Monday, November 27, 2006


Come see our brand new albany project site! It's pretty fancy.

So, please update your links and come on by!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Document Dump - State Senate Pork

Boy, Joe Bruno is one class act. The State Senate Leadership has finally released data on its PORK Community Projects Fund Grants. And they were thoughtful enough to dump this massive, unsearchable, cumbersome and thoroughly unusable pile on the day before Thanksgiving. I, for one, am less than "thankful".

From Capitol Confidential:

Senate $ On The Web

The Senate majority has posted (on the day before Thanksgiving, no less) its Community Projects Fund Grants, (AKA Pork), on the Web.

Go to There you can look up projects from 2003-04 and 2004-05 that senators obtained funding for, be it Little League ballfield improvements, road projects etc.

Each project has a form which is signed by the requesting senator.

The information is listed under the Senate Reports link.

A note: The Times Union, joined by other media outlets, recently won a court fight to get details on these spending items.

The Senate stresses in a news release that the information has long been available through various state agencies, but reporters wanted to be able to trace spending items to individual lawmakers. Until now, that was no easy task.

Spending items for more recent years should be up soon, according to the Senate. 

One warning, the listing is VERY big and will take your computer a long time to open, if it can open it all. Also, because it was scanned, it isn’t really searchable and requires patient scrolling to find the item, senator or dollar amount you may be seeking.

I've spent the past hour even trying to open this pile o' pork with no luck. It's a mess and I have no doubt that it's a mess by design. I mean, we wouldn't want anyone to actually be able to use any of this information, now would we?

As someone in the comments at CC said, which media outlet will be the first (if any) to compile the heap of data into something more useful and user friendly? It's not like our employees in the state Senate are going to do it for us. No, they'd rather insult their employers for daring to even ask about what they are doing with our money.

So, who is going to make this pile of crap something that is even the least bit useful? If that sounds like a challenge, that's because, you know, it is.

Get to it.

Duly Noted

From Politics on the Hudson:

Life After The Election

Three Democratic strategists involved in local campaigns are setting up shop as political consultants to Democratic candidates and “progressive advocacy organizations.”

The official launch of Morey, Ryan & Epstein, LLC is planned for Tuesday in downtown Peekskill.
Mike Morey managed Democratic Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz’s race against long-time Republican incumbent Vincent Leibell. Leibell won. Morey is chairman of the Northern Westchester Democratic Coalition and the City of Peekskill’s Democratic Party.

Kevin Ryan previously served as Westchester County Executive Andy Spano’s deputy campaign manager and political director for his 2005 race. During this election cycle, Ryan worked as the Westchester co-coordinator for the Spitzer campaign.

Allison Epstein managed Darren Rigger’s campaign during the Democratic primary for the 19th Congressional District nomination.

The new firm’s goal is “to support a progressive agenda for the region,” Epstein said.

Best of luck.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...Hungry?

the New York City Coalition Against Hunger has just released it's latest report on hunger in New York City, Hunger Hangs on: Despite Stock Market Boom, New York City's Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Are Still Overwhelmed. It's shocking to say the least. 1 in 6 New York City residents lives in a household that can not afford to purchase sufficient supplies of food.

Yes, you read that correctly - 1 in 6. In New York City. Right. Now.

From the press release:

Despite the recent stock market boom, the number of city residents who lack sufficient food, as well as the number forced to use charitable soup kitchens and food pantries, continued to soar, according to a new report by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH).

During the most recent three year time period (2003-2005), 1,256,000 of the city's residents -- one in six -- lived in households that could not afford to purchase an adequate supply of food, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data analyzed by NYCCAH. During this time, 15.4% of city residents lived in those food insecure households, representing an approximately 112,000-person increase over the 2000-2003 time period, when 14.0% of New Yorkers lived in such households.

Statewide in New York during that same time, the number of people living in food insecurity climbed from 9.4 % to 10.4%, representing a roughly 80,000-person increase. In 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York was the only state in the nation in which both poverty and overall earnings income increased, making the state a leader in inequality of wealth.

The number of people served by the city’s charitable food pantries and soup kitchens rose by an estimated 11% in 2006, on top of an estimated 6% increase from 2004-2005, according to the Coalition's annual survey of these agencies. Because the agencies were unable to obtain enough food, money, staff, and volunteers to meet their growing need, nearly half (46%) were forced to ration food by turning people away, reducing portion sizes, and/or limiting hours of operations.

“In a year when the stock market went through the roof -- and the number of billionaires in the city nearly doubled -- it is unconscionable that 1.3 million New Yorkers, including many children, did not have enough to eat,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition, an umbrella group for the city's more than 1,200 pantries and kitchens. “When the number of people forced to obtain food from charities continues to skyrocket, we know it’s time to rapidly reverse the failing public policies and harmful economic trends that cause this increasing hunger.”

The Coalition Against Hunger’s survey report (available at, entitled “Hunger Hangs on: Despite Stock Market Boom, New York City's Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Are Still Overwhelmed,” also concludes that hunger and poverty are increasing because low-wage workers are facing declining wages at the same time costs for housing, food, and other basic necessities are rapidly increasing, while the government safety net has failed to keep up with rising needs.

The release goes on to quote Council Speaker Quinn, public advocate Betsy Gotbaum and U.S. Rep Anthony Weiner. They all are quoted saying the right things and expressing sufficient alarm. But, notice who's missing?

There is no one from the state level on the record here. Not a one. Perhaps they have larger concerns or maybe they're just, ya know, well fed.

Some really disturbing numbers from the study:

• 83% of responding agencies reported feeding an increased number of people in the last 12 months. 45% said this number increased “greatly.”

• Of the populations that increased “greatly” at responding agencies, the fastest growth was seen among families with children, senior citizens and immigrants.

• 78% of responding agencies reported feeding an increased number of families with children over the last 12 months (versus 6% reporting a decrease, and 11% reporting no change).

• 75% of responding agencies reported feeding an increased number of seniors over the last 12 months (versus 7% reporting a decrease, and 13% reporting no change).

• 46% of responding agencies reported feeding an increased number of working people over the last 12 months (versus 7% reporting a decrease, and 21% reporting no change).

• 84% of responding agencies believe that their need will continue to increase in the next six months. 36% of responding agencies believe it will increase “greatly.”

• 40% of responding agencies reported receiving less government food and money in the last 12 months (vs. 19% reporting no change, and 35% reporting an increase).

• 41% of responding agencies reported receiving less overall food and money in the last 12 months (vs. 19% reporting no change, and 35% reporting an increase).

• Nearly half of respondents report being unable to distribute enough food to meet current demands (48%).

• 46% of responding agencies reported having to turn away hungry New Yorkers, cut portion sizes and/or cut hours of operation in 2006, vs. 41% of the same agencies in 2005.

• 27% of respondents reported using their own personal money “often” or “always” to support their feeding programs (57% do this “sometimes,” “often” or “always”).

That, friends, is a disgrace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Everyone has paid, and they want to play..."

The more things change....

From New York Mag's Intelligencer:

Spitzer-Lovin’ Lobbyists Head to Albany

Eliot’s friends and admirers movin’ upstate

As Eliot Spitzer prepares to ride into Albany as its conqueror, his lobbyist supporters are looking to rent office space up there, too. One of Spitzer’s longtime campaign consultants, Roberto Ramirez, the Bronx political macher and lobbyist, says he will be expanding his city-based MirRam Group and opening an Albany office, but he won’t disclose any details about who will run it and which new clients he’ll rep. “The soup,” Ramirez says, “is not ready.” Sources say the city’s top-grossing lobbyist and one of Spitzer’s fund-raisers, Suri Kasirer, has plans to expand her city operations by opening an Albany outpost. Scott Levenson, a lobbyist who raised money for Spitzer, is also checking out new office space in Albany to “steer clients towards drawing down” on the expected surge of Dem-sponsored capital. Spitzer has made reforming Albany his top priority, and lobbyists wonder what restrictions, if any, he will put in place to curb conflicts of interest. Says one Dem lobbyist, “From day one, Eliot has vowed to kill the pay-to-play system. Now everyone has paid, and they want to play.”

You talked a pretty good game on your way to the Governor's mansion, Mr Spitzer and I wish you all the luck in the world. Albany is a mess and we desperately need to drain the swamp, so to speak. But, just keep in mind that this is a new age, Mr. Governor-Elect, and we're going to be watching you like a hawk.

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's a Racket, I tell Ya

New York Re-elects incumbents to its state legislature at a rate of 98%. More legislators drop dead or are sent to prison than are ever voted out by those they supposedly serve. Yet, so few are satisfied with the state of the state, so to speak. Everyone loves to bitch about Albany, but the players never seem to change. Why is that?

Both parties in both chambers have spent generations building a massive and layered firewall against accountability to the voters. It's a massive affront to the democratic process and it serves no one but the legislators themselves.

From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Incumbents cakewalk back to Albany

Legislators easily outspend and outpoll challengers

While much of the national political landscape is changing, there is one constant: The power and the people in the state Legislature will remain almost entirely the same.

And so goes the power of incumbency in a state Legislature that has a 98 percent re-election rate. The same trend held true this year, despite a national climate that produced a shift of power in Congress from Republicans to Democrats.


But none of the legislative races in the Rochester area was close. The tightest was in the 130th Assembly District, a regional seat that runs across Monroe, Livingston and Ontario counties. Assemblyman Joseph Errigo, R-Conesus, Livingston County, won with 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democrat Daniel West.

"Clearly, the sea wall that has been constructed to protect incumbents works very well in even the most dangerous political tsunami," said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Watchdog groups have claimed that the incumbency protections of the state Legislature discourage competitive elections, hurt the democratic process and turn technically part-time positions into lifelong careers.

To change the system, groups have urged tougher campaign finance laws and an independent redistricting process, so election district lines aren't drawn with the intention of keeping one party in power. Democratic Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer has called for similar reforms.

In a report Wednesday, NYPIRG said that only 35 incumbents have lost in general elections since 1982. The largest number of incumbents defeated at once was six, in 1984. Two years ago, four incumbents lost.

The report also showed that incumbents raise far more money than their opponents, allowing them to fill the airwaves and mailboxes with campaign messages. As of two weeks before the election, the average Assembly incumbent raised about 10 times as much as an opponent — $127,858 to $21,356.

In some Rochester races, the disparity was even greater. State Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, and groups on his behalf will have spent more than $1 million on his re-election; Democratic opponent Willa Powell had spent less than $5,000.

He easily won re-election with 66 percent of the vote.

But Robach defended incumbency advantages, saying his greatest benefit is being able to discuss his strong record of accomplishments. And Robach doesn't enjoy an enrollment edge in his district: Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 30,000 voters.

"In my district, people are voting for me for my performance, my delivery of resources and my personal connection with them," said Robach, a former Democratic assemblyman who switched parties in 2002 to run for the Senate.

Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, said the power of incumbency needs to be earned. If an incumbent doesn't work hard, he said, the public will notice and vote out an official, regardless of the system that benefits incumbents.

"You have an advantage as a incumbent, but you have a tremendous amount of responsibility to live up to the incumbency requirements," he said.

Nice one, Sen Alesi. How goes all that earning of "the power of incumbency"?

As far as the article goes, shouldn't there be at least some mention of the use of public funds to run for re-election? Sure, incumbents are able to raise much larger sums of cash because, let's face it, donors like to bet on a winner and that money allows them to "fill the airwaves and mailboxes with campaign messages". But they also fill those mailboxes with massive amounts of mail that is paid for at taxpayer expense. Those mailers most often are not describing an initiative of the incumbent's or a problem to be solved. They don't ask for the involvement of the voter and they don't offer any new information about a specific program. They are de facto campaign pieces and are designed as such.

Furthermore, shouldn't there be some discussion of the allocation of "member item" dollars? The fact that incumbents are able to spend two months or so every two years parading across their districts doling out tens of millions public dollars that were allocated by the leadership in a thoroughly non-transparent and overtly political manner for the express purpose of securing their re-election certainly deserves some discussion, right? Right?

Hell, Bruno has already promised to spend even more public money in the next cycle to protect the last bastion of GOP power in New York State.

It seems any description of the power of incumbency in Albany would include mention of these issues.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why Does the NY DSCC Exist?

I spent two days this weekend at different post election debriefs. While they were mostly focused on a national viewpoint, I did have the chance to meet three different folks who all had experience working the election side of the State Senate. I threw my "the DSCC doesn't want to win" rap on all three and each time the reaction was something like "You're just now figuring this out?"

Marc Humbert of the AP doesn't quite go that far, but he comes pretty close.

Democratic sweep did little for state Senate

ALBANY, N.Y. -- While Democrats easily swept every statewide office at stake in New York on Election Day and took three congressional seats away from Republicans, things were not nearly as rosy for Democrats in state Senate races.

Things might have been a whole lot better for Senate Democrats and much worse for the Senate GOP if a bit more money and attention had been focused on the races. Instead, the GOP lost just one seat and is expected to hold a comfortable 34-28 seat majority in the new Senate.

"It was clearly not the No. 1 priority for Democrats," said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who headed up the Senate's Democratic Campaign Committee.


Krueger said the Senate GOP was helped by polls showing Spitzer, Clinton and other statewide Democrats far ahead. That meant Republican donors pumped money into state Senate races, hoping to keep at least a toehold in New York where Democrats also control the state Assembly.

It is not that there weren't other opportunities for the state Senate Democrats.

In Queens, veteran Republican state Sen. Serphin Maltese barely won re-election with 51 percent of the vote against Albert Baldeo, a Democrat who not only didn't get help from the Senate Democrats' central campaign committee, but was largely ignored by the Queens Democratic organization.

"In 20-20 hindsight, I'm sorry I had no data showing that was a race," said Krueger. "That was not on our radar screen."

Writing about the Queens race in the weekly Village Voice newspaper, Wayne Barrett suggested Baldeo's lack of help might have more than a little to do with the close relations that had developed over the years between Maltese, the Queens County GOP chairman and a former state Conservative Party state chairman, and the county's Democratic leadership. Maltese has held the Senate seat since 1988.

Early this year it appeared that Maltese might be in real trouble when Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg let it be known that he might support a possible challenge for the Senate seat being contemplated by Democratic city Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. Bloomberg and the Queens GOP had been at odds during his successful re-election bid in 2001 and the mayor was also complaining the state Senate GOP wasn't being generous enough to the city. The possible Addabbo challenge quickly disappeared after Bloomberg and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno made peace.

Meanwhile, on Long Island, Republican Caesar Trunzo, in the Senate since 1972, won re-election with just 53 percent of the vote against a Democrat given little help by the Senate minority. State Senate Democrats also did little to help candidates running for open seats on Staten Island and in the Utica area. On Staten Island, Democrats even had an advantage in enrollment for the seat being vacated by Republican John Marchi.

Part of the problem for Senate Democrats was that Minority Leader David Paterson had let it be known more than a year ago that he did not believe Democrats could take the Senate in 2006 and that the real target was 2008. Such statements did little to encourage fundraising.

"We were dramatically outgunned with money," Krueger told The Associated Press on Thursday. She estimated the GOP spent more than $7 million while she was able to muster less than $2.5 million.

Then, Paterson got tapped to become Spitzer's running mate, leaving Senate Democrats with a lame-duck leader through the election cycle. While Spitzer and Paterson did lend a hand in some Senate races, their attention was obviously elsewhere.

Senate Democrats were helped in 2004 by the larger turnout that accompanies presidential elections, especially in a state as blue as New York. More than 7.4 million voters trooped to the polls in 2004 while just over 4.2 million turned out in 2006 in a state where there are more than 5 million Democrats and just 3 million Republicans.

The problem now faced by Democrats is that they have now given the GOP a roadmap of the potential targets for 2008. In politics, as in much of life, forewarned is forearmed.

"I had no data showing that was a race...That was not on our radar screen." This is from the the head of the DSCC. oh, and you raised close to $2.5 million bucks. Hey, Liz, how much did you spend? Why does the DSCC exist?

Incompetence or malfeasance?

I report, you decide.

Oh, and am brings up a couple of excellent points in an email...

What isn't dealt with here is the effect on:
1. candidate recruitment
2. not only squandering the opportunity for a stealth takeover by now
allowing lots of time for the R's to get their act together, but I
predict every seat will have to face serious primary challenges the
next time, so its going to cost even more money.
3. apparently, one of the dem "strategies" as articulated by (name omitted -ed) to
me was one of, well the Senate will flip because all the R's are
getting old and will die, and the D numbers are increasing. I pointed
out that that political strategy would have us waiting for Sue Kelly's
natural demise instead of doing the right thing and running to win


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Is Interesting. Conservatives Against Bruno.

It seems upstate conservatives are calling for the ouster of State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

From Albany's Insanity via the Politicker:

Upstate Conservatives Coalition Calls for the Ouster of Joe Bruno

Senate Majority Leader Is One Man Legislature

Upstate Conservatives has formed to restore conservative ideals in New York State government. The same coalition that launched the website is now calling for the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. Upstate Conservatives is presently headed by former New York State Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Jim Brewster and includes a cross section of bipartisan political leaders and citizens. During the past election season members of Upstate Conservatives played a role in defeating Senator Bruno and Assemblyman Jeff Brown in their attempt to purchase the 49th New York Senate District for 1.5 million dollars.

In his tenure as majority leader Bruno has created a dictatorship in the New York State Senate that goes against the most basic principles of democracy.

Only after being sued by journalists has Joe Bruno agreed to release detailed information about millions of dollars of public funds spent under his direction. Each year Bruno alone distributes these funds to senators with no public oversight and no accountability. Citizens who live in minority districts receive millions less in tax dollars than those represented by members of Bruno’s Republican majority many of who use vast amounts of public funds to support pet projects and clandestinely reward political supporters.

Joe Bruno has continually courted the support of the New York State Conservative Party, but at the same time has supported legislation that is in direct opposition to the party’s platform i.e. SONDA etc.

Working with his assembly counterpart, Speaker Sheldon Silver, Bruno has been able to effectively stop true legislative reform in Albany; gerrymander legislative districts to ensure election outcomes, and create an overload of bureaucrats on the public payroll. (Silver must go too, but that is a job for the Democrats to try again.)

“The Republican Party is on life support under Joe Bruno,” said Jim Brewster. “As indicated by Dave Valesky’s victory, the voters have clearly rejected Bruno politics. The time has come for Joe Bruno to go.

Upstate Conservatives will be launching a variety of initiatives during the upcoming legislative session to excite public interest in Bruno's resignation. We will be reaching out to potential Conservative replacements for Senator Bruno to ensure they have the necessary support to challenge him. Upstate Conservatives firmly believes that by freeing the senate to function in an honest and open fashion, true legislative reform can begin in New York.

--All emphasis mine

Wow. It's good to know that New York conservatives are as unhappy as the rest of us with the state of things in Albany and as pissed off at the biggest roadblocks to real reform - namely the heads of the two chambers of the legislature. I welcome the upstate conservatives to the fight.

Too bad New York dems didn't see it the same way this past cycle.

Joe Bruno Promises To Spend OUR Money To Protect HIS Majority

Wow. You know things are bad when the Senate Majority Leader feels perfectly fine with stating on the record that he plans to shovel money into the districts of GOP incumbents to protect his majority and that the reporter duly noted those words without asking him "WTF?" This is what he said:

from the Times Record

Also, all state senators in the region (John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope; Bill Larkin, R-C-Cornwall-on-Hudson; and Tom Morahan, R-C-New City) are members of the state Senate's ruling Republican Party. Considering Bonacic's tap into the gravy train before, imagine now what leadership will do to fend off future challenges.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno said yesterday that GOP senators will be well protected over the next two years and can count on significant pork and legislative say-so. "They are going to do extremely well on behalf of their constituency," Bruno said of state Senate Republicans.

On behalf their constituency? Is that really the motivation here? Or are you going to use the general fund to supplement the NY RSCC campaign? What about those districts held by Dems or by unchallenged GOP incumbents? Can we assume that they will suffer so that you can use their money to defend the last bastion of state GOP power? Where in the state Constitution is the section describing the outlay of public money for purely political purposes?

I'm not naive. I know that this is always the way it's done. But, for Bruno to be so confident that he feels he can go on the record with such a plan and then have that statement go unchallenged describes a process and a culture that is out of control.

This is YOUR state government.

Had enough?