Category Archives: NYS Politics

One Man’s Take on Mayor Bloomberg’s Gun Control Activity

Richard Ottalagano, a retired Democrat Fulton County supervisor, is fed up with Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement that he’s going to spend $50 million to support gun control legislation. Disclosure: Supervisor Ottalagano and I have been friends since high school.

Here’s what he says:

“Many people admire and revere former NYC Mayor Bloomberg. Looking at this differently, I see a clear and present danger to all Americans. With his massive power and money, he would push his will on us…

“His stand on guns, though well-sounding, is a play on the fears of innocent people. The record shows that most gun accidents are not caused by legal gun owners.

“In New York City, a gunman was cornered in a building, gunned down by law enforcement, and seven innocent people were hit. None of the bullets came from the gunman!… I support law enforcement, so I won’t go on…

“Following Bloomberg’s media statements, . . . are we seeing 1930’s Germany again, where a powerful person swayed a nation and caused millions of deaths, and mass destruction.

“Guns are not the issue! Our Constitutional rights are! Every time a national tragedy happens, government overreacts, and American citizens lose more rights. Look at the Patriot Act, and now the SAFE Act.

“As a Democratic Committee member, half the people I represent will work against Governor Cuomo’s Bloomberg sponsored run for re-election. Upstate Democrats are disgusted by the injustices coming from Albany! Cuomo’s constant shell games no longer fool people. . .

“In 1776, the impossible happened: a dedicated group of Patriots stood together and defeated the world’s largest power. We can do this, except instead of musket and shot, we need to use voter registration cards and the vote. If the number of people who never voted were induced to vote, we would win.

“Get voter registration forms, convince others to register to vote!”

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Why NYS Needs a Third Party

Dividing my time each year between Maryland and NYS has given me a new perspective on retail politics and has strengthened my belief that the kind of change that is needed in NYS will not take place without the formation of a new third party to pressure the existing parties to move out of their walled-in fortified positions.

Start with the understanding that each election cycle thousands of voters stay home because they’re disgusted with the lack of choice between the major party candidates. That is not to say there aren’t significant differences between Dems and Reps. Of course, there are, but neither party is speaking to the frustrations of many voters–those when polled who say they want elected officials to do their job, those who have given up trying to understand and keep up with the issues, and those who have tried to make an impact by writing letters, demonstrating, etc. only to see their concerns swallowed up in the ineffable cacophony of the legislative process.

Many voters with the same views vote for the least offense candidate or vote the line of the party they’ve always voted for without feeling good about it.

In other words there are untapped thousands of voters who would respond to a party that offers a new approach and that speaks their language.

A key reason why NYS needs a third party is that many voters will not vote for a candidate from the other party. They’ve voted Democrat their entire lives and they’d rather have a root canal than vote Republican. But when you ask them where they stand on issues such as state spending, local mandates, taxation, etc., their positions do not correspond with the party they vote for.

Third parties are often accused of bringing about the defeat of the candidate they are closest to on the political spectrum and there are cases to back that up. Yet look at the long-term success of the Conservative Party in NYS. By holding Republicans feet to their ideological fire, they’ve had an influence beyond the size of their membership. Unfortunately, today the Conservative Party has degenerated into a patronage funnel for their top officials. They no longer care to reach out to dissatisfied voters in large part I believe because they know many of those voters would disagree with some of their positions and they’re unwilling to change. For that reason NYS needs a new third party.

The kind of third party that is needed is one that combines the anti-big government enthusiasm of the Tea Party without its populist naivete. The new party would represent middle class homeowners/tax payers, small and medium sized business owners, young professionals struggling to find secure careers, gun owners and all people who are concerned that the Democratic Party is throwing the U.S. Constitution out the window for handouts of inferior healthcare and free lunches.

Now all that’s needed are a core of people to step forward to show the way.

It takes one to be one

Remember as a kid when you learned a clever response to someone’s calling you names was to say “it takes one to know one”.  Eliot Spitzer represents the adult variation on this theme. In his case it takes a fraud to be one as the following column by Seth Lipsky reprinted from the New York Post on August 8, 2013 reminds us.

Libel Case Puts Spitzer on the Spot Over Bullying

by Seth Lipsky

If Eliot Spitzer wins the race for city comptroller, his first job may be defending himself in court. Last month a libel suit was quietly filed against him in a state court in Carmel by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the biggest of the tycoons Spitzer targeted as state attorney general.

The case doesn’t involve a lot of money, at least at this stage — the lawsuit simply says damages exceed $25,000. But the issue it raises is crucial: Will the courts countenance Spitzer’s penchant for taking to TV and the press to declare his targets guilty of wrongdoing, even before they’ve been convicted of anything? In other words, does the bully pulpit mean he can be a bully, even long after he’s left office?

Greenberg was the chairman of the huge insurance combine AIG when Spitzer launched his attack, which eventually forced Greenberg to leave AIG. The new management took enormous financial risks and imploded during the 2008 crisis, and the company had to be bailed out by the Federal Reserve (raising issues at the center of separate litigation also launched by Greenberg).

The tycoon’s libel suit centers on statements Spitzer made after he resigned the governorship. One was in May 2012, as Spitzer reacted to a state Supreme Court ruling that his private e-mail account would be subject to New York’s freedom of information law because Spitzer had used it for public business.

The ex-governor told The New York Law Journal that the decision was part of an effort by Greenberg and a colleague to “clear their names” for their involvement with the “corrupt company” AIG. He said they couldn’t “escape the simple reality that they were running a crooked company.”

He went on to say that Greenberg had been “thrown out by his own board and his accounting was fraudulent.” It was classic Spitzer, in that neither he nor any other law-enforcement agency has managed to convict Greenberg of any fraud — a point that was pressed by Maria Bartiromo in an interview that is also at the center of the libel suit against Spitzer.

In that July 13, 2012, interview, he told her that Greenberg was one in a “litany of corporate executives who defrauded the market.”

When Bartiromo pointed out that some people blame AIG’s failure on the fact that management Spitzer himself picked to run AIG had “permitted the company to take on unacceptable risk,” Spitzer again asserted that “Hank Greenberg’s accounting was fraudulent.”

This began an astonishing exchange in which the newswoman tried repeatedly to warn Spitzer that, as she put it at one point, “You just can’t throw around the word ‘fraud.’”

As Greenberg’s complaint reports, Bartiromo warned Spitzer: “You keep saying fraud, but there’s no charge of fraud.” She cautioned him against acting “like judge, jury and the executioner.” The court, she noted, “did not say Hank Greenberg committed fraud. You said it, you continue to say it, and you say it all the time.”

What a reversal: Usually, it’s the reporter trying to goad the public official into saying something newsworthy. Here, it’s the reporter trying to steer the public figure into behaving responsibly.

Spitzer’s apparently not up to that. There just seems to be some demon urging him on.

This doesn’t mean he’ll lose the libel action. It’s extremely difficult for a public figure, like Greenberg, to win a libel suit. But it will be a case to watch in the coming months.

New Yorkers, after all, are weighing whether to give Spitzer a second chance and a third bully pulpit. His successor as attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, may win on two outstanding civil counts against Greenberg. But they are a small remainder of what Spitzer ballyhooed. The real question is whether New Yorkers will be in for a new term of bullying from a public pulpit.

Pandering: A Modern Political Artform

The Democratic Party likes to position itself as women-friendly on such issues as choice, equal pay and equal opportunity. So why do so many Democratic Party men fall short in their personal relations with women? From Bill Clinton to Eliot Spitzer, from Vito Lopez to Anthony Weiner, Democratic Party men have engaged in the kind of behavior that one would think would be seen as antithetical to women’s interests. Yet women voters seem ready to forgive their personal indiscretions. Why?

It seems voters in general are swayed more by what these men say than what they do. One possible reason is that the voters do not have any personal contact with these men. They only know them through the news media and each of these men, with the possible exception of Vito Lopez, is expert at managing his image. Each appears devoted to protecting the innocent and the poor, to advancing the disadvantaged and to taking down the enemies of the people––namely, Wall Street and Republicans.

Of course, there have been Republicans whose personal behavior conflicted with their professed values, but Republicans are less likely to engage in pandering on gender, race and ethnicity.

Pandering has become a modern political art form. It benefits from the short-term memory of the voting public and from the media’s grasping onto candidates who espouse big ideals.

Thus, voters forget, if they ever knew, that the Sheriff of Wall Street, as the media dubbed Eliot Spitzer, often crossed the line as Attorney General of NYS that separates responsible investigation on behalf of the public and using the power of government to engage in ad hominem personal attacks. (See John Faso’s excellent analysis in the New York Daily News “Spitzer’s Reckless Leadership @ http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/spitzer-reckless-leadership-article-1.1401585)

People willing to run for public office certainly need large egos to stand up to constant attention and the possibility of failure, but unchecked these egos too often display the kind of behavior on a personal level typified by Bill Clinton’s denials, Vito Lopez’ harassing of female staffers (a not uncommon theme among men in the State Legislature), and Anthony Weiner’s sexualizing his relations with female followers.

It’s easy to be in favor of something when you do not have to sacrifice or give up anything personally. When a politician proposes broad legislation to aid women, minorities, immigrants, etc. his personal circumstances are not impacted. To the contrary he hopes his support for those groups will enable him to remain in office with all the rewards that go with the position. When elected officials attack businesses like Eliot Spitzer and his successors have done from the Attorney General’s office in Albany, they are not penalized if their charges are unfounded. As along as his career is advanced no price someone else has to pay is too great.

Let’s hope the voters of New York City wake up and keep Vito Lopez, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer from succeeding in fooling them once again.

Why Comprehensive Reforms Go Bad

You don’t have to look far if you’re interested in wrap-ups detailing what the NYS Legislature and Gov. Cuomo accomplished or didn’t accomplish during the just ended legislative session. I’m not going to recap the recaps. Instead, I’m going to climb on a horse that is in major need of being ridden––why so many major legislative efforts in Albany and in Washington go bad.

Would-be politicians must being inhaling in their college polisci classes the idea that the best way to tackle a major problem is to assemble an omnibus legislative package that incorporates everything they want passed on everything remotely related to the central topic.

Take ObamaCare for example. Instead of dealing with some of the more obvious problems facing healthcare delivery piece by piece, we got a bill so massive that no one had read it when it was passed and today it is crashing under its own weight. Insurance rates are skyrocketing, millions of the uninsured will remain uninsured, and billions have been wasted in the process.

Or take immigration reform. Instead of dealing with such matters as the guest worker program separately from border security, our elected officials want to load everything and anything related to immigration into one package. No wonder it’s unlikely to pass.

And, in the just ended session in Albany, we saw comprehensive gun control passed which hinders law enforcement and makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens, but how much did it do to prevent gangs and criminals from using guns? I won’t insult the intelligence of my readers by answering that question for you.

What about Gov. Cuomo’s government corruption legislation? It failed to pass because he had to inject his views on campaign finance reform into the package. So after a session during which several legislators were arrested on public corruption charges, nothing to sharpen oversight of legislators has been put in place. Gov. Cuomo’s women’s agenda failed for the same reason. He cynically threw in abortion legislation that he knew would kill the entire package.

These failures are a sign of the arrogance of political power. Men like Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo (and those who work for them) think they are so much smarter and know so much better than anyone else what’s good for the rest of us that they can’t resist the temptation to top their legislative ice cream with large doses of castor oil.

The arrogance of these men extends to their calculation that it is better that nothing is done if they can’t get everything they want. Why? Because they believe they can gain more power politically by being able to blame their opponents for their own failures. They are confident the media and the public will absolve them of any blame.

Comprehensive reform sounds good in theory. It rarely works out that way in practice.

Empire Page Readers Speak Loud and Clear

Empire Page readers have spoken loudly and clearly about some of the major issues of the day in our recent Poll Question of the Week voting.

In our poll question asking whether Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver should resign a whopping 82% of respondents said YES.  Interestingly in that poll no one voted “no opinion.”

Prior to that we asked readers whether they think the public is paying attention to the scandals and arrests involving NYS Legislature and NYC officials.  Twenty-one percent believe fewer than 1% of the population has been paying attention, twelve percent say fewer than ten percent, while 26% of our readers say it’s fewer than 25 percent.

And, in our latest poll, asking readers opinions about Gov. Cuomo’s tax-free proposal, 76% oppose it and only 18% are in favor.  That poll will run the rest of the week. So, if you haven’t voted, don’t forget to do so.

Is there an issue you think we should poll?  Send us your question and if it’s a good one, we’ll use it.

The More Things Change…

Things change necessarily. Sometimes for the better; sometimes the results are the same.

I’ve changed the name of my blog because I’m no longer the editor (or publisher) of The Empire Page. My new title:  Editor Emeritus.  I’ll let the new co-publishers introduce themselves, which they promise to do shortly.

I began serving as editor of The Empire Page in January 2000 when my company, Empire Information Services, became a minority partner in PoliticalNewsToday.com, LLC, which purchased The Empire Page from its founder, Chris Chichester. In 2007, I purchased the shares belonging to EIS’ successor, readMedia, and served as managing partner/editor/publisher until May 1 of this year.

In 2008  I began to expand the content portion of the Empire Page with an eye to doing more than just helping people monitor the news. I added a poll question of the week, blogs, interviews and roundtables.  As a one-man orchestra (managing subscriptions, selling advertising, conducting interviews, doing the bookkeeping, etc.), my blog posts were necessarily last on my to-do list. Now that I’m freed of all those obligations, I plan to post more frequently.

I call my new blog “Another Take” because I believe I offer a unique perspective on NYS government & politics.  Unique for several reasons: the length of time I’ve been around Albany (arrived in 1966), the fact that except for working for two lobbying organizations for a short period of time in the early 1980s I’ve not been a participant, and the fact that I am not affiliated with any political party or organization. The axes I would grind are not personal except with regard to the Adirondacks where I am a property owner and summer resident. What’s best for New Yorkers statewide in the present and the future is my primary concern.

I hope those of you who read this post will “subscribe” so you’ll know when I’ve posted a new piece. I look forward to your feedback and will gladly be corrected when I make a mistake. I also hope I change a few minds because that’s how democracies should work. We ought not be so locked into our ideology fortresses that we can’t hear opposing views.

If I do a good job, maybe I can play a small role in making things change for the better.