August, 6 2012
Vol. 1, No. 17
JACK ABRAMOFF’s advice for LOBBYISTS Page 19 FACING CAMPAIGN PROBLEMS? CONSTITUENT QUANDARIES? ASK JEFF SMITH Page 6
Who To Call When Scandal Strikes Page 10
Manhattan Media 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor New York, NY 10016
WHO YOU GONNA CALL? ington Anymore?—Smith’s Have you been caught political career swiftly blew sending inappropriate up in his face. Accused and texts? Indicted for diverting then convicted of submitmember items to a phony ting a false affidavit to the nonprofit? Exposed Federal Elections Commisspending half your time with a secret second family? sion related to the covering up of an illegal Everyone campaign coorknows whom dination, Smith to call when was stripped of your house is his office and haunted, but sent to federal whom do you prison, where he reach out to served nearly a when you’re year behind bars, scared for your a good deal of political life? Morgan Pehme which he spent In this issue’s EDITOR doing hard labor. cover story, City & State’s new reporter Aaron Short talks to the state’s top political fixers to get the best advice on how to handle a crisis when you find yourself suddenly the subject of a scandal. As for those of you whose political problems are a little less pressing than pending resignation or court dates, we have sage suggestions in this issue to offer you, too. In “Do As I Say,” our new politicaladvice column, Jeff Smith draws upon his singular experience as a candidate, elected official and legislator to offer counsel on how to deal with any problems you face in campaigns, in government or in any other area where you might need guidance, personally or professionally. If anyone understands what it’s like to suffer a political crisis, it’s Jeff. After a storybook path to elected office in which he went from being a no-name teacher to a rising-star Missouri State Senator in a matter of two years—an ascent inspiringly chronicled in the award-winning PBS documentary Can Mr. Smith Get to Wash-
Since his release Smith has been using his unique experience to advise politicians around the country how to handle ethical dilemmas and uphold their oaths of office. He has also become an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the New School’s Milano Graduate School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy in Manhattan. At 38 he is wise beyond his years, possessing an insight forged in the crucible of adversity, ruin and redemption. I urge you to send your questions for Jeff to editor@ cityandstateny.com. Even if you don’t end up taking his advice, you will be amused and informed by his response. Lastly, for those of you in the lobbying business, you will likely benefit from the insights of our Q&A interview subject this issue: Jack Abramoff. No stranger to political crises himself, Abramoff and his notorious career bring to mind the immortal words of Alfred E. Newman: “Crime does not pay…as well as politics.”
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AROUND NEW YORK The best items from The Notebook, City & State’s political blog City & State’s political blog, The Notebook, is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at www.cityandstateny.com/thenotebook. 1. QUEENS
Queens Democratic State Senate candidate John Messer, a businessman and attorney, has promised to drop $500,000 of his own money into his primary campaign— and so far he has not disappointed. Messer’s 11-page July campaign-finance filing shows that he’s already spent more than $120,000 on his race, with the vast majority of that coming just since June. Much of the money has gone to Cottage Consulting (a firm run by Queens operative Jay Golub, a dentist with close ties to the Queens Republican Party) and Multi-Media, the firm run by Michael Nussbaum, who doubles as the associate publisher of the Queens Tribune. Messer so far has put $251,000 into his own race and has received no outside campaign contributions, records show. By contrast, his opponent State Sen. Toby Stavisky has spent only $37,000 since February. The Tribune (which is run out of the same office as MultiMedia, a Messer consultant) also happened to write a scathing editorial recently knocking Stavisky. In particular, the paper’s publisher, Michael Schenkler (who also has an ownership stake in Multi-Media), hit Stavisky consultant the Parkside Group for bringing up the checkered history of some members of Messer’s campaign team, including that of former Councilman Dennis Gallagher, who is business partners with Golub. 2. BROOKLYN
Are we still sure that Lincoln Restler is running for an unpaid, obscure position within the Brooklyn Democratic Party? On the
steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, Restler gathered a cast of supporters for his district leader/state committee reelection bid that would be the envy of most Congressional or U.S. Senate candidates: Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velázquez, Brooklyn Sens. Eric Adams, Daniel Squadron and Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly Members Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, Council Members Diana Reyna and Brad Lander, among others. Assemblyman Karim Camara and Councilman Jumaane Williams also endorsed Restler, though they were not present at the event. “I have to say that this is a little bit overwhelming,” Restler said. “I’m not sure that all of this generous praise is deserved, but I’m definitely going to take it.” The turnout at the press conference seemed to reflect how much traction Restler’s battle to reform the Brooklyn Democratic organization run by Assemblyman Vito Lopez has gained over the past several years. Restler is a leader of the New Kings Democrats, the north Brooklyn political club that has run several candidates against Lopez allies in recent elections and sought to reform the party’s internal workings. Yet some of the elected officials on hand, including Adams and Brooklyn Borough President
Marty Markowitz, often side politically with Lopez. They said they had been impressed by the energy Restler had put into reshaping the oft-sleepy district-leader post. “He’s got a style of his own, that’s for sure,” Markowitz said of the bespectacled Restler. “In fact, he in some ways reminds me of another relatively short Jewish boy from Brooklyn—minus the hornrimmed glasses and a few pounds.” 3. BRONX
Following Bronx Councilman Larry Seabrook’s conviction on corruption charges, candidates are beginning to jockey for position in a nonpartisan special election set to be held in November. Labor and civil rights activist Andy King has already declared he will run, while others seen as potential candidates include Jerome Rice and Pamela Johnson. One Bronx insider tells us that the favorite to get the backing of Bronx Democratic chairman Carl Heastie may well be a young district leader named Jamaal Bailey, who ran for reelection on the same ticket in 2010. Heastie’s backing is especially important in this race because his Assembly district overlaps with Seabrook’s erstwhile Council seat.
EDITORIAL Editor Morgan Pehme email@example.com Managing Editor Jon Lentz firstname.lastname@example.org Reporters Chris Bragg email@example.com Laura Nahmias firstname.lastname@example.org Aaron Short email@example.com Copy Editor Helen Eisenbach Photography Editor Andrew Schwartz Editorial Interns Mike Bocamazo, Wilder Fleming, Shoshana Lauter, Sam Levine ADVERTISING Associate Publishers Jim Katocin, Seth Miller Advertising Manager Marty Strongin Senior Account Executives Ceil Ainsworth, Monica Conde Director of Marketing Andrew A. Holt Executive Assistant of Sales Jennie Valenti PRODUCTION Art Director Christie Wright Production Manager Heather Mulcahey Ad Designer Quarn Corley MANHATTAN MEDIA President/CEO Tom Allon CFO/COO Joanne Harras Director of Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategy Vinny DiDonato
www.cityandstateny.com | august 6, 2012
UPFRONT The Kicker: A Choice Quote From City & State ’s First Read Email “My reaction is that I continue to have faith in God, faith in the system, faith in my attorneys… [I will] now prepare myself for whatever is next.” —New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook after the judge read his conviction verdict, via The New York Times
The FootNote: A real press release, annotated Sent 10:57 a.m. on Monday, July 30, from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s press office A restoration of the transit landmark was completed in 1998, and many new tenants have been brought in since then—and others forced out.
The MTA and Apple were also secretive about the plans and drawings for the store, which were kept under wraps before it opened.
The store is Apple’s fifth in Manhattan. It initially employed 315 workers.
Apple, the world’s biggest company by market value, reported earning $8.82 billion in the most recent quarter.
Plans to bring another popular—and higher-paying— tenant to the transit hub hit a snag when the owner of the restaurant Zócalo refused to leave to make way for Shake Shack. A lawsuit alleges that “the bidding process is corrupted.”
The MTA’s director of real estate wrote that “no buyout of Métrazur’s lease would have been possible” without discussions between the restaurant and Apple before issuing the RFP.
DiNapoli: MTA Gave Apple Inside Advantage For Grand Central Terminal Lease Comptroller Recommends Change to Public Authorities Law to Ensure Fair, Competitive and Transparent Contracting The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) slanted a supposedly competitive process to fill prime retail space in Grand Central Terminal (GCT) in Apple’s favor, according to an audit issued today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Auditors and investigators found that the MTA worked exclusively with Apple behind the scenes on a lease for more than a year before issuing a request for proposals (RFP) that resulted in only one response—from Apple. “While Apple may turn out to be a good tenant, the MTA set a troubling precedent when it played favorites and gave Apple a competitive edge over others for the Grand Central space,” DiNapoli said. “Apple was directly involved in setting the terms of the lease and given exclusive access to information more than a year before any other vendor knew the Grand Central location was available. The company even signed a $2 million agreement with the current tenant to vacate its space five days before the MTA issued the RFP. “Our prior audit revealed problems with how the MTA managed and leased out its vast real estate portfolio. It is clear that more scrutiny is needed to ensure the best deal is struck.” Auditors examined the Apple lease while completing a follow up audit of real estate practices at the MTA. Auditors found only two of 12 recommendations from the 2010 audit had been fully implemented. One recommendation that was only partially implemented concerned MTA’s Real Estate Department’s (RED) use of a competitive process for marketing its rental properties. When auditors examined the Apple lease, they found that while RED claimed the process for filling the GCT space was competitive, the playing field was not level and fair for all prospective lessees. Auditors found that Apple, with MTA’s knowledge and support, began negotiating exclusively with Metrazur, the existing restaurant tenant, for the buyout of the space in GCT more than a year before the RFP was issued. This negotiation set the terms for the RFP. A general timeline of how the process unfolded: November 2008 - Discussions began between MTA’s RED and Apple regarding the potential to lease space in GCT. April 2009 - MTA approached Metrazur, occupants of the space on the East Balcony of GCT, about a buy-out for the term of its lease, which had ten...
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
The cash-strapped authority has been seeking alternative revenue from a variety of sources, including ads in subway stations, subway cars and, soon, even on the front of riders’ MetroCards.
“This audit is not fact-based, and, accordingly, their opinion is worthless,” MTA CEO Joseph Lhota said in a statement. “The MTA’s lease process with Apple was open, transparent and followed both the spirit and letter of the law.”
Apple pays about four times what the previous tenant, the restaurant Métrazur, paid in rent to the MTA.
The New York Post last fall reported that unlike the agreements with other retailers in Grand Central Terminal, Apple’s contract does not require the company to share a percentage of its sales with the MTA. The MTA said the deal would drive traffic to its other retail partners.
by the numbers
Roll Call In the 2012 legislative session, 11 Albany lawmakers missed more than a fifth of their votes, including four—State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Assembly Members Grace Meng, Rory Lancman and Hakeem Jeffries—who were busy running for Congress. Key: (A)=Assembly member; (S)=State Senate; =Percent of votes not present
William Boyland (A) 280
James Conte (A) 787
Adriano Espaillat (S) 656
Vanessa Gibson (A) 237
Andrew Hevesi (A) 249
Shirley Huntley (S) 826
Hakeem Jeffries (A) 798
Micah Kellner (A) 255
Rory Lancman (A) 844
Grace Meng (A) 834
Joel Miller (A) 244
Lancman missed almost 79 percent of his votes while running for Congress.
www.cityandstateny.com | JULY 16, 2012
A DV I C E
send your questions to jeff! email firstname.lastname@example.org
DO AS I SAY BY JEFF SMITH
Photo By James Kelleher
I’m running for office, and though I have some volunteers, most come in once, then disappear. I asked my campaign manager why and he said they were all flaky. Do you have any advice? S.E., Webster Groves, Mo.
y name is Jeff Smith, and I’m a recovering politician. Oh, I still love politics, and I follow it as closely as ever. But I no longer have a political future; the U.S. Attorney in Missouri’s Eastern District saw to that. After a 2004 congressional bid in which, as a 29-year-old nobody, I lost narrowly to the scion of Missouri’s leading political dynasty, I figured I was done with politics. But thanks largely to a documentary film about our first campaign I got sucked back in, winning a State Senate seat two years later. I adored the Senate—loved crafting policy, loved helping people, loved the camaraderie with my colleagues. Then, through an uncanny series of events involving a car bombing (in which I had no part) and my best friend’s wiretap, I spent 2010 in federal prison. Along the way I learned about politics, policymaking and people; about friendship, temptation and betrayal. Mine is a hard-won perspective, but one I’m honored to have the opportunity to share with City & State’s readers. One of the hardest things in politics is knowing whom to trust. That makes discretion critical, since asking a friend for advice can be akin to calling a press conference and broadcasting it. This column aspires to be the confidant you can trust for an unvarnished opinion: a “Dear Abby” for politicos, if you will. I look forward to answering questions about all things political, and helping readers gain their wisdom more easily (and anonymously) than I did.
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
Dear S.E.: First, fire your manager; he sounds flaky. Second, sit down with volunteers when they come in. Ask them why they’re volunteering and what their dream campaign job is. Then—unless their answer involves holding a press conference or sleeping with the candidate—give them a chance to do it. They may have to hit 100 doors before they get to draft a press release, design a mail piece or storyboard a TV ad, but they’ll have a reason other than cold pizza to stay engaged. Finally, the heart of the problem: Your campaign is no fun. Make your campaign a social event. You’re the candidate; you set the tone. If you’re having fun, they will too—and you’ll attract more fun people. I used to bet my interns/volunteers on anything: One-on-one basketball, who could recruit more supporters while canvassing, which one of them could get somebody’s
digits at an event. It’s possible to have a blast and be deadly serious about getting votes at the same time.
I’m a legislator who screwed up. I promised a school superintendent in my district that I’d vote against new charter schools, then told the charter-school advocates that I’d support their bill, which would allow for charter-school expansion. If I seek higher office, the public-school types and teachers’ union could get me primary votes, but the charter-school lobby donates pretty heavy. What should I do? W.C., St. Louis
Dear W.C.: In the future, only make promises you can keep. But since it’s too late this time, here’s what you should do. Since you appear to be agnostic about which is the best policy, call some informed constituents without a stake in the matter to feel them out. If there’s any consensus, vote that way. Then, if you must break your word, you have the one semiacceptable excuse: “I’m sorry. I heard from my constituents and thought hard, and I decided to vote ‘No.’ This was a good lesson; next time I won’t give my word until I understand the issue better.” And tell them well before the vote so they don’t count you as a “Yes.” Last, before running for higher office, get your views straight so you’re never again making policy calls based purely on personal political considerations. It screams “hack,” and it’s why people distrust pols.
I’m an elected official who recently found out that my female chief of staff had sex with three male interns. I’m not sure whether to talk to her or highfive them—she’s pretty hot. But seriously, should I say anything to her? D.A., Miami
Dear D.A.: If your male chief of staff had banged your last three female interns, would you say anything to him? (Hint: Any answer that includes the phrase “highfive” is incorrect.)
I’m running for office and I have nearly $100,000 [worth] of pledges hanging out there. I’ve tried calling people who pledged, but they won’t take my calls. How can I get my money? S.A., Kansas City, Mo.
B utler A ssociAtes
Dear S.A.: Remember, it’s not your money, it’s the donors’ money. Now you’re going to have to help each of your donors keep his word to you. Here are some possible strategies: 1) The investment approach Email the donor and ask for advice on an issue in which he has expertise. Don’t ask for money. When he replies, thank him graciously. Now he’ll feel invested. Then, a few weeks later, ask him for the money. Remember: If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice. 2) Peer pressure Ask a mutual friend—probably another donor with whom you are close—to invite them to an upcoming funder. 3) The meet-cute If a few pledgers work in the same building, stand in the lobby just before noon punching elevator buttons. Usually you’ll “bump into” them on the way out to lunch. Embarrassed, they’ll likely reiterate their pledge, and later that day, reminded of the embarrassment, they’ll send the money. 4) Creeping Hit their neighborhood while door knocking. Obviously, this is complicated in Manhattan, but feasible in most of New York. You canvass anyway, so why not end each quarter by canvassing pledgers? 5) Cybercreeping Email a link to people who owe pledges and get them to click on it, then follow them around online with Google ads. “Forget to donate to X? We forgive you. It’s not too late...”
I’m a public official who was recently visited by the Feds. I think I’ll be okay, but just in case I’m not… what was prison like? Name withheld
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Dear Name Withheld: It’s a lot like politics, minus the riffraff. More on that next time. Jeff Smith is a former Missouri State Senator and the subject of the acclaimed documentary Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? In 2010 he spent a year in federal prison for submitting a false affidavit to the FEC. He is currently an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the New School’s Milano Graduate School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.
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CO M M E N TA RY
AD WATCH By Morgan Pehme “Introduction”
Candidate: Bill Owens
Candidate: Nan Hayworth
Candidate: Mark Grisanti
Produced by: Murphy Vogel Askew Reilly (Alexandria, Va.)
Produced by: Jamestown Associates (Princeton, N.J.)
Produced by: Cookfair Media (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Length: 2 minutes, 16 seconds
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Too long to run on television, this video is a Web-only spot designed to reintroduce the candidate, who despite being the incumbent has only served 1 1/2 terms in office and now must run in a redrawn district.
Description: This ad is a standard bio spot introducing Rep. Nan Hayworth to the new voters of her redrawn district and reminding her current constituents who she is and why she first ran for office in 2010.
Length: 30 seconds
Pros: The folksy, simple tone of this ad seems well suited for its target audience. The bio info in the beginning provides a quick and compelling introduction to the candidate and establishes an intimacy with him. The sequence at the end where Representative Owens is with constituents shows the candidate looking genuinely engaged and knowledgeable about the area’s local businesses. Cons: This ad tries to convey a lot of detailed information in a relatively short period of time. In principle providing specifics is an effective tool of persuasion; if you can’t keep the audience’s attention, however, all the statistics and issue stances come across like clutter, as in this case. The canned music looping in the background only emphasizes the ad’s struggle to maintain its energy, and on several occasions gives the impression that the video is going to end—and then it doesn’t, always an off-putting feeling for the viewer. There should have been at least one music change to inject the ad with the sense that it is reaching a climax. Lastly, the placement of the candidate is unfortunate. The black background, clumsily lit with what looks like grey splotches, provides a drab backdrop for the candidate and isolates him drearily in the frame. This would be an adequate backdrop were we to see it less often, but so many shots return to it that it really stands out negatively in contrast with the lush exterior shots of the North Country. Expert Opinion: “This is more of a bio video than an ad. It is over two minutes long, and does not offer a single, strong message; in fact, it offers several themes that seem to be taken from a template or checklist. For a Web video of this length, especially from an incumbent, I expect a lot more.” —Susan Del Percio, founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
Pros: This ad demonstrates that less can be more, getting right practically everything that Bill Owens’ Web video gets wrong. Its narrative structure, minus the languorous middle section of Owens’ ad, is largely the same as Owens’ and yet it conveys a lot more emotion and energy in less than a quarter of the time. It also not-so-subtly draws a strong contrast between Representative Hayworth and her opponent, Sean Patrick Maloney—without making the error of mentioning him by name—by playing the congresswoman up as a proud mother, in contrast with Maloney, who is openly gay with no children, and by emphasizing her deep roots in the district versus Maloney, who has been cast as a carpetbagger. Cons: What this ad sets out to do it accomplishes expertly. Perhaps one valid criticism of the spot is that its narrative structure is pretty boilerplate, so it is less likely to stand out in the memory of its viewers, who are all but certain to see many ads similar to this one between now and November. Expert Opinion: “A solid intro piece with a couple of things that bug me that I’ll get to in a second. But Nan is an incumbent. Shouldn’t people know who she is already? Why isn’t she running on her record? Nits: the black-and-white steel mill made me think that Nan was a million years old; the excessive neck-nuzzling with her family was a little much; and the voice-over is a little heavy/dramatic for my taste. And, oh, a nod to “preserving Medicare”? Really? She’s going to need more inoculation than that against the inevitable Maloney and DCCC attacks on Hayworth’s support for the Ryan budget plan.” —Alex Navarro-McKay, Managing Director, BerlinRosen
Description: In the same genre as the other two ads analyzed in this issue, State Senator Grisanti’s reintroduction ad gets viewers up to speed on what he has accomplished over his first two years in Albany. Pros: This ad fits into the “sickness to cure” subgenre of political commercials. As is customary, it begins with a gravely serious-sounding narrator identifying a problem—in this case, Albany—illustrated by a menacing black-and-white photo. These dark images then swiftly give way to cheery, triumphant music and bright, colorful shots of the candidate while the word “change” is both spoken by the narrator and shown on screen in a newspaper clipping. Cons: The two shots used to illustrate Grisanti’s passage of UB 2020 both look like stock footage and don’t establish a genuine connection with the district the way that the images of Representative Owens touring local businesses do in his ad. The last shot of Grisanti could be better too; it is not terrible, but he appears low-energy, and that is certainly not the final impression with which the viewer should be left. The two prior images of Grisanti, where he is listening to a senior citizen and walking alongside a constituent, cast the senator in a better light. Expert Opinion: “This is a classic bio-andaccomplishments ad designed to reintroduce the candidate to voters. It frames the race using one of the most compelling arguments any incumbent on either side of the aisle has right now—tying themselves to the last two years of change, progress and results in Albany, in stark contrast to the gridlock and corruption of the past—while pivoting quickly to the issues that resonate with Western New York voters: jobs, the economy and taxes. The ad reminds Republican primary voters that Grisanti gets results, while avoiding the elephant in the room (his same-sex marriage vote) in this crowded upstate race.” —Nicole Gill, Senior Associate, SKDKnickerbocker
who owns the
$23 million for Long Island beaches is on hold amid disagreements
By Laura Nahmias The beaches of Suffolk County and the famed shores of the Hamptons are washing away, losing between one and two feet of shoreline every year. Multimilliondollar properties, a beach economy and the dynamic coastal environment are all at risk. Relief, in the form of sand and dredging projects, seemed to come this spring when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced it would devote $22.7 million dollars from the NY Works infrastructure fund to restoring the shoreline, leveraging $86.7 million in federal matching funds to complete the work. The infrastructure fund is a stimulus-style program designed to fast-track public works projects, in order to create jobs. The shovel-ready appearance of these projects belies the reality: that these beach projects might not create any jobs for the remainder of Cuomo’s time in office. The projects were conceived decades ago, but have been at the center of multiple fights over public access to high-priced beach property and battles in Congress over funding. “Recommendations that serve one aspect of the community don’t serve other aspects of the community, and the people in a position to make decisions are in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation,” said Jeremy Samuelson, a spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, a local group that represents Montauk area residents interested in conservation efforts, and which expressed reservations about the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers’ (USACE) most recent plan to save the North Shore. USACE’s plan, the least costly option to restore the coastline, is controversial among some Suffolk County residents. It involves dredging Lake Montauk and depositing sand along the beaches. The Corps would build jetties and rock groins, considered unsightly by some locals, to anchor the sand in place. Another big problem is an old one. And it involves money. Some Long Island residents in East Hampton and Southampton are worried about the strings that come attached to accepting federal help rebuilding the beach. “If we were to do the project, part of the beach that is now private would have to become public,” said Chris Gardner, a spokesman for the USACE. That could mean new public-access points every half mile along the beach, bisecting properties where homeowners would be required to sell back pieces of their land to the federal government and allow strangers to walk across their sand. In Southampton, a group of 141 wealthy homeowners proposed late last month to pay for new sand themselves with a $1.8 million bond issue, an elaborate plan to sidestep the public-beach provisions and expedite the process. The problem becomes more severe with each passing year, especially after storms like 2011’s Hurricane Irene. “There are parts of the shoreline that are already extremely close to property,” Gardner said. At town meetings throughout the Hamptons, the plans exacerbate tensions
Suffolk County Assemblyman Fred between those whose livelihoods depend on beach tourism and fishing, and those Thiele, who has been pushing for action to who would rather see a more aesthetically save the coast for years as study after study pleasing solution than the proposed artifi- was reauthorized in Congress and then left cial rock barriers. Local fishermen say the unfunded, put it more descriptively. “That study is older than my children, dredging is urgently needed as commercial fishing boats increasingly become and they’re in their 20s,” he said. Thiele said things might be different this stuck in the shallow water as they try to year, as he pushes for Congress to allocate enter the harbor. emergency funding for the “As a resort-based Lake Montauk dredging. economy, we’re talking Another new player in the about the underpinnings process is Cuomo, who of our community,” is staking his economic Samuelson said. stimulus on getting The Army Corps of infrastructure projects Engineers, perhaps “We don’t have completed quickly. sensing the futility of any place in “[Cuomo] wants the finding local consensus the basement projects expedited,” on any plan, has been Thiele said. “Any time slow to finish a study of the Capitol the state is willing to put showing how exactly where we’re their money where their they might repair the printing mouth is, they can use shore along 83 miles that as an incentive to of southern coast from money,” get the federal governFire Island to Montauk. Assemblyman ment to act.” Waiting for the study’s Fred Thiele Cuomo’s help can completion, Samuelson only go so far. New York says, “feels like waiting said, “so we will need Congressiofor Godot.” really need nally approved funding The Army Corps the federal to make the shovel-ready of Engineers blames projects Cuomo signed Congress for their snail’s government’s off on a reality. pace. help.” “It really gets to what “We work at the behest the federal government’s of Congress,” Gardner said, speaking about the plan to dredge up role is going to be in coastal policy in Lake Montauk. “Congress first authorized the future,” Thiele said. “We don’t have the dredging in 2002. But authorization does any place in the basement of the Capitol not entail money. They’ll say, ‘Go forth and where we’re printing money, so we really need the federal government’s help.” do this thing,’ but then they don’t fund it.” www.cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 6, 2012
COV E R STO RY
FIXERS Who do you call when scandal strikes? By AARON SHORT
arl Kruger was hearing rumors around his neighborhood. Confidants told the Brooklyn State Senator that federal agents had approached them and asked questions about Kruger. Private questions. It unnerved him. Kruger needed an attorney. He called Benjamin Brafman. “He came to see me, said that he had learned there were people being interviewed, and he wanted me to represent him in case he needed counsel,” Brafman recounted. “I concluded that he did.” Brafman soon learned that the U.S. Attorney’s offices in both the Southern and Eastern districts of New York had launched simultaneous investigations into Kruger. Brafman quickly signed on as Kruger’s counsel and began to monitor both probes. He met with Eastern District attorneys and said he convinced them that allegations against his client were “baseless.” They dropped their inquiry. But attorneys from the Southern District possessed a series of taped conversations between Kruger and his associates, which led them to conclude they had the basis to file a corruption case against the senator. On March 9, 2011, prosecutors notified Brafman that
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
they were going to charge his client with federal crimes and that Kruger should surrender the next day. Brafman informed his client. The news depressed Kruger, but he hoped he could still prevail. “It’s very hard for someone who is not a criminal to come to grips with the fact that in the next 24 hours the whole world is going to assume that he is a criminal because he’s involved in substantially adverse publicity,” Brafman said. Brafman, once a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, has secured several high-profile acquittals and dismissals in his 30-year career, including hip-hop mogul Sean Combs, on alleged weapons-possession charges, former City Councilman Dennis Gallagher, on alleged rape charges, and International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose sex abuse case was ultimately dropped. But he could not save Kruger, his friend of nearly three decades. “Based on the evidence, it appeared on the merits that a trial wouldn’t be successful,” said Brafman. “Sometimes in my practice you have to do damage control. Sometimes you can’t win. Sometimes the facts don’t allow you to hit a home run. In those cases, a plea is in the best interest of the client, however difficult it may be to consider.”
COV E R STO RY
ew York City is a place teeming with pricey political consultants, whip-smart communications strategists and Ivy Leagueeducated attorneys. But there’s another set of operatives whom politicians tap when they find themselves staring down a scandal or suddenly facing a fight for their professional or personal lives. These crisis-management specialists are the consultants of last resort—the people politicians turn to when they find themselves stuck in a deadlocked election, when they hear a federal indictment is imminent or when they get served a warrant for their arrest. When those desperate calls come, that’s when these topflight operatives go to work. These are the elite consultants who accompany their clients to court or lurk in the background of a hard-to-stomach press conference. They sometimes answer questions on their client’s behalf, but usually avoid the press altogether. And often their best and most important work—killing a story before it breaks or quietly settling a criminal matter to avoid a trial—ends up a carefully guarded secret that the public never learns. Each situation is different, but crisis managers rely on a similar set of skills to steer their clients out of further trouble. They must be discreet, meticulous, responsive at all hours and willing to absorb withering media scrutiny while insulating their client from the storm. It’s a stressful job—perhaps the most difficult in politics— but they relish the challenge of saving careers, or at least keeping their clients out of prison. They are the fixers. And they are here to help.
ad news travels faster than good news—it’s almost a law of physics. Another truism in politics? Always tell the truth. “The number one skill you need as a crisis manager is to never lie,” said communications wizard Ken Sunshine. “It doesn’t mean you have to answer every question. There are ways to duck questions. People lie all the
time in this business. Ethically it’s unacceptable and frankly, it doesn’t work. You get caught.” Sunshine, whose firm, Sunshine Sachs, is one of the most respected communications firms in the world, knows how to steer his clients through a crisis. One of them is Kerry Kennedy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ex-wife, whom the New York Post splashed across its cover for crashing her car in Westchester County, and who later tested positive for traces of Ambien. Sunshine won’t answer any questions about Kennedy. Sunshine and his crackerjack team of public relations managers, including Jesse Derris, who heads its crisis division, and Shawn Sachs, his business partner, have been keeping stories out of the press since 1992, when Sunshine founded the company. Today they run a West Coast branch based in Los Angeles that handles celebrity clients—Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck, John Mayer, to name a few—and employ about 90 hush-men and -women. “We pride ourselves on our discretion,” Sunshine said. “I think our record is pretty good, but the greatest part is nobody knows we’re doing it, except our client and us.” Sunshine has the ear of many of the country’s most powerful people, including Governor Cuomo, whom he calls “one of the most talented and effective public servants” he’s ever seen. If Cuomo ever found himself mired in a quandary like his predecessors, Sunshine would likely get one of the governor’s first calls —or text messages—though Sunshine doesn’t expect that moment will ever come. “Believe me, there’s nothing. [The Cuomos are] as clean and honest as any public servants in the country,” he said. Preventing a scandal from making it into the news cycle, let alone showing up in the Twittersphere, is a herculean task, but crisis managers employ a range of strategies to get in front of a story. “It’s a very difficult thing for people to understand they are about to be in very serious trouble,” said Stefan Friedman, a
managing partner of SKDKnickerbocker and an experienced crisis specialist. “A normal person holds out hope that it will go away and thinks about how they can get out of this, or at least limit the damage.” Friedman knows tabloids. He worked at the New York Post for eight years as a political columnist and says his experience
(Top) Ken Sunshine, right, with his client Leonardo DiCaprio at a movie premier in Los Angeles in 2007. PHOTO: AP/CHRIS POLK (Below) Then-Sen. Marty Connor, far right in the front row, listens to Gov. George Pataki’s budget address in 2002. Connor is one of few top election lawyers in the state. PHOTO: AP/JIM MCKNIGHT
helps him determine the intensity of a scandal. “It’s about identifying how bad something can be. A conversation we have at the office is if it’s going to be ‘the wood.’ The wood will drive a ton of coverage,” said Friedman, using the term “wood” to mean the front cover of a daily newspaper. Savvy communications managers occasionally identify potential pratfalls by scanning Twitter, the blogs and online media. More often a snooping reporter calls with a request for
comment on a tip or a politician’s aide warns of a burgeoning catastrophe. Lupé Todd, a vice president at George Arzt Communications, has had panicked clients reach out to her at all hours of the night. She usually meets with the politician’s crisis-management team the following morning. “The person in trouble has to be honest with the team, and sometimes that can be difficult with elected officials,” said Todd, the architect of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries’ congressional
www.cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 6, 2012
COV E R STO RY You Win Some, You Lose Some The crises, the consultants and the outcomes The Crisis: Assembly Speaker Mel Miller is charged with fraud for his role in a scheme to secretly buy and resell Brooklyn apartments. The Fixer: Gerald Lefcourt The Outcome: Miller is convicted and loses his Assembly seat in 1991, but the conviction is overturned on appeal.
The Crisis: Rep. Vito Fossella is arrested for drunk driving in Virginia in 2008. The Fixer: Susan Del Percio The Outcome: Fossella resigns after revelations emerge that he had a secret family in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
The Crisis: Eliot Spitzer faces a lengthy recount fight in the 1998 attorney-general election with challenges to thousands of ballots. The Fixer: Martin Connor The Outcome: Spitzer narrowly beats the Republican incumbent, Dennis Vacco.
Vito Fossella The Crisis: New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook is accused in 2010 of money laundering, extortion and fraud—as well as submitting a receipt for a $177 bagel sandwich. The Fixer: Edward Wilford The Outcome: The case against Seabrook initially ended in a mistrial, but a second jury found him guilty last month. The Crisis: Mark Grisanti’s 2010 run for the State Senate results in a recount, leaving control of the chamber in question . The Fixer: Martin Connor The Outcome: Grisanti ekes out a win over Antoine Thompson, the Democratic incumbent. The Crisis: IMF chief Dominique StraussKahn is accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York in 2011. The Fixer: Benjamin Brafman The Outcome: The case against StraussKahn was dropped amid doubts about the credibility of the alleged victim. The Crisis: Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. is accused in 2011 of influence peddling and taking no-show hospital job in return. The Fixer: Richard Rosenberg The Outcome: Boyland was acquitted, but was quickly arrested on new federal bribery charges.
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
“Sometimes the facts don’t allow you to hit a home run. In those cases, a plea is in the best interest of the client, however difficult it may be to consider.”
bid. “To be an elected official you have to have an ego, and it’s a humbling experience when they’re in trouble. It’s equally humbling when they have to admit their faults.” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal crisis manager, said that consultants must ask the right questions and quickly assimilate a lot of information from a reluctant client before preparing a statement. “Whatever story you tell, it better be right,” Wolfson said. “You really only have one opportunity to tell your first story. You have to have your credibility around that, and telling that story and making sure it’s accurate is very important.” A good crisis communicator must be willing to drop everything and respond to the needs of the client when something breaks, experts say. Speed is key, but accuracy is more important. And a spokesperson must be organized when a deluge of media requests arrives. “If you let one call slip through the cracks, you can have an entirely different story on your hands,” Friedman said. “We now have a responsibility to get back with near immediacy because of the 24-hour news cycle on steroids. It takes being very quick on your feet and having the right instincts.” But it can be frustrating when a scandal slips out of your grasp. In one of her highest profile jobs,
Republican consultant Susan Del Percio had to react to a completely unexpected turn. In April 2008 an aide from Rep. Vito Fossella informed her that the Staten Island congressman had been arrested for driving drunk in Virginia. She met with Fossella’s team, crafted a response, and the congressman held a press conference to apologize. Less than a month later Fossella resigned after revelations showed that he had a secret family in Washington—something Del Percio said she had never been told. “When I was first called I was not made aware of the facts,” she said. “You go in assuming you know what’s going on, you handle it, and then learn there’s more. You have to reassess your original strategy, you have to modify.” And then there are times when a crisis becomes so monumental that the crisis-management team must make room for another player—the lawyer. Communicators must balance issuing a statement with a lawyer’s preference for resorting to an artful “no comment.” “Public relations is not nearly as valuable as a legal opinion when there can be fines or jail time,” Friedman said. “Ninety-nine out of 100 times I will not put up a fight when a lawyer gets involved, but I will give advice.” And sometimes the best strategy is saying nothing at all. “You have to trust your gut, you can’t be rash, and you have to be very dispas-
Then-State Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, left, enters FBI headquarters to surrender to federal authorities with Benjamin Brafman in March 2011. PHOTO: AP/LOUIS LANZANO
COV E R STO RY sionate,” Sunshine said. “If you let your own emotion get in the way, you can make a mistake. You have to look client in the eye and say, ‘Sometimes it’s better to do nothing, or suck it in for a while.’”
oliticians can face their first serious predicaments even before taking office. “Eliot Spitzer called me at 1 or 1:30 in the morning once,” said Marty Connor, a former State Senator and an expert on election law. “That’s when he ran for attorney general in ’98 and had a statewide recount.” Connor is one of the few attorneys in the state who specialize in election law. He has been taking inquiries from former colleagues, novice Democrats, and even political foes for more than four decades. The calls start coming just hours after the polls close on Election Day, as soon as an unofficial count of votes is over—and the candidate realizes the race is essentially tied. “There are a lot of mistakes to avoid that can avert a crisis, but the postelection proceedings tend to be crises,” Connor said. “Nobody plans for being in a close race when there’s going to be a recount.” Much like a baseball closer, a skilled election lawyer enters in the late innings of a campaign to preserve a hard-fought victory or snatch one away from certain defeat. “Every candidate, no matter whether an incumbent or insurgent, is extremely anxious if there’s a close vote,” said election attorney Jerry Goldfeder, who wrote a book—the book, some say—on election law. “The hardest part is managing the candidate’s expectations. I help them face the reality that these are unofficial totals, and other exigencies may pop up that will need to be addressed.” A recount can be a painstaking process. Election workers count paper ballots and attorneys spend hundreds of hours tracking down voter records to certify or invalidate votes. The slimmer the margin, the more contentious the proceedings, and the more intense election records research
will be. Connor developed his hardboiled meticulousness as an attorney at a Wall Street firm over four decades ago. One of his colleagues encouraged him to join a Brooklyn Heights Democratic political club, where he taught himself election law to challenge the county’s candidates’ petitions and won several battles. A decade later he won election to the State Senate and began helping many legislators
(Top) New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Marty Connor’s client, conceded the congressional race to his opponent, incumbent Charles Rangel. (Below) Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in June of 2011, saying he could not continue in office amid the controversy surrounding sexually explicit messages he sent online to several women. PHOTOs: AP/SETH WENIG
with their campaigns, pro bono. Connor credits his Wall Street training and obsessive, detailoriented natured for making him a good election lawyer. “The law is very intolerant of mistakes, and deadlines are absolute,” he said. “In election law, there are no extensions of time. There’s no forgiveness for filing something late, there’s no forgiveness for serving papers improperly.” Goldfeder shares Connor’s perspective on professionalism. “You have to be responsive to the wishes and needs [of] your client,” he said. “Candidates see this as the most meaningful part of their lives. You need to be extremely responsive to who
“I’ve probably talked more people out of committing suicide than most psychiatrists.”
they are as people when you are representing them.” Spitzer’s statewide campaign, when he defeated Attorney General Dennis Vacco after a lengthy recount, is perhaps Connor’s most heralded accomplishment. He oversaw the training of scores of lawyers placed in each county across the state as the count progressed over a four-week period. But this year Connor was on the losing end of two close elections. One client, Councilman Lew Fidler, conceded a razor-thin State Senate race to Republican David Storobin, who eked out a 16-vote victory at the end of an acrimonious two-month process
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COV E R STO RY marked by allegations of fraud over affidavit ballots from voters in Brighton Beach. Another client, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, admitted defeat two weeks after Rep. Charlie Rangel’s margin of victory shifted repeatedly as the Board of Elections discovered more ballots during the recount. That won’t stop politicians from hiring him in the future. “Marty’s the best,” said Jo Anne Simon, a Brooklyn State Committeewoman and a longtime friend. “He has probably dealt with more variety of electionlaw matters than anyone else. He’s very smart, and he has very good judgment.” Connor believes that in addition to mastering election law, it helps to have political common sense, which he honed in Albany for 30 years. “I will give legal advice to a client and say, ‘Now that’s the law, but as a practical matter you’d be very foolish to take advantage of that because it won’t look good in the press,’” he said. “Not everything the law permits is necessarily wise for a candidate to do. What they want to do may be legal, but it smells, and may get them bad publicity.”
very year it seems that another politician has gotten himself in trouble with the police or the Feds. And it pays, often handsomely, to have a top-flight criminal defense attorney by his side. “The primary goal is to try to make your client into a nonperson and explain he has nothing to do with the investigation,” said Ed McDonald, a partner at the law firm Dechert LLP and a former federal prosecutor. “You must persuade prosecutors not to bring charges, or you try to negotiate the best possible deal. If someone goes to trial, it’s at the end of a failed process.” For decades politicians have approached Paul Shechtman, Gerald Lefcourt, Gerald Shargel and Ben Brafman for representation in extreme crises. Each has a reputation for being discreet with clients and pugnacious in negotiations with prosecutors. “You can tell me you killed
someone, robbed a grocery store, embezzled money, defrauded a public agency— whatever you tell me, I’m going to hunt for reasonable doubt,” said Shargel, who has represented former Suffolk County Republican leader Nicholas Barbato and several individuals with suspected Mob ties, and is currently representing defendants in the CityTime payroll scandal. “I’ve never said to a client, ‘Did you do it? Are you guilty?’ Those aren’t questions I ask.” Shargel favors a “holistic” approach toward legal counseling, which includes holding a series of client meetings and having dinner with the client’s family in order to explain the consequences. He also tells each defendant the “unvarnished truth” about the case. “I don’t make a bad situation appear worse than it really is, and I don’t make it appear better because it’s an easier thing to do,” he said. “If someone is under investigation and I think he or she will be indicted, I don’t say they have nothing to worry about.” Brafman says he spends as much time counseling his clients emotionally as he does discussing the facts of the case. “I’ve probably talked more people out of committing suicide than most psychiatrists,” he said. “When the storm comes and you are at the center of a criminal investigation, it’s worse than being told you have a terminal illness. You quickly learn that you don’t have as many close friends and colleagues as you thought you did. Sometimes the life you had never comes back the same, even if you are ultimately completely exonerated.” Both Brafman and Shargel try to dissuade politicians from speaking to the press as a matter of sound legal practice. Shargel cautions that prosecutors will leap on a politician’s statement if it is inconsistent with the facts and use it to decide whether to push for a trial. Brafman compares press relations to being the underdog in a boxing match. “Good boxers are always counterpunching, but in my
Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves New York State Supreme court with his wife Anne Sinclair on July 1, 2011. A judge agreed to free former International Monetary Fund leader Strauss-Kahn without bail or home confinement in the sexual assault case, which was eventually dropped. PHOTO: AP/DAVID KARP 14
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
“Not everything the law permits is necessarily wise for a candidate to do. What they want to do may be legal, but it smells, and may get them bad publicity.”
practice, sometimes you take punch after punch after punch,” Brafman said. “You do not allow the punch to knock you down, but you cannot always fight back until an opportunity presents itself so that there is no downside to the client.” It often works. Nearly a year ago prosecutors abruptly dropped sexualassault charges against IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, citing a lack of evidence. The global press corps had all but convicted Strauss-Kahn, then a leading candidate for president of France, when news of the accusation first broke. Brafman’s philosophy when it comes to media relations in high-profile cases is to not be concerned about winning the news cycle. “If you get a good press day and as a result you compromise your ability to win the case, at the end of the ordeal, no one is going to remember your good press day if you lose the case,” he said. “If you get bad press day after bad press day but manage to prevail at the end, no one is ever going to remember the bad press day. The objective is to prevail.” Brafman believes his insistence on Strauss-Kahn’s innocence persuaded Manhattan district attorneys to examine the evidence more thoroughly. “My assertion that DSK was not guilty had a great impact with that office, which began to take a
careful look at the facts, a more careful look than if someone who did not have my background was making those claims,” he said. But sometimes prosecutors plod ahead, especially if they have a preponderance of evidence against a client. Attorneys must then change strategies and advise a client to consider pleading guilty or risk punishment in trial. With Kruger’s situation, he and Brafman examined the facts of the case for six months after prosecutors issued the indictment. In the end Kruger chose to plead guilty to accepting $1 million in bribes. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence at the Federal Correction Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. The decision continues to weigh on Brafman. “It breaks my heart to see him in federal prison,” Brafman said. “I think that his plea of guilty was the absolute correct way for his case to be resolved, but it hurts me that I wasn’t able to save him despite my best efforts. But I’ve grown up in this profession, and after 37 years, I get it. Some cases don’t end well. Sometimes the right advice is for an individual to plead guilty even though the consequences are going to be severe.”
crisis is finally over when reporters stop calling. “The end is when all the facts appear to have come out and
COV E R STO RY
there’s nothing new to report,” Del Percio said. “Then you plan on the next year, and figure out what to do, so you’re prepared. It’s not that you fold; you go from crisis to communications strategy.” The road to perdition is taxing, and the return journey can be just as long. But some politicians have been able to accelerate their public rehabilitation after embarrassing episodes. Take former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who stepped down four years ago due to revelations of sexual encounters with a prostitute. Spitzer has since reinvented himself as a media pundit, writing for Slate and hosting television programs on CNN, Current TV and NY1. “I think the comeback of Spitzer has been incredible to behold,” Wolfson said. “It wasn’t that long ago that it broke. He’s a reputable public figure, and it shows that people can be rehabilitated.” Other times the memories are
too fresh for a reintroduction to the political sphere. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner mishandled his own messaging in the days after he tweeted photographs of his crotch, explaining his account had been hacked. He subsequently acknowledged sending the tweets, and resigned less than a month later. Public relations experts say there was nothing that could have been done to save him. “Anthony has famously been his own person and taken his own counsel, for better or worse,” Friedman said. “I don’t see what any master PR person could do to put that back in the box that was salvageable. This was something that was going to explode.” Last month the antsy former congressman gauged the public’s interest in a redemptive run for citywide office—and the city’s press corps slapped his wrist, prompting a retreat. “Even though there’s talk that he could run for office again, a lot of reporters won’t forget that
Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation in 2008 amidst a prostitution scandal as wife Silda looked on. PHOTO: AP/STEPHEN
“I’ve never said to a client, ‘Did you do it? Are you guilty?’ Those aren’t questions I ask.”
he flat out looked at them and lied,” Del Percio said. “And that’s a character issue. He tried to use the press.” Sunshine believes both Spitzer and Weiner are “good people who made mistakes.” He blames the press for putting intense pressure on those who lead a life in the public eye. “Personal lives should be left alone,” Sunshine said. “To nitpick politicians is just unfair, and the media keeps making us believe the Puritans are still around. The Puritans weren’t so pure back then.” But crisis managers who have been through enough fires know the media will continue to vet politicians as long as papers print ink and cyberspace spews ones and zeroes. Perhaps the most useful advice a crisis manager can give to aspiring consultants is to not put politicians on a pedestal. “At the end of the day, elected officials are merely a man or a woman,” Lupé Todd said. “They’re not Queen. They’re not God. I respect those I work for, but I don’t drink the Kool-Aid anymore. When you get drunk on the Kool-Aid, that’s when you get shocked.”
Advice for politicians in crisis
• Hire your election attorney during your campaign—you don’t want to have to call someone at 2 a.m. after Election Day. • Sometimes it is best to issue a “no comment” and weather a bad-press day. • Find an outlet for your stress, whether it’s watching sports, working out at the gym, spending time with your family or eating lots of ice cream. • Be honest with your crisis-management team and tell them everything so they can construct the best defense. • Never lie to the press. Ever. You will get caught.
www.cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 6, 2012
Meet The Machines How did the MTA’s big diggers get their weird names?
Photo courtesy MTA
By Laura Nahmias When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sent out a press release touting the work their Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) had completed in late July, it included some unusual anthropomorphic information: the nicknames of each of the machines, along with the work they’d completed. “Adi” was named after the granddaughter of Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, the MTA Capital Construction president. The machine has been working on the Second Avenue subway line since May 14, 2010, and completed work on Sept. 22, 2011. She dug 14,951 feet of track on two runs, and began her work at 92nd Street and Second Avenue. She finished her work at 63rd Street and Third Avenue, and according to the MTA has been “refurbished and shipped to Indianapolis to work on another project.” “Georgina” was named after one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daughters. Born on July 24, 2009, she ended her work July 15, 2010, having dug 4,650 feet of track. She began work at Eleventh Avenue and 26th Street, and finished under the Port Authority Bus Terminal. “Emma,” also named after one of the mayor’s daughters, worked on the No. 7 train extension along with her sister, but is a Cancer TBM instead of a Leo like Georgina. Emma was born June 12, 2009, and ended work June 11, 2010. Like her sister, Emma ended her work at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. She and her sister have both been dismantled. “SELI” and “Robbins” never got official nicknames, but they were informally named after the companies that manufactured them. Both worked longer than the other TBMs and began work in 2007, each averaging about 16,000 feet of dug tunnel. They both worked on the East Side Access project. SELI is buried under Park Avenue at 37th Street, and Robbins was completely dismantled. “T.E.S.S.” and “Molina” earned their names in a contest held by sixth-grade students from I.S. 204 in Long Island City. The acronym T.E.S.S. stands for “Tunnel Excavation Sunnyside.” Both the East Side Access machine T.E.S.S. and Molina were launched in 2011 from the Sunnyside Yard Launch Box. T.E.S.S. retired this May, and Molina ended work on July 22. Both are being scrapped. The machines weigh 200 tons each, and they collectively dug 13 miles of new tunnels under New York City. 16
AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
PERSPECTIVES MICHAEL BENJAMIN
THE RACE FOR PRESIDENT SHOULDN’T BE A FAMILY AFFAIR Like many New Yorkers, I thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his repeated demurrals concerning a presidential bid in 2016. Cuomo was elected to run our state, not to use Albany as a Triple-A way station on his way to the “show.” Two hundred and thirty-six years into our nation’s history, a professional political class has arisen where the scions of our most powerful families believe themselves entitled to hold public office. While increasingly commonplace on the local and state level, this trend has taken hold even in regard to the presidency of the United States. The idea that political bloodlines should determine the presidential nomination process is a growing concern. In 2008 Americans faced the very real possibility of the Bush and Clinton families alternately running the nation for 28 consecutive years. Barack Obama’s emergence and success in clinching the Democratic nomination saved our republic. Mitt Romney appears motivated by his father, George Romney’s, failed bid for the Republican nomination in 1968. In 1980 Ted Kennedy could not articulate the convictions driving his quest to unseat President Jimmy Carter. The late John F. Kennedy Jr. was hounded by repeated speculation of an eventual political career. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s name is floated weekly as a potential Romney running mate. Pundits are now goading Hillary Clinton and Governor Cuomo to enter the 2016 fray. Ex-Governor Paterson’s failure to nominate Caroline Kennedy to fill Clinton’s unexpired Senate term spared us from tales of Camelot II. Is it name recognition, celebrity, laziness, elitism or entitlement that is driving this fever? Be it elitism or a sense of entitlement, this growing practice runs profoundly counter to the American ideals of rugged individualism, “bootstrapism” and personal merit. Public office should not be treated as
a legacy for elites. The 14 presidents who are graduates of Harvard, Yale and Princeton reflect a measure of elitism that Americans have accepted. George W. Bush was the only president to hold degrees from both Harvard and Yale. Many students at Harvard, Yale and Princeton are legacy admissions because their parents or grandparents are graduates. The Adams and Bush sons are double legacies because their fathers are Harvard and Yale graduates, respectively. Notably, 12 elite universities have produced 42 percent of government leaders and 54 percent of corporate leaders, according to research by Thomas Dye. One critic of admissions practices at these elite institutions argues that legacy preferences are widespread and harmful. I would add that legacy preferences in politics and government are equally widespread and potentially harmful in a representative democracy. To his credit, Governor Cuomo—a son of middle-class Queens—has taken the middle road in addressing inequality. He championed marriage equality and education reform, reduced middleclass taxes, retained a lowered millionaires’ tax, and broadened diversity in state-government hiring and contracting. Whether he ultimately runs for president, Cuomo is correctly resisting efforts to cast him as another in a line of legacy candidates aspiring to the Oval Office. Our national politics must be about new, bold ideas that do away with old orthodoxies and forgotten rivalries. And our leaders should be representative of the American narrative that has served our nation well. The blood of liberty and freedom should flow through presidential veins, not that of their fathers or spouses. Retired Assemblyman Michael Benjamin represented the Bronx for eight years.
BATTLE FOR CONGRESS COULD HINGE UPON NY New York State will have at least eight contested House races this year (four currently held by Republicans and four by Democrats). For Republican control of the House to be in jeopardy, New York must become the contest’s epicenter. These contested races are the product of three factors. First, New York’s last three congressional cycles were chock full of upsets, complicated by four special-election surprises, leaving incumbents not yet entrenched. Second, the new congressional seats were not the product of gerrymandering but were drawn by the courts. Finally, turnout will be driven by the presidential contest. From 2006–08 state turnout jumped from 4.7–6.9 million votes. In newly drawn districts, uncertainty surrounds how 2 million additional voters will affect these House races. In Western New York, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul faces a strong challenge from Republican former Erie County Executive Chris Collins. This is a rock-ribbed Republican district, but Collins is gaffe-prone. If this race turns on partisanship Collins will win, but if it becomes a contest of personalities, Hochul will prevail. In Monroe County, Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks is challenging an institution: Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. If you say the names Louise and Maggie, everyone in the district knows exactly whom you are talking about. This outcome will likely turn on whether the district trusts Louise in Congress more than they like Maggie, or vice versa. Central New York presents a rerun between Republican Ann Marie Buerkle and former Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei. In 2010 Buerkle won by a whisker, because her margin from the district’s western tail in Rochester’s suburbs overcame Maffei’s narrow lead from Onondaga County. The new district clipped that tail. The question becomes whether Buerkle’s Tea Party support can keep her afloat amid a presidential turnout. The North Country hosts a rematch between Rep. Bill Owens and Republican Matt Doheny. Owens won three-way races in both the 2009 special election and 2010. The new district consolidates the North Country’s eastern and western spheres. Owens has been steady but faces a steep GOP registration slope. Doheny has suffered several Animal House type incidents. New York’s sad experience with congressional party boys leaves Doheny with no margin for error. This race will be trench warfare. The Democrats think Julian Schreibman can knock off first-term Republican incumbent Chris Gibson. The new district lost solid Republican turf from the North Country, becoming a mixed
bag of Capital District suburbs and mid-Hudson exurbs. Gibson has not slipped up politically, so in order for Democrats to snatch this seat, independent voters must move sharply. Republican Nan Hayworth faces a spirited challenge from Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney. Once a Westchester-centered district, it has become mid-Hudson based. Independents hold the balance of power. Hayworth runs the risk of being seen as too conservative, while Maloney lacks deep roots in the district. This race will be well fought, given that both candidates are skilled communicators. In Queens, Grace Meng’s impressive majority in a four-way primary gives her a strong edge, though the recent news of her father’s arrest came at a very bad time. Republican Councilman Dan Halloran also has weaknesses (e.g., his incredulous charges relating to the infamous snowstorm), which could make him vulnerable to tabloid fever. On top of that, Halloran must overcome a significant Democratic registration bulge. Lastly, Suffolk County reruns the photo finish victory of Rep. Tom Bishop over Republican Randy Altschuler. Altschuler’s camp correctly crows about taking the In newly Independence line from Bishop, drawn who had it in districts, 2010. Nevertheuncertainty less, the outcome will likely be surrounds determined by how 2 million how many of the additional 42,000 Democrats who voted in voters will 2008 but stayed affect these home last cycle House races. turn out this November. The Democrats need a net gain of at least three seats from New York to have any chance of regaining the House. It is refreshing to see our state as a fulcrum point for control of the Congress. Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant at Corning Place Communications in Albany and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.
www.cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 6, 2012
Educate & Influence NY’s Elected Officials with: Issue Spotlight
# W I N N E R SA N D LO S E R S
winners & Losers
Late July is a time of relative quiet but the voting goes on for the halls of fame and shame.
Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote. Week of July 23, 2012
Garodnick 14% Vance 20%
Promote Your Union’s Benefits and Objectives to NY’s Policymakers in this Targeted Legislative Ad Venue. The Special Section Features Political Perspectives With:
Assemblyman Peter Abbate
Chair, Assembly Labor Committee
Congressman Chris Gibson Alphonso David
NYS Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights
NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich State Sen. Joseph Robach
Dan Garodnick: Comptroller hopeful earns endorsements James Odato: Reporting on Cuomo’s secrecy Michael Bloomberg: Driving guncontrol conversation Cy Vance: Removing guns, key convictions
YOUR CHOICE Mindy Meyer: New York has itself a real live Elle Woods. Meyer, an Orthodox Jew from Flatbush, erupted on the political scene as the youngest woman ever to run for State Senate. And she’s playing the game her way, with dozens of appearances on both local and national television, an endorsement from the Brooklyn Conservative Party, and the glitziest website ever made (over 400,000 views and counting). Her unimpressed opponent, State Sen. Kevin Parker, should watch his back— this gal is on the scene with her own bend and snap. She wants his seat, and for some unexplainable and fabulous reason, the entire world knows it.
Chair, Senate Labor Committee
(Public Officials pending confirmation)
Feature Articles: • WHY BUILD UNION? • THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRIVATIZATION • LABOR’S IMPACT ON UPCOMING ELECTIONS ORGANIZED LABOR ISSUES SCORECARD: •Major Issues at Stake •A Rundown of the Key Players •Facts & Figures About Unions in NY City & State Reaches Every NYC, State and Federal Elected Official Serving the 5 Boroughs and Every Member of NYS Legislature.
Losers Grace Meng: Dad arraigned for taking bribe in fruit basket Juan Reyes: Bizarre press release, skips voting Cuomo 23% Letitia James: Seabrook 30% Díaz could take publicadvocate lead James 9% Andrew Cuomo: You Reyes 6% call that transparMeng 29% ency?
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AUGUST 6, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
YOUR CHOICE Larry Seabrook: You can’t fool all of the juries all of the time. After beating his first corruption case, which ended in a mistrial, the Bronx power broker could not shake off allegations this go-round of steering $1.5 million in slush money to a nonprofit he controlled, as a jury convicted him on public corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. Details about the case leaked throughout the week, but the one that stuck was the image of Seabrook canvassing gas stations for sales receipts he then reimbursed as personal expenses with his political club. He may have swindled millions in taxpayer dollars, but that story made the councilman look cheap. CITY&STATE
B AC K & F O R T H
UNLIKELY REFORMER I
nfamous former lobbyist Jack Abramoff claims to be a changed man. After making millions of dollars manipulating the system, Abramoff, who was once chairman of the College Republican National Committee and close friends with ex–House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is now working with liberal lions like Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and good-government groups to reform the practices that made him immensely wealthy and influential—and ended up sending him to prison for 43 months. As the author of the book Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist and the host of a radio show on XM Satellite Radio, Abramoff has made it his personal mission since his release to spread the word about his past wrongdoing in an effort, he says, to do recompense. City & State Editor Morgan Pehme asks Abramoff if all lobbyists are dishonest, how the system can be improved, whether it’s naive to think that it can be and why anyone should trust him given his history.
thing that’s reform-oriented they’ll water it down so much that it really is meaningless. CS: Is lobbying at the state level any less tainted than at the federal level? JA: In some cases it’s better. In some cases it’s worse. Some states like Kentucky have put in as a consequence of the scandal some fairly draconian measures to keep a strict regime. In others, like Georgia, it’s legal for lobbyists to give any gift they want to a legislator. CS: For lobbyists who want to avoid the path that you went down and do their job in an honest and respectable way, what advice would you offer? JA: If the playing field gets leveled, then it’s very simple…just learn what the rules are and don’t break any of them.… Try not to do something you don’t want to read about on the front page of the paper. Until the playing field gets leveled, it’s the same advice, but there’s also unfortunately a reality there, which is you may not be able to compete with the guys that are playing by those rules but don’t care what they read in the paper, because it’s legal.
City & State: Is the system of lobbying in our country inherently corrupt, or is our government populated by corrupt people who take advantage of a system that is vulnerable? Jack Abramoff: I think the system is corrupt in a very refined way. It’s not crudely corrupt like it used to be, where it was not at all a bother to anyone that someone would walk into an office such as Lyndon Johnson’s when he was the Senate Majority Leader and hand him a sack of cash. That was the old days. Now it’s much more refined and more polite, but it’s certainly corrupt.… I don’t think the people view themselves as corrupt. I didn’t view myself as doing anything wrong in that respect, and that’s the problem: that it’s commonplace to engage in, in essence, bribery.… And so I think most people in the system are good people, but they are in a system that itself in its core is corrupt—and certainly many, many, many take full advantage within the boundaries of the law, and some, like I, go over the law, over the boundaries. It’s not necessary to go To read the over the boundaries, but even within full text of those boundaries there’s tremendous capacity for corruption and for acting this interdespicably. view, including
CS: It seems like there isn’t any incentive to play by the rules, because then you’re going to be left behind. JA: That’s one of the reasons these rules have got to get changed. If something is legal, how do you explain to someone who is aggressive that it’s perfectly legal to avail yourself of this, but it’s not polite? Polite? In American politics? In Washington, D.C.? Unfortunately our politics is long past the polite stage. So that’s how the rules have to be changed. We can’t rely on people’s decency and common sense. If it’s legal, it’s legal. If it’s not illegal, it’s not illegal. Now, a lot of people still don’t do it, even though it’s legal—most lobbyists don’t do it, by the way—estimates of how many lobbyists there are varies wildly, but it’s anywhere from 10– to 30,000—say it’s 10,000—of the 10,000 certainly less than 10 percent are engaged in active giving of money… But if I came up against a lobbyist like that in a lobbying effort, I’d smash their skulls in; it wouldn’t even be fair. It would be like the New York Giants playing some kindergarten kickball team. That’s a problem. That’s the problem.
CS: Does legislation ever get passed in Washington on its merits? bent members of JA: Well, very few pieces of legislation Congress, check out get passed in Washington, and this has cityandstateny.com. been the case since the parties became much more hardened into their ideological positions. I’m not certain it’s a bad thing, by the way, because I’m not certain that much of what they want to do to the country should be done.… I have a controversial opinion about this, though for me, everything I do is controversial—but my view is I hope they don’t get along. When they get along, we all suffer. When they get along they pass taxes and spending and dumb invasive rules and criminal laws and all sorts of other stuff that basically make us miserable as a country. There’s very little they do that really solves problems.… Most things that they pass are basically political plums for their favored interests and this is true on both sides, so not doing things is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.… Are any good laws passed? Yeah, things can get passed, but the problem is they get passed but if they’re a “moving train,” as it’s called—a piece of legislation that’s going to get to its destination—there are all sorts of folks looking at that to try to throw some things into some of the boxcars when nobody’s looking, or if it’s someto defeat incum-
PHOTO BY JONATHAN SPRINGER
CS: How would you address the people who question your motivations, pointing out that you’ve been very adept at exploiting systems to your own advantage, and now that you’ve come out of prison and you can’t go back to your old employment, you’ve switched sides to the reform effort once again for your own gain? JA: Should it matter to me whether you trust me? Why? I’m not selling you something. I guess I have a book out there. Fine, so don’t buy my book.… Otherwise, what am I going for here? There’s no money in this. Am I going to build a career of fame based on my reform efforts? Show me anybody else in the reform movement who has done that.… I’m doing this because I think it’s right. I’m doing this because I need to do it. I was part of that system. Once I realized that I was wrong, once I realized that the system was wrong…I decided…I’ve got to try. We might not make it. The odds are we won’t. The system’s been going for 100 years and so overcoming it is unlikely, but at least I wanted to say I did everything I could, and that’s what I’m trying to do. www.cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 6, 2012
CUNY Rising_City&State 8/2/12 1:01 PM Page 1
John Jay College for Criminal Justice
RISING MAJOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS SUPPORT RECORD ENROLLMENTS — AND HELP BOLSTER THE CITY’S ECONOMY.
ueled by unprecedented enrollment increases in the past decade, The City University of New York is generating needed construction and renovation programs that support both modern facilities for current and future generations of students and economic development in New York City. From 2001 to 2011, total full-time and part-time enrollment at CUNY campuses grew from about 197,000 to 270,000 — an increase of more than a third. During that same period, enrollment at the University’s community colleges increased a stunning 48 percent, from about 63,000 to more than 94,000. Today CUNY serves some 540,000 students at 24 institutions, including nearly 270,000 in adult, continuing and professional education. More top students are factoring into the mix. Last fall, the University accepted about 20,200 applicants with a high school GPA of 85 or above — that’s 7.8 percent more top applicants than the previous year and a remarkable 104.5 percent rise from the fall of 2002. “More high-achieving students than ever are recognizing the opportunity for a world-class education at CUNY,” said University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.
20% of all NYC Construction
To meet student demand, CUNY’s capital program currently has about $2 billion of projects in the pipeline, from modern laboratories to major renovations of historic buildings. Buoyed by lower construction costs, these projects collectively account for an estimated 20 percent of all construction activity today in New York City. Over the lifetime of the work, these projects will generate an estimated 14,000 jobs and provide about 1.9 million square feet of space.
CUNY Advanced Science Research Center at City College
“CUNY is providing a powerful economic stimulus for the entire city,” said Iris Weinshall, Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management. Since ﬁscal year 2008-09 — the beginning of the last recession — the University, with the support of the state and city, has invested $2.7 billion in capital projects across 24 institutions. Leading the way among the major new projects: • City College — CUNY Advanced Science Research Center and City College Science Facility The new CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, scheduled to open its doors in 2014, will provide a 206,000-square-foot research facility, among the most advanced in New York. It will support the concept of an integrated University, providing state-of-the-art laboratories for the University’s top faculty in nanoscience, photonics and environmental remote sensing. A second science building will provide new facilities for City College’s Science Division. • John Jay College — Multi-Use Facility This 600,000-square-foot structure, which opened in the fall of 2011, provides a dramatic expansion of the college, designed to match its fast-growing student community. The facility includes new classrooms and lecture halls, modern forensic science labs, instructional and research laboratories, ofﬁces, student activities and academic support services. • Medgar Evers College — Academic Building I Opened in the fall of 2010, this new building has helped meet the college’s acute space deﬁcit, providing ﬁve ﬂoors of advanced classrooms and computer labs for all disciplines, as well as instructional labs and faculty ofﬁces for the School of Science, Health and Technology. The winner of a 2012 Building Brooklyn Award from the Chamber of Commerce, the 194,000-square-foot structure also houses the college’s glass-domed dining facility. • College of Staten Island — Residence Halls Scheduled for completion next year, two new buildings will house 454 residents in 133 fully furnished, singleand double-occupancy apartments. The four- and ﬁvestory residence halls will help transform the campus environment into a destination of choice for students from a wide geographical area. About half of the new buildings at CUNY are dedicated to science, and a number of these facilities incorporate
environmentally sustainable strategies, certiﬁed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Other major projects include: • The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College — Created through a public/private partnership — and with the help of the largest gift ever to CUNY— the school’s new home in East Harlem opened its doors last year and includes the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. • North Instructional Building and Library at Bronx Community College — Scheduled for completion in the fall, this innovative facility will enable the college to replace out-of-date instructional space with muchneeded, state-of-the-art classrooms and a modern library. • New CUNY Law School campus — Recently completing its move to Long Island City, Queens, the Law School has renovated six ﬂoors in a 14-story, environmentally green building, with modern new classrooms, a library, clinic, moot courtroom and ofﬁces. • Fiterman Hall at Borough of Manhattan Community College — Opening this fall, the multi-use, 14-ﬂoor facility — with dramatic views of downtown Manhattan — replaces the former ofﬁce building irreparably damaged during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. • New Science Facility at Lehman College — This new building, opening in the fall, is the ﬁrst of a three-phase facility that will create the cornerstone of sciences at Lehman, showcasing the college’s major strengths in plant science teaching and research. Enrollment at CUNY institutions is expected to continue rising. Most experts predict that higher education choices over the next decade will be driven by student demand for academic value and quality with the support of state-ofthe-art facilities. CUNY has plans for a high-performance computer center at the College of Staten Island and appropriate repair and maintenance projects. “We’re always responding to the needs of the times,” Weinshall said. “We’re remaking ourselves again to provide the infrastructure, classrooms and buildings the University needs to excel in the 21st century.”