Carl Paladino doesn't mind offending voters. The 'political ruling cass' is in his sites.Azi Paybarah / WNYC
It was Mr. Paladino’s junior year at St. Bonaventure University outside Buffalo [corrected], and during one celebratory weekend, he was hanging out in a local bar before a dance later that evening.The first time Carl Paladino met his wife, she threw a beer on him.
Here’s how Mr. Paladino tells it.
“Somebody says ‘This is Cathy Hannon,’ and I made a crude remark about one of her relatives who I knew from the city. I made a crude remark and she threw a beer on me, and that was the end of that discussion,” he said.
Mr. Paladino eventually left. Later that night, he met up with a friend who had arranged a blind date. Mr. Paladino’s companion that night – Kathy Hannon.
“She forgave me,” he said. The two have been married for forty years.
As Mr. Paladino’s launches into the final week of the Republican primary for governor, his penchant for abrasive, off-the-cuff remarks has not abated.
Mr. Paladino’s complete disregard for the traditional niceties of electioneering is a marked contrast to the man he’s trying to defeat in the Republican primary, former Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island. Critics, and even some supporters, describe Mr. Lazio as a sincere, but not passionate, candidate.
Passion is not lacking in candidate Paladino.
Even when discussing the collection of sillybands on his arm, Mr. Paladino grows animated.
“That’s a star. That’s a dollar sign. That’s a dog. And that’s a cloud,” Mr. Paladino said, walking down the street in Mineola one recent afternoon. “I had to change with one of [my daughter’s] friends the other day – when one of her friends asks to exchange, you got to take what they give ya and give them what they want. So, she took my ice cream cone and she gave me this stinkin’ dollar sign which I really don’t like.”
The real brunt of Mr. Paladino’s anger is reserved for what he calls the “political ruling class” from both parties. To rescue New Yorkers from New York politicians, Mr. Paladino said he’s put together a no-holds barred campaign team. The commercial real estate developer put $10 million of his own money behind the effort, and courted a team of aides known for their eccentricities as much as for their talents.
In late March, when Mr. Paladino decided to run, he got in touch with a political operative who was from his hometown of Buffalo but had worked on campaigns all over the world: Michael Caputo.
Mr. Caputo had been in semi-retirement, living for a while on a tugboat in Kew West, Florida. Caputo’s political work had taken him around the world. He had worked a few campaigns in Russia, and, as he tells it, buried a few friends, because of campaigns in Russia.
Mr. Caputo had moved back to Buffalo to take over his family’s insurance company when Mr. Paladino came calling. Mr. Caputo received the call – on his birthday – and came out of retirement.
“Getting on this campaign is the first time I put on a suit in five years. And none of them fit,” Mr. Caputo said in Mineola. “None of them fit. Moving back to Buffalo is the first time I put on shoes in four years.”
To go with the new suits: a pair of black cufflinks, with a skull and bones on them. As far as Mr. Paladino is concerned, the floating domicile is the least surprising part of his campaign manager’s resume.
“What did you think when you heard this guy was living on a tug-boat in Florida?” I asked Mr. Paladino.
“If you think that’s strange, wait until you hear the rest of the story,” he chuckled. “We’re talking one day – somebody’s reading the newspaper and somebody says ‘Did you see this little airplane crash?’ And out of the clear blue sky, he says, ‘I was in a plane crash once – in Siberia.’ ”
To help Mr. Paladino recall the story, because it’s just that good, another campaign aide – John Haggerty – steps in.
“He drops stuff like this – it’s like he’s Forrest Gump,” Mr. Haggerty says, smiling. Mimicking both sides of a conversation with his adventurous colleague, Mr. Haggerty adds, “Yeah, I was in an emergency landing in Siberia. Emergency landing? Oh yeah, the front of the plane broke off –“
Mr. Paladino jumps in with the final part of Mr. Caputo’s anecdote.
“And they were surrounded by wolves. And all they could see was the whites of their eyes. And the helicopter pilot says ‘Boy, you guys got out of there just in time’” he said.
“And I’m saying, ‘are you kidding me?’ ”
Mr. Caputo politely notes that technically, it wasn’t a plane crash.
Mr. Caputo is not the only one who has had a bumpy ride. Mr. Haggerty – a cherub-faced, quick-smiling Republican operative ran the ballot-protection program for Mayor Bloomberg’s re-election campaign last year. After the smaller-then-expected victory, Mr. Haggerty was accused of pocketing nearly $750,000 in payments from the campaign, and not providing anything in return.
Then there’s Roger Stone, a friend of Paladino who put him in touch with Mr. Caputo.
Mr. Stone has a tattoo on his back of Richard Nixon’s face, and led the Brooks Brother’s riot that shout down the 2000 presidential recount in Florida. He denied leaving a profanity-laced voicemail message for Eliot Spitzer’s father.
My favorite: In order to further prove he leaked damaging information about Mr. Spitzer’s liaison with a prostitute, Stone agreed to be interviewed by a magazine reporter in the same location where Mr. Stone said he first leaned about the information: inside a Florida sex club.
These guys, don’t care what people think about them. And that’s how Mr. Paladino likes it.
“I don’t want to be anybody’s friend. I don’t have to be anybody’s friend,” he said, during a wide-ranging interview. “It doesn’t make me more comfortable than I already am. I don’t seek money. I don’t seek power. I don’t seek praise or pats on the back.”
The 54-year-old real estate developer said he was sitting in his office in Buffalo earlier this year when a young candidate walked into his office.
Mr. Paladino recalled the meeting. “We talked for an hour. At the end of the hour, I thanked him, I showed him to the door, I came back and sat down. I don’t have a word for this. I look at my son Bill, and Bill goes-”
Mr. Paladino hunched his shoulders, threw hands up and twisted his face into a question mark.
“I don’t know what the word would be, but it’s Italian for ‘what the $@! is this?’ “ Mr. Paladino said.
The candidate who had just left Mr. Paladino dumbfounded: Rick Lazio
Mr. Lazio was, by this time, running for governor with the support or former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a portion of the local Republican establishment. When he came to Buffalo, Mr. Lazio was hoping to get Mr. Paladino’s money. He got Mr. Paladino’s candidacy, instead.
The two couldn’t be more different. Mr. Lazio served four terms in congress
If it’s considered poor etiquette for a donor to launch a campaign because of an uninspiring meeting with a politician, Mr. Paladino is not concerned.
The way Paladino sees it, Democrats and Republicans have both been complicit in perpetuating the state’s problems. Special interest groups pressure lawmakers, who respond by giving away state money. To pay for the giveaways, lawmakers raise taxes on businesses, who, in recent years, have laid people off, or moved out of state.
Lawmakers, according to Mr. Paladino, never cut spending.
“Two hundred and ninety-eight thousand three hundred and forty-one employees, they couldn’t fine one employee to lay off in this budget crisis?” he asked. “They raised our taxes last year ten point nine billion dollars. They raised it this year five point one billion dollars.”
The key to Mr. Paladino’s strategy for cutting state spending is to shrink the size of government. He’ll give the legislature a bare-bones budget, and when they try to increase spending, he says he’ll just stare them down. And they’ll buckle.
He says there’s no chance lawmakers will unite and overpower him in a budget fight.
“To override my veto, they got to get…two thirds, plus one,” he said, referring to the 212 legislators in the New York State State Assembly and State Senate. “As long as I have one third plus one in the Senate, and I’ll probably also have in the Assembly, it’s over. That’s it. It’s the end of it. That’s the budget.”
How he can be sure lawmakers in his corner won’t bolt during the budget fight, like they did in the waning days of Republican Governor George Pataki’s tenure?
“I have a Republican Senate. They’re going to do what I tell them to do,” Mr. Paladino deadpanned. “And let somebody try to stray – and I’ll wreck ‘em. I’ll ruin ‘em.”
This kind of tough talk is exactly what some voters are looking for.
“I’m definitely upset with the way politics have gone and the way taxes have gone. I’m just not happy with it. It keeps going further,” says retired Army veteran Anthony Phillips, who donated $50 to Mr. Paladino’s campaign.
Before Paladino can harness public anger into electoral power, he has some questions of his own to answer. Like, why he forwarded to his friends a number of explicit emails.
Lets just say, one shows President Obama in an gold chain; another shows a woman with a horse. My editor won’t let me get more specific than that.
Lesser offenses have derailed other politicians. But Mr. Paladino and his gang, forge ahead.
“My humor is irrelevant to my temperament. If you go and Google me, you’re going to see what Carl Paladino is about. And sure, I’m not perfect. And sure, I’m not human,” he said, before correcting himself. “I’m human, forgive me – hahaha. I’m human. I’ve had my careless moments. I didn’t think twice about sending to my firends a bunch of obscene emails.
“But, I apologized. I apologized to the people that were offended. People that I meat since that thing first became public, they’re interested in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Albany, They could give a hell about Carl Paladino and his emails.”
Despite the offensive emails, and lack of name recognition, Mr. Paladino could win the primary. Voter anger and an increasingly-organized Tea Party apparatus has propelled a number of angry, outsider, anti-establishment candidates like Mr. Paladino.
“If he spend his resources properly, he could easily be the nominee,” said Ed Rollins, who worked as Ronald Reagan’s top political adviser in the White House and has stayed neutral in the gubernatorial race. (He doesn’t give Mr. Paladino, or his opponent, Mr Lazio, a chance of beating Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo in November.)
Should he make it to the general election, Democrats are sure to remind voters of Mr. Paladino’s emails. But that, in itself, would be a victory of sorts for Mr. Paladino, whose entrance in to the race was greeted with a mixture of laughter and disbelief.
Recent polling shows Mr. Lazio within ten or twelve points of Mr. Lazio. And one hugely influential voice in New York Republican politics, the New York Post, has not endorsed either Republican gubernatorial candidate yet.
The Post has criticized Mr. Lazio for focusing too much on the controversy over building an Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero, and not enough on the state’s more pressing problems.
And, the tension between Mr. Lazio and the paper’s state editor, Fred Dicker, burst into public view Tuesday morning during Mr. Dicker’s closely-watched radio program.
As Mr. Dicker interviewed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Lazio and an aide called into the program. Mr. Dicker then told his listeners that “I’ve tried for months to get Rick Lazio on the show” and now “Lazio is trying to cut into the show.”
Mr. Dicker described the maneuver as a “sneak attack” and told listeners, “I said thanks but no thanks.” Listeners never heard from Mr. Lazio.
Later, Mr. Lazio’s campaign spokesman went onto Twitter, and referred to Mr. Dicker as a “Cuomo apologist.”
About a week before Mr. Lazio and Mr. Dicker’s spat, Mr. Paladino went in for an editorial board meeting with the New York Post. Walking out of their offices on Avenue of the Americas, Mr. Paladino said he felt he gave a good presentation, but the editorial board was hard to read.
“I think we impressed everybody in the room, except the guy to my right,” Mr. Paladino said. “He did not change his facial expression through the whole meeting. He did not change his facial expression during the whole meeting.”
Paladino and his campaign manager Mr. Caputo, said grew difficult when a certain reporter starting asking detailed questions.
“She’s one of the toughest political reporters in the state,” Mr. Caputo said.
“The little dark-haired one I gave the thing to?” Mr. Paladino asked.
“Right,” said Mr. Caputo. “Jennifer.”
Mr. Paladino nodded, and explained to me, “I gave her a sillyband. Because she didn’t have any [and] my daughter said, you’re not cool if you don’t have one of these.”0
They gave me one too.
Then, Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo drove to JFK airport, and caught a flight to Buffalo for another meeting with another group of potential supporters: a motorcycle club.
A topic Schumer won’t discuss: Rangel.
A topic Rangel doesn’t discuss: Tasini.
A candidate beats on POLITICO in order to raise money.
Catsimatidis, Morgenthau and old people at Rangel’s event.
Bill Thompson is not going into Cuomo's employ.
Teachers aren’t endorsing Cuomo.
Democrats ask, Who is Harry Wilson?
Rangel says other campaigns should return the money to him, if they want to get rid of it.
And Rangel responds to Obama's 'dignity' remark.
From a longer story on Rangel's presser today:
[I tried] asking Rangel to explain part of his speech on the House floor Tuesday, when he reminded colleagues that he had given many of them campaign contributions over the years.Rangel though, did not want to discuss it.
“What happens on the House floor stays on the House floor as a part of the congressional record. What happens to me in Harlem, Washington Heights, El Barrio, the West Side, I’m yours,” he said.
That part of the speech inspired a New York Times editorial, saying Rangel unintentionally bolstered the case for stronger campaign finance regulations.
GOP Senate candidate David Malpas is the first person to use video from Rangel’s party last night to hit his opponent.
The video shows Senator Kirsten Gillibrand saying “Thank you Charlie” while a rock song is heard in the background, with a male vocalist singing, “Bad things come in twos.”
One day after appearing at a fundraiser for Rep. Charlie Ranel -- who is facing 13 allegations of breaking congressional ethics rules -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo is out with a new ad.
The topic: Ethics.
"New Yorkers agree, Albany is a mess. It's overrun by lobbyists and special interests. But Andrew Cumo has a tough 20-point plan to clean up Albany, including restricting lobbyist contributions, ending pay to play for powerful for powerful corporations who buy access."
A Cuomo campaign source said there was no connection between the timing of their ethics ad and Rangel's birthday party.
The issue of taking money from lobbyists is, actually, something Cuomo has been criticized for. Also, Cuomo agreed in 2007 to limit campaign contributions to $10,000 -- far below the state's limit. He no longer is abiding by that limit.
Emily Miller waits for the NYT Sunday magazine story on Lazio.
Haberman says Rangel is playing to the district, not Congress.
The Epoch Times throws AGNY candidate Sean Coffey a question about protecting Falun Gong members.
Employees of a real estate development company raise money for Christine Quinn.
Kevin Powell claims a court victory against Rep. Towns.
The Assembly may return next week.
Silver backs Genting.
Donovan says he has the same stance as Obama on same-sex marriage.
And Reshma Saujani tells John Harwood, “I’m not pro-Wall Street, I’m not anti-Wall Street. I’m pro-New York.” The background image: Wall Street bull statue.
Anna Lewis is out with a statement explaining how she'd fix the state's budget if she were elected to the state senate -- she'd adjust the taxes levied against co-ops with cheaper taxes levied against condos. There's the obligatory call to reinstate the commuter tax -- which hardly seems like it'll garner support outside the five boroughs.
Lewis said the State Senate needs a more active investigate body to audit the legislature and public programs. Lewis, it should be noted, once worked as the lead attorney to the Assembly's Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee.
"The problem that exists in the Senate is that while it has an investigative committee, it isn’t active enough in oversight, and must be strengthened," Lewis said. "It is essential that we more acutely scrutinize how the Senate spends our money, and I have the will to do so."
Lewis is one of
six five Democrats running for the State Senate seat in Northern Manhattan being vacated by Eric Schneiderman, who is running for attorney general.
Other candidates include Adriano Espaillat, the local Assemblyman whom Schneiderman has endorsed; Mark Levine, a district leader, teacher and founder of the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan.
So, there's no real bombshell revelation in the NYT Sunday magazine cover story on Andrew Cuomo, but there are some entertaining tidbits about the guy who is likely to be New York's next governor.
Andrew Cuomo "used to call his younger brother, Christopher, who grew up in Albany, 'mansion boy.' "
NYT Magazine contributing writer, Jonathan Mahler, said "it would be a stretch to call 'The New NY Agenda' a policy book."
And at the end of the piece, Cuomo downplays the notion he's going to Albany to wage war agains the legislature (which his predecessor had done). Cuomo is quoted saying, "The legislature doesn't want trouble. They want good news from a P.R. point of view. They need redemption" and "I think I can be their best friend."
Being Albany's "best friend" is obviously said with an eye towards politics after election day (i.e. governing Albany), but I can imagine someone using that line in a Web ad in about five minutes.
A spokesman for Andrew Cuomo's campaign confirms this report that he's attending Charlie Rangel's birthday party fund-raiser tonight. The report also says Senators Schumer and Gilibrand will be there.
Anyway, I'll now go back to reading the 8,000 word NYT Sunday magazine cover story on Cuomo. So far, my favorite part: "[Andrew] Cuomo used to call his younger brother, Christopher, who grew up in Albany, 'mansion boy.' "
Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, doesn’t buy Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s explanation why the 9/11 health care bill was put up for a vote under rules requiring a 2/3 majority vote, instead of a simple majority.
Despite the volume, Scarborough and Weiner actually get into the substantive parts of the debate.
Scarborough's main complaint is that Weiner challenged Repubilcans for not supporting the legislation, but didn't act similarly to Blue Dog Democrats, or Hispanic Democratic members, who threatened to vote aganist the bill if it veered into the area of immigration.
The 14.33 minute segment is worth a watch.
Here’s part of a flier that’s going around parts of northern Manhattan, which features a photograph of Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell and the word “vote” right above it. It was passed to me by an interested reader working on one of the congressional campaigns in the 15th district, where Powell is one of five candidates seeking to oust the incumbent, Rep. Charles Rangel.
I haven’t seen the whole flier, but at fist glance, it looks like a piece of campaign literature, asking readers to vote for Powell.
It’s actually a voter registration form, Powell’s campaign manager, Danny Serrano, told me when I asked him about it. He said it was sent by Powell’s Assembly office, and that similar fliers were sent by many other state legislators.
“The point is not to say we’re trying to get people to vote our way,” said Serrano. The flier is meant to “make it easier for people to register to vote.”
Young Obama voters may sit on the sidelines.
AP: "All hail inexperience - the less familiarity with politics the better, no matter the party or state."
New voting machines in NY could be problematic, says Saul.
Goodwin: Hillary as VP hurts Obama's 2012 chances.
Rep. John Lewis on Rangel: "If I was in his shoes and know what I know, I would have been quiet."
Expect a D'Amato and Rangel photo tomorrow.
Rangel won’t resign.
Lochhead: “Rep. Charlie Rangel had a captive House squirming in its seats.”
Ambinder’s not sure Rangel helped or hurt his cause.
Rangel’s tone: “wistful.”
Morais hangs out with Next Generation for Rangel.
Bloomberg, below 50 percent.
Chris Cox gets a boost from Berntsen.
Paterson’s offer to help relocate the Islamic center may not be constitutional.
Paladino’s campaign does not lack modesty.
Sampson gets behind Genting bid for Aqueduct.
Here's Gawker’s take on Gibbs and the professional left.
Debunking the Wyclef presidency.
What is Rep. Jose Serrano doing behind Bloomberg's back?
Lazio's latest video about the Islamic center includes this message at the bottom of the screen: "Call Attorney General Cuomo."
"All Things Harlem" talks to folks about Rangel.
And Rangel, in his own words.
The day before today’s CT GOP Senate primary, Linda McMahon mailed this piece to voters hitting Democratic nominee Dick Blumenthal, the state’s AG, for his inaccurate statements about serving in Vietnam. The testimonials inside the mailer are particularly...dour.
Just in case you thought that issue had gone away.
This should make for some fun reading this weekend. From the NYT's publicity department:
"In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, contributing writer Jonathan Mahler interviews Andrew Cuomo in the cover story, “The Second Coming.” Andrew Cuomo is not, politically, his father’s son, writes Mahler, nor is he the reincarnation of Eliot Spitzer (or so he wants to prove). But Cuomo does want to redeem Albany and maybe himself in his campaign."
Unless you're Steve Kornacki, in which case, it may just feel like deja vu.