Tuesday, September 27, 2016

transparency in ethics is like giving viagra to a eunach

It only has value if someone can use the result.

As the criminal complaints and indictment flow out of the most recent case of public corruption in Albany we are sure to hear the predictable calls for more transparency and ethics reform.

The Governor will demand it.

The good government groups will lobby for it.

The editorial boards will latch on to it as the answer to our ethical problems.

And it's all just a giant con game perpetuated on the voters by the eunachs of ethics.

What good is it if you don't use it?

I can't remember which of the recent ethics reforms (I think it was 2011) brought us the required disclosure of business relationships by lobbyists and their clients but I'm sure the eunachs of ethics crowned it as the answer to all our problems.

It's right there on the JJOKE website, a list of all the filings since the transparency was required.

Take a look you will not find any of the most recent scandal parties listed but that's too easy lets explore some other examples.

I read that former Cuomo confidant Howard Glaser (and I'm betting current Cuomo investigation cooperating witness) was an adjunct professor at Columbia University.  A job I'm sure the old Cuomo crowd at Columbia helped him land.  Since Columbia is the client of a registered lobbyist that employment arrangement must have been disclosed on Columbia's business relationship form.  I mean that's exactly why you require transparency . . . right?  Let's look.  It didn't take long there is only 86 forms filed since the transparency law went into effect.  And Columbia is not there.  Lot's of other collages reported there adjunct staff, but they are all low level state employees you've never heard of.  I'm sure former Cuomo staffer and current head of JJOKE Seth Agata is already busily investigating this transparency violation.  Lets try another.

Former JJOKE head Ellen Biben had a teaching gig somewhere as I recall.  She team taught with former Cuomo counsel Linda Lacewell.  What are the odds?  Certainly the head of JJOKE would know who her employer was and would have made sure they filed the transparency forms to provide full disclosure to the public.  Let me do a quick search . . . Fordham.  Since Fordham is a client of a registered lobbyist they must have filed the business relationship form.   NOPE.  Maybe it was NYU where they were adjuncts.  You know NYU the home of the Brennan Center the good government group that always calls for more transparency.  NOPE they didn't file either.

Again does anyone want to bet if Agata is investigating this perversion of our disclosure requirements?

Like a eunach on viagara Agata would have his hands full if he just had the equipment to use the transparency tool at his disposal.

AGATA must resign.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Irony and ethics or let me be the first to call for Seth Agata's resignation

Lotta news being made the last couple of days on the ethics front.  Complaints, indictments, denials expressions of disappointment and of course the calls for TRANSPARENCY and  ETHICS REFORM.  Yet again.

Anyone that has followed the blog knows I'm a big fan of irony with a low tolerance for bullshit and shallow analysis when it comes to ethics.

So with that thought in mind I just wanted to comment on some things I noticed in the recent criminal ethics scandal which certainly feels a lot like all the previous ethics scandals of the last decade or so.  In fact it reminds me of a novel I wrote last summer and published on the blog.  Read it and tell me I'm not the master of the Albany ethics scandal genre.

First - How did people this stupid end up in positions of power and authority in government?  Has no one learned the lesson not to use criminal nicknames (Herb) and the phrase ziti in emails about your bribery schemes?   What ASSHOLES

Second - Speaking of assholes why is it the good government groups and editorial boards keep trotting out the same old tired themes of more disclosure and ethics reforms every time some asshole gets caught?  Here is a simple question for Blair Horner or any editorial board, what laws would you pass that would have prevented this bid rigging and bribery scandal?  No I'm serious, don't just say more transparency and more ethics laws be specific. "Herb" Percoco listed his kickbacks on his financial disclosure report and no one at JJOKE did anything about it, other than make up a bullshit excuse that he didn't have to file a separate report for the period after he returned.  Unbelievable, what good is transparency if no one uses the data?   Could it be because the head of JJOKE, Seth Agata, may have been responsible for this lapse in oversight?  Was Seth Agata involved in providing "Herb" guidance on his little sabbatical to replenish the Percoco coffers?  Remember Agata was the same lawyer that asked Cuomo gopher Ellen Biben for permission for the governor to make it rain with his book. And as to more ethics laws, read the complaints.  We have plenty of laws federal and state that can be used to prosecute when the prosecutors want to.  What we don't have is competent independent regulators to snip this criminal activity in the bud before it grows into the serious violations that result in front page headlines and perp walks.  Do you think Dr. K wears his jeans to court? and where will he park that Ferrari?  If that gets forfeited to the government I guarantee that I will be at the auction to try to buy it.  I can't think of a better advertisement for my consulting practice.  I even have the specialty license plate all picked out "LOOPHOLE".

Which brings me to my third point - if the good government groups and editorial boards really want to try to stem the tide of corruption they will start sermonizing on the fact that we don't need more laws we need more independent regulators.  Starting with calling for the resignation of Seth Agata.  The Sgt. Schultz act that JJOKE is using just isn't working.  "I know nothing, absolutely nothing"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why JJOKE hates not for profits

Martin Levine, JJOKE's Director of Lobbying did the regulated community a huge favor yesterday.  He got mad enough at my questioning to lose his composure and give us a glimpse at what is really behind the JJOKE policy regarding source of funding disclosures.

I used to think JJOKE was just being incompetent when they tried to pass regulations to implement the poorly drafted legislation enacted in 2011 requiring disclosure of donor identity.  They changed the regulations over and over again to correct the initial broad overreach that Cuomo's lackey Ellen Biben and his hand picked Westchester get out of jail free card, Janet Difiore, kept trying to implement (by the way what does it say about the quality of our judicial system that those two are now judges? Biben at the Court of Claims and DiFiore as the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.  Cuomo can pick whom he likes but we should judge him, no pun intended, by the body of their work and judging by what a mess those two made of JJOKE I'd say we are in for a rough ride).  As an aside they are not the only NY ethics commissioners that have gone on from ruining NY ethics agencies to positions of great power.  Don't forget Loretta Lynch our current Attorney General.  True story, I know a former staffer that saw her fall asleep during a commission meeting.  And by the way Loretta Lynch asleep may do less harm than almost all of the present commissioners are doing every meeting.  But I digress. 

Back to JJOKE's incompetency.  Originally the source of funding disclosure regulations applied to everyone other than C3 charitable organizations, but JJOKE realized there are no "donations" to a for profit entity so they are excluded, which left only not for profit C4 charitable organizations and only on a going forward basis.  I choose to believe Biben and Difiore decided to postpone implementation in a spirit of fairness to those donors who had an expectation of privacy, the fact that the largest effected group allegedly had ties to Cuomo I am sure played no role in JJOKE's decisions.  And the C4 charitable organizations that were large enough to qualify were required to list their donors.  Not their donors donors nor were they required to trace the source of funding back to it's original source.  All in all a pretty harmless if useless application.  JJOKE itself in 2015 confirmed the limited nature of the statute by publishing a report calling for more restrictive legislation and admitting that donors choosing to protect their anonymity need only "pass thru" their donations.  The original JJOKE regulations never took into account the treatment of anonymous charitable donations.  I guess the geniuses serving as JJOKE commissioners and staff don't make charitable donations so they don't understand what happens when your name ends up on a list of donors.  Anyway I digress again although I do admit I would very much like to know who JJOKE commissioners and staff donate to (it reminds me of the old days when Spitzer's AG lawyers were representing the lobby commission in a suit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and I found out our AG lawyer had donated to the group suing us.  Seemed to me like a conflict but the limousine liberals at Spitzer's AG office disagreed).

Back to the main point, my dustup with Martin.

I no longer can blame JJOKE's incompetence for what occurs at JCOPE.  Their is something much more sinister afoot.

Under the new legislation passed by the legislature but still unsigned by the governor - and I have heard from a very high source inside JJOKE that the legislation was the result of a deal between the governor and the republican senate that gave the legislature confidentiality of JJOKE investigations in return for the governor getting source of funding disclosure for the C3 world (which I'm also told happened because Alfonso David had no clue what effect the source of funding would have on the Gov's allies and donors but was only focused on harming the good government groups)- small C4 charitable organizations will have to disclose their donors.  That's bad enough but JJOKE's emergency regulations are going to be applied retroactively.  THAT'S JUST NOT FAIR  our entire system of jurisprudence is based on the concept that no law should be applied retroactively.  When I pointed this out to Martin, specifically with regards to those donors that might donate before the legislation is signed by the governor, his angry response unmasked what is really going on.  He said "then don't donate".  That's what this is really about.  It's not about donor disclosure it's about donor defunding.  Cut off the flow of donations to small not for profits who may oppose the ruling powers positions and you stifle dissent.  Only the for profits and large charitable groups that can afford lawyers like me to advise on how to maintain anonymity (read this will be able to effectively lobby.

Ask yourself what real purpose is served by knowing the identity of those who donate to small charitable lobbying organizations?  If there was real value in that information wouldn't JJOKE be making the data available right now in a format that the public could use?  But they don't they just tell you DON'T DONATE.

And that's not the worst thing the no talent power hungry Preet wannabe's that call themselves JJOKE commissioners are doing.  My sources, once again inside JJOKE at the highest levels, are complaining that JJOKE commissioners are forcing staff to commence investigations into alleged gifts made by lobbyists who hire firms, family or friends of government officials.  In this town that's practically everyone.  If I were Evan Stavisky I'd be very worried that every client that hired him would be investigated for making an illegal gift to his mom the Senator.  Maybe Wilson Elser should be worried about that long ago hiring of Ken Bruno, how about Revlon for hiring Pataki's wife, the list goes on and on.  And if they start in on girlfriends and mistresses the list might be endless.  Not to mention if they look at favors staff on the second floor got,  oops they would never do that I forgot.

I guess the commissioners are proving two points.  First, they run the commission not staff and second, what's the point of having the power to investigate if you can't abuse it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to protect your donors

If you are a C3 or a C4 lobbying in NY the recent changes to the source of funding disclosure requirements probably is giving you sleepless nights and maybe even a panic attack or two.   Based on JCOPE's interpretation of the new law, as described by their new executive director, Seth Agata, any C3 (whether subject to the Lobby Act or not) that makes a donation to a C4 that is subject to the Act will now have to disclose and make publicly available a list of all of it's donors over $2500.  Can you say "defunding the not for profit world"?

But fear not.  I am the protector of charitable donor anonymity (self proclaimed).  If you don't want to disclose your donors you don't have to.


Just call me at 5184618635

I can show you how to protect the virtue of your donor's identity.

Once retained I will design a lobby disclosure program for you that assures your valuable donors that their names will not be splashed around the internet for any shady fundraisers to harass, nor will government be able to target those that donate to causes unpopular with those in power.

The fee I charge will be indexed to the budget your organization has committed to it's effort.


It works for those companies that want to shield their involvement in NY advocacy from NY  regulators controlled by NY's corrupt ruling elite.

At this time I will not be providing this service to any organization pro bono, other than to Blair Horner (he deserves the help and he has no money).  So if you can't pay a portion of your NY lobbying budget to me don't call.  For everyone else.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

JCOPE meeting proves JCOPE is up to the challenge

Yesterday's JCOPE meeting clearly established that finally New York has an ethics agency they can be proud of.

I don't know if Seth Agata or Dan Horwitz should receive the credit but yesterday JCOPE lived up to its promise and delivered in a big way.

It's executive Director Seth Agata showed mastery of the subject matter and delivered clear and concise information to the commission and the regulated community.  He provided a detailed briefing on the recent changes enacted by the legislature with cogent analysis and insightful predictions for how the changes will be implemented and when.  He judiciously deferred to those staff members who had more detailed knowledge than he did and those staff members performed flawlessly, filling in any technical gaps and answering commissioners questions fully.

And speaking of commissioners, it appeared that a full contingent of commissioners were in attendance and fully briefed and knowledgeable of the subject matter being discussed. Their questions showed a keen understanding of the many difficult and complex issues that the legislation presented and their comments evidenced a stunning depth of understanding for the competing needs of the government, the regulated community and the media.  It was obvious that Gary Levine, George Weissman and Seymor Knox were on top of their game and prepared to fulfill their obligations as commissioners.

Dan Horwitz was in rare form as he sat still in his chair without uttering a single ummm.  The picture of a sober and prudent chairman, one we can rest assured would not engage in corrupt behavior to benefit himself, his family, his law firm or the second floor.  He appeared almost presidential in the way he ran the meeting.

I can't wait to watch the recording of the meeting to see if I missed anything.

I only have one question.  Who paid for the pizza that the commissioners ate during executive session?  I hope it wasn't the taxpayers.

You do get I am being sarcastic?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Statute of Limitations on stupidity

Pei Pei Cheng-de Castro has been busy commencing new investigations at JJOKE.  Lots of 15 day letters are flying around the state.  And normally I would congratulate Seth "Igottagetoutofhere" Agata on getting some value for the $127146 we pay Pei Pei (nice alliteration don't you think?) except for the fact that several of these letters have come to my attention and they don't make sense.  Neither legally nor factually.  Before I discuss the legal and factual failings lets provide a little background on Pei Pei.

Pei Pei has received over $20000 in raises since she started, which would make you think she is really good at what she does for JJOKE.  Except as the Director of Investigations and Enforcement for the last couple of years what has she done?  No really that's a question what has she done?  JJOKE is not known as a real go getter unless the second floor tells them too.  Did Pei Pei catch Silver? catch Skelos? catch Sampson? catch Malcom Smith? catch Stevenson?, catch Bruno? catch Semenario? catch Huntly?  did she look into Cuomo's book deal? look into Percoco? Howe? Kalyeros (oops that may be too soon I'll wait) look into Castro? how about Leibell? Boyland? Gordon? Hoyt? Kellner? Kruger? Spitzer?  I could go on and on but if Pei Pei can't catch the fish in Albany ethics pond while they are practically impalling themselves on Preet's hook why did she get hired by JJOKE?

Is it because her husband once worked for JJOKE Chairman Dan Horwitz?  If so did Chairman Dan violate the Public Officers Law when he used his position to benefit his law firm by employing an employees spouse?  But I digress back to Pei Pei's letters.

I had the opportunity to ask Pei Pei what she thought the statute of limitations was under the Lobby Act.  She couldn't answer the question.  Yea she's worth $127146 good lift on this one Dan.  So I asked Seth.  His answer?  That's an interesting question, you should look at section 13(c) of Executive Law section 94.

Now why would I do that?  That section only applies to those that leave state service or cease lobbying during an investigation.  It has nothing to do with a statute of limitations and I told Seth as much.  His response?  You make an interesting point.

Fuck me, another JJOKE lawyer that spends so much time looking up his own ass he can't see the other assholes working for him.

So with that thought in mind I am sending JJOKE an opinion request to articulate what the statute of limitations is for a violation of the Lobby Act.

My greatest fear? that this collections of super assholes  oops lawyers thinks there is no statute of limitations for Lobby Act violations in which case Wilson Elser better worry that it's hiring of Ken Bruno was an illegal gift 10 years ago or Revlon should worry that it's hiring of Governor Pataki's wife was an illegal gift 20 years ago.  In fact the hiring of any public officials spouse or child by a lobbyist or client may have been an illegal gift no matter when it happened under Pei Pei's novel theory of imputed gifts to public officials.  Food for thought.  And another chance for Pei Pei to prove she is more than the latest act of do as I say not as I do by the agency that brought us Shari Calnero fired by Chairman Hormozi but rehired after her Uncle Vinnie DeIorio became a commissioner of JJOKE.  And trust me she isn't the only one that benefitted from JJOKE friends and family plan. 

Seth Agata you need to sack up and run your agency or resign and go collect your pension.

Let me know when you want to grab lunch or coffee.  I can probably find a lobbying firm that would love to hire your wife or grown child, I'm not sure I can find anyone who would want to hire Pei Pei but that's Chairman Dan's job anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How long before Agata leaves?

It's been about 6 weeks since Seth "Igottagetoutofhere" Agata was named the head of JJOKE, after another national search and extensive interview process (one that I could not even make the cut for a preliminary interview - I wonder why?).  Now I wonder during that interview process did anyone at JJOKE consider that because of Agata's prior service as counsel to Governor Cuomo he would be in a difficult position as the head of the ethics agency charged with enforcing the ethics laws against the Governor and his staff?

I'm sure the gubernatorial appointees saw it as a plus.  Who better to protect them than one of their own.  Much like John Gotti would have picked Sammy Gravano to be the head of the organized crime task force.  But now Agata has to deal with a world where people are willing to ask the hard questions.  Preet is always lurking around Albany politics and as a result the John Gotti's of the Albany political world don't scare the rank and file like they used to.  As a result Sammy Gravano might protect John from the organized crime task force but can't help when bigger predators show up to hunt.

And in fact when those shark fins break the surface all the scavenger fish also show up to pick at the ravaged remains.

A quick explanation for those not quick enough to understand the analogies at play.  Cuomo is Gotti, Agata is Gravano, JJOKE is the organized crime task force and the media (specifically Casey "cut and paste" Seiler is the scavenger fish.   And before anyone says I am being Trump like in picking on Italians my wife is Sicilian, Agata is Jewish and if anything scavenger fish should be insulted by the comparison to Casey.

Having cleared that up think about this.  JJOKE is being criticized by Casey for some mythical policy that allowed Joe Percocco (continuing the analogy - Fredo from the godfather movie, a likeable idiot that damages the godfather thru avarice and stupidity.  As an aside Percoco should avoid fishing in small boats) not to file a 2013 financial disclosure report.  JJOKE's explanations ring false and Agata and Walt McClueless sound like operatives for the second floor.  All JJOKE should have done was apologize for not getting Percoco to file the 2013 report and then force Percoco to file or face stiff penalties after a public hearing (the equivalent of being sent to Vegas to work for Moe Green).  But noooo they just say it couldn't happen now. 

Here's the problem.  Since Agata has been publicly quoted on the issue we know he is involved in it.  BUT how can that be?  He was Cuomo's counsel when this all happened.  Shouldn't he recuse himself?  Doesn't he have a major conflict of interest?  I blogged before that Agata should investigate himself for his role in Cuomo's book deal.  Now I think Blair Horner and Dick Dadey should demand that JJOKE and it's commissioners be investigated for Agata's actions regarding Percoco, Howe and Howe's buddy that is a registered lobbyist for Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna unless JJOKE scrubbed his name already.

Seth, you have a major problem, you are conflicted as a result of your prior position, you have been and you always will be.  It should have been obvious to those that placed you in the job. 

My suggestion is if you want to stay (and I don't know why you would if you are just going to keep doing what those that came before have done) you need to publicly explain your thoughts on your conflicts.  Remember even Sammy had to do the right thing eventually.