attacks on Sanders by Wolf were offensive. Continue reading