Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo Is Not Just Part of The 1%, He IS The 1%
A new group backing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo raised more than $12 million from just 20 donors last year, helping it rapidly become the largest-spending advocacy organization in Albany politics, according to documents released by the group late Friday. The group, called the Committee to Save New York, was founded at the urging of Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, and spent millions of dollars supporting the governor’s agenda during his first 18 months in office, financing barrages of television and radio advertising that neutralized the well-financed labor unions that have usually dominated the Capitol.
May 11, 2012
$12 Million to Help Cuomo Came From Just 20 Donors
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and THOMAS KAPLAN, NY TIMES
A new group backing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo raised more than $12 million from just 20 donors last year, helping it rapidly become the largest-spending advocacy organization in Albany politics, according to documents released by the group late Friday.
The group, called the Committee to Save New York, was founded at the urging of Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, and spent millions of dollars supporting the governor’s agenda during his first 18 months in office, financing barrages of television and radio advertising that neutralized the well-financed labor unions that have usually dominated the Capitol.
On Friday, the committee released tax returns detailing its spending and membership. Upon request from The New York Times and other news organizations, a spokesman for the committee provided forms detailing contributions to the group in 2011.
Because the committee, organized as a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, is permitted by law to redact the identities and addresses of its donors, it is not clear exactly which individuals, companies or other nonprofit organizations provided the group’s money. But an examination of the filing reveals that of the roughly $17 million raised, more than two-thirds came from donors giving $250,000 or more, far in excess of the $60,800 that New York law permits individuals to give directly to candidates.
While about 74 donors gave to the group, a far smaller number contributed an outsize share of the funds, which were spent to advance core items of Mr. Cuomo’s fiscal agenda: reducing state spending, passing a cap on local property taxes, and cutting pension benefits for public employees. A single donor gave the group roughly $3 million, according to the filings, while two other donors gave $1.75 million and $1.5 million.
“This disclosure shows that the small number of New Yorkers who can afford to write massive checks continue to play a disproportionate role in the state’s political discourse,” said Bill Mahoney, research coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
About 30 organizations are listed on the committee’s Web site as partners. But the forms released on Friday suggest that the committee is dominated by New York’s powerful real estate industry, long a major source of money for political campaigns.
The group’s founding members were Rob Speyer, the president of Tishman Speyer, a leading real estate development company, and two of his employees. A few weeks after the group’s founding, the two employees were replaced by Steven Spinola, the head of the Real Estate Board of New York, a business organization for landlords and real estate interests, and Kathryn S. Wylde, who runs the Partnership for New York City, a business group for large companies based in New York, including Tishman and other real estate companies.
Those three people have full control over the group’s activities, according to the filings.
The Committee to Save New York spent $12.1 million supporting Mr. Cuomo’s agenda in 2011, with most of that money going toward television and radio advertising, according to lobbying disclosures, which are filed every two months with the state.
The committee was most vocal in advocating passage of Mr. Cuomo’s budget proposal and his plan to cap increases in local property taxes.
That outlay was almost twice as much as that of the next biggest spender, a coalition financed by a health workers union, 1199 S.E.I.U., and the Greater New York Hospital Association. And it represented the fifth most expensive single-year lobbying campaign ever undertaken in Albany, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
CSNY spent $4M in March, April on Tier VI, budget
Posted on May 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm by Casey Seiler, Capitol bureau chief in Committee to Save NY
Friday afternoon is frequently selected for the disbursement of documents, and the Committee to Save New York — the pro-Cuomo group that was the state’s biggest spender on lobbying last year — has released its March and April report to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, and an amendment to its IRS filings covering its early days.
The March and April report shows that CSNY spent a whopping $4,021,310 to “lobby” — and that is the term of art in the JCOPE filing — on the state budget and the creation of a Tier VI pension package. Almost all of it was spent on statewide TV ads and their production, with smaller sums for “strategic counseling.” (This squares with what CSNY said at the end of March.)
All but roughly $31,000 of the March and April payout went to ASGK Public Strategies.
And here’s a surprise: CSNY hired former state ethics watchdog turned consultant/gadfly Dave Grandeau to review its filings. CSNY says Grandeau recommended that it should file a 990N form with the IRS covering its early organization activities at the end of 2010 — after the governor’s election but before his inauguration.
Grandeau’s recent hiring as an ethics compliance consultant with the MTA raised eyebrows at the Capitol, as it seemed to coincide with both a certain, ah, moderation of his earlier criticism of JCOPE and the appointment of Ellen Biben, Cuomo’s former Inspector General, as the panel’s executive director.
Grandeau also recommended that CSNY should disclose “about $250,000? in additional lobbying expenses to JCOPE.
From CSNY spokesman Michael McKeon:
“To ensure our reports are thorough, we retained attorney David Grandeau to review these and all prior filings. Based on his advice, we are filing a ‘990N’ form with the IRS, along with a ‘CHAR 500’ report with the state Attorney General’s Office, to cover organizational activity conducted in December 2010. While we did not spend any money, conduct any lobbying or engage in any public education efforts until 2011, Grandeau advised that the few days of organizing that took place at the tail end of 2010 merited filing these forms. We have also filed amendments to our 2011 JCOPE filings to include additional expenses related to our lobbying effort, totaling about $250,000, per Grandeau’s advice.
“We are extremely proud of the role CSNY has played in achieving real reform in Albany this year, including the early budget that was balanced without new taxes or gimmicks, pension reform that will save state and local taxpayers billions of dollars in the years to come, and smart investments in job creation that will put people to work and improve our economy. Albany is working again for the people of New York, and that’s a turnaround that has made all of our efforts worthwhile.”
David Grandeau said, “With the relatively minor adjustments I recommended to CSNY’s filings, these reports fully comply with state and federal laws. In fact, I would argue they now fall on the side of over-reporting.”