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It's A Free Country ®

Payroll Tax Standoff Alienates Latino Voters from GOP

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Among the millions who will have less money to survive on are Latinos and other immigrants who are here legally or are naturalized citizens.

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The Empire

Tax extension failure could cost NYers $7.1 billion: DiNapoli

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The state comptroller is weighing in on the federal fight over a payroll tax extension for workers. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is warning that the failure to come to an agreement that would extend the tax holiday could end up costing New Yorkers $7.1 billion in additional taxes next year.

"Partisanship has a $7.1 billion price tag for residents of this state if an agreement can’t be reached to extend the payroll tax cut and that’s simply not what New York families need right now," DiNapoli said in a statement.

And to his point, the Comptroller's office broke down the increase in taxes on various earners:

Wage        Tax Increase

$ 20,000     $400

$ 40,000     $800

$ 60,000     $1,200

$ 80,000     $1,600

$100,000    $2,000

$110,100+  $2,202

WNYC's It's A Free Country and other blogs have been covering the Washington gridlock over this, with lots of great insight into the issue.

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The Empire

Councilman Lew Fidler likely Dem pick for open Kruger seat in Brooklyn

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Councilman Lewis Fidler

In the fallout over disgraced former state Senator Carl Kruger’s resignation, rumors have been swirling in the press over who will be running to fill the seat. On the Democratic side, it is almost sure to be City Councilman Lew Fidler. In conversations with Democratic officials, it was clear that Fidler has the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party (there are no primaries in special elections, so the party organization picks its candidate). Adding to this assurance is that labor groups, which back the Working Families Party, are content enough with Fidler that they won’t run someone to his left.

The Councilman has been not-so-subtlety suggesting he’d be gunning for the seat for some time. This is partly because he will be term limited out of his position in the city council in 2013 (he got a new lease on life when the Mayor Bloomberg-backed term limit override allowed him to run for a third term). Fidler has been showered with city council discretionary funds over the years, and has been close to Speaker Christine Quinn. That wasn’t enough, though, to help him secure the most coveted of council chairmanships—finance--back in 2009. The spot went to the Bloomberg-backed Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.

On the Republican side, it’s been reported that David Storobin, a Brooklyn GOP official, is angling for the seat. The Observer reports that he's meeting with key Republican officials today. There are a number of factors that could make this a competitive race—the district is relatively conservative, it voted for Republican Congressman Bob Turner by a 2-1 margin back in September, if the special election is held on the Republican presidential primary date—but Fidler, with his name recognition and fundraising ability, would be a difficult candidate to beat.

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It's A Free Country ®

Obama Pushes Boehner to Pass Tax Cut Extension

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stepping up the pressure to reach a deal, President Barack Obama has promised House Speaker John Boehner he is committed to immediately starting work on a full-year extension of payroll tax cuts if the House first passes a short-term compromise.

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The Empire

Bank of NY Mellon settles Martin Act suit for $1.3 million

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Remember yesterday when we were talking about the Martin Act and how it's a huge tool for the AG's office to recoup funds from malfeasant banks? Well, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office just announced a claw back from Bank of New York Mellon for "manipulative trading of auction rate securities." The bank settled with the AG's office and will pay $1.3 million as part of the deal.

And now Schneiderman gets to sound like a financial Robocop:

"Today’s announcement sends a clear message that the manipulative trading of auction rate securities in New York will not be tolerated under any circumstances," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "My office will continue to protect the integrity of NY’s global financial markets at all costs."

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

What are next session’s most critical issues? We hear first from the Senate Democrats represented by Senator Neil Breslin.

Former gubernatorial candidate John Faso shares the GOP’s priorities, as well as his take on the future of the State's Republican Party.

Bill Samuels, Founder of the New Roosevelt Institute, is pressing Governor Cuomo to take a lead role in campaign finance reform by pledging not to take corporate campaign donations.

Bob Ward of the Rockefeller Institute on taxation and representation.

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The Empire

California's 'independent' redistricting fiasco: a cautionary tale

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ProPublica has a breathlessly delivered article about California's redistrict process that was "surreptitiously" hijacked by Democrats for maximum partisan gain in their new Congressional maps. It’s an instructive tale of how arguably the most extremely “independent” process in the country led—at least at the Congressional level—to even more lopsided lines than before.

"What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old,” ProPublica tells us. You can read the full article here.

In the end, there’s something violently Californian about the whole thing. Like their solution to taxes—ever increasing mandates but an unwillingness to tax them—the redistricting process appears to be an extreme perfect-as-the-enemy-of-the-good situation: commissioners so thoroughly sanitized of any hint of partisanship they were blind to the partisan manipulations happening right in front of them.

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The Takeaway

What Would Don Draper Do?: Rebranding the Occupy Movement

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Before there were tents in Zuccotti Park, before there were demonstrations, the creative minds at the Canadian magazine Adbusters had already made the name "Occupy Wall Street" — a Twitter hash tag that was creating buzz. And then they had a slogan: We are the 99 percent. Unsurprising for a group that has specialized in activism through subversive advertising, or subvertising, as they call it.

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The Takeaway

Grassroots Support Launches Ron Paul Campaign

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Out of the dust and debris of Herman Cain's campaign and Newt Gingrich's string of media gaffes, a new contender for the Republican presidential nomination is emerging. Polls show libertarian-leaning Texas congressman Ron Paul taking the lead in the Iowa caucus. He's also expected to have a strong finish in New Hampshire. 

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It's A Free Country ®

Podcast: Pakistani Immigrants Seek to Rebuild Relationship Between Countries

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pakistani immigrants are keenly aware of the dangers posed by the latest crisis in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Ever since the November 26 NATO airstrike that killed at least 25 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has been on a downward spiral.

In this ...

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The Takeaway

An 'All Boys Club' in Iowa?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The rise and fall of Michele Bachmann in Iowa has brought to light an uncomfortable truth about Iowa politics. The state, which holds the first caucus in the nation, has never elected a female to the U.S. Senate, Congress, or the governorship

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The Empire

State's highest court delivers half of Assemblyman Lancman's Martin Act reform bill

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In a ruling by the state’s highest court on December 20th, a major disagreement over one of the biggest tools the state’s Attorney General has in regulating Wall Street. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that New York’s Martin Law didn’t preempt private individuals from going after Wall Street firms that mismanaged or defrauded investors.

In a statement, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office called the decision "an important recognition that private lawsuits brought by harmed investors are compatible with our office's public enforcement role under the Martin Act."

The New York Law Review has a detailed (and technical) breakdown of the Martin Law’s and the history of this issue.

But for those not plugged into the securities industry, the Martins Law is a Depression Era law unique to New York, that allows the state’s Attorney General broad powers to go after firms that swindled investors. In light of the 2007 Wall Street-created meltdown of the economy, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has taken the baton passed down from former AG Eliot Spitzer to use the previously unused law to go after big Wall Street firms.

The Court of Appeals decision settles a disagreement over how the Martin Act impacts private investors’ attempts to recoup funds they believe were inappropriately lost. Some state and federal courts had ruled that the act preempts investors from seeking damages because the facts of the case could be used by the Attorney General to make his or her own case.

Now, the two are separated and can happen concurrently: the Attorney General’s office can sue a firm for fraud and investors can also try to get back some of the money they invested, using the same facts to build their separate cases. No longer does the AG’s office have sole domain over pursuing firms thanks to the Martin Act.

This is partly what Queens Assemblyman Rory Lancman has been pushing for with a bi-partisan bill he has cosponsored with State Senator Tom Libous of Binghamton.

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The Empire

Two Months In, Occupy Albany Outlines Demands

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

By WNYC's Yasmeen Khan

After spending two months camped out in Lafayette Park, across from the State Capitol building, Occupy Albany protesters are issuing demands, and with a national focus. They're "developing a strategic road map to address, in the near term, the issues of campaign finance, lobbying influence, and the revolving door."

They outlined the demands in a press conference on Tuesday, and Matthew Edge, an Occupy Albany Political Strategy Working Group member, elaborated on those demands today on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

The movement's priorities include repealing corporate personhood (referring to the Citizens United case in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals) and changing the incentives structure for elected officials, so that they are working solely for constituents and not for donors, Edge said.

He said the the Political Strategy Working Group is actually looking to follow the example set by Maine and its clean elections law.

"It allows for everyone running for office to essentially have the same amount of money to run. So they can win based on their ideas, and not based on just how much money they can raise. And once they're elected, since agreeing to opt into the public funding system, the clean elections system requires them to agree not to accept any private contributions. So that seems to be -- while it's not the end all, be all -- the first step."

In this exchange with Brian Lehrer, Edge explained why taking money out of politics is a "99 percent" issue, and how Occupy Albany decided to make the issue its platform.

Edge joined The Brian Lehrer Show as Occupy Albany protesters face a deadline: their permit to occupy Lafayette Park expires on Thursday. They've planned a Keep the Park rally for tomorrow evening. Edge said while the park is symbolic, "the movement will continue regardless."

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The Empire

Support for independent redistricting grows, while New Yorkers remain split on fracking: Quinnipiac

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

As a new Quinnipiac poll says, support for an independent commission to try new political boundaries is on the rise. More than half--52 percent--of those polled said said it was time for the Legislature to hand over the line drawing to someone else.

“Drawing new legislative and congressional district lines will be high on Albany’s 2012 agenda. Quinnipiac University has been tracking this sleeper issue for some time and we see support for an independent commission to draw the lines is edging up,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in the report. Carroll noted that 56 percent of those polled believed that an independent commission should be devoid of legislators.

You can see what some non-partisan groups are proposing for maps here.

Lastly, the poll shows that more than two-thirds of those polled support Las Vegas-style casinos in New York.

New York voters are less sure when it comes to hydrofracking. The drilling process is supported by 44 percent of those polled, while 45 percent are opposed to it. New York City and upstate voters are less in favor of bringing hydrofracking to New York--49 and 48 percent respectively--while 53 percent of suburban voters support drilling.

“Another big 2012 issue – hydro-fracking – has New Yorkers split right down the middle.  Overwhelmingly, voters think it would produce jobs. A smaller majority worries that it would damage the environment,” Carroll said.

The poll surveyed 1,143 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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It's A Free Country ®

Romney on Immigration: Hardliner, Not Flip-Flopper

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been accused of flip-flopping on issues, chief among them immigration. But has his stance on immigration really shifted that much?

Finger-pointers wonder how Romney has the chutzpah to accuse Gingrich of being soft on immigration, claiming the former Speaker was opening “a new doorway ...

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The Empire

State's new ethics commission meets, agrees there's a lot to do, then closes public meeting

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

JCOPE Chair Janet DiFiore (Karen DeWitt / New York Public Radio)

That's pretty much the way today's first public JCOPE meeting went. You can review the agenda here. For the first 15 minutes, the members of the commission went around introducing themselves. For the public's benefit, I presume, as they've already met in private so you'd guess they'd have gotten that out of the way.

For the remaining half hour the commission was briefed by the chair of the earlier ethics commission incarnation, Barry Ginsberg, on the host of things the new commission needed to take care of.

"We have an enormous amount of work ahead of us," said JCOPE Chair Janet DiFiore. What that consisted of--for the public portion of the meeting at least--was the Chair stating the need to find an executive director, and the commissioners giving her the green light to search for that person.

Then Ginsberg ran down the outstanding issues that JCOPE needed to deal with, including the development of guidelines for per diem payments to commissioners, the review of current (rather, the former) ethics commission's rules that are on the books, and the commission's own ethics and conflicts of interest guidelines.

And when they were done discussing the seemingly most basic organizational needs of the commission, DiFiore asked for the commission to adjourn their public meeting so they could be their executive, behind-closed-doors meeting.

The Associated Press' Michael Gormley then asked why the commission felt the need to go into special executive, non-public session--what was the specific reason. DiFiore essentially told Gormley, "Because I said so."

As we all know there is an exemption in the [open meetings] law. I think all of us would agree, given the nature of the work here, we should endeavor to do as much of our work in open view and have the public be able to tune in and hear what we’re thinking, and talking about and working on. But there are some matters that requires confidentiality and I think that as we go we will figure out what those matters are. Today, the matters that are on our agendas, that we will discuss in executive and closed session meeting, I think are appropriate. Any further discussion?

This isn't to say that DiFiore doesn't have a point. JCOPE definitely needs time to discuss highly sensitive matters behind closed doors. This is probably one of those times, but without knowing some, even slightly more specific details, we'll never have a sense as to whether going into special private session is necessary. And for an ethics panel, that becomes a concern.

Still, DiFiore got approval from the board to move the session into private, with the exception of Ravi Batra, who voted against going in to executive session. He did not vocalize why he was against going behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, a State Senator resigned today ahead of pleading guilty to bribery charges that could land him in jail for up to 20 years. Perhaps JCOPE's private conversations can help keep other legislatures on a more honest track.

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The Empire

Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger resigns

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

As always, State of Politics and YNN host Liz Benjamin has a great rundown of Kruger's career. Read it here.

Carl Kruger Resignation Letter

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The Empire

Final arguments presented to Federal judge weighing new primary date decision

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

State officials made their final pitches to the Federal judge in charge of deciding when the state's primary date could be next year. Judge Gary Sharpe has said he'll make a decision by next week.

The arguments weren't new from those proposing that the state return its primary election to the pre-1974 June date. Attorney General Eric Schniederman's office put a cover letter on arguments from Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the state's bipartisan Election Commissioners Association that June was superior to the August date favored by Senate (and other) Republicans.

The AG's office stated that it wasn't specifically arguing for a June date, but the direction of its statements make it clear they are clearly on the side of the June proponents:

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It's A Free Country ®

1992 Redux? Rumors of a Clinton and Bush Showdown

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just like in 1992, we've got a sluggish economy, restless independent voters, and a president who hasn't been able to translate his foreign policy successes into solid approval ratings. And now, there's gossip about a Bush and a Clinton in the race.

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