Tag Archive: Thomas Ognibene

Dec 22 2011

Ognibene Tries To Axe Campaign Finance Regulation

In a not so stunning federal lawsuit, Tom Ognibene, who was once named as an unindicted coconspirator in a case involving bribery unsuccessfully challenged city anti-corruption campaign  finance laws so that he could donate more money to Councilmember Liz Crowley.

Reuters – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday tossed out a challenge to New York City anti-corruption campaign finance laws, finding the so-called “pay to play” rules do not violate free speech rights.

In an opinion affirming a 2009 lower court ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said city rules prohibiting corporate contributions to political campaigns, and requiring candidates to disclose contributions from people and groups that do business with the city, were appropriate given legitimate concerns about corruption.

“Contributions to candidates for city office from persons with a particularly direct financial interest in these officials’ policy decisions pose a heightened risk of actual and apparent corruption, and merit heightened government regulations,” the opinion by judges Debra Livingston, Guido Calabresi and Paul Crotty said.

The lawsuit, brought by Republican politician Tom Ognibene and others, sought to use the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to attack the New York City laws.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court found that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations in elections. The 2nd Circuit judges said that ruling only applies to independent corporate expenditures, and not to contributions limits such as those enacted in New York.

For the full article: http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2011/12_ _December/Challenge_to_NY_campaign_finance_laws_fails__US_appeals_court/

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/12/ognibene-tries-to-axe-campaign-finance-regulation/

Dec 16 2011

Governor Ulrich? LOL

Speaking in a room filled with people planted to look like they enjoy this, Thomas Ognibene, who was once named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case involving bribery, tells crowd 26 year old City Councilman Eric Ulrich should be the next Governor. And they bought it!

The Forum: Eric Ulrich began raising funds for his 2013 campaign at Howard Beach eatery Saffron last Wednesday evening. Ulrich joked saying he had to climb on a chair get the attention of the full house crowd having to speak after one of his most dynamic Republican mentors, former Councilman Tom Ognibene.

Ognibene amused the crowd with stories of Ulrich’s climb up the Republican ladder, suggesting the future of Republican politics for New York State is in the hands of the 26-year-old Ozone Park native.

“The district that he represents is certainly a fortunate one to have someone with the skill and passion he has for this job,” Ognibene told the crowd. But according to the veteran politician, the council district is only the first stop on the road to what will lead to one place—behind the desk at the governor’s mansion.

Others in the crowd were quick to agree with Ognibene. “We need more young men at the helm of things like him,” said Howard Beach Anne Sciame. “”He’s not only great at his job, he sets a great example.”

Fellow Republican minority whip Councilmember Jimmy Oddo, and former democratic councilmember Melinda Katz and Queens Conservative party chair Tom Long were among the political notables that were in attendance.

As for his intentions to travel to Albany, Ulrich blushed at the confidence of Ognibene but says he’s only focused on one thing right now–his job. “I’ve always said that I will continue to do what the people trust me to do,” Ulrich told The Forum. “If that road goes to Albany I would be very proud. But for right now, I’ve got a big job to do right here.”

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/12/governor-ulrich-lol/

Dec 14 2011

The Last Of The Clubhouse Bosses

Where have you gone Tony Seminerio? The NYC mayoral candidates turn their lonely eyes to you. It was the mid-nineties and the sun was blazing down on Ozone Park. Giuliani was in the hot seat at Gracie Mansion, he had just become the GOP Mayor earlier that year thanks to a powerhouse political club in South Queens.

Strolling down the block past La’ Bella Vita on any given evening you could hear the sounds of Frank Sinatra and the clinking glasses of a toastmaster. Tony Seminerio sat at the back table, the pungent aroma of cigar smoke would fill the stillness of the air as the revolving door opened and closed at what seemed like a thousand times a night.

It was that time of year again and the candidates were getting ready. Mayoral hopefuls had descended from their chic towers in the burgeoning metropolis to make the ten-minute journey over the East River and into Queens to jockey for district endorsements.

And it was then when Assemblyman Tony Seminerio was in his prime. He was already in the state Assembly for twenty years and was already a legend. He would walk in and everybody who worked the room went wild. Thousands of constituents would ask him for help, elected officials across the state would come to pay respect to a larger than life Assemblyman.

When Tony walked into a room in south Queens everyone acknowledged him. It was out of respect. A hundred people would rise to their feet as levity was swept away by pure admiration. “Hey how ya doin’ Tony good to see ya” said the doorman. “Not too bad kid I sent your son’s resume to City Hall.” Tony responded with his thick Queens accent, a question he must have been asked a thousand times before.

Tony pulled off the political Lufthansa heist for the Mayors Seat in the nineteen nineties, and he was in the perfect position to do so.

Everyone was about to find out, the 38th A.D Democratic club didn’t shine shoes anymore.

It felt like it was 1955. Tony would throw parties; classy parties and the young heavy metal looking guys would drink beer next to the men donning their Armani suits sipping cocktails. The spirit of fraternity permeated the air. In this clubhouse, brotherhood reigned supreme. The stock 1950s characters lined up at the bar comparing campaign stories, plotting their next moves and generally shooting the concordant breeze. It was an old school atmosphere, a rebirth, a renaissance, a snapshot back in time into the glory days of yesteryear where everyone was considered family.

The club’s prowess and reputation was built on the notorious charisma of Assemblyman Tony Seminerio – a cigar smoking, red wine drinking tough guy that could have been a character in a Scorsese film but was also known to have a heart of gold and would make an effort to help as many people as he could whenever they needed it. He was Tony the Gent. When people came to him with a real workable problem Tony often got misty eyed and took his personal time to help them in any community affair. While most legislators barely help constituents within their legislative duty, Tony would go above and beyond and do anything he could to help.

When most legislators have press conferences filled with false promises and false actions, Tony never held a press conference; he would assist people in total silence.

In the Mid-nineties, Tony was able to walk through the doors of Pataki’s office, Bruno’s office, and Giuliani’s office without a slight step.

Sheldon Silver’s staff called him the dream killer,

he was the only democratic lawmaker whom after Sheldon silver passed a bill in the state Assembly had enough clout with the republican state Senators to have the bill killed. In 1988, Tony helped state Senator, Serphin Maltese get elected and as payback Tony was gerrymandered to send a message, don’t ever help out the GOP. But instead of getting rid of him, they made him.

At Tony’s meetings, Giuliani would come in with his P.B.A entourage and sit at the opposite table as Queens Democratic boss Tom Manton the predecessor of Joe Crowley while Alan Hevisi would work the room.

Tony’s club had become the base for Republican chieftains like George Pataki, Al Stabile, Thomas Ognibene and Dennis Gallagher – they all had a home at the club. Tom Long would walk in and Tony would greet him with the respect that a Statesman would deserve.

The republicans would sometimes sit next to Chuck Schumer and Anthony Weiner. It was a weird hodgepodge but while most clubs are lucky to get their Assembly Member to show, hundreds danced while Tony Seminerio sang Italian songs.

Before he was elected to Assembly, Tony served as the Vice-President of the powerful Correction Officers union. Even though he was a social conservative and a pro-life advocate, Tony never swayed from his union roots. In return for supporting pro union legislation, the unions offered him political support – boots on the ground, which became his operative base.

Tony’s ascension to political boss climaxed as the point man, the go-to-guy for candidates vying for the votes in Queens. Hundreds owed him allegiance because he was masterful in his selection for patronage posts and favor trading.  When Giuliani struggled with the Queens GOP, he went for a sit down with Tony. After all, the 38th AD was the only district Pataki took in ’98 outside of Staten Island.

Tony had a legion of lawyers, union officials, correction officers, and constituents whom would work at his behest.

Before the dawn of the Internet and social networking, Tony would make one phone call and could organize a busload of hardened campaigners and send them to any part of the city to aid an election. He even had a group of young heavy metal guys called The Vultures whom hung out in Forest park. Tony would send them around knocking at doors. They were scary looking, but effective.

The 38th A.D club had a major contribution with Republicans like Thomas Ognibene, Dennis Gallagher, Serphin Maltese and Rudy Giuliani. Even Tom Long the Queens chair of the Conservative Party received a standing ovation and it was for a good reason, as a thank you. At the time, most of their campaign armies came courtesy of Tony. Even though they were Democrats, the 38th A.D club had become, in part, the foot soldiers of the Republican Party.

He also helped his fellow Dems. In 1996 when Ann-Margaret Carrozza ran against Doug Prescott, Shelly Silver made a personal request to Tony for help. In response, Tony sent a hundred foot soldiers into Bayside. Even Carrozza’s campaign manager was connected to him. Tom Catipano, who is also a former Assembly Member, had served as Tony’s consigliere for four decades.

When Eliot Spitzer ran for Attorney General of New York, he came by himself to a trattoria in Queens to kiss Tony’s ring. They brokered a deal and Tony agreed to help by sending soldiers to hand out fliers. Shortly after Spitzer’s victorious election, he took his time returning Tony’s phone calls – in a sense Spitzer was ducking him, a bad move that would later come back to haunt him as it wouldn’t be long before they would see each other again in the Capital. While standing in the well, Tony chatted amongst his colleagues.

When Spitzer walked into the room, Tony’s calm demeanor changed in the blink of an eye.

He unleashed a thunderous roar that echoed across the chamber, “Oh, you don’t return my calls? Go fuck yourself! Four years comes around real quick. ” Spitzer turned red as a group of legislators laughed at the top of their lungs.

Are there any clubs that could help out a candidate in the way Tony’s club could have helped a Marty Golden or Ray Kelly? With the Queens GOP engaged in a great civil war, the loss of clout compounded by a pyrrhic victory by Phil Ragusa over Tom Ognibene, the party is in shambles and far too fractal to field any viable candidates.

Presently, most Democratic clubs don’t fair any better than their Republican counterparts with the exception of clubs that focus on leadership, networking, attracting young people and performing community service, a winning combination.

It’s a strong formula for efficacy that is not mutually exclusive of strong leadership. The best clubs meet these requirements while  the rest are small and disillusioned by family dynasties and lobbyists connected to elected officials. For example an inside source said, “Powhattan, Tammany, it’s not what it used to be, everyone’s old.” Jumping to the other side of Queens, The Jefferson Club has twenty members and ten of them want to run for higher office. RFK is also a maturing organization. Ask certain clubs what community service they have performed lately and they’ll stare at you inquisitively, perhaps even hand over a small check – a seemingly empty gesture when compared to real political help like boots on the ground to collect petitions and help with gotv, and perhaps, maybe even a little genuine community service.

The strength of a club is measured in petitions. How many can you deliver? Typically today, the clubs are not only smaller in number then Tony’s club, not to mention aging, but they are highly unlikely to support a Republican candidate.

The conditions that put Mayor Giuliani into office no longer exist in Queens. Since then, if any Republican wants to win the Mayoralty they’d have to ally with a powerful Democratic club. Unless that happens it’s hard to imagine another Republican winning citywide office. Nowadays, a billionaire Independent can buy the election and wouldn’t even need a powerful Democratic house to bolster their ranks as the Republican party is so weak former police commissioner Ray Kelly, Marty Gold, and even Dan Halloran have been rumored to run for mayor. That’s how weak it is.

The heyday of the 38th A.D was a ten year span from 1993-2003. The club diminished when Giuliani left office and finally lost its fire when Tony had a heart attack. He couldn’t keep up with the lifestyle after his near brush with death.

Tony served as Assembly member beginning in 1978 but finally resigned in 2009 after pleading guilty to a single count of fraud, saying he had wrongly advanced the interests of a consulting client in connection with state business, according to a report in the New York Times.

In 2010, he passed away while serving out his prison sentence. With Tony out of the picture the fallout was disastrous.  Lobbying\consulting firms swelled in power and prestige as the heyday of the old clubhouse bosses came to an end.

Would Tony have payed such  groups? Doubtful, as he was his own powerbroker. This siege is underway across Queens from Astoria to Little Neck and there are only a few independent voices that stand in the way. Tony must be rolling in his grave.

To put it into perspective, Tony’s 38th A.D Democratic club was by far the largest democratic club in Queens County; it dwarfed any club that exists today. Presently, the 38th A.D Democratic club now boasts 20 members under the tutelage of incumbent Assemblyman Mike Miller and Councilwoman Liz Crowley. Down from the Seminerio heyday when there where over 750 active members.

As a citywide candidate, you can make a thousand phone calls yet it is unlikely that one political club or one Republican county organization could have a major impact. Why? Because Tony Seminerio was the last of the clubhouse bosses.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/12/the-last-of-the-club-house-bosses/

Nov 16 2011

Battleground: Forest Hills

"Eric told me to do it," says Congressman Bob Turner who looks pleased while Bart Harggety and Phil Ragusa fight for the credit for anointing him. GOP State Chairman Ed Cox stares down in disgust.

Forest Hills may be the new epicenter of Republican party politics.

Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa chartered a new political club in a location that a south Queens Republican operative isn’t too chipper about it.

The new American Eagle Republican Club hosted its first meeting Tuesday night at the Forest Hills Jewish Center

“After the [Bob] Turner victory, Forest Hills jumped to the top of the list,” said Robert Hornak, a spokesman for the Queens GOP in an interview with the Daily News.

Forest Hills is interesting. It is long known to be the forward operating base of the rival Haggerty clan who bear an ancient grudge against Chairman Phil Ragusa and associates.

Ragusa is hoping to keep the momentum going that energized voters for Congressman Bob Turner’s big win in the 9th District.

While the 19th and 20th Council Districts are held by two Republicans, Dan Halloran and Peter Koo, the local political clubs are small in number and are often a heaven’s waiting room of senior citizens jockeying for a free cup of coffee and stale Entenmann’s crumb cake.  So why would there be a move to Forest Hills, especially at a time when GOP political muscle in northeast Queens has atrophied?

At Queens-Politics we believe it’s throwing a little salt in the ol’ wound.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich and his Chief of Staff, Bart Haggerty (also a District Leader)  attempted to usurp the leadership at the Queens GOP by electing Thomas Ognibene as Chairman. What people may overlook is that these are the same operatives that groomed Bob Turner from start to finish (legend has it they found him playing Canasta at a senior club).

Councilman Ulrich bestows pearls of wisdom upon Bob Turner who was quoted as calling him his “26 year old mentor.”

Insiders say Phil Ragusa tried to steal credit even boasting about it on the party website. Now, Ragusa has started a political club in what some call the territory of the south Queens GOP – whom are not recognized by State GOP Party Chairman Ed Cox or the courts.

Instead of concentrating outreach efforts in northeast Queens (a region long known for convoluted party politics) where it’s needed,  Ragusa is moving the big show into Forest Hills where he believes he may have better luck recruiting a viable political club.

Rival Bart Haggerty is not welcoming the newcomers. He says Forest Hills already has a clubhouse, the Forest Park Republican Club and that Ragusa’s front man, Juan Reyes, a Forest Hills-raised lawyer has been missing in community action for ten years.

Robert Hornak told me in a prior interview that Ragusa has championed outreach efforts for new immigrant communities that tend to lean conservative on social issues.

While this is  true, the location of Forest Hills is sure to be a thorn in the side to the radical triumvirate, the Haggerty-Ulrich-Ognibene faction of the Queens GOP.

It is likely a sign of more tensions to come.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/11/battleground-forest-hills/

Oct 21 2011

John Haggerty & Alan Hevesi… Prison Cell Mates?


I hope Council Member Ulrich sends you some cookies.

John Haggerty, an infamous Queens GOP political operative is headed up the river.

According to a report in Crains NY, Jurors found John Haggerty guilty today of grand larceny and money laundering, ending a case that has put a spotlight on the billionaire mayor and the inner workings of his campaigns

Haggerty was accused of an elaborate phantom ballot security operation. What’s that? That’s when a candidate, a political party, or consulting firm organize and send experienced campaigners down to the poll sites on election day, typically to make sure the opposition is playing by the rules.

John billed the Mayor for this and didn’t produce —  instead he pocketed the the cash and went on a personal spending frenzy.

John Haggerty may serve up to 15 years. Because this is Haggertys first offense, that we know of,  he is likely to serve 3-5 years of hard time, according to an inside source.

Haggerty is long known for his political ties to Tom Ognibene, former minority leader of the City Council who was once indicted as a co-conspirator in an unrelated case. John’s brother Bart Haggerty also serves as Chief of Staff to abrasive Council Member Eric Ulrich.

Juiced in? Maybe not.

In prison, you get to watch TV, cable even.

It is rumored  that John Haggerty may share a cell with political rival and former disgraced Comptroller of New York , Alan Hevesi who is serving a one to four years at the Ulster Correctional Facility in upstate Napanoch for a pension fund pay-to-play scandal.

The poster children for everything wrong in government will have ample time to hone their criminals skills.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/haggerty-to-meet-hevesi-in-prison/


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