Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cuomo Links State Financial Aid For NY College Students To DREAM Act, School Vouchers

And yet another policy linkage shoved into the 30 day amendments to the budget by Il Duce Cuomo:

Gov. Cuomo’s budget plan would deny nearly $1 billion in state aid to 372,000 legal New York college students if the Legislature refuses to provide tuition assistance to illegal immigrants and tax credits to supporters of parochial schools.

The poison pill was inserted by Cuomo into the state budget last week, but isn’t widely known.


State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long fumed, “This is definitely blackmail. The governor is holding college students hostage. It’s ethically wrong.”

The state spent $935.6 million on Tuition Assistance Program benefits to 372,527 students last year. Grants ranged from $500 to $5,000.

But in amendments to his budget plan, Cuomo linked the release of the TAP grants to expanding eligibility to undocumented residents as well as enactment of the Education Tax Credit.

The way the budget bill is written, the Legislature can’t reject the Dream Act or the tax credit without also wiping out the entire tuition assistance program for nearly 400,0000 college students.

The actual language of the amendment says “funds from this [TAP] appropriation shall not be spent” unless the two other programs are also approved.

Cuomo is calculating that his provocative maneuver will force lawmakers to pass both the Dream Act and the Education Tax Credit to avoid being blamed for scrapping the popular tuition grants.
Asked about the linkage, Cuomo’s office provided a comment the governor recently made on Long Island.

“It’s the best way to get it passed,” he said. “Because they wouldn’t pass it last year, and I think this gives it the greatest likelihood of passing.”

Pretty soon they'll be no other legislation passed in New York State except for the stuff Cuomo sticks into the 30 day budget amendments tied to other things.

I'm not sure when we went from living in a democracy to an autocracy, but that's where we're at these days.

Cuomo - the governor with the 44%-55% job approval rating - is imposing his will on the state like he's The Sun King.

Pass what I want or I kill off all state financial aid to college students.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting Ugly Up There In Albany

From Ken Lovett at the Daily News:

ALBANY - Playing hardball in their fight with Gov. Cuomo, state Senate Republicans introduced an ethics reform bill that would require his celebrity chef girlfriend to disclose her financial information.

The bill, quietly introduced Thursday night by the Senate Rules Committee, does not have a named sponsor. It would expand an existing law requiring public officials’ spouses to reveal their financial information to also cover any person an official resides with and unemancipated children.
Cuomo has lived for years with celebrity chef Sandra Lee.

Since taking office in 2011, he has created a host of different task forces whose members would now be forced to reveal their finances.

Cuomo's response?

Here's one on the record:

"We're happy to review any ethics proposal with the bill's sponsor - whoever that may be," Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said Friday.

Here's one off the record:

An administration official was even more caustic, calling the bill “an interesting concept.’

“If the bill's anomoyous sponsor ever comes forward, we may suggest expanding it to include all girlfriends, even those of married members,” the official said.

Not much to say about this exchange other than - wow.

Albany's cold and snowy this time year, but it also appears to be burning with fear, loathing and hostility.

Of Course The News Corp Book Deal With Cuomo Was A Bribe

Sometimes it's fun to go back and look at something you wrote in the past and see if you were right.

Back in 2014, I wrote this over the news that Andrew Cuomo would be paid $700,000 for a book he was supposed to write for HarperCollins, the Rupert Murdoch/News Corporation-owned publisher:

How many copies of this book do you think Harper Collins sells?

Do they think there's a readership out there for Andrew Cuomo's memoir?

Or maybe they think fans of Chris Cuomo will buy it?

Andrew Cuomo has the reputation for being one of the biggest asses in politics.

I can't imagine the book sells more than a few thousand copies at best.

So why did Murdoch give Cuomo at least $700,000 in compensation for this memoir?

Notice when the contract with Harper Collins was signed - right after his first year in office.

That was when Cuomo and Harper Collins Rupert Murdoch were still best buds (as demonstrated by how Murdoch flack Fred Dicker treated Cuomo in the NY Post.)

Even then, Murdoch had to know that few copies of this book would be sold.

This was a bribe from Murdoch to Cuomo in the form of a book contract.

I can't wait for the book to come out and see how many copies get sold.

I suspect this Cuomo memoir will be up there as a loss-leader, along with Murdoch's other great loss leader, the NY Post.

Then, when it was revealed that HarperCollins was going to run 200,000 copies foe the first printing, I wrote this:

A 200,000-copy first run?

Just who is Harper Collins (owned by Rupert Murdoch, btw) planning to sell this book to?

Let's assume Cuomo's family, friends and loved ones buy some copies.

Let's assume too that suck-ups who work for him buy some.

Let's assume Billy Joel takes $30 out of his drinking fund and buys a copy too.

And let's assume Cuomo's consort, Sandra Lee, forces people in her coterie to plunk down the money for the book to try and drive some numbers.

How many copies sold is that?

Now I've been watching the Hillary Clinton book sales closely, because she got a huge printing for her book too - much bigger than Sheriff Andy got actually, and her sales have not been too good.

Here's Politico on June 17:

Officials with Hillary Clinton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, insist her book has fared well amid reports of weak sales, and that it’s succeeded despite a dramatically altered retail landscape since her last memoir.

The book sold roughly 100,000 copies from the Tuesday when it was released through the following Saturday, according to a Simon & Schuster source. The source added that the book, titled “Hard Choices,” is debuting at No. 1 on the Indie Bestseller List, which reflects sales at independent bookstores.

The 100,000 figure for “Hard Choices” includes pre-orders and e-books, the publishing sources said. Those figures get rolled into the first-day sales.

The New York Times best-seller list, which will be released Wednesday, is another metric people are watching to see how the memoir is faring.

The first 1 million copies printed of the book were pre-ordered by bookstores, although that figure does not reflect how many were bought by customers.


 People close to Clintonland also said the market for books has changed greatly since “Living History,” noting the closure of several hundred Borders bookstores and dozens of Barnes & Noble outlets.

Not a great start for a book that got a $14 million advance.

And it's gotten worse since:

There’s hand-wringing and finger-pointing at Simon & Schuster over the soft performance of Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices,” for which she got a $14 million advance, sources said — and which was replaced at No. 1 on the best-seller list this week by an “exposé” about Hillary and Bill Clinton.

The former secretary of state’s tome sold 161,000 copies in its first three weeks, according to Nielsen BookScan — but 85,000 of those were sold in the first week. That number has dropped sharply to 48,000 and 28,000 in subsequent weeks, with the most recent numbers due out Wednesday.

Simon & Schuster shipped an optimistic 1 million copies to stores. Hillary reportedly got $8 million for her last book for the publisher, “Living History,” which sold 438,000 copies in its first week and more than 1.15 million overall.

Adding insult to injury, the new book was pushed from the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list this week by Edward Klein’s story of the Clintons’ pained relationship with Barack and Michelle Obama, “Blood Feud.” A source close to Hillary has blasted the book, along with its author, as “dastardly” and a combination of “pathological lying, hate and just flat-out creepiness.”
“There’s lots of finger-pointing going on at Simon & Schuster” over the very expensive Clinton deal, a source told Page Six.

Another insider said sales of 161,000 for “Hard Choices” would be “OK” for a normal book without such a big advance and expectations. “It’s an OK number — it’s very solid — a good amount to sell in three weeks,” the source said. “And the book is $35, significantly higher than most.” Also, BookScan only measures 85 percent of the print market, and not e-books.

A rep for Simon & Schuster did not respond to a request for comment. Reports have said the early numbers for “Hard Choices” reflect that it will not sell enough to cover Clinton’s advance, or to sell the million copies shipped, which are sent on consignment, with unsold copies ultimately going back to the publisher.

Now that's the Murdoch-owned NY Post ragging on Simon & Schuster for the absurd $14 million advance they handed Clinton for a book that not too many people planned on buying.

But the Murdoch-owned Harper Collins is likely going to have a mini-disaster on its own hands with the Cuomo book, because it's hard to see how if Hillary Clinton could only sell 161,000 copies of "Hard Choices," Andrew Cuomo is going to sell 200,000 first-run copies of “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life.”

Now I dunno, maybe all the Chris Cuomo groupies out there go out and buy the book and make me eat my words, but I just have a difficult time seeing the $700,000 advance and the 200,000-copy first run printing from Murdoch's Harper Collins as anything other than payback for Cuomo's corporate-friendly policies as governor, in particular Cuomo's pro-charter policies which Murdoch loves.

Murdoch has long been known to use his media outlets to reward friends and punish enemies - he keeps the NY Post open and operating despite its losing hundreds of millions of dollars for just that purpose.

I can't see any business reason why Harper Collins would pay Cuomo $700,000 in advance for his book and print 200,000 copies in the first run other than paying him back for stuff Sheriff Andy did that Rupert liked.

So far, Cuomo has sold less than 3,000 books of the 200,000 copy first printing.

He's disclosed $188,000 in payments from HarperCollins on his finance forms, though we do not now whether he's going to get additional payments for the book despite the poor sales because he refuses to release the contract.

All of this matters because Cuomo is in the middle of taking on the legislature over ethics reform, including increased disclosure of lawmakers' outside incomes, while he refuses to be transparent on his own.

Cuomo says he doesn't have to disclose anything because he's not subject to the same kind of corruptive influences that legislators are - except that David Sirota at IBTimes reported on Wednesday that the Cuomo administration was lobbied on multiple issues by News Corporation both before and after Cuomo signed his $700,000 book contract with the News Corp-owned HarperCollins.

The book deal Cuomo got from News Corporation starts looking an awful lot like a quid pro quo arrangement and/or bribe from News Corporation to Cuomo when you see that the corporation got millions in tax breaks and other goodies out of Cuomo.

How is that different than former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, now under indictment for corruption, taking bribes and kickbacks?

NT2 says it's not in their latest post called "Monetizing The Office":

“Shelly was paid 700k and Andrew was paid 700k. What did they do for that money?”
“Silver facilitated referrals to a law firm and Cuomo wrote a book.”
“Both of them monetized their office.”
“Nah. That can’t be.”
“Really? Would Cuomo have got a book deal without being Governor? Of course not.
Nobody would read a book about him if he wasn’t Governor.”
“Well, nobody seems interested in the book anyway,” we quipped.
“Cuomo personally received $700,000 or more for doing what? He didn’t write that book. You know that. He’s politically smart, but he’s not a reader or a writer. His staff wrote the book for him and that’s another problem.”
“But lots of governors do the same thing.”
“And lots of legislators are rainmakers. You can make the case that Cuomo’s monetizing of the Governor’s office was more egregious than Silver’s because he used staff to do it and it produced less value.”
“Produced less value?”
“Silver received 700k, right? That was for generating referrals for the law firm. And what was the value of the referrals? If he got one mesothelioma case, it might have been worth 100k to the law firm. If he got two it was worth 200k. We don’t know how many referrals he generated.  Maybe it was half a dozen. Maybe it was a hundred. But you know there was some value generated. Now think about Cuomo. He and his government staff produced a book that was worth what?  Well, the book tanked. That means that Cuomo was paid $700,000 for nothing of value.”
“Isn’t this just a bad decision by the publisher? They thought his book would sell. They took the risk on it and they were wrong. That’s the nature of their business.”
“That’s true. But how did the book deal come together. Did he write it and show it to them. No. He got a huge advance and that advance looks like a sweetheart deal. He got a huge up front payment. He’s getting a cut rate on purchases of the book that he can then provide to his supporters for promotional purposes. He also benefits from the promotion of the book by the publisher. He’s making out like a bandit. He monetized his office, didn’t he?”
“When you say it like that, it’s hard to disagree.”
“And we haven’t even mentioned the other side of it. What benefits accrued to the publisher? How did News Corp. benefit? Nobody has looked at that. Nobody has gone back 10 years like Preet did with Silver. What did Cuomo do in office as AG or as Governor that benefitted News Corp.  Silver directed a grant to a hospital for cancer research in 2005 and they called it a bribe in 2015. What did Cuomo do for News Corp during the last 10 years? I’ll bet you could find something, no?”
“This can’t be.”
“This is the world we live in. If Preet can make a case against Silver, he can make a case against Cuomo.”

I'm still skeptical that US Attorney Preet Bharara is going to do to Cuomo what he did to Silver, but it sure seems if Bharara decides to dig into Cuomo's business dealings with News Corporation, he'll find plenty of interesting items to scrutinize.

This News Corp/book deal stuff is in addition to the Moreland tampering that Preet is allegedly looking into already, as well as the subpoenas to donors that Cuomo's secretary, Larry Schwartz, had "pulled back" by the Moreland Commission even as they subpoenaed legislative targets.

Cuomo's pushing ethics reform this budget, claiming he'll shut the government down if the legislature doesn't give him what he wants on ethics reform (i.e., ethics reforms that pertain only to the legislature, not to statewide officials like the governor.)

Here's hoping the feds shut Cuomo himself down with a 7 AM visit and a car ride to central booking over all the criminality he's engaged in.

If they could get Silver on this stuff, you can bet they can get Cuomo too.

But will they?

Cuomo, Legislature Fight Each Other On Multiple Fronts

It seems the legislature is not happy with Governor Cuomo.

Three bills were introduced last night that all take aim at Cuomo:

These bills come on top of the beating Cuomo's IT shill took yesterday over the Cuomo policy of deleting all government email older than 90 days:

ALBANY—Maggie Miller, the state's chief information officer, faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers at a budget hearing Thursday afternoon about the Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting emails of state workers that are more than 90 days old.


Asked again if she had any concerns that the email deletion policy would decrease transparency, Miller said, “I fully support the policy.”

“I think if the New York Assembly announced tomorrow they were going to pick up this policy, [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara would be at the court door making sure it did not,” Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell said, to nervous laugher from lawmakers and members of the crowd.

Also yesterday, Cuomo ratcheted up his efforts to privatize the public school system in New York State by releasing a report that ties "failing" schools to individual lawmakers:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo dropped a political bomb on state lawmakers Thursday — linking their names to chronically failing public schools in their districts in a provocative move to win support for his education reforms.

The governor issued a 200-page report outlining the performance of 178 low-performing schools around the state, including 91 in New York City.

The list includes the names of the state senator and Assembly member who represent each school in an implicit challenge: What are you going to do about it?

I'm not sure how effective this confrontational strategy Cuomo is pursuing on mutliple fronts is going to be.

He's shoved lots of policy proposals into 30 day budget amendments, forcing the legislature to either agree to the proposals or strip them from the budget, he's taking a "My Way Or The Highway" approach to ethics reforms that will only affect the legislature while leaving statewide pols like himself alone and now he's trying to publicly embarrass individual lawmakers by connecting them to his "failing" school list (a list that mirrors the one devised by Families For Excellent Schools, the hedge fund-backed pro-charter group, btw.)

He's pissing a lot of people off and he's got few friends to begin with - adding to his enemies list seems like a short-sighted strategy to me.

More and more Cuomo is coming to resemble Richard Nixon - nearly friendless, besieged on all sides, barricaded in his office and lashing out at everyone and everything.

It would be one thing if Cuomo was just taking on the teachers and the teachers union and cozying up to everybody else.

But that's not what he's doing.

He's made nice with a couple of private sector unions and of course he's very close with his hedge fundie/charter school friends, but other than that, can you think of any other groups that he isn't at war with?

I mean, can you think of another time when 15 different towns began pursuing a secession strategy for leaving New York and joining Pennsylvania?

No wonder Cuomo's going to Cuba.

They don't know him there yet.

Back here in New York, he may win some of these battles, so short-term, this strategy may work.

But there's four more years in his second term, barring something unforeseen, and I can't imagine things are going to get much better for him in the next couple of years after starting out the first year of the second term balls to the wall like this.

If We Applied Education Reform Logic To Newspapers...

...Here's one that ought to be closed for "failure":

Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman's Thursday announcement that the tabloid is officially on the market, after 22 years of ownership by the billionaire real estate magnate, has media watchers wondering: Who would want to buy the thing?

The 96-year-old news organization's finances are tightly held, despite a very public circulation decline and numerous down-sizings that have characterized its most recent era.

But a source close to the News who's been briefed on its current finances told Capital it is believed to be losing around $20 million a year. A spokesman for Zuckerman said he would not comment on financials and that it was premature to talk about a timeline for a potential sale.

While online growth ( has been pulling anywhere between 26 million and nearly 40 million unique monthly visitors over the past year or so, per Comscore numbers) is a positive narrative—one that's put the News in the same orbit as the Daily Mail and other outlets making a big play for America's national advertising dollars—the print edition (which still brings in most of the money) tells a different story.

With readers flocking to computers and mobile devices amid an onslaught of competition from new-media players, average circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2014, was 361,941 on Sundays and 281,907 on weekdays, down from 786,952 and 715,052 during the same period ten years earlier.

The numbers are stark - the DN has lost more than half its print circulation in the last decade.

And while the online DN site has seen growth, there's little money in that.

$20 million a year in losses is a "failure", no?

I mean, sure, online growth is nice, but isn't the bottom line always about actual revenue?

By that measure, the DN is a miserable failure, online growth notwithstanding.

The DN editorial board gets very pragmatic when it comes to "failing" schools, pointing out that the bottom line of test scores and graduation rates are the only things that matter when it comes to school measurement.

If we applied that same logic to the DN itself, the only thing that matters is the circulation and the numbers - therefore the DN is "failing."

It's time for a "turnaround specialist" to see if this "failing" newspaper can be turned around and if not, well, then it most be closed.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post, is rumored to be in the market for the paper.

The Dolans - who are already doing such a magnificent job running Madison Square Garden - are also on the rumor list for potential buyers.

Finally I have heard Michael Bloomberg's name mentioned as well, although it seems to me the DN is a little down market for his blue blood.

If Murdoch acquires the paper, a merger with the NY Post (itself a multimillion dollar loser) is said to be in the offing.

In any case, whatever happens with the DN, the next time you see an editorial pontificating about "failing" schools with "low" tests scores and "poor" graduation rates, remember to apply the same bottom line logic to the "failing" Daily News itself.

Certainly the free market has.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cuomo: I Can't Be Held Responsible For News Corp Quid Pro Quo Because I'm Ignorant

No, seriously, that's his excuse:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he knew nothing about a bill he signed -- a bill that News Corp. lobbied on before the company gave Cuomo a lucrative book contract. Cuomo was asked about the bill at an Albany press conference Wednesday after International Business Times reported that he backed initiatives helping News Corp. 
Questioned about the legislation he signed in September 2011, Cuomo declared: “I have no idea that [News Corp.] lobbied for it. I have no idea what it is, by the way.” 
The bill in question exempted online pay-walled publications from state sales taxes. State documents show News Corp. was one of only two firms to lobby on the bill. At the time, the Rupert Murdoch-led media company was making multimillion-dollar investments in the Daily -- a publication that would benefit from the special tax exemption. 
Prior to the IBTimes report, Cuomo challenged reporters to show how his book contract accepting cash from News Corp. presented a conflict with state business that he oversees. IBTimes documented state records showing News Corp. lobbying Cuomo’s office. Those records list the company lobbying on everything from tax policy to education policy to state contracts.

Caught red-handed taking dough from a company that directly lobbied his administration, Cuomo claims ignorance as an excuse.

Let us imagine how Attorney General Cuomo would react to such an excuse were he investigating a matter like this and the target said "Geez, I can't be held responsible because I didn't know..."

To make matters worse around this, Cuomo STILL refuses to release the contract he signed with News Corporation for his book deal - a book that has sold less 3,000 copies.

He is expected to be paid someone between $700,000 and $880,000 for the book and has already received $188,000 for it.

If he receives $700,000 for the book and it sells less 3,000 copies, News Corporation will be paying Cuomo more than $233 a book.

Considering the book lists at $30, that's an awful lot of dough Rupert Murdoch's paying Cuomo.

I bet he's happy he got some tax breaks and other deals from Cuomo on the side in addition to the memoir Cuomo wrote.

Gothamist: What's Cuomo Hiding?

The press coverage of Cuomo is brutal these days.

Here's Gothamist on The Great Cuomo Administration Email Enema:

It's a new dawn in the Empire State. Unemployment is below 6%. A $10 billion deficit is now a $5 billion surplus. Crime keeps falling. Pre-K for all. Lucrative book deals for some. Because every 90 days, Governor Cuomo deletes a shitload of his administration's internal emails.

Capital reports that while Cuomo's inbox enemas have been standard procedure since 2013, it's only now, after the governor disbanded his ethics commission and watched the federal government arrest his legislative partner and the second most-powerful Democrat in the state, that this mass-deletion policy is being strictly enforced.


Is Cuomo concerned that federal prosecutors might find some interesting emails in his administration's inbox? Exchanges with former Speaker Silver? Emojis to the real estate lobby? Hot rod .gifs to Comcast? Details about how he oversaw the passage of tax breaks that benefitted News Corporation, the parent company of the publishing house that gave him an $188,000 book deal for hagiographic trash that no one wants to read?

The International Business Times noticed that oh yeah, gosh, that special tax break for online-only publications, like the one that News Corp created, and additional tax breaks for movie shoots, they were passed with Cuomo's help right before Cuomo got that book deal with HarperCollins, a News Corp subsidiary.

In other news, the Cuomo administration has announced the ghost of Rose Mary Woods has been hired by the administration to handle all email archiving.

It's official: Cuomo's lost control of the narrative of his administration.

Let's keep the pressure on, folks - blog, tweet, post on Facebook and write letters to your newspapers:

What's Cuomo hiding with his mass email purge?

What evidence has he already had destroyed in the hopes of saving himself?

And when does he join Shelly Silver for a police car ride to central booking?

Why Is Cuomo Engaging In A Massive Email Purge Of His Administration?

If you haven't heard yet, Governor Andrew Cuomo - the man who promised "the most transparent and accountable government in history" - is engaging in some spring cleaning:

ALBANY—The Cuomo administration has now fully implemented a policy of automatically deleting emails of rank-and-file state workers that are more than three months old, resulting in an effective purge of thousands of messages in recent days.

According to memos obtained by Capital, mass deletions began Monday at several state agencies after officials finished consolidating 27 separate email platforms to a single, cloud-based system called Office 365. It lets I.T. administrators purge any older messages, and can be set up to do so each day.

The 90-day deletion policy was first adopted in June of 2013, but its enforcement to date has been haphazard at best, employees and officials say. News of its implementation has drawn fresh concern from good government groups in both New York and elsewhere, who say automatically deleting emails is unnecessary and could stymie access to public information.

The Cuomo administration claims there's no room to save emails older than 3 months, but that is not true:

New York's contract with Microsoft, which developed Office 365, allows for 50 gigabytes of e-mail storage per employee. Reinvent Albany estimated this would be enough to handle up to 30 years worth of messages.

Bob McManus in the NY Post wonders just what Cuomo's trying to hide with the email purge:

Gov. Cuomo is conducting an early spring cleaning of Albany’s e-mails — all of them, right down to cyber bedrock.

But is this a big deal? If you can’t trust Uncle Andrew, who can you trust?

Never mind that US Attorney Preet Bharara — fresh from taking down Sheldon Silver — seems to be breathing right down the gubernatorial neck. “Stay tuned,” the prosecutor warned — with both eyes fixed firmly on Andrew.

Never mind that Cuomo’s former chief of staff, Larry Schwartz, who left as the noose was tightening around Silver’s neck, now can’t find a job — reportedly because of Bharara’s continuing probe.
Never mind that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman just opened an inquiry into Cuomo’s casino-siting commission.

And never mind that an administration that has cut as many ethical corners as this one — especially regarding campaign-finance regulations and related transgressions — long ago forfeited all presumption to the public’s trust.

What’s important is that Cuomo’s cyber scrubbers soon will have vaporized all e-mail generated by state government that’s more than three months old — eradicating evidence of, well, who knows what.

New Yorkers will never know.

Those who trusted Andrew Cuomo no longer have reason to. Those who didn’t have had their worst suspicions confirmed.

“We must use technology to bring more sunlight to the operation of government,” said Cuomo in 2010.

Two years later, the winds were shifting: “You can always have more transparency.” But “you can’t live your life in a goldfish bowl.”

Apparently not.

Now he says, essentially, all that ancient history is just clogging up government and nobody ever looks at it anyway. Which is sort of true — a critical exception being prosecutors tracking down prey.

Does Cuomo have any such concerns? Should he? A reasonable person might ask whether incriminating (or, at least, embarrassing) e-mails relating the administration’s policies, practices and politics are disappearing into the void.

The Daily Gazette also wonders just what Cuomo's trying to hide with the purge:

When someone hastily starts destroying documents for no good reason and with no good explanation, it raises questions.

So when a number of state agencies in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo began automatically deleting thousands of email files this week after holding onto them only 90 days, those questions turned to suspicions.

What are they trying to hide?

There is no technical or legal reason state workers’ emails need to be destroyed so quickly. In approving this policy back in 2013, state officials said large email files are "difficult to manage and interferes with operations." But they didn't say how.

Keeping large numbers of emails in your own personal file might get cumbersome after a while. Anyone these days who routinely deals with emails has that problem. But how does cleaning out a personal email file and storing those emails in a cloud-based system interfere with the ability of people to do their jobs? It doesn't. So why the haste in destroying the records?

Under the state Freedom of Information Law, email files are treated the same as paper files. Certain ones must be kept for a certain period of time, while others can be regularly discarded.

The problem with the Cuomo administration's blanket policy to hold onto electronic documents for only three months is that the public doesn't know which ones were OK to destroy and which ones should have been kept longer.

And if the state government should ever pass ethics reform requiring more disclosure and transparency, it's likely we'll find out that many of the emails that had been destroyed should have been retained. By then, they'll be long gone and unavailable for public scrutiny.

Right now, the public doesn't even know which departments are following the deletion policy and which ones aren't.

Also, the decision over which emails to destroy and which to keep is being left to individual employees, who are following a cumbersome and complex set of guidelines with no independent oversight.

Leaving sole discretion to individual workers as to how and when to follow the Freedom of Information Law provides neither consistency nor comfort.

With the uncertainty over which emails should be kept and which can be deleted, the state should be erring on the side of keeping them. That's what other government agencies around the country do.

The federal government, for instance, requires that emails from rank-and-file employees be kept for seven years. Some states require that they be kept from two to five years. Even the Central Intelligence Agency has proposed that emails created by outgoing employees be held for three years. Imagine that. A spy agency is less secretive than New York state.

As noted earlier, there appears to be no legitimate technical reason for purging the files so quickly. The space for storage is apparently more than large enough to accommodate all employee emails for a very long time. According to a report in Capital New York, each state employee, under the state contract with Microsoft, is allocated 50 gigabytes of email storage. That's enough to hold tens of thousands of emails, perhaps 30 years worth.

So if it's not a burden on the state's computer system, why does the administration need a policy to get rid of email files after only 90 days? The short answer is: It doesn't.

This indiscriminate purging must be halted right away, before any vital records are destroyed. All the emails generated from now on should be retained until a more concise policy requiring appropriate retention times is put into place.

If the administration insists on continuing to automatically delete so many state documents at such a rapid pace, then the public won't ever be able to find out if it’s hiding something, and if so, what.
Come to think of it, that's probably exactly what they're hoping for.

Cuomo's already under fire for refusing to release his six figure book contract with HarperCollins, owned by News Corporation, after it was revealed that News Corporation has lobbied the Cuomo administration multiple times before and since the contract was given to Cuomo to write his book - a book that has sold less than 3,000 copies.

In addition, Cuomo has refused to add ethics reforms that would affect him to his ethics reform package in the budget - things like closing the LLC loophole that allows rich people to give money multiple times to candidates like the governor through shell companies created just for that purpose - while giving an ultimatum to the legislature over reforms that would affect only them, a move that has led some to call Cuomo a hypocrite over ethics reform.

Finally we have the whole Moreland mess story, which reared itself into the news again this week when Fred Dicker revealed that Larry Schwartz, Cuomo's former secretary, had not left the Cuomo administration in January as an administration statement had stated but was instead still on the state payroll collecting $181,000+ a  year in a new position created specifically for Schwartz.

Schwartz was the Cuomo admin official who decreed the Moreland Commission "pull back" subpoenas to Cuomo's donors during the heyday of the corruption commission Cuomo abruptly shut down in March of 2014 and Schwartz was invited to talk to the feds over just those kinds of matters last August, so the funkiness around the Schwartz departure had many wondering just what Cuomo was hiding.

Now comes the massive email purge, which sounds very much like a cover-up of some sort, since the emails don't actually have to be deleted and can simply be archived to the state's cloud account.

It's been reported in the past that Cuomo and the senior minions he has around him don't use any method of communication that has a paper trail - they communicate through Blackberry PIN messages that leaves no trail.

But now Cuomo's having state workers under the senior level purging emails, which smacks of hypocrisy at best, since Cuomo is on record saying this:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is no stranger to the consequences of a paper trail. Before becoming governor, he spent four years as state attorney general, a perch from which he witnessed how long-forgotten e-mails could become pivotal during investigations. In 2008, he even accused a top official at the New York Power Authority of “extremely troubling conduct” for deleting e-mails from his BlackBerry as word leaked that he was likely to be investigated by the attorney general’s office.

I wonder what Cuomo, if he were still attorney general, would say about a gubernatorial administration engaged in a massive email purge under false pretenses even as that administration is under at least two investigations (Moreland, casino bids)?

Would he call it "extremely troubling conduct"?

No matter what Cuomo would call it, it certainly counts as "extremely troubling conduct" in my book and something that I hope federal prosecutors investigating Cuomo's administration were prepared for and know how to handle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cuomo Gets Beaten Up Over Ethics, Hypocrisy

What a day for Governor Cuomo.

First the Independent Business Times reported this:

Cuomo has so far raked in more than $188,000 from HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary. That is part of a book deal that could ultimately net him more than $700,000. With Albany’s transactional politics now the subject of a federal probe, the context of that April 2013 book deal is particularly significant: An International Business Times review of New York state documents reveals that News Corporation gave Cuomo a book contract after Cuomo’s administration backed a series of state initiatives that benefited the media giant.

One of the initiatives was a bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions. News Corporation, which was one of the two companies that lobbied for the bill, was at the time investing tens of millions of dollars in such a publication. Another initiative was a special tax exemption that Cuomo’s administration created for electronic books, which are sold by, among others, HarperCollins. State records list News Corporation as lobbying Cuomo’s tax department in the months before the exemption was announced. And, while News Corporation lobbied the governor’s office in 2012, Cuomo championed an expansion of controversial film and television tax credits that have benefited News Corporation’s films, and that News Corporation had lobbied for in the past.

News Corporation did not respond to IBTimes’ request for comment. Cuomo’s office -- his calls for transparency notwithstanding -- declined IBTimes’ request to release the text of the contract for the book, which has reportedly sold just 3,000 copies. The governor’s office also declined to comment about the legislation he signed and the administrative tax change his officials enacted. The governor has previously rejected the notion that his book deal had anything to do with state business, saying book income is “an exception” because “I'm not allowed to represent anyone or any business matter." He has also scoffed at the idea of applying outside income restrictions on statewide elected officials like himself, challenging anyone to identify how those paying his book contract benefited from his policies.

Then, after a cabinet meeting, Cuomo had the following Q and A with the Albany press corps (transcript from Jimmy Vielkind at Capital NY):

Q: Governor, why didn't your ethics plan close the LLC loophole, which allows LLCs to be treated as individuals under the law? [Cuomo has raised $1 million from Leonard Litwin, a landlord, under this provision. Lawmakers from both parties are also regular beneficiaries.]
CUOMO: You know, there are a lot of things that you could include—this was about ethics, this was about responding to a particular point in time and focusing all our energy on making a difference on that issue. You make it too broad, then, first of all, you almost defy success, right? … I wanted to keep it sharp, tight, and frankly, indefensible that you could be opposed to these five points. How can you be opposed to disclosure? How can you be opposed to pension forfeiture? How can you be opposed to a fair per diem policy? I believe these items are almost inarguable, hence saying the budget should be conditioned on their acceptance.

If you inject an issue that you know is combative, like LLCs, well, I don't know that you're then arguing in good faith that this is an inarguable premise when you know LLCs have been argued for years and years and years.
What is the argument you've heard for not doing it?
It's the same argument you've heard. Why hasn't it happened?
The only argument I've heard is it allows rich people to multiply their political giving.
That's their argument. And that's why it hasn't happened for years and years.
Bharara says “stay tuned,” and the Capitol went for a loop when Silver was arrested. Should New Yorkers be concerned about you or senior members of your administration? Is there a legal risk that you feel regarding this ongoing probe, and what can you tell us to address those concerns?
I don't think there should be a concern. Has there been a series of 'scandals' in Albany? Yes. The shortness of memory surprises me. ... Paul Grondahl had a story that starts with an opening quote of these scandals in Albany and it's ongoing and every few months there's a scandal in Albany and every few months somebody gets arrested and on and on and on and it sounds like it was written contemporaneously. Then it says, 'So said Teddy Roosevelt.'

The scandals in government are not new. The question is, keep refining the system so that you do everything you can to prevent it, and if it happens then find it and punish it, and that is my point on the ethics disclosure. Five points, very strong, and by the way focusing on the issues arising from the case: pension forfeiture, outside income. …
I remember with my father, this was the constant drumbeat. You talk about the speaker: This was the third speaker who has been indicted. This is nothing new. I remember Mel Miller. And if you look at the genesis of most of the cases, it is because you have a part-time Legislature, and the part-time legislator can also have an outside business. … Many of them are lawyers, they can represent the private client, and you don't know who the private client is. … The case that keeps moving over and over is there was a conflict between a legislator who represented privately versus the public interest. That was the Joe Bruno case. That is inherent conflict.

[They say] 'Well, we want to have a part-time Legislature. We don't want to have a full-time Legislature. That's the constitutional framework.' Fine. So disclose the private clients. 'Well, that violates my right as a lawyer and my clients' rights.' No, it doesn't. That is just a red herring argument.The [New York City] Bar Association has said, unequivocally, you can release the client's name. 'Well, some clients will be embarrassed. Criminal case, divorce case.' Fine: exempt them. …
But clients that pose a potential conflict when they may be retaining you for your public capacity rather than your private capacity have to be disclosed. … Why does tort reform never get passed by the Legislature? There are little secrets that never sit right.
I understand that, but there is also concern about the executive branch.
There shouldn't be.
Could you elaborate a little on that, and can you describe if there's been any internal review that you've undertaken at the same time as the federal probe? You were elected in 2010, and again in 2014, talking about ethics, talking about changing the tenor of state government. I hear lots of concerns from people that there's going to be some kind of action that could involve the administration.
Yeah, I hear a lot of things from a lot of people. You should be more discriminating in who you're talking to, what you take to heart.

We have said … we worked very hard to clean up the culture of Albany, and we have. There is no doubt that there is more disclosure today than ever before—there is more disclosure in terms of clients, there is more disclosure in terms of income than ever before, there is more disclosure about who's going before state agencies, who has an interest in legislation. We have proceeded in leaps and bounds.

[They say] 'Well, it's not enough.' That may be true, it's not enough. But it's also true that we've made tremendous progress. That gets left out of the story, and, by the way, I don't know that it's ever going to be enough unless you make a structural change to who can represent outside clients, et cetera. ...
Do I feel we've done what we said we would do? Yes. Also, we've proposed a lot of ethics legislation that the Legislature has refused to pass. Right? It's a very difficult situation because the body that would be regulated is the body that needs to approve the regulations. …
What do you do? You say, I'm going to give you a very tight, narrow package and say, 'If you don't accomplish this, I'm not going to sign the budget.' You cannot say or do any more than I did.
Why don't your proposals capture the executive branch? Yourself?
Structurally, you don't have the conflicts with the executive because you don't have the opportunity for conflict. None of the people around the state, statewides, have outside income from clients. An elected official can do it.
Well, New Jersey bans all kind of speaking fees, book fees, all outside income. Other governors have taken speaking fees.
If there was a governor who you thought was abusive, then that would be fine.
But governor, the question isn't whether or not it's abusive, it goes to whether there's a potential conflict. You have not yet released the full details of your book deal with HarperCollins, which keeps everyone guessing as to just how much income you're going to derive from it.
I have released the income I've gotten from the book. [It's at least $700,000.]
On a year-to-year basis as required by law. But you haven't taken the extra step.
Hang around. Next year you'll see the other payment.
But does that go to the level of transparency that you're trying to create?
It's News Corp. You know that company. You know who owns it, and it is a book deal. You come up with some theory of how there's a conflict, writing a book, and we'll talk about it at that point. I understand the potential conflicts with speaker fees. I was here when we went through that—who engaged you, was there a conflict … I have not done speaking fees.
Well, there's an International Business Times report out today detailing how News Corp. had business before the state and it lobbied your administration, both as A.G. and as governor.
Who has?
News Corp., on issues that you ended up either signing or putting the budget. Tax breaks for online publications.
Tax breaks for online publications. I have no idea that they lobbied for it. I don't even know what it is, by the way. Also: The ethics laws that we proposed do apply to the executive, right … but the executive does not have many of the liberties that the Legislature does.

All of that came after Cuomo was aked if he or any member of his administration had been subpoenaed in a criminal investigation or talked to the feds:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hasn’t had any conversations with federal prosecutors investigating his office’s role in the activities and disbandment of his Moreland Commission, but declined to say whether his staff has.

“Not myself. You’d have to ask people individually,” Cuomo said when asked by reporters following a Capitol cabinet meeting.

When asked how he would not know if his staff has talked to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or has been subpoenaed, he responded: “Not necessarily. I wouldn’t know if you were. It’s nobody else’s business besides the individual.”

He added, “You’d have to ask individuals. None to me.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been investigating Cuomo’s decision to end the panel’s work last March and whether there was any meddling by Cuomo’s office into the Moreland Commission, which the governor vowed was independent.

Bharara hasn’t disclosed the status of his investigations into the Moreland Commission or state legislators, but last month offered the ominous message: “Stay tuned.”

Yesterday a usually Cuomo-friendly venue, NT2 blog, described the Cuomo administration as "teetering" in the frantic actions and fights Cuomo's been engaging in since the start of the second term.

Things got even worse for Sheriff Andy today.

Cuomo's trying to dictate to the Legislature in his "Sheriff Andy" style over ethics reform but it's hard to take him seriously when he's jiving over reforms that would affect him (like the LLC loophole) and refuses full transparency over the News Corp deal.

With the pounding he took over various issues today, I think we can officially say that Andrew Cuomo's lost control of the narrative in Albany.

Cuomo Tells Observer-Dispatch: I Want Teachers Fired

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed opponents of his plan to overhaul the state’s teacher evaluation system at a recent meeting with the Observer-Dispatch Editorial Board.

 Right now we have a 99 percent effective rate for teachers,” he said. “That can’t be when 30 percent of the students are effective.”


 “You would fire a teacher?” Cuomo asked rhetorically. “Yes I would, because education is about the student, and if you have data that shows the teacher is not effective and you can’t help the teacher become effective, yes I would.

The 30% "failure" rate for students comes from the Common Core tests the state rolled out before they rolled out a curriculum or teaching materials to go with it.

But that's not stopping Cuomo from using this jive point to try and drive his agenda home.

It's not working so far, however.

As the Siena polled showed yesterday, only 10% of New Yorkers blame teachers for the problems in public schools and the public backs teachers unions over Cuomo 48%-36% in the "war of words" between the two.

There are still some things NYSUT and the UFT ought to be doing to further drive down Cuomo's numbers on this.

One thing they should be doing is running ads explaining how incompetent and inept the Common Core roll-out from the Regents and NYSED was, use Cuomo's own words about that roll-out against him (he called it "flawed and mismanaged from the start" in a statement), then explain to the public that the 30% failure" number Cuomo's using to bash teachers is as a result of the Common Core tests the state rigged for high failure rates.

Cuomo's numbers are already pretty dismal around many education issues.

With a coordinated effort from NYSUT and the UFT, they could drive them down even more and make Cuomo regret he took on this battle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cuomo Administration Teetering On The Edge

From NT2 (a blog that has been Cuomo-friendly in the past):

It’s Cuomo. Ever since the day after his speech, he’s been acting weird. Remember? He gave his State of the State speech and did the dorky thing he always does – he made a totally lame attempt at humor. This time is was the Three Amigos — Cuomo, Silver and Skelos in sombreros. Hah, hah. But what happened? The very next day, PB exposed Silver for using his office to get rich.  As we’ve written, we still have our doubts about whether Silver’s actions constitute a federal crime or not, but we’re not disputing the fact that he’s now the all-time poster boy for personal gain in public office.

The Three Amigos is the picture worth a thousand words. It’s the punch line for PB.  It tied Cuomo to Silver and Skelos in a way that PB never could.

Cuomo knows it. He knows that everybody else knows it and now he’s desperate to change the perception.
The latest maneuvering has a different quality. It’s not hard pragmatism, which you can more or less respect if it’s driven by a desire to reach a policy goal that’s good for the realm.
What he’s doing has a totally different feel. He’s rushing to reposition himself and he doesn’t care who he upsets or alienates. It’s all about getting on the right side of PB and it has a frantic, scared quality to it.

There is no doubt there has been a frenetic quality to the second term.

Even before the Silver arrest, there was a frenetic pace to the pre-State of the State/budget address policy rollouts - there was one a day every day for about a week and a half.

Then came the Silver arrest the day after the State of the State/budget address and Cuomo's been even more frenetic since - threatening the legislature, insulting whole cities, pushing back on negative news stories with a sledgehammer, now taking on Long Island school districts over teacher evaluation systems that NYSED signed off on.

I was wondering why he would take on Long Island school districts in an evaluation fight - that made no sense to me because it's a fight he isn't going to win.

These are well-funded, well-heeled districts we're talking about, where people like their public schools and respect the teachers who teach there.

It's one thing for Cuomo to take on "failing" schools in NYC, Syracuse, Rochester or Buffalo - there's polling to indicate that could be a winning fight for him.)

But public schools and public school teachers are very popular in a lot of Long Island districts and the affluent people who live in those districts aren't going to sit still while he screws with their schools.

The attack on the Long Island districts struck me as ill-conceived - and I wasn't the only one.

Here was Michael Fiorillo:

Let's all hope that Long Island and Westchester turn into Cuomo's Eastern Front.

Indeed it might end up like that - especially now that we see some polling showing only 10% of New Yorkers blame "failing" schools on teachers.

Cuomo's getting increasingly shrill and personal in pushing his education reform agenda and, to borrow another WWII metaphor, this just might be a bridge too far for the governor.

And even if it doesn't quite end up that way, it surely is an indication of desperation on Cuomo's part that he's decided taking on affluent school districts in an evaluation fight is a winning gambit.

Here's NT2 again:

The way Cuomo and his people are acting now is really scaring us.

They are acting like they don’t need friends – which is a recipe for a downfall.

They are fighting with everyone. And some of these fights make no sense at all. They lashed out at Dicker yesterday for reporting what everyone knows – that Schwartz hasn’t left the administration. Why react that way? Is it going to influence Dicker? Is it going to scare him?  Fred is exultant right now. This moment goes into the FUD Pantheon – Norman Adler, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson and now Andrew Cuomo.  He’s bested them all.

That Cuomo, who knows Dicker better than anyone, allowed himself to do this is a bad sign.  That Fred is back after an extended period of irrelevancy is scary too. What happens in situations like this is that everyone who’s fed up with Cuomo now starts to feed Dicker info. Few people were talking to Fred a while back, but now everyone will again.

It’s a bad dynamic. Nobody is afraid of Cuomo and his people anymore. There’s no fear, no respect, and thanks to the administration’s long record of churlishness — no friendship.

We hate to say it, but this has the mark of an administration that’s teetering.

Fred Dicker reported earlier this month that Cuomo was "rattled" by the fed investigations into Albany and was way off his game.

If anything, that "rattled" thing Cuomo's got going has gotten even worse since that Dicker column earlier this month.

Siena Poll: Only 10% Of NYers Blame Teachers For The Failure Of Public Schools

New Siena poll out this morning showing Governor Cuomo's job approval rating at 44%.

The poll asks a few questions about Cuomo's education agenda and which side voters support in the "war of words" between the governor and the teachers unions.

Here is the most striking finding:

Of the following choices, which do you think is the SINGLE biggest reason why note enough children graduate from high school college and career ready?
Teachers 10%
Not Enough Parental Involvement 37%
Insufficient Money Being Spent On Education 18%
Effects Of Poverty 17%
Ineffective State Education Oversight 12%
Other 3%
Don't Know 3%

In addition, Siena asks who voters back in the "war of words" between the governor and the teachers unions over his education agenda:
Teachers Unions 48%
Governor Cuomo 36%
Both 2%
Neither 6%
Don't Know 8%

Finally, Cuomo's job approval rating has fallen yet again - it now stands at 44%-55%.  That's down three points from the last poll.

More on this poll later, but suffice to say for now - other than on the tenure issue where the Siena poll found voters agree that tenure should take 5 years to get, New Yorkers are not siding with Governor Cuomo on his education reform agenda and they do NOT blame teachers for the struggles of public schools in the state.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cuomo Attacks Dicker Report On Larry Schwartz As "Garbage"

Andrew Cuomo's response to the Fred Dicker report that his former secretary, Larry Schwartz, is still on the state payroll to the tune of $181,000+ a year despite having "stepped down" from that posion in January:

ALBANY—More than a month after his departure was announced, Larry Schwartz, a top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, is still coming into the office and remains on the payroll, an administration spokesman confirmed.

Schwartz, whose title was secretary to the governor, will remain on the payroll through “early March,” according to Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. New York Post columnist Fred Dicker first reported on Monday that Schwartz was still collecting his $181,560 salary. Schwartz's title has shifted to “Dir of the NY Off.”


Cuomo, speaking to reporters after a speech in Upper Manhattan, said Schwartz's title change and work arrangement were "standard practice." 
“The job title for secretary was filled, so he had to have a different job title while he was on payroll. You can't have two secretaries to the governor, right? But that is the standard practice," the governor said. "As a matter of fact, the entire story was really garbage. I know garbage because I read that paper, but that was really garbage.

"First of all, Larry Schwartz, it is typical, when you leave state service, you either get paid out for your vacation time or you can take the vacation time. He took the vacation time. He's also been transitioning while he's been on vacation, so virtually every day he's been helping us with the transition. And in terms of him not being able to get private-sector jobs: I literally talked to him last week—he has three fantastic offers. I was considering them for myself if he didn't take it.”

The shrillness of the Cuomo response - and the response of his spokesperson - shows you just how close to home this story hit.

A few of us on Twitter have played the "Where In The World Is Larry Schwartz?" game since Schwartz's departure was announced but his new job in the "private sector" was kept secret.

It seemed a little funky that Schwartz's alleged gig was being kept secret, especially since it's a well-known fact that Schwartz was the governor's man who had the Moreland subpoenas to Cuomo's donors "pulled back" and was interviewed by federal prosecutors over the summer about the matter.

Now we know from the Dicker story that Scwhartz does not actually have a new gig and while Cuomo's playing up how many offers Schwartz has, it remains to be seen whether Schwartz, under a legal cloud because of the Moreland matter, actually does have any.

Last point - and one which I made earlier:

It smells of quid prop quo that Schwartz is still on the payroll, making more than Cuomo himself is actually making, in a job they specially created for him, given the legal jeopardy that Schwartz may be under in the Moreland matter.

The fierce response from the Cuomo administration and Cuomo himself today do not convince me otherwise.

I wonder what Preet Bharara and his investigators think?

Cuomo Thinks Ethics Reform Doesn't Pertain To Him

Ken Lovett at the Daily News:

ALBANY — State legislators say they are willing to enact a number of new ethics reforms, but they argue Gov. Cuomo should subject himself to more public disclosure as well.

Republican and Democratic legislative sources say that while Cuomo has attacked lawmakers on the issue of outside income, the governor is making as much as $900,000 from HarperCollins for his recent memoir, which only sold a few thousand copies.

They also say that perhaps there should be a ban on governors giving paid outside speeches. While Cuomo during his first four years has not given such speeches, former Govs. Mario Cuomo and George Pataki did.


An official in the New York Legislature argued there should be more public disclosure on what guests, if any, are staying at the governor’s Albany mansion.

And, in perhaps the most contentious suggestion, a number of legislative sources say Cuomo’s longtime live-in celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, should be required to publicly disclose her income, investments and other financial information that the spouses of public officials are already mandated to reveal.

“A final negotiated package shouldn’t be just all about the Legislature,” said one high-ranking legislative official. “If you want to do something comprehensive on ethics, it should include the governor as well.”

The response from the legislature to every call for ethics reform from Cuomo ought to be "Fine - but you too."

Just as Moreland was only there to investigate the Legislature, Cuomo thinks ethics reform doesn't include having to reveal all his own donors.

Cuomo Administration Caught Keeping Moreland Meddler On State Payroll

On Twitter, Cuomo Watch and I were just talking about Larry Schwartz, Governor Cuomo's former secretary (i.e., chief of staff), who has been accused of meddling in the Moreland Commission and had at least one visit with the feds over the matter:

Schwartz allegedly left Cuomo's employ in January for a "private sector job," but no public announcement was ever made about what that job is.

Today we learn from Fred Dicker at the NY Post why there was no public announcement - it's because Schwartz is still on the payroll:

Gov. Cuomo’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Schwartz — who is under scrutiny in Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s explosive public-corruption probe and supposedly off the state payroll — is, in fact, still being paid an astronomical sum, The Post has learned.

Cuomo officially announced Schwartz was leaving state employment on Jan. 11, saying his top aide “departs the administration for the private sector’’ and was being replaced in his $181,560-a-year post — $2,560 more than the governor is paid and one of the highest salaries in state government — by investment banker William Mulrow.

Yet Friday, 40 days after the Cuomo announcement and with Mulrow serving as chief-of-staff, Schwartz was still on the state payroll at the same large salary, according to official records checked on Friday.

Schwartz is listed as serving in the never-before-seen title of “Dir of the NY Off’’ of the governor, according to the records.

While the records show that Schwartz did, in fact, give up the job of secretary to Mulrow effective Feb. 2, they reveal that he was transferred to the new title on the same day — with no announcement by the governor.

Schwartz didn’t respond to e-mail and telephone requests for comment.

A spokesman for Cuomo said Schwartz was “transitioning out of his role and has been on accrued vacation and personal time, which is standard.’’

But a state employment official called the arrangement “highly unusual’’ and noted that Schwartz’s new job title “was one I’ve never seen before.’’

Several Cuomo-administration sources said Schwartz, who was known as Cuomo’s tough-talking and often crude “enforcer,’’ had planned to leave for a private-sector job, possibly in the real-estate industry, but had been unable to finalize an employment agreement because of Bharara’s ongoing investigation.

“People are nervous about hiring Larry because they see him as ‘radioactive’ over the Bharara investigation,’’ said one source.

Another source said Cuomo, who has hired a prominent white-collar criminal lawyer to advise him on the Bharara probe, may be keeping Schwartz on the state payroll in “order to help Larry out at a time when Larry could possibly do the governor a whole lot of damage.’’

Why is Schwartz still on the payroll?  Why did they create a special title for him?  What's he doing in return for his salary?  And why wasn't Cuomo upfront about this when the announcement was made that Schwartz was leaving his secretary position?

Dicker may have the answer here:

Two sources said there had been recent tension between Cuomo and Schwartz over the ongoing probe.

Keeping Schwartz secretly on the payroll for $181,000+ a year and creating some jive title for him in order to do it certainly smacks of a "You take care of us, We'll take care of you" kind of thing.

Might even call this a Quid Pro Quo arrangement.

I wonder what the feds think about this arrangement?

Cuomo Wants State Review Of Long Island Teacher Evaluations Because He Says They're Rigged In Favor Of Teachers

Governor Cuomo's war against teachers continues:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Sunday called for a state review of all Long Island school districts because many use a union-provided evaluation he said is skewed to favor teachers.

A Newsday analysis of teacher evaluation systems in Long Island public schools found that in many the portion that local districts control is weighted toward ensuring teachers score an overall "effective" rating.

Principals' judgment of teacher performance in classroom observations and other subjective criteria accounted for 60 percent of a teacher's overall 100-point evaluation, according to the Newsday analysis. The other 40 points are determined by student test performance.

"Recent news reports found that most Long Island school districts have used their local discretion in teacher evaluation systems to skew the overall scoring to ensure that their teachers are rated only 'effective' and 'highly effective,' " said Jim Malatras, the state director of operations, in a statement on behalf of Cuomo. "Most districts adopted the scoring procedures specifically drafted by the teachers unions."

In short, the governor doesn't like the locally negotiated components and is going to try and circumvent them with a statewide system.

Never mind that many of these districts - and the parents whose children attend the schools in these districts - are fine with the way the evaluations are and aren't looking for a system that rates thousands of teachers "ineffective" every year.

Cuomo has decided he is Governor Education Reform and he is going to give his constituency - the education reform movement and their Wall Street and hedge fund supporters who donate so much money to him - everything they want this legislative session.

Gary Stern at LoHun reported that Mamaronek in Westchester has an evaluation system that it is very happy with, one that works for the district, but under Cuomo's plan, it will go out the window and be replaced by a state-imposed plan.

The state's evaluation system is a lot to grasp for outsiders, and I apologize for trying to explain it. A teacher's rating is based 60 percent on those classroom observations, 20 percent on how his or her students "progress," and 20 percent on a locally chosen measure (usually a test).

Cuomo wants to cut out the locally chosen 20 percent and pump up the student-progress component to 50 percent. Why? Because for about 1 in 5 teachers, student progress is determined by standardized test scores. Increasing reliance on test scores, you see, would show that the governor is a tough guy.

And indeed, a lot of this is about Cuomo getting to show how tough he is.

It's also about Cuomo - a "Democrat" - using teachers and teachers unions for a Sista Souljah moment to show how he's a "different" kind of Dem, although since so many Dems these days use teachers and public education as foils (Obama, Emanuel, Malloy, et al.), I'm not sure why he thinks this makes him stand out.

In any case, he's fighting this battle like it's 2010 and there's a huge momentum to re-do evaluations and fire thousands of teachers.

There isn't - especially not after the piss-poor Common Core rollout that the state educrats are responsible for.

Other than his education reform buddies and their well-heeled donors, I'm not sure who Cuomo thinks he's appealing to here with his agenda.

You can see the opposition to it from all over the state and now that he's screwing with wealthy districts from Long Island to Westchester, don't be surprised if he doesn't get burned.

When he was just screwing with the cities - NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse - he can get away with imposing all kinds of nonsense onto the education system.

But let's see what the folks in Garden City and Great Neck think about his agenda.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

NY Post Tells Lies Around Wall Street And Education Reform

Bob McManus in today's NY Post:

New York’s education cartel has been set back on its heels by a new breed of reformers, and the unions need someone to blame.

The result?

Anti-reformers have trotted out the hoariest bugbear in New York politics — the evil of Wall Street — and constructed a hilarious lie: that the education reform movement is actually camouflage for a hostile takeover of the city’s public schools.


But here are the questions that need to be asked:
  • Why would greed-driven money moguls want New York’s schools in the first place? And, if once they took title, what would they do with them?
    Set up a market in graduation futures?
  • Short-sell dropout rates?
  • Or is it all a paranoid Occupy Wall Street fantasy?
Especially given that the market is already doing nicely off the teachers-unions’ $35-billion-dollar pension-fund equity investments. This eye-poppingly significant sum underscores what should be obvious: There really is no significant money to be made by tipping over New York’s public-school lunch coach.

Rupert Murdoch, Bob McManus' boss and the owner of the NY Post, in a November 2010 press release announcing his purchase of Wireless Generation, an edu-tech company handed million dollar contracts by former NYCDOE chancellor and current Murdoch employee Joel Klein:

“When it comes to K through 12 education,” Murdoch said in a statement about the Wireless Generation purchase, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

No money to be made by Wall Street in education, Bob?

Tell that to your boss, Rupert Murodch - I bet that'll come as a surprise to him.

McManus isn't the only Murdoch minion to be hawking this line - so is Fred Dicker:

Here was my reply:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

NYSED Can't Come Up With The Data To Show Why Sheri Lederman Is "Ineffective" On The APPR Test Component

The Times-Union covers the Sheri Lederman story:

In Sheri Lederman's 18 years of teaching, failing her students has never been a concern.

Her employers consider her to be an "extraordinary teacher" and her students' parents refer to her as "one of the most influential educators" their children have ever had. Her students, years after they sat in her fourth-grade classroom, cite her as an integral part in their strong academic careers.

But when the State Education Department's teacher ratings rolled out in September, the Great Neck public school teacher was found to have scored only one point out of 20 — deeming her ineffective — in the Office of Assessment's Growth Score and Rating system. Lederman's students, however, met or exceeded test standards at more than twice the state's average scores since the new testing standards were implemented two years ago, according to State Education Department data.

Lederman is suing NYSED over the "ineffective" test growth score, but NYSED is trying to have the suit dismissed:

Lederman was told by the State Education Department that she can't appeal her growth rating score, because it is a subcomponent of her composite score of "effective" for the 2013-2014 school year. Lederman was told her only option was to sue, so that's what she has done, with the aid of her husband who is serving as her attorney.

Now, the state is attempting to dismiss Lederman's suit, which claims the evaluation system and Lederman's rating is "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion," according to documents filed with the state Supreme Court in Albany. The state argues that Lederman's concern about parents finding out her low score is unfounded, as the information can't be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Additionally, the state argues her other evaluation scores are high enough that her low growth rating does not bring her overall composite score to the level requiring disciplinary action, according to court documents.

The State Education Department declined comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.

Okay, they're arguing "No harm, no foul," since Lederman was rated "effective" overall and she faces no disciplinary action as a result of the "ineffective" sub-component rating, but if Cuomo gets his education reform agenda that will make test scores 50% of the APPR rating, this kind of sub-component evaluation will have a major effect on teachers in the near future.

So it's interestin to see that NYSED can't come up with the data to show why Lederman is "ineffective" on her state test sub-component - but they can't:

Neither Lederman nor the district administration has been provided any data to support why she received only one out of 20 points.

NYSED is going the coward's route, looking to have the suit dismissed on the "No harm, No foul" rule, and for all I know, that just may work in this case.

But eventually they're going to have show cause for why teachers are being rated "ineffective" on the state test sub-component - especially if and when Cuomo ups the state test sub-component to 40% or 50% of APPR overall - and then they WON'T be able to argue the "No harm No foul" rule.