The Brian Lehrer Show

Uncounted Primary Votes

Friday, September 13, 2013

The NYC Board of Elections reports that there remain almost 80,000 uncounted paper ballots from Tuesday's primary election. Neal Rosenstein, government reform coordinator for NYPIRG, explains why so many voters encountered problems at the polls -- and how their votes factor into the odds of a runoff between Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio.


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Today In Politics: Primary Day

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Of the 2.9 million registered voters in New York City, less than a million are expected to head to the polls today for the New York City Primary election. 


The Empire

NY Legislature Has Noteworthy Session…for Lowest Number of Bills Passed

Monday, July 02, 2012

According to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group, the 2012 session resulted in 571 pieces of legislation approved by both houses of the legislature.  

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The Empire

Good gov groups blast Board of Elections over new transparency requirements

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In a joint release, the state's leading good government groups blasted the state's Board of Elections over a set of draft regulations governing that they say would allow huge sums of money to be spent in elections without proper disclosure to the public of who's behind the spending.

The board is mandated under a law passed last year to draft rules to govern"independent" campaign spending. The rules were supposed to be in place by January 1, 2012. The first draft was published yesterday.

"The current draft applies only to spending by individuals and committees which expressly tells voters to support or oppose a candidate. Advertisements that criticize a candidate’s positions on issues a week before Election Day would fall outside of these limited parameters," the release said.

The groups also criticized what the say as lax rules for filing information on who is spending in elections. While campaigns, candidates and political parties are held to relatively strict spending rules, outside groups and individuals wouldn't even be required under the draft rules to tell the public which campaigns they spent money on, charge the good government groups.

"Members of the public who hope to figure out how much money was spent on their legislators’ races will be unable to do so," the release said. "While independent expenditures, like every other committee, will need to submit copies of their advertisements to the State Board of Elections, these are not due until nearly a month after elections."

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

If you're involved in the education reform movement, you've probably heard of Valerie Babb. She is the Director of the Charter Parent Action Network at New York City Charter School Center. City & State named her one of their 40 under 40. She has butted heads with Dr. Hazel Dukes of the New York State Chapter of the NAACP. Now Dr. Babb has her sites on improving the work and image of the education reform movement. She is in Albany today and will be dropping by the Plywood Hut to chat about the issue.

On the Capitol Pressroom last week Senator John DeFrancisco (R – Syracuse) accused the New York Public Interest Research Group of shilling for the Democratic Party since the group was more critical of the Senate's newly redrawn district maps, than it was of the Assembly's. Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG has a few things to say about that.

And we continue the conversation on hydrofracking from two perspectives:

Deborah Rogers is the founder of the Energy Policy Forum (  She's also served on the Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas since 2008. She was appointed in 2011 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to a task force reviewing placement of air monitors in the Barnett Shale region in light of air quality concerns brought about by the natural gas operations in North Texas. She also joined a regional steering committee for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) in 2011 with responsibility for economic questions.

Ken Smith, Cornell Cooperative Extension director for Chenango County, will cover latest developments of natural gas in New York, as well as some of the issues that farmers will face if fracking goes forward.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

NYPIRG: almost 130 donated $50k or more to candidates, parties

Friday, February 03, 2012

NYPIRG's Bil Mahoney has a new report out detailing the cash flow into the state political parties. According to his analysis, 127 donors gave $50,000 or more to state-wide candidates and political parties over the past year. These 127 all told gave nearly $17 million. As Mahoney points out:

Many of these donors took advantage of the various loopholes in New York’s campaign finance law: individuals gave more than the $150,000 annual limit by donating to political parties’ housekeeping accounts, and businesses used corporate subsidiaries and multiple LLCs to greatly surpass their corporate $5,000 annual aggregate limit.

And who was the single biggest recipient of these generous donors' bucks?

Of the donors who gave $50,000 or more, Governor Cuomo received the most money: $2,959,426.04 from 79 of these 127.

It's also worth noting that, out of the top ten donors, the Senate Republicans' campaign committee got the single largest donation from seven of them. So while Cuomo may have banked the most overall, Senate Republicans are the most favored political group of the top donors.

The full report is after the jump.

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The Empire

NYPIRG: Senate's maps 'the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history'

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney has already whipped up an analysis of the new legislative lines. He choose district population variation--the amount each district is from the ideal average based on the total population--as the "yardstick" to measure how representative the districts are. A big concern for gerrymandering is the spread between the districts that are under and over populated.

Packing people (a high positive deviation) into districts in one place can allow you to under populate (a high negative deviation) other districts, allowing for more districts in partisanly-friendly areas--something both the Assembly and Senate have done in the past.

"The typical deviation from the ideal population is one of the few completely objective criteria that can be used," Mahoney writes in an email. "While judging this set of proposed maps by this yardstick, the Senate’s maps are clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history."

Here's his breakdown on the Senate side:

Senate: Districts 3% or further from ideal population:

1984: 0

1992: 0

2002: 19

2012: 50

He also took a look at how the lines would far based on the 1 percent variation Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his independent redistricting legislation last year:

1984: 44 out of 61

1992: 47 out of 61

2002: 11 out of 62

2012: 3 out of 63

On the Assembly side Mahoney notes that, by this measurement, the Assembly districts actually sees things improving slightly since the last redistricting:

Assembly: Districts 3% or further from ideal population:

1984: 15

1992: 49

2002: 70

2012: 67


Assembly: Districts within 1% of ideal population:

1984: 92

1992: 46

2002: 18

2012: 26

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The Empire

Updated NY State campaign filings reveal big returns for Team Cuomo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney continues to update his spreadsheet showing the results of the latest fundraising filings this week. The results so far show that Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn't just been busy with legislation. His campaign fundraising efforts show an equal verve.

As Mahoney points out, Cuomo has blown by the previous elected governor's fundraising numbers at the same time in their tenures. According to Mahoney, Governor Cuomo has raised nearly twice what Governor Spitzer had raised after his first year in office.

As it stands, Cuomo is sitting on more than $14 million in campaign funds. The Governor's top-ten donors in this filing (list below) consist of corporate and personal injury law firms,a prominent arts philanthropist who is married to a hedge fund manager, the head of a hotel company, and a real estate developer, among others.

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The Empire

January campaign funds show Skelos dominating fundraising efforts

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thanks to Bill Mahoney at NYPIRG for putting this great spreadsheet together.

The state's biannual campaign financial filing deadline is upon us, and the numbers are starting to come in. Rounding out the top-three in money raised the International Union of Operating Engineers education fund, and Senators Saland and Skelos. No one also spent more over the last six months than IUOE. They were followed by Monroe County Republicans and the Transportation Workers Union.

Here's the millionaires club--groups or candidates that had a closing balance of over a million dollars:

$1,086,830.61 -- CITIZENS FOR GULOTTA (former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta)
$1,108,964.90 -- CARRION NYC (former Bronx Borough President Adolofo Carrion)
$1,169,417.40 -- FRIENDS OF DOV HIKIND (Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind)
$1,422,259.94 -- NEW YORKERS FOR GIANARIS (Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris)
$1,466,131.32 -- VALLONE FOR NEW YORK (New York City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.)
$1,810,010.72 -- FRIENDS FOR THE ELECTION OF DEAN SKELOS (Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos)

This spreadsheet should be updated as new data becomes available. We'd love to know if you find any interesting.

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The Empire

Assembly Minorty Leader Brian Kolb 'outraged' at Cuomo's stealth tax reform process

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Courtesy of the Minority Leader's office.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb continued to hammer the Cuomo administration and legislative leaders today after the whirlwind passage late last night of a major economic package that included a rewriting of the tax code.

Kolb called the process "egregious" after Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver crafted a deal behind closed doors that lawmakers were handed shortly before being asked to vote on the legislation yesterday.

"There was no reason to do this in this rush, in a 24 hour time period, not having bills be on desks for at least three days, not to have outside groups have their say about this, one way or the other," Kolb told Susan Arbetter during her radio program this morning. "And if you go through and still vote the way you do, fine. But at least have public discourse about it."

Media reports this morning focused heavily on how rapidly the Cuomo administration moved the legislation forward. The New York Times Thomas Kaplan captured the process this way:

The remarkably rapid progress of the tax revisions — without a single public hearing or town-hall-style meeting — provided the most striking illustration to date of Mr. Cuomo’s policy making strategy: information is tightly controlled, negotiations are carried out behind closed doors and the debate is limited to just a few people.

"Governor Cuomo said, 'I'm going to have the most transparent, open government under my watch,'" Kolb said in his interview. "This is not transparency. This is not good government."

The New York Public Interest Research Group's Bill Mahoney, who was the first to notice that the 33-page bill was made public a mere 26 minutes before the Senate was to vote on it, called the process "not good, to say the least" but tried to look on the bright side of things.

"The best I could say is that at least there were no surprises this year," Mahoney said. "In the past it has happened that an issue that hasn't been discussed at all appears minutes before session and they wind up passing it."

Mahoney said that the Governor has had some limited success following his promise to open up Albany, but that Cuomo's tax reform process left much to be desired.

"What we saw last night indicates that we still have quite a ways to go," said Mahoney.

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The Empire

NYPIRG adds up reduced political spending for 2011

Friday, November 04, 2011

NYPIRG put out a report on political spending throughout the state today, a copy of which is below.

It's an off year for elections, so you won't see a lot of top-tier races. According to NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney spending is slightly below the last off-year in 2007. He attributed this to the lack of competitive races for county executive and other positions.

One interesting note: the numbers only reflect candidates or committees that are spending for an election this year. If all political spending was looked at, Mayor Michael Bloomberg leads all political spending. The Mayor's campaign committee has so far spent $5,644,999.93 this year--more than any other single candidate or campaign committee.

The report is after the jump.

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The Empire

Cuomo launches new website aimed at transparency

Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Governor Cuomo launched a new website today, which he said aimed at making his administration more transparent to the public and as “a new way to get people involved.” It lists events from his public schedule since taking office in January, and will feature on-line chats with top state officials, including, the Governor himself, this coming Saturday.

The site includes information on staff meetings the governor has held, meals at the executive mansion with legislators, and one-on-one meetings with various State Senators in the days leading up to the successful Senate vote to legalize gay marriage. It also shows records of numerous plane trips the governor has taken, some to promote his budget and tax cap agenda. Others to survey storm damages after Irene and Lee.

Cuomo promised during the 2010 campaign for governor to make more details of his personal schedule available to the public, but until now had not followed through on that. Now, with the launch of a new website that includes details from the governor’s day to day schedule and a list of upcoming events by administration officials, government reform groups say Cuomo has taken a major step towards openness.

“I think it’s a very good development,” said Susan Lerner, with Common Cause.

Russ Haven, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says the Governor has set a standard for transparency that will be hard to retreat from in the future. “It does create a set of expectations,” said Haven. “You can’t un-ring that bell.”

Haven says a major gap in the schedule, or a questionable plane ride, would be open to greater scrutiny.

“If there are any gaps people are going to assume that there’s a story to be told even if there isn’t” said Haven. “I think it really does ratchet up the level of accountability.”

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The Empire

Senate Republicans continue to dominate Dems on fundraising

Monday, July 18, 2011

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney continues to crunch the recent financial disclosure reports:

While disclosure reports for eight active committees controlled by senators have yet to appear online, the recent arrival of the DSCC’s housekeeping committee means that some general trends can be noted. Republican candidates and their conference committee ($6,619,296.70) raised more than three times as much as Democrats ($2,172,168.86).   Democrats, however, spent more ($2,818,717.30) than Republicans ($2,187,133.82).  Republicans have $10,568,859.83 in the bank; Democrats have $4,254,488.47, but their party committee’s debt load means that their actual balance is closer to $1,915,520.94.

The three Independent Democratic Conference members who have filed with the state board of elections reported raising $695,572.59--of which Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided $30,900.

We're still waiting on the filings of Senators Flanagan, Dilan, Sampson, Parker, Diaz, Carlucci, Seward, and Ball. Check out NYPIRG's breakdown below.

Senate Breakdown, July 2011

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Cuomo's War Money: Millions for a Fight, Thousands for a Bonus

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As he prepares to wrestle against legislators and organized labor to control the state's $11 billion deficit, Governor Andrew Cuomo is arming himself with money.

Over the past month and a half, Mr. Cuomo raised $217,625.79, nearly four times as much as his predecessor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, according to research by a government watchdog group. After spending nearly a million dollars between late November and mid-January, Mr. Cuomo has $4.17 million left on hand in his campaign account.


Azi Paybarah

Who Has the Most Contributors From New York?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I thought it would be Andrew Cuomo, since the state attorney general has such a huge war chest for his campaign for governor.

Turns out it's cash-starved Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Lazio. According to a NYPIRG analysis, Cuomo has 2,306 donors with New York addresses.

Lazio has 2,867.

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