Category Archive: Politics

Mar 26 2014

FBI Raids Queens Assemblyman’s Home & Office

scarborough

Otisville is nice this time of year.

He’s ‘stunned’.

A relatively low-key state Assemblyman, Bill Scarborough, was visited by the G-Men this morning in an ongoing federal corruption sting.

[From The Queens Courier] The home and office of southeast Queens Assemblyman Bill Scarborough were raided by the FBI Wednesday morning, according to published reports.

Scarborough’s Albany office and Queens home were searched as part of an investigation into his travel reimbursements, the New York Post reported.
His district office and an Albany hotel room were also searched, according to the Daily News.

Scarborough, who served in the legislature for more than 20 years, told reporters that officials from the FBI and the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seized his cell phone, calendars and “just about everything,” another report said.

“I’m innocent, but I understand the reality,” Scarborough said to a group of reporters, according to Capital New York. “I don’t know what’s going to go on. I am going to talk to a lawyer. This is just stunning to me.”

For full article: http://queenscourier.com/2014/fbi-raids-assemblyman-scarboroughs-home-office-reports/

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/fbi-raids-queens-assemblymans-home-office/

Mar 26 2014

Meet The Most Corrupt Congressman, possibly ever

Congressman Meeks could be replaced. Insiders say he was on his way out the door anyway.

WIll he retain the title in 2014?

In 2013, Rep. Gregory Meeks, the crooked legislator from South Queens, was named as “one of the most corrupt members of Congress” for the second year in a row, but now curious minds are beginning to wonder will he retain the title this year?

The nine-term member of Congress from NY’s 5th Congressional District was slammed by a report issued by CREW, The Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit organization ”dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”

The damning indictment is divided into three annotated cases including:

 

  1. accepting improper gifts and loans
  2. his involvement with charities under federal investigation
  3. his actions on behalf of convicted banker and campaign donor R. Allen Stanford.

“Although he has competition, Rep. Meeks may find himself the next member of Congress to be indicted,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.

Through extensive research, litigation, policy advocacy, and media outreach, CREW married in-depth investigation with hard-charging legal action, to employ the law as a tool to force officials to act ethically and lawfully and to bring unethical conduct to the public’s attention, according to their website.

The report can be viewed in full below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 5.34.52 AM

 

REPRESENTATIVE GREGORY MEEKS

Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is a nine-term member of Congress, representing New York’s 5th congressional district. His ethics issues stem from: (1) accepting improper gifts and loans; (2) his involvement with charities under federal investigation; and (3) his actions on behalf of convicted banker and campaign donor R. Allen Stanford. He was included in CREW’s 2011 and 2012 reports on congressional corruption for related matters.1

Improper Gifts and Loans

In 2006, Rep. Meeks paid $830,000 for a two-story house in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York.2 In January 2007, only a few months after the purchase, the city listed the market value of the house as $1,239,000.3 The home was designed by Robert Gaskin, a campaign contributor to the congressman who has also worked on projects for which Rep. Meeks has obtained federal funds.4 It was built on land owned by another Meeks contributor, real estate developer Richard Dennis.5 Both Mr. Dennis and Rep. Meeks claimed Rep. Meeks had not received a sweetheart deal on the house, but an independent appraiser hired by the New York Times found the value of the house to be more than $1 million at the time Rep. Meeks bought it.6 At $830,000, anyway you slice it, it was substantially below market,” the appraiser said.7 He appears to have gotten a very, very good deal.”8

In addition, on June 18, 2010, Rep. Meeks admitted that over three years he had obtained two loans totaling $55,000 but had failed to report them on his personal financial disclosure forms.9 Rep. Meeks said he obtained a $40,000 loan in 2007, which he had since repaid, and

1 For more information, see CREW’s Most Corrupt 2011, available at http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/most-corrupt-report-2011, and CREW’s Most Corrupt 2012, available at http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt/entry/most-corrupt-members-of-congress-report-2012. 2 Complaint filed with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by the National Legal and Policy Center, March 19, 2010 (National Legal and Policy Center Complaint); Eric Lipton and Raymond Hernandez, Congressman Cries Poor, But Lifestyle May Disagree, New York Times, March 20, 2010. The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, also raised questions about the sale of Rep. Meeks’ former home in Far Rockaway, Queens. The NLPC alleges that Rep. Meeks sold that home at an inflated price to unqualified buyers represented by Alexander Kaplan, a Brooklyn real estate attorney who was subsequently convicted of a multi- million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. For more information, see http://nlpc.org/stories/2012/01/10/nlpc-asks-feds- investigate-meeks-house-sale. 3 National Legal and Policy Center Complaint. 4 Id. 5 Id. 6 Lipton and Hernandez, New York Times, Mar. 20, 2010. 7 Id. 8 Id. 9 Benjamin Lesser and Greg B. Smith, Congressman Meeks Failed to Disclose Hidden Loans; Queens Pol Borrowed More than $50 G, New York Daily News, June 20, 2010.

that he received a $15,000 loan in 2008, which he was still repaying.10 Notably, Rep. Meeks failed to include information about any loans on his 2007 and 2008 personal financial disclosure reports, but called the lapses an “oversight.”11

According to his 2009 personal financial disclosures, in 2008 Rep. Meeks took a loan for $15,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union.12 On the same form, Rep. Meeks also revealed a debt of $50,000 to $100,000 owed to Queens businessman Edul Ahmad, evidently the first disclosure of the 2007 loan and accrued interest.13 Rep. Meeks admitted he had not sought permission from the House Ethics Committee (then known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) before accepting the loan from Mr. Ahmad.14

Apparently, Rep. Meeks received a check for $40,000 from Mr. Ahmad in January 2007 to help with costs associated with his new $830,000 home.15 Rep. Meeks received the money without any discussion of interest rates, due dates, or collateral requirements for the loan.16 Further, Rep. Meeks made no payments on the loan until June 2010, after the FBI questioned Mr. Ahmad about the money.17 At that point, Rep. Meeks apparently took out a home equity loan for $59,650.18 He then sent Mr. Ahmad a check for $59,684, representing the $40,000 plus an annual interest rate of 12.5 percent.19 In a July 2010 statement regarding the omission of the loans from his personal financial disclosure forms, Rep. Meeks said that when he borrowed the money from Mr. Ahmad in 2007, “interest rates were as high as they have been in nearly a decade. Today, interest rates are as low as they have been since the 1950s. When I saw this, there was no question that it made financial sense to pay back the loan from Ed Ahmad and replace it with a lower interest rate loan secured by my home, which is exactly what I did during the same week that I filed my current and amended financial disclosure statement.”20

Rep. Meeks admitted he had no documents to back up the loan from Mr. Ahmad, but said it was due within 10 years.21 He later told the House Ethics Committee the loan interest rate and

10 Id. 11 Greg B. Smith, Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks: $55G in Undisclosed Loans An ‘Oversight’, New York Daily News, June 21, 2010. 12 Rep. Gregory Meeks, Calendar Year 2009 Financial Disclosure Statement, filed June 16, 2010; Rep. Gregory Meeks, Multi-Year Personal Financial Disclosure Amendment, filed November 17, 2010. 13 Id.; Rep. Gregory Meeks, Calendar Year 2009 Financial Disclosure Statement, filed June 16, 2010; Greg B. Smith, FBI Looks Into Secret $40,000 Personal Loan to Queens Pol Gregory Meeks, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010. 14 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010. 15 Id. 16 Id. 17 Id.; In July 2011, the FBI arrested Mr. Ahmad on apparently unrelated mortgage fraud charges and, in October 2012, Mr. Ahmad pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled. See United States v. Edul Ahmad, 1:11-mj-00755-jo (E.D.N.Y. 2011). 18 Complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, July 13, 2010, Exhibit F, Short Form Subordinated Third Mortgage, dated June 18, 2010, filed with the Office of the City Register of the City of New York, June 22, 2010. 19 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010; Office of Congressional Ethics, 112th Congress, Report and Findings Related to Rep. Gregory Meeks, Review No. 11-1048, April 29, 2011 (OCE Report and Findings). 20 OCE Report and Findings, Exhibit 11, Press Release from Representative Gregory Meeks, July 9, 2010. 21 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010.

repayment schedule was put in writing, but he misplaced the documents.22 Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer, however, told the House Ethics Committee that the loan had no fixed interest rate, and Rep. Meeks did not sign any loan documents.23 Rep. Meeks described the loan as “for my family obligations, etc. I was in a new house. It’s taking care of things for my family needs in the house [sic].”24 Rep. Meeks continued, “You need to make sure the house is furnished. You need things.”25

The $59,650 home equity loan Rep. Meeks took out to repay the $40,000 was borrowed from Four Investments, an investment firm owned by Dennis Mehiel, another New York businessman and a longtime Democratic donor.26 Although Mr. Mehiel has not commented on the loan, in February 2010 he said, “I’m a longtime personal friend or acquaintance of virtually every Democratic member of Congress from New York.”27 Mr. Mehiel and his wife, Karen Mehiel, donated a combined $9,600 to Rep. Meeks during the 2010 election cycle, the maximum allowable.28

During an interview with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Mr. Mehiel said Rep. Meeks had met with him in June 2010 and asked him for a loan in order to pay back an existing $40,000 loan from another individual, whom Rep. Meeks did not identify.29 Rep. Meeks also requested money to pay interest on the earlier loan.30 Mr. Mehiel spoke with Rep. Meeks’ lawyers regarding loan terms, and told OCE Rep. Meeks’ lawyers wanted to complete the loan immediately because a House financial disclosure form was due.31 In addition, Mr. Mehiel reported Rep. Meeks’ lawyers “felt compelled to pay the [original lender] a high interest rate so the [sic] Rep. Meeks would not be seen as getting a benefit.”32 Four Investments had never made any similar loans previously and Mr. Mehiel said the company would not make any in the future, but he made an exception for Rep. Meeks, whom he described as a friend.33 Mr. Mehiel said he did not want to appear to be offering Rep. Meeks a special deal, so he required Rep. Meeks to provide collateral and set a 7.3 percent interest rate payable quarterly after seeing the rate listed in the newspaper as a standard rate for such loans.34

22 House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Report: In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, December 20, 2012, at 4. 23 Id. at 5. 24 Smith, New York Daily News, July 8, 2010.

25 Id. 26 Benjamin Lesser and Robert Gearty, Queens Pol Gregory Meeks Taps Democratic Fundraiser to Help Pay Back $40,000 Owed to Businessman, New York Daily News, July 9, 2010. 27 Id.; Raymond Hernandez, Enviable Access Given Top 10 Donors to New York Lawmakers, New York Times, February 11, 2010. 28 Lesser and Gearty, New York Daily News, July 9, 2010; Center for Responsive Politics, Donor Lookup, Mehiel, 2009-2010. 29 OCE Report and Findings, Exhibit 3, Memorandum of Interview, Managing Member, 4M Investments, LLC, March 14, 2011. The OCE report did not identify Mr. Mehiel by name, instead referring to the “Chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc. and Managing Member of 4M Investments, LLC.” Mr. Mehiel, however, is the owner of 4M Investments, and is also the chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc. See http://www.uscorr.com/about-us/leadership- team/dennis-mehiel/. 30 OCE Report and Findings, at 8. 31 Id., Exhibit 3. 32 Id. 33 Id. 34 OCE Report and Findings, at 8.

Discounted Office Rent

From 2002 until 2004, Rep. Meeks maintained a district office in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens.35 His office was in a building owned by Albert Baldeo, a Queens immigration lawyer.36 In January 2013, Mr. Baldeo told the New York Post he had offered the congressman discounted rent during this period because he wanted Rep. Meeks to establish an office in Richmond Hill.37

House disbursement records show Rep. Meeks paid $1,450 per month in rent for the Richmond Hill office from January 1, 2002 until September 2003, when the rent rose to $2,220 per month.38 In addition, Rep. Meeks’ office reported a one-time $6,000 rent payment to Mr. Baldeo on August 31, 2003.39 Mr. Baldeo later said Rep. Meeks had increased the size of his office, requiring him to charge additional rent, and the $6,000 was a retroactive payment of the difference.40

Federal Probe into Dealings with Nonprofit Groups

Rep. Meeks and some of his closest political allies in New York, including Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith and former Rep. Floyd Flake (D-NY), his predecessor in Congress, are the subject of a federal probe into their dealings with several nonprofit groups.41 According to press reports, investigators are looking into whether Rep. Meeks and the others used the groups to “benefit themselves, their families, and their friends.”42 In April 2013, Sen. Smith was charged with wire fraud and bribery for attempting to bribe state Republican party officials in exchange for a spot on the party’s mayoral ballot.43 Sen. Smith pled not guilty.44

35 Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Pol’s ‘Crooked’ Pals, New York Post, January 20, 2013. 36 Id. In October 2012, Mr. Baldeo was arrested in connection with a straw donor scheme tied to his unsuccessful 2010 bid for New York City Council. The case is pending. See United States v. Albert Baldeo, 1:13-cr-00125-PAC (S.D.N.Y. 2012). 37 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Jan. 20, 2013. 38 Committee on House Administration, 107th Congress, Statement of Disbursements of the House from January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2002, Document No. 107-201, Vol. 2, at 1822-23, April 18, 2002; Committee on House Administration, 108th Congress, Statement of Disbursements of the House from July 1, 2003 to September 30, 2003, Document No. 108-132, Vol. 2, at 1729-30, October 1, 2003. 39 Id. at 1730. 40 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Jan. 20, 2013. 41 Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Feds’ Probe of Meeks Taking Sidetrack to Jamaica Biz Group, New York Post, April 18, 2010; Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Hide and Meeks – Shady Charities, Odd Financial Disclosures, Love of Junkets Dog Queens Congressman, New York Post, March 21, 2010; Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, Pols Pushed $$ Into Their Do-Nothing Qns. Charity, New York Post, February 2, 2010; http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/malcolm-smith; http://www.legistorm.com/person/bio/127679 /Floyd_Harold_Flake.html 42 Kenneth Lovett, Barbara Ross, and Greg B. Smith, Federal Grand Jury Probes Real Estate and Nonprofit Deals for Malcolm Smith, Other Queens Pols, New York Daily News, April 2, 2010. 43 United States v. Smith et al., 7:13-cr-00297-KMK (S.D.N.Y. 2013), Michael Wilson and William K. Rashbaum, Lawmakers in New York Tied to Bribery Plot in Mayor Race, New York Times, April 2, 2013; Colin Moynihan, Lawmakers Plead Not Guilty to Charges in Bribery Scheme, New York Times, April 23, 2013. 44 Id.

Hurricane Katrina Charity

In 2001, Rep. Meeks and state Sen. Smith co-founded a New York nonprofit called New Direction Local Development Corp.45 From 2002 to 2008, New Direction’s address was the office of Joan Flowers, a former campaign treasurer for both Rep. Meeks and Sen. Smith. 46 Ms. Flowers also worked as counsel to Sen. Smith, but was asked to resign in March 2010, as reports of the federal probe surfaced.47 Sen. Smith helped direct state funding to the group, and Rep. Meeks helped it secure other contributions, including a $250,000 contribution from International Airport Centers, the developer of a cargo center near JFK Airport.48 New Direction displayed a picture of Rep. Meeks on its website.49

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Direction began collecting money for New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families, a special fund for Hurricane Katrina victims.50 The New Direction website said it planned to raise $270,000 for hurricane evacuees, and directed donations to the offices of Rep. Meeks, Sen. Smith, and Democratic New York Assemblywoman Barbara Clark.51 Rep. Meeks said all money raised for the fund would go to victims, and none would be used for administrative costs.52 Rep. Meeks’ congressional campaign contributed $10,000 to the fund in 2005, though $5,000 appears to have been refunded to the campaign in 2006.53 Additionally, Assemblywoman Clark said she helped set up a gospel concert that raised $11,210, and that money was turned over to Rep. Meeks to benefit the fund.54

Nonetheless, according to New Direction’s tax returns, the only money spent on 55 Hurricane Katrina-related giving was $1,392 paid out in 2006 for hurricane victim expenses. According to press reports, the charity has not accounted for the rest of the money.56 Rep. Meeks initially issued a statement saying “the funds were utilized to help sustain displaced evacuees,” but did not provide details.57 A few days later, in February 2010, amid press reports of an investigation into the charity by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Rep. Meeks said he was not responsible for day-to-day operations at the charity and did not know what had become of the money.58

45 Ken Boehm, Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Charity Looks More Like Slush Fund, National Legal and Policy Center, January 31, 2010. 46 Id. 47 Lovett, Ross, and Smith, New York Daily News, Apr. 2, 2010.

48 Boehm, National Legal and Policy Center, Jan. 31, 2010; Editorial, Floyd Flake’s Friends, New York Post, February 2, 2010. 49 Melissa Klein and Isabel Vincent, Queens Pols Stiffed Katrina Victims, New York Post, February 7, 2010. 50 Id.

51 Id. 52 Boehm, National Legal and Policy Center, Jan. 31, 2010 53 Id. 54 Klein and Vincent, New York Post, Feb. 7, 2010. 55 Id. 56 Id. 57 Id. 58 Justin Elliott, U.S. Attorney Subpoenas NY Officials On Rep. Meeks’ Non-Profit, TPMMuckraker, February 12, 2010; Jennifer Fermino, Meeks Passes the Bucks on Scandal, New York Post, March 16, 2010.

Greater Jamaica Development Corp.

According to the New York Post, federal investigators have subpoenaed Rep. Meeks’ records for information about the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., a Queens nonprofit.59 Rep. Meeks has secured millions of dollars in public money for the charity, including $9.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration for rehabilitation of an underpass.60 Former Rep. Flake is a member of Greater Jamaica’s board.61

Ties to Convicted Financier Allen Stanford

Rep. Meeks, a member of the Caribbean Caucus, took at least six trips to luxurious Caribbean resorts paid for by the Inter-American Economic Council, a nonprofit heavily backed by banker R. Allen Stanford, between 2003 and 2007.62 In 2006, in response to questions from the New York Daily News about the trips, Rep. Meeks claimed the trips were for business, though his wife traveled with him.63 It helps my marriage,” he said.64 Stanford Financial Group also hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Meeks on the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands on July 18, 2008.65 Additionally, Stanford Financial Group’s political action committee and employees donated $15,100 to Rep. Meeks during the 2008 election cycle, making the firm the third largest contributor to Rep. Meeks’ campaign committee. 66 Rep. Meeks also reportedly tried to set up a meeting between Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Stanford after receiving the $40,000 loan from Mr. Ahmad.67

In March 2006, after the president of Mr. Stanford’s bank in Venezuela, Gonzalo Tirado, filed a lawsuit and raised questions about whether Mr. Stanford was involved in fraud, Mr. Stanford called Rep. Meeks, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and asked him to intervene by going directly to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and requesting a criminal investigation of Mr. Tirado.68 Two former federal agents then working for Mr. Stanford were listening to the call and said Rep. Meeks agreed to pursue the matter with President Chavez.69

Rep. Meeks traveled to Venezuela in 2006 on a trip described as a meeting to express gratitude for a program that provided heating oil to Americans.70 In 2007, Mr. Tirado was

59 Vincent and Klein, New York Post, Apr. 18, 2010. 60 Id. 61 Id. 62 Rob Barry, Michael Sallah, and Gerardo Reyes, Gregory Meeks’ Trip to Venezuela On Behalf of Stanford’s Bank Raises Ethics Questions, Miami Herald, December 27, 2009; Greg B. Smith, Meeks Not Shy About Gifts; Enjoyed 6 Caribbean Visits Thanks to an Accused Con Artist, New York Daily News, December 29, 2009.

63 Smith, New York Daily News, Dec. 29, 2009. 64 Id. 65 Complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the National Legal and Policy Center, October 28, 2011 available at http://nlpc.org/stories/2011/11/03/watchdog-files-fec-complaint-against-rep-meeks-stanford-fundraiser. 66 http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2008&type=I&cid=N00001171&newMem=N& recs=20. 67 Editorial, Greg Meeks’ Felonious Friends, New York Post, October 12, 2012. 68 Barry, Sallah, and Reyes, Miami Herald, Dec. 27, 2009. 69 Id. 70 Id.

indicted in Venezuela.71 Rep. Meeks has declined to answer questions about the trip, about 72 whether he intervened in the case of Mr. Tirado, and about his relationship with Mr. Stanford.

In 2009, Mr. Stanford was indicted for running a Ponzi scheme and federal investigators reportedly began examining his ties to lawmakers, including Rep. Meeks.73 The current status of the investigation is unknown.

Status of Investigations

In April 2010, Rep. Meeks officially notified then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) he had been served with a subpoena for documents issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; press reports said the subpoena was tied to the federal corruption probe into the nonprofits tied to Rep. Meeks and other Queens politicians.74 In May 2013, federal authorities arrested former New York Senate Majority Leader John Sampson (D) on bribery charges related to the probe.75 Mr. Ahmad reportedly helped prosecutors gather information used to bring those charges.76 The current status of the federal investigation into Rep. Meeks is unknown, but recent news reports suggest it is ongoing.77 For example, in June 2013, former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-NY), who cooperated with federal agents and taped other New York politicians suspected of corruption, said she agreed to a plan to invite suspects to her home so they could be taped, but when federal agents suggested inviting Rep. Meeks, she told them he only “meets in parks” and would be unlikely to come.78

After conducting an investigation into Rep. Meeks’ loans, OCE referred his case to the House Ethics Committee on May 18, 2011.79 OCE found substantial reason to believe Rep. Meeks “failed to properly disclose the $40,000 as a gift on his 2007, 2008, and 2009 Financial Disclosure Statements in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.”80 OCE noted that both Rep. Meeks and Mr. Ahmad had declined to cooperate with OCE’s investigation of the loan, and it “appeared to lack the normal indicia, including a set interest rate or repayment terms, of a legitimate loan. Therefore, this $40,000 transferred to Representative Meeks in 2007

71 Id. 72 Barry, Sallah, and Reyes, Miami Herald, Dec. 27, 2009. 73 Michael Sallah and Rob Barry, Feds Probe Banker Allen Stanford’s Ties to Congress, Miami Herald, December 29, 2009. On March 6, 2012, Mr. Stanford was found guilty on 13 of 14 counts of operating a Ponzi scheme, including charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstructing an investigation by the SEC. On June 14, 2012, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. Press Release, Department of Justice, Allen Stanford Sentenced To 110 Years In Prison For Orchestrating $7 Billion Investment Fraud Scheme, June 14, 2012. 74 S.A. Miller and Murray Weiss, Subpoena Takes Meeks By Storm, New York Post, April 16, 2010. 75 Mitchel Maddux and Dan Mangan, State Sen. John Sampson Indicted on Embezzlement Charges, Faces 120 Years, New York Post, May 7, 2013. 76 Id. 77 Irving DeJohn and Kenneth Lovett, Smith Was ‘Willing To Sell His Soul To Be The Man Again’, New York Daily News, April 4, 2013; Maddux and Mangan, New York Post, May 7, 2013; John Marzulli, Water Gate Shirley’s Espionage Drama; Spy Pol Tells All About Her 007 Trickery, New York Daily News, June 10, 2013. 78 Id. 79 Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member Regarding Mr. Michael Collins, Mr. Greg Hill, Representative Gregory Meeks, and Representative Jean Schmidt, July 1, 2011. 80 OCE Report and Findings, at 1.

appears to have been a gift.”81 OCE recommended the House Ethics Committee further review the matter and issue subpoenas to Rep. Meeks and Mr. Ahmad.82

In contrast, OCE found the 2010 loan from Four Investments contained an interest rate and repayment schedule, and was recorded in a written agreement that was executed and filed with the New York City Department of Finance.83 As a result, OCE recommended dismissal of allegations concerning that loan.84 On August 5, 2011, the House Ethics Committee said it would dismiss the allegation that Rep. Meeks received an improper loan in 2010, but would continue to review the 2007 payment.85

On December 20, 2012, the House Ethics Committee found Rep. Meeks failed to disclose the loan on his personal financial disclosure forms, but concluded there was no evidence his failure was in bad faith or was knowing or willful and decided to take no further action against him.86 The committee also said it could not conclude Mr. Ahmad’s loan to Rep. Meeks constituted an improper gift.87 Rep. Meeks told the committee he had lost the loan agreement, and thus could not produce evidence of the terms of the loan.88 The committee, however, was unable to interview Mr. Ahmad, whose lawyer said Mr. Ahmad would invoke the Fifth Amendment if the committee subpoenaed him, unless he was given immunity from prosecution.89 Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer did tell committee staff that Rep. Meeks had not signed any loan documents and the loan carried no fixed interest rate, contradicting Rep. Meeks’ version of events.90 The committee, however, said Mr. Ahmad’s “highly compromised credibility” meant it could not reasonably conclude Rep. Meeks had been untruthful without documentary evidence showing the money was not a loan.91

Legal Fees

Since 2010, Rep. Meeks’ campaign committee and political action committee have reported paying more than $400,000 in legal fees to seven firms: $211,000 to Dorsey & Whitney, $146,627 to Perkins Coie, $31,832 to Arent Fox, $4,740 to Wiltshire & Grannis, $4,205 to Thomas V. Kenney, Jr., Esq., $10,031 to Baldassare & Mara, and $2,000 to Steptoe & Johnson.92

81 Id. 82 Id. at 20. 83 Id. at 5. 84 Id. 85 Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member Regarding Representative Gregory W. Meeks, August 5, 2011. 86 In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, H. Rep. No. 112-709, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. 5-6 (Dec. 20, 2012). 87 Id. at 6. 88 Id. at 4. 89 Id. at 5. 90 In the Matter of Allegations Relating to Representative Gregory Meeks, H. Rep. No. 112-709, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. 6. 91 Id.; Press Release, House Committee on Ethics, 112th Congress, Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Gregory W. Meeks, December 20, 2012. 92 Friends for Gregory Meeks, FEC Form 3, 2010-2013 Reports; Build America PAC, FEC Form 3X, 2010-2013 Reports.

Potential Violations

False Statements on Personal Financial Disclosure Forms

The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires all members of Congress to file financial disclosure reports.93 Under the statute, the attorney general may seek a civil penalty of up to $50,000 against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or fails to file or report any information required by the Act.94 House Rule 26 incorporates the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act.95

Federal law prohibits anyone from making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation”96 on “a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch.”97 Further, personal obligations aggregating over $10,000 owed to one creditor at any time during the calendar year, regardless of repayment terms or interest rates, must be included on personal financial disclosure statements.98

By deliberately leaving the $40,000 gift/loan from Mr. Ahmad off of his 2007 and 2008 financial disclosure forms, Rep. Meeks made at least two prohibited false statements. In addition, by mischaracterizing the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad as a loan on his 2009 financial disclosure reports, when in fact the money was more likely a gift, Rep. Meeks appears to have made another false statement.

In addition, given that Rep. Meeks appears to have received a discount of at least $170,000 on the price of his home, the $170,000 constitutes a gift that should have been reported on his personal financial disclosure form. The failure to include this gift is a false statement.

False Statement to the House Ethics Committee

Federal law also prohibits anyone from making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation”99 to “any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.”100

If Rep. Meeks’ claims to the House Ethics Committee that the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad was a loan, the loan had a repayment schedule and was to be repaid with interest, the terms were put in writing, and Rep. Meeks lost the loan agreement – all statements contradicted

93 Pub. L. No. 95-521, 92 Stat. 1824 (Oct. 26, 1978). 94 5 U.S.C. app. 4, § 104. 95 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, House Ethics Manual, at 248 (110th Cong., 2d Sess., 2008 ed.). 96 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). 97 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(1). 98 House Ethics Manual, at 258 (citing 5 U.S.C. app. 4 § 102(a)(4)). 99 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). 100 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(2).

by Mr. Ahmad’s lawyer – were false, he may have made additional false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Acceptance of a Bribe

Federal law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act.101

It appears Rep. Meeks bought his house for at least $170,000 less than it was worth. If the congressman took any official action in exchange for receiving that discount, he may have accepted a bribe. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, that payment also may constitute a bribe. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have accepted bribes.

Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have accepted bribes.

Illegal Gratuity

The illegal gratuity statute prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such official.102 In considering this statute, the Supreme Court has held that a link must be established between the gratuity and a specific action taken by or to be taken by the government official.103

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving the at least $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, that payment also may constitute an illegal gratuity. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated the illegal gratuity statute.

In addition, the House Ethics Committee has used the acceptance of bribes and gratuities under these statutes as a basis for disciplinary proceedings and punishment of members, including expulsion.104

101 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2)(A). 102 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(B). 103 United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of Cal., 526 U.S. 398 (1999). 104 In the Matter of Representative Mario Biaggi, H.R. Rep. No. 100-506, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. (1988) (recommending expulsion of the member from the House); In the Matter of Representative Daniel J. Flood, H.R. Rep. No. 96-856, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. (1980).

Receiving Compensation For Exerting Improper Influence

A provision of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, 5 U.S.C. § 7353, prohibits federal employees, including members of Congress and staff, from soliciting or accepting anything of value from anyone who seeks official action from the employee’s agency, does business with that agency, or has interests which may be substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s official duties.105 House Rule 23, clause 3, similarly provides:

A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or employee of the House may not receive compensation and may not permit compensation to accrue to his beneficial interest from any source, the receipt of which would occur by virtue of influence improperly exerted from his position in the Congress.

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated these provisions. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated 5 U.S.C. § 7353 and House Rule 23.

Official Action for Personal Gain

Members of the House are prohibited from “taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else.”106 House members are directed to adhere to 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a), issued by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics for the Executive Branch, which provides:

An employee shall not use or permit use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that is intended to coerce or induce another person . . . to provide any benefit, financial or otherwise, to himself or to friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have

105 The House Ethics Committee interprets this provision to apply to accepting campaign contributions, but not soliciting them. House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum For All Members, Officers and Employees,” Rules Governing (1) Solicitation by Members, Officers and Employees in General, and (2) Political Fundraising Activity in House Offices, April 25, 1997; House Ethics Manual, at 143-44, 150.

106 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum For All Members, Officers and Employees,” Prohibition Against Linking Official Actions to Partisan or Political Considerations, or Personal Gain, May 11, 1999.

violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated this provision. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have violated 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702(a). Unfairly Discriminating By Dispensing Special Favors

The Code of Ethics for Government Service provides that government officials should:

Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his official duties.107

If Rep. Meeks took any official action in exchange for receiving at least a $170,000 discount on his house, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service. Similarly, if Rep. Meeks exchanged any official action for the $40,000 he received from Mr. Ahmad, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service. If Rep. Meeks used his position to benefit Mr. Baldeo in exchange for discounted rent, he may have violated this provision. Finally, if Rep. Meeks used his position in Congress for the benefit of Mr. Stanford in exchange for campaign contributions or luxury trips, he may have dispensed special favors in violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service.

Gift Rule Violations

Rule 25, clause 5(a)(1)(A)(i) of the House rules states that “a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House may not knowingly accept a gift except as provided in this clause.” The rules define “gift” to mean “a gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forebearance, or other item having monetary value.”108

While members and staff may accept gifts on the basis of personal friendship, no gifts valued at over $250 may be accepted on this basis absent a written determination by the House Ethics Committee.109 Further, the donor, description and value of any gifts aggregating over $335 from a single source must be disclosed on a member’s personal financial disclosure statement.110

Rule 25, clause 5(a)(3)(R)(v) allows members, officers, and employees to accept opportunities and benefits that are available to a wide group, specifically providing that they may accept “loans from banks and other financial institutions on terms generally available to the public.” The House Ethics Committee has interpreted this rule:

107 72 Stat., Part 2, B12, H. Con. Res. 175, 85th Cong. (adopted July 11, 1958); House Ethics Manual, at 20. 108 Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(2)(A). 109 Rule 25, cl. 5(a)(5); House Ethics Manual, at 40. These determinations are not public. Id. 110 5 U.S.C. app. 4 § 102(a)(2); House Ethics Manual, at 84, 258-59. This amount has since been increased to $350.

to allow the acceptance of loans from persons other than financial institutions, provided that they are on terms which satisfy the requirements which the Committee had previously utilized in evaluating loans: that is, the terms are commercially reasonable, including requirements for repayment and a reasonable rate of interest.111

The Committee cautioned, however, that to ensure a loan is on commercially reasonable terms, before entering into any loan arrangement with someone other than a financial institution, members and staff “should contact the Committee for a review of the proposed terms, and a determination by the Committee on whether the loan is acceptable under the gift rule. Those who accept such a loan without Committee consideration run a risk of being found in violation of the gift rule, and possible other provisions of law as well.”112

Discounted House Price

It appears Rep. Meeks was permitted to purchase his house for a price one appraiser estimated was at least $170,000 less than the home’s value. Because discounts constitute gifts, Rep. Meeks appears to have accepted an improper gift by paying less than the home’s true value.

Gift of $40,000

Even though the House Ethics Committee said it could not conclude Mr. Ahmad’s $40,000 alleged loan was a gift, given that Rep. Meeks failed to seek the committee’s approval of it, and failed to repay any portion of the money until the FBI began investigating the matter, this so-called loan was more likely an impermissible gift.

Loan of $40,000

Alternatively, although there is no indicia suggesting the $40,000 was a loan from Mr. Ahmad – no loan agreement, no loan term, no payment schedule, and no cancelled checks – if the money was a loan rather than a gift, Rep. Meeks still violated federal law and House rules.

First, House rules require members and staff who wish to accept a personal loan from someone other than a financial institution to seek permission from the Committee before accepting the loan. Rep. Meeks has admitted he never put the matter to the Committee. As a result, Rep. Meeks violated House rules by accepting the $40,000 from Mr. Ahmad.

Second, the terms for loans accepted from anyone other than a financial institution must be commercially reasonable. Here, the absence of a loan term, payment schedule, and defined interest rate demonstrate the loan was not made on commercially reasonable terms. As a result, Rep. Meeks violated House rules by accepting the loan.

111 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, “Memorandum from Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” Gift Rule Provisions Applicable to Loans to Members, Officers, and Employees, May 23, 1997 (found in House Ethics Manual, at 381-384). 112 Id.

Third, as explained above, personal obligations aggregating over $10,000 owed to one creditor at any time during the calendar year, regardless of repayment terms or interest rate, must be included on personal financial disclosure statements, and failing to report them is a federal crime.113 Here, by deliberately failing to include the loan on his 2007 and 2008 financial disclosure forms, and by including it on his 2009 forms only after the FBI questioned the loan, Rep. Meeks appears to have violated federal law.

Conduct Not Reflecting Creditably on the House

House Rule 23 requires all members of the House to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”114 This ethics standard is considered to be “the most comprehensive provision” of the code.115 When this section was first adopted, the Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct noted it was included within the Code to deal with “flagrant” violations of the law that reflect on “Congress as a whole,” which might otherwise go unpunished.116 This rule has been relied on by the committee in numerous prior cases in which the committee found unethical conduct including: the failure to report campaign contributions,117 making false statements to the committee,118 criminal convictions for bribery,119 accepting illegal gratuities,120 and accepting gifts from persons with interest in legislation in violation of the gift rule.121

By purchasing a house for at least $170,000 less than its value, Rep. Meeks acted in a manner that brings discredit to the House. Similarly, by taking $40,000 from a New York businessman without any kind of loan agreement or repayment schedule, and then – only after a newspaper discovered and questioned the transaction – describing the money as a loan and suddenly repaying it, Rep. Meeks acted in a manner that brings discredit to the House. Finally,

113 House Ethics Manual, at 258 (citing 5 U.S.C. App. 4 § 102(a)(4)). 114 Rule 23, cl. 1. 115 House Ethics Manual, at 12. 116 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, Report Under the Authority of H. Res. 418, H. Rep. No. 1176, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. 17 (1968).

117 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative John J. McFall, H. Rep. No. 95- 1742, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 2-3 (1978) (Count 1); In the Matter of Representative Edward R. Roybal, H. Rep. No. 95-1743, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 2-3 (1978). 118 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Charles H. Wilson (of California), H. Rep. No. 95-1741, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 4-5 (1978); H. Rep. No. 95-1743 (Counts 3-4).

119 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Michael J. Myers, H. Rep. No. 96-1387, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 2, 5 (1980); see 126 Cong. Rec. 28953-78 (Oct. 2, 1980) (debate and vote of expulsion); In the Matter of Representative John W. Jenrette, Jr., H. Rep. No. 96-1537, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1980) (Member resigned); In the Matter of Representative Raymond F. Lederer, H. Rep. No. 97-110, 97th Cong., 1st Sess. 4, 16-17 (1981) (Member resigned after Committee recommended expulsion). In another case, the Committee issued a Statement of Alleged Violation concerning bribery and perjury, but took no further action when the Member resigned (In the Matter of Representative Daniel J. Flood, H. Rep. No. 96-856, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 4- 16, 125-126 (1980)).

120 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Mario Biaggi, H. Rep. No. 100- 506, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 7, 9 (1988) (Member resigned while expulsion resolution was pending). 121 House Comm. on Standards of Official Conduct, In the Matter of Representative Charles H. Wilson (of California), H. Rep. No. 96-930, 96th Cong. 2d Sess. 4-5 (1980); see 126 Cong. Rec. 13801-20 (June 10, 1980) (debate and vote of censure).

Rep. Meeks’ relationships with the New York charities that have been unable to account for their funds, as well as the actions he took at Mr. Sanford’s behest, may violate various federal laws, but in any event, certainly do not reflect creditably upon the House.

See more: http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/meet-the-most-corrupt-congressman-possibly-ever-gregory-meeks/

Mar 21 2014

Queens Leaders Blast MTA For Poor Communication

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in a letter sent to the MTA, Senator Mike Gianaris and several elects voiced the frustration of thousands of commuters.

Are surprise 7 train closures making your commute a nightmare? Have no fear, State Senator Mike Gianaris is keeping up the pressure.

In a letter to the MTA, several Queens elected officials united to voice their opposition to the incessant 7 train closures and demanded that the MTA communicate more effectively with the public to help minimize headaches for thousands of commuters.

Senator Gianaris was the first to put out the press release.

Press Release:

NEW YORK STATE SENATE OFFICE OF SENATOR MICHAEL GIANARIS

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jacob Tugendrajch jtugend16@gmail.com

Senator Gianaris, Electeds Pen 7 Train Shutdown Letter to MTA

(Long Island City, NY) Following miscommunications between the MTA and Long Island City residents and business owners regarding the agency’s plans to help the neighborhood cope with incessant 7 train closures, Senator Michael Gianaris, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer  demanded the MTA communicate openly with community representatives moving forward.

“With this letter we intend to keep the MTA focused on keeping its lines of communication with Long Island City open,” said Senator Gianaris. “We are all struggling with the effects of 7 train closures and now is not the time for the MTA to ignore the concerns of the community. The MTA needs to respond to questions voiced by LIC residents and I will continue to hold its feet to the fire until more progress is made on this issue.”

“The residents and business owners  of Long Island City are experiencing a great deal of inconvenience as a result of the multiple weekend closures of the 7 line and this planned advertising campaign is supposed to help compensate for that inconvenience,” Borough President Katz said. “We have to make sure the MTA does what it takes to make sure this campaign is an effective one. I hope the MTA heeds the community’s concerns and provides the commitments and assurances the community is seeking.”

“The reduction in 7 line service is very unfair and wrong,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.  “I would urge the MTA and the residents of Long Island City to continue to work out an agreement both on the marketing campaign that was initially promised to the community and additional programs such as a shuttle from the Vernon-Jackson stop. I support the Long Island City Artists, Merchants, Queens Community Board 2, Long Island City Partnership and other community leaders and residents who are advocating for the neighborhood and I am very disappointed that the MTA has not been able to provide a better response.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/queens-leaders-blast-mta-for-poor-communication-gianaris/

Mar 19 2014

Race to replace Avella gets more interesting

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John Liu’s name recognition is strong, if not stronger than Tony Avella in District 11.

The future is unwritten, or is it?

Since his recent betrayal of the Democratic Party left him alone in the woods, everyone is wondering who will rise to the occasion and primary “maverick” state Sen. Tony Avella?

With all the hypotheses circulating around town we’ve all managed to miss one little thing: With every possible candidate in north Queens comfortable and safe in their seats, there’s only one viable candidate that has enough political clout and name recognition to battle the 800 pound gorilla that is Tony Avella.

That candidate is none other than John Liu, the only candidate with nothing to lose.

With Liu’s recent endorsement of Grace Meng, Congress was out of the question and Peter Koo easily won reelection, so a Council run won’t happen, at least not for another four years. And since no incumbent in their right mind wants to risk losing their seat to take on Tony, what’s left? Where will Liu run? Everyone knows Liu is a natural leader destined to run again, so how about where he lives in SD 11?

Could it happen? While whites are a majority in the district, Liu’s name recognition could overcome the tribal nature of politics in Queens; where people tend to vote according to race. But this is not a general election, and Joe voter on the street (who love Tony unabashedly) won’t be showing up for a primary, county supporters will. If it comes to pass, the low turnout primary will be a bare knuckle, door-to-door marathon not an endorsement and fundraising sprint. Tony will have to get enough boots on the ground and run the ultimate pull operation to have a fighting chance against a strong County-backed candidate like John Liu.

Reality will soon set in when Avella’s traditional support network will not be there for him. This matchup could split labor forces as well, further diminishing Tony’s chances. In this scenario, Liu could win. And While the hunt to replace Avella may end with John Liu  (the only candidate that could beat him) it’s also Liu’s best option right now.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/race-to-replace-avella-gets-more-interesting-everyday/

Mar 13 2014

Queens Leaders Ready Serve In New Roles

250px-Peter_F._Vallone_Jr.

Peter Vallone Jr.

A good day for Queens.

Former City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and labor leader Rebecca Lynch were selected to once again serve in the halls of government.

Vallone, who was term-limited this year in the Astoria based Council district, will serve in the Cuomo administration as a special assistant to the state’s corrections commissioner, and Rebecca Lynch of Glen Oaks will serve in Mayor de Blasio’s Community Affairs Unit.

Lynch, a former District Leader in northeast Queens, gave up the post this week as her role in the de Blasio administration becomes more clear in time, according to the Politicker.

Role reversal?

lynch

Rebecca Lynch

Both Lynch and Vallone have a long history of community service. Ironically, the former City Councilman will now work with Albany, and the former state party District Leader will now serve inside City Hall.

Congratulations to both and best of luck.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/queens-leaders-ready-serve-in-new-roles-lynch-vallone/

Mar 13 2014

Ben Max debuts on Gotham Gazette with exclusive Anthony Weiner interview

ben max

Blogs open up endless possibilities.

Moving on up.

Ben Max, a pioneer of digital politics and founder of Decide NYC, was recently hired as Executive Editor at the Gotham Gazette. And his first story? None other than an exclusive interview with former Queens Pol, Anthony Weiner.

Find out what Anthony has been up to since his resignation and a little more in-depth detail about his policy positions including: Sandy Recovery, The Teachers Contract, Seniors, development, and more.

[From The Gotham GazetteA Gotham Gazette exclusive with the mercurial former congressman, two-time mayoral candidate, political commentator, and New York idea guy

 Part One of a two-part series: Policy

 Anthony Weiner is a political columnist and commentator, a consultant and a family man. He is not, strangely, holding or running for elected office.

Having spent the vast majority of the past 23 years either in or seeking an elected position, Weiner, a former New York City Council Member (1992-1998) and congressman (1999-2011), finds himself on the fringe of the political discourse after coming up short in his second bid to become the mayor of his hometown.

The much-detailed scandal that ended Weiner’s congressional career and derailed his 2013 mayoral bid seems to have contributed to a bull market for his thoughts on politics and policy. Weiner continues to be invited to cable news talk shows, has started writing a regular column in the Daily News, and after sitting down with me on Tuesday, dashed off to the NY1 studios to tape a “Wiseguys” segment for the “Inside City Hall” program.

His name continues to be an attention-grabber and his face, a head-turner – as I witnessed when he walked into the Manhattan coffee shop where we met. Dressed casually, Weiner bounded into the cafe, gave me an unhurried hello and firm handshake, and darted to grab a beverage before sitting down to chat. While he waited to order, several patrons recognized him; two women in line exchanged smirks and whispers.

Whatever you might think of Weiner, and opinions vary widely, there is no denying that he is interesting and engaging, and thus unlikely to drop out of the public eye any time soon. Not to mention that even if it is only by sheer will, the Brooklyn born Weiner is all but sure to remain part of the political conversation, despite his being a self-described “imperfect messenger.”

Check out the full article: http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4897-anthony-weiner-policy-politics-part-one

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/ben-max-debuts-on-gotham-gazette-with-exclusive-anthony-weiner/

Mar 13 2014

Brown Appoints New Queens ADA’s

DA Brown

Meet the new recruits.

Queens D.A Richard Brown swore in nine new assistant district attorneys this week.

These new warriors of criminal justice are young and motivated to enter a career in public service and each bring experience from nine different law schools.

In the next few months they will each be immersed in a variety of on-hands training and prosecutorial procedure including shadowing police officers, ballistics training, and visiting correctional institutions.

This is the new wave of men and women that will teach NY that crime doesn’t pay. Congrats to the new prosecutors.

 

  1. George T. Del Fierro Jr., Pace University School of Law
  2. Genevieve N. Gadaleta, Touro College: Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
  3. Angela Harper, Duke University School of Law
  4. John L. Mason, Pace University School of Law
  5. Melissa D. Medilien, Fordham University School of Law
  6. Paige L. Nyer, City University of New York School of Law
  7. Kathryn A.A. O’Neill, Boston University School of Law
  8. Anish M. Patel, Brooklyn Law School
  9. Diana M. Schioppi, St. John’s University School of Law

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/richard-brown-appoints-new-queens-adas/

Mar 12 2014

Already considering the next mayor?

voteCampaign season never ends.

An article from The Staten Island Advance is already speculating which democratic primary challengers may rise to the occasion and run for Mayor in 2021, thus proving it’s never too early to think ahead.

Among those suggested: Melinda Katz, Eric Adams, and a few more…

[From SIlive.com] STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Democrat Bill de Blasio has been mayor for just over two months.

But that hasn’t stopped speculation about who could run for City Hall in 2021, when de Blasio would be term-limited out of office.

Further proof that campaign season never really ends and that it’s never too early to start prognosticating about any future election.

The 2021 caravan made a bit of a stop on Staten Island last week, when some of the potential mayoral candidates marched in the borough’s St. Patrick’s Parade, and made the requisite stop at the pre-parade festivities at Jody’s Club Forest in West Brighton.

The three maybe contenders in attendance were Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., all Democrats.

Other Democrats are also being mentioned, including Borough Presidents Eric Adams of Brooklyn and Melinda Katz of Queens.

GOP Borough President James Oddo said that he can see any one of them being among those chasing City Hall in eight years. Friendly rivalries have already popped up among them, including between Diaz and Adams.

Diaz got this greeting from Oddo outside of Jody’s: “Get used to coming out here.”

Oddo told us that Diaz “has all the ingredients” to be a top-flight candidate, including his Hispanic background and the “Bronx renaissance” story that he can put before voters.

And being from an outer borough won’t hurt, Oddo said.

“I’m impressed,” Oddo said. “He will have a distinguished resume. He has all the makings of a strong mayoral candidate.”

Right back at you, said Diaz.

“Borough President Oddo is a great guy and an outstanding advocate for Staten Island, and we’re very excited to have him as a colleague and a partner,” said Diaz communications director John DeSio, a former Advance scribe. “We’re going to do some great things together with Borough President Oddo and his office.”

Ordinarily, the City Council Speaker would be included among the contenders, but Democrat Melissa Mark-Viverito is term-limited out of office in four years, putting her in an unusual spot.

“She would have to land someplace else in order to stay viable,” said Oddo, a former councilman. “She’s a talented lady.”

But, as Oddo points out, it’s not like the Speaker’s chair has been a great launching pad to the mayoralty.

The three most recent Speakers who tried, Christine Quinn, Gifford Miller and Peter Vallone, not only didn’t become mayor, none of them even won the Democratic nomination.

“It’s nearly impossible to win from that spot,” said Oddo. “You make enemies with every decision you make.”

For full article: http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/03/potential_2021_democratic_mayo.html

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/already-considering-the-next-mayor/

Mar 03 2014

Grace Meng ‘Disappointed’ With Tony Avella

Grace Meng, Queens Politics

What does it mean when the nicest person in politics is suddenly calling you out?

You’ve been a bad boy Tony.

At her campaign announcement, Grace Meng said how deeply disappointed she was with Avella’s switch to the IDC.

This means a little more than at first glance: Meng is an optimist known for her sincerity, warmth, and candor to everyone – even her political enemies – which comes in part from longstanding roots in her hometown district and an old school sense of respect. Grace gives a mother’s touch to everything, sort of like the district’s ever-watchful matriarch, always reluctant to scold you in public, so when she  spoke of her feelings during a press conference about Tony Avella and his IDC debacle (an old colleague mind you), we couldn’t help but feel like our mother just gave us that look of REAL disappointment.

John Liu wasn’t happy about Tony either, but it’s Grace’s comments we should be mindful of, no matter how delicate.

[From The Politicker] State Senator Tony Avella’s decision to join the Independent Democratic Conference is irking ex-Comptroller John Liu and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

Mr. Liu and Ms. Meng–who like Mr. Avella, are Democrats hailing from northeast Queens–criticized Mr. Avella when asked about about his recent move to join the breakaway conference Democrats governing the State Senate with the Republican Party.

“It’s disappointing to say the very least,” Ms. Meng told Politicker at an unrelated press conference. “I think the Democrats, especially the Democratic senators, have worked very hard on issues that not only affect Democrats throughout the state, but affect everyone, all working families. And so I was disappointed at the very least.”

Full article: http://politicker.com/2014/03/grace-meng-and-john-liu-slam-tony-avella-for-joining-idc/

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/meng-disappointed-with-tony-avella/

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Photo of the day: Congresswoman Grace Meng Prepares For Reelection Announcement

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/03/congresswoman-meng-at-reelection-announcement/

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Photo of the day: Bill Clinton at Shea Stadium

President Bill Clinton became the first sitting President to attend a baseball game at Shea on April 15, 1997. President Clinton along with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, announced the retirement of Jackie Robinson's uniform number 42 throughout major league baseball.

President Bill Clinton became the first sitting President to attend a baseball game at Shea on April 15, 1997. President Clinton along with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, announced the retirement of Jackie Robinson’s uniform number 42 throughout major league baseball. – MLB.com

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/photo-of-the-day-president-bill-clinton-at-shea-stadium/

Feb 27 2014

Desperate Candidate Calls Opponent A Loser

Was Grant Lally drinking last night when he tweeted his opponent calling him a 2x loser or did Anthony Weiner hack his account?

For those who may not know, a contentious primary for CD-3 is heating up between two republicans, Grant Lally and Stephen Labate and so far what we know of Lally is a laundry list of misdeeds, so it’s not surprise we can add crude and impolite comments to that list.

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Around midnight, Lally became displeased when @Rich_Kruse tweeted his enthusiasm about attending a recent fundraiser for his opponent, Stephen Labate. Lally, in return, thought it would be best to respond like a two-year-old to set the record straight.

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/desperate-lally-calls-labate-a-loser/

Feb 27 2014

Dromm To Senator Diaz: Stop Harassing Me!

stopCouncilman Daniel Dromm said he’d been repeatedly bombarded with ‘anti-gay’ emails from Senator Ruben Diaz. The exchange had apparently gotten out of hand and Senate leaders had to intervene to cool things down.

[From The Wall Street Journal] New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm said in letters to Senate Coalition Co-leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos, and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, that an email newsletter from Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. was “harassing” him.

Mr. Dromm said Mr. Diaz ignored more than 10 requests to stop sending him the senator’s email newsletter, and is intending to “vex” him with views in the emails that Mr. Dromm said are bigoted against gay people.

The letters were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The online correspondence began in 2010, when an aide to Mr. Diaz asked an aide to Mr. Dromm for the councilman’s email address without explanation, Mr. Dromm said.

The councilman, a Queens Democrat, then began receiving the senator’s newsletter, which is sent from Mr. Diaz’s government email address to an undisclosed group of people.

At the time, Mr. Dromm was part of a coalition of city lawmakers lobbying the state Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Mr. Diaz, a Bronx Democrat, was one of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. said he didn’t want to talk about the emails. Associated Press

It isn’t uncommon for lawmakers to send out regular emails, sharing to-the-point updates on their policy initiatives and whereabouts. Mr. Diaz’s emails are sometimes lengthier missives, in which the senator expounds on topics such as the Bible and personal travails.

A recent email from Mr. Diaz began: “You should know that back in Biblical times, there were two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.” And it accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of “religious discrimination” against “practicing Catholics.” The comments came in response to Mr. Cuomo’s radio remarks that “extreme conservatives…have no place in New York.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment.

In four letters to Senate leaders—the most recent was sent in January—Mr. Dromm said he couldn’t get off the senator’s email listserv and found the contents of the emails “anti-LGBT.”

“If Senator Diaz is refusing to stop sending me hateful messages, I am concerned he is also refusing to remove constituents,” he wrote.

For the full story: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303801304579407370323209750?mod=WSJ_NY_MIDDLETopStories&mg=reno64-wsj

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/dromm-to-diaz-stop-harassing-me/

Feb 26 2014

Showdown At City Hall

showdown1It was like the showdown at the O.K Corral.

A tall, thin, bespectacled state rep had the unmitigated gall to go into City Hall to try and intimidate the young, brash, independent, and bald-headed council member.

And what was the reason? This state rep continues to be the political panderer extraordinaire that wants to suck up to a mother-and-son lobbying team carrying out their wishes wherever he goes — yet their power continues to diminish.

This twiggy state rep failed to see the writing on the wall. His confrontation fell on deaf ears and the constituency knows what’s going on. No one is giving in. You’ve clearly backed the wrong horse.

Change is coming folks. 

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/showdown-at-city-hall-part-1/

Feb 26 2014

Avella Says Farewell, Joins Rebel IDC

From True News From Change NYC: Avella joins Albany Rebel IDC Democrats 
Realignment Buzz: Avella’s IDC Move Triggered by Queens Machine Losing Speakers Race. 
Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) is set to announce that he’s joining a dissident group of four Democrats that runs the state chamber with the GOP in an unprecedented bipartisan arrangement. The switch could be a serious blow to the effort by mainline Dems to reclaim control of the Senate in this year’s elections. * Avella moves to I.D.C., and Democrats grimace(Capital) Democrats, who are trying to reclaim control of the Senate in this year’s elections, were quick to criticize the move: “It’s unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by Senators who choose to empower Republicans,” said Senate Democratic Communications DirectorMike Murphy in a statement early this morning.* @TonyAvella is joining the #nysenate IDC. This will frustrate Democratic attempts to regain control of chamber (NYDN)
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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/avella-says-farewell-joins-rebel-idc/

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