Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why isn't JJOKE pursuing illegal gift cases involving free travel provided to public officials from registered lobbyists and their clients?

That's a long question with a simple answer.  They choose not to.

In the old days when I was running the lobby commission those airplane cases were my bread and butter.

They were easy to prove and the media loved reporting about them.

The only people that loved free airplane travel more than the media were the public officials that just could not help themselves.  The lure of the perk of being on a private plane or having someone else pay for the trip was like drawing bees to honey or flies to horseshit   worked every time.

Well half that equation still holds true the politicians still love those free trips.

In the last couple of weeks I've read about Cuomo buddy Andrew Farkas acting as a travel agent for the Governor and soliciting SONY in trying to "hitch a ride" back to NY. 

Both Cuomo and De Blasio took Caribbean vacations recently and neither provided any proof that they paid for their trips themselves.

And just today I read that Mayor De Blasio is using a previously registered lobbying entity to foot the bill for his travel to promote his progressive agenda including issues of income inequality (how is that for irony?).

Now I would never dream of telling JJOKE what to do but it doesn't get much better than this.  An airplane trip that doesn't involve the governor (who knows Cuomo may even enjoy watching De Blasio twist in the wind while JJOKE investigates) financed by some shadowey group that was registered in 2014 but isn't in 2015 (you get a gift case and an unregistered lobbyist case all in one).

All that would be missing to ignite the media story is a leak that JJOKE has opened an investigation.

Let me provide that leak.

I just spoke with JJOKE and asked if Campaign for One New York was registered as a lobbyist in 2015.  When they asked why I wanted to know I explained the facts set forth above would make a good gift case.  At that point I was told that the JJOKE chief investigator Patrick Coultrie (not sure of the spelling) was "all over it".  And just to warn Milgram before he calls me a liar I was on a speaker phone with 3 JJOKE senior staffers when the conversation took place.

There you have it.

JCOPE is investigating Mayor De Blasio's acceptance of gifts from a group, being used by the Mayor as his personal slush fund, who is or should be a registered lobbyist.

This could be the dawn of a new era at JCOPE.  Lets hope so.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How to fix the JCOPE backlog and get richer in the process

I promised I would reveal my solution to fix JCOPE's backlog and help legislators get rich with undisclosed outside income.  And they are related.

Here is the business opportunity.

JCOPE's backlog results from over 5000 registrations being submitted in the first 2 weeks every other year.  That's not going to change.

JCOPE is institutionally incapable of working any faster or smarter than they are right now.

So if you can't speed up the registration approvals you have to reduce the number of registrations.  Especially since the new "ethics reform" added local lobbying for entities over 5000 people (does JCOPE even know how many additional registrations that may generate?)

Since a lobbyist has to file a registration for every client the only way to reduce the number of registrations is to reduce the number of clients.

How do you do that?  Simple.

David Grandeau and Associates is offering a new service - lobby brokerage.

Lobbyists get their existing clients to terminate and hire DGA to hire their prior lobbyist.  Now DGA is the client and each lobbyist only has to file 1 registration with DGA as their client.  The actual client's identity never has to be released publicly (3rd party beneficiaries are not required by the statute to be identified, it's purely voluntary).  Because DGA is the client no source of funding disclosure will be required by the prior clients, DGA files 1 client semi annual further cutting down JCOPE's workload, DGA's clients are now free to lavish gifts on legislators since they are not subject to the gift ban (and don't worry DGA would never give a legislator a gift).  PROBLEM SOLVED

In addition as part of this lobby brokerage service DGA will file the lobbyist's single registration statement and any amendments to it for the lobbyist.  All that internal busy work goes away and the lobbyist can focus on lobbying.  For a firm like Patricia Lynch and Associates for example instead of approx. 100 registrations to file and process there is only 1.   Which means only one $200 registration fee instead of 100 fees.  The savings for the lobbyist is significant.

And since I'm not a charity my fee can come from the client, lets say a flat 5% of the amount they pay the lobbyist.  The client gets anonymity, no administrative burden, freedom from source of funding disclosures and gift bans, the lobbyist gets simplicity in only having to do 1 registration every 2 years, no administrative burden, a reduction in registration fees and peace of mind knowing DGA is doing their compliance.  JCOPE no longer has a backlog.  A win all the way around.

And DGA's new service will not be limited to lobby clients.  Any legislator that wants to earn outside income can come work for DGA as a consultant.  Your prior employer hires DGA at your prior rate of pay plus 5% and we hire you.  You disclose your outside income is from DGA and I tell reporters that ask what you do for the money that you are providing strategic advice.  I might even introduce you to some of my new lobby brokerage clients, I think that's called vertical integration in the world of economics.  Granted it might be called honest service fraud in Preet's world but if Shelly beats the case we are golden.

And for those in the industry that might say it's not legal, it's already being done by a firm called Multistate.  Granted they list the third party and do separate registrations but that is voluntary on their part, most importantly they don't do a source of funding disclosure.

All truly great business ideas borrow from an existing brilliant business idea and make it better.  Multistate was brilliant in avoiding source of funding I'm going to make it better.

Any lobbyist that wants to talk to me about the next great idea in lobby registration call me at 5184618635.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ethics reform on Aprils fools day - perfect

New York's new best in the world disclosure rules for legislators will not change the culture of corruption that exists in Albany.  In fact they are actual proof that the laws themselves and the continual "reform" of those laws are the problem not the solution.

I suggest a simple test.  Just apply the new laws to the financial disclosures provided by a list of our corrupt politicians (at least those perceived to be corrupt, convicted and/or indicted) like Shelly Silver, Joe Bruno, Tony Seminerio, Pedro Espada etc etc etc yada yada yada.  I think you will find the new law isn't any more effective than the old law. 

Why do we expect criminals to change into self reporting criminals just because the governor touts the latest bullshit ethics reform as a gleaming triumph?

Do you want a simple test?  Go ask some lawyer legislators if the new disclosure rules would result in their disclosing any new information.  A simple question for Dean Skelos, under the new best in the world disclosure rules will you be required to inform the public about any arrangements you do not presently disclose?  There are three possible answers.

1. NO  -  the most likely response of our legislators.  As I said it's unrealistic to expect criminals to become self reporting criminals (or for the innocent to fabricate a disclosure).  If this is the case why did we need this "reform".

2. YES -  I doubt any legislator would admit this but if they do just ask the followup question of will you voluntarily tell us of this previously undisclosed relationship?  I especially would like Jeff Klein to do this afterall he made a big deal of announcing his decision to give up his law practice now he can tell us why.

3. I DON"T KNOW BECAUSE I DIDN"T READ THE BILL BEFORE I VOTED FOR IT - If they are honest (I know I know stop laughing) this is the response the vast majority should give. 

Yet somehow I don't think this new strictest in the nation disclosure will actually result in many if any new disclosures.

So once again the reform of the ethics laws themselves is an act of corruption.

Now for a little introspection.  A new friend told me yesterday that my obsession with JCOPE's failures is causing me to lose credibility and that my bias is showing.  She pointed out that my work disclosing the backlog of registrations at JCOPE and my promotion of that story in the media was proof that I have an ax to grind with the agency and in fact displays some inner desire for revenge and or the belief that I could do a better job than JCOPE. 

I thought about it and she is right.   I clearly think I can do a better job and by the way I did for over a decade.  Not boasting just go check the factual record.  And yes I do enjoy getting revenge but I should make it crystal clear the backlog presently occurring at JCOPE is not because the staff member in charge of processing the registrations is slow and overly methodical, Maria certainly is but I hired her and I know her strengths and weaknesses and I made her an auditor not a filing processor because auditors working slowly and methodically is a strength (plus it got her out of the office).  And it's not because the staff member supervising Maria thinks she is a lawyer and wants every possible scenario reviewed prior to approval, Amy certainly does but I hired her and I know her strengths and weaknesses and I made her an auditor not a filing processor because auditors working like a lawyer and wanting every possible scenario reviewed is a strength (plus it got her out of the office).  And it's not because the lawyer supervising Amy couldn't forsee the backlog occurring.  Martin is a very responsive attorney.  I didn't hire him but I would have I think he may be one of the best JCOPE staff members I have done business with but Martin can only fix the problems that he knows about and this problem required a level of knowledge that you only get from experience and those working for you providing you information in a timely manner (not Maria and Amy's strong suits).  And the backlog presently occurring at JCOPE is not because it's executive director, LT, lacks managerial talent.  Far from it,  I think LT has the most talent since . . . well me.  But LT didn't know about the backlog until I told her.  That's the result of a culture that exists at JCOPE and was created by the former executive director Ellen Biben.  This backlog was created by Ellen Biben 3 years ago.  That's when Ellen Biben fired the vast majority of former lobby commission staffers that processed filings and replaced them with her lawyer buddies and cronies at triple the salaries and in the NYC office.  When I ran the lobby commission we had 13 staffers processing filings and 3 lawyers available for consultation on filing issues (and no lawyer was allowed to stop the process they could only answer staff questions which were discouraged by yours truly).  After Ellen Biben got thru purging the lobby commission staff the ratio is now reversed you have 3 staff members processing or supervising registration approval and at least 13 lawyers doing what lawyers do (and anyone that saw the last commission meeting knows what that is - wasting time discussing meaningless bs).  The backlog was inevitable.    Unfortunately LT and Martin didn't have the experience and knowledge with the lobby reporting system to see it coming (there are or used to be step by step idiot proofed internal controls that you can review).  I guess I could have been a good friend and told them 6 months ago but I did want my revenge for all the old lobby commission staff that got fired so Ellen Biben could hire her lawyers.  And I did want to teach Maria and Amy a lesson since they have become a royal pain in the ass to the regulated community.

So having said all that the registration backlog is clearly ELLEN BIBEN's fault.  One more failure to add to her list.  And I'm guessing one more time JCOPE will have to grant an amnesty for late filings.

As an aside in my conversations with Gary Lavine before the meeting he admitted he only knew of the backlog from reading my blog.  Glad I could help Gary now take my advice and resign you have failed as a JCOPE commissioner.

I hope that helps my friend answer her question of why I do what I do.

Back to the original question of testing the effectiveness of the new "ethics reform"   Why doesn't someone ask JCOPE to discuss in public how the new law will actually work and if it will have a meaningful effect?  Could you imagine that?  I would pay big money to be at that discussion.

Come on LT show the world you have the chops to make people trust you to run ethics.  I know you can do it and I'm rooting for you (whether you believe it or not) but until you prove it you are part of the problem not the solution.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Historic ethics reform? Or just more horseshit?

I love when the media reports that the ethics reform (whatever that means) will require more disclosure.

How do they know?  And shouldn't they actually analyze the language before they report on it?

I guess if the legislators can vote on it without understanding it the media can report in the same fashion.

We have now moved from legislation by press release to analysis by press release.

I like to think I have a pretty good handle on ethics and lobby legislation, at least my clients pay me a lot of money because they think I do.  And the way I keep clients happy is by never being wrong.  I know that sounds arrogant but it is basic customer service.  They pay a lot of money they have a right to expect me to be correct.

And for that reason I will not be providing any of them an analysis of the "ethics reform" until next week.  Why? Because I actually have to read the language, understand the language, think about the language and apply the language to real world situations.  AND THAT TAKES TIME.

One of the things I am going to do and I would recommend the media and the goo goos do as well (it's too late for the legislators and the governor never cared as long as he could say it was the strictest ethics laws since Moses passed the 10 commandments) is apply the new disclosure rules to the last 5 legislative outside income scandals and see if the new language would have made a difference.

My initial guess is no.  But I hope to have my Shelly analysis done today and posted before midnight after all an on time analysis is all that matters in this town,  but if I can't get it right the readers will have to wait because getting it right is far more important than any fictional deadline.

Of course if all else fails I'll just call my work historic, the most detailed and comprehensive ethics reform review ever prepared.  And I will expect the media to report it as such.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's time for the governor to admit . . . JCOPE is a failure

JCOPE is holding a public meeting today.

It may run longer than the normal uninformative 15 minutes.

Why is that?

Will they be discussing the most recent greatest in the world ethics reforms that are supposed to be enacted?  NOPE

Will they be discussing the their new role as the body to determine if the disclosure of a  public officials clients will be embarrassing? NOPE

Will they be discussing the enormous backlog of registrations and disclosure reports their inaction has allowed to accumulate? NOPE (and they have increased the pace of their work, they are up to 25 a day - a well trained monkey could do 30 a day)

Will they be discussing all the potential conflicts the existing commissioners have? NOPE

So why will the meeting run long?

Because they are welcoming and introducing a new commissioner and that always takes an extra 5 minutes.  Now if the new commissioner is a no show (always a 50/50 thing) the meeting can take it's normal uninformative 15 minutes.

And it's not like there aren't legitimate public issues to discuss, any of the above could take an hour to go thru but JJOKE chooses not to.  I guess the old adage better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt certainly applies to JCOPE.

JCOPE's decision to remain mute is intentional.  All those smart lawyers know they cannot defend their action and/or inaction so they say nothing.  But don't get mad when you provide a vacuume for others to label you.

And I'm going to do just that.


JCOPE is Governor Cuomo's failure. It was one of his first of many claimed ethics reforms and like the others it hasn't worked

JCOPE is Dan Horwitz'z failure.  He hasn't steered the ship away from the icebergs, hell he has not even rearranged the deck chairs.

JCOPE is Gary Lavine's failure.  He hasn't had the courage to share his intellect in public about JCOPE's mission and activity.

JCOPE is George Weissman's failure.  He hasn't aired JCOPE's dirty laundry publicly.

JCOPE is the good government's groups failure.  They continue to play the roll of Charlie Brown to Cuomo's Lucy with ethics as the football.

JCOPE is Carl Heastie's failure.  He hasn't appointed me a commissioner.

And that's not just my oversized arrogant ego talking, it is why JCOPE is a failure.  IT'S NOT THE LAWS OR NEW ETHICS REFORMS IT'S THE PEOPLE MAKING DECISIONS. 

It always was and it always will be.

If it wasn't people we could just do "government reform" and pass new laws to make government more responsive and effective.  Keep all the same corrupt elected officials and everything would be changed.

Changing topics I've figured out a way to fix the JCOPE backlog and a way for elected to keep earning outside income while they trade on their office and avoid embarrassing their clients.  It's all related and I will post it in my next blog.

It could prove to be a real moneymaker for me.

UPDATE  The new commissioner was a no show.  In fact 10 of the 13 commissioners failed to make it to Albany for the meeting.  If these commissioners are no shows is it any wonder the staff are no shows when it comes to doing the work.

And be careful what you ask for.  JJOKE did a 30 minute discussion of outside activity.  The only valuable information?  That the trial lawyers on JJOKE think they are smarter than the other lawyers on JJOKE.  And for the record I have a ficus plant that is smarter than all of them when it comes to ethics.

The JCOPE commissioners should all resign THEY ARE FAILURES  Don't believe me come to a meeting and watch them prove it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

When the governor met with the goo goos

It has been reported that the governor met with Blair Horner and Susan Lerner today to talk ethics reform.  Fortunately everybody at the capital is wired nowadays and we have the radio intercept equipment to eaves drop on the meeting.

Lerner: Hey Blair isn't this cool the governor is asking for our opinion on what should be in the ethics reform bill.

Horner: Easy big fella I've been here before.  These motherfuckers will tell us one thing and then do another.  All they want is our quotes for there press release that this is the strictest ethics reform in the nation.

Lerner: I know the last 3 times we did ethics reform they had my quote written for me before the bill language was even released.  Not this time though I'm going to insist that I actually see a bill before they use the quote they write for me.

Horner: Why isn't Dick Dadey here?   That's a bad sign it must mean he's already been rolled.

Lerner: And Barbara Bartolletti too that bitch was on Moreland and didn't do squat.

Horner: What did you want her to do? tell us what she knew? It's all confidential remember that.

David Alfonso: Thank you so much for coming in I wanted to share with you the quotes we've prepared for you to release in our press release on ethics reform.

Lerner: Not so fast I'm not making that mistake for the 4th time I need to see the bill language.

Alfonso: Well we don't actually have any language but I can assure you it will be the strictest ethics reform in North America.

Horner: What will it say? you know for an administration that preaches transparency you are as open as a nuns knees.

Alfonso:It will be the strictest ethics reform in the world.  But we can't tell you what it is because you may speak to reporters about it.

Horner:  Of course we will we are good government groups we have to be open with the public.  Transparent and honest no matter how many times we fuck up ethics reform.

Knock knock and the governor peeks his head into the room.

Cuomo: How is everything going?  Alfonso get off your knees you only have to bow and genuflect when we are alone.

Lerner: If at all possible we would like to see the bill language if it's not too much trouble.

Cuomo: Not a fucking chance but trust me it will be the strictest ethics reform in the known universe.

Horner/Lerner: that will be great this is a historic opportunity for ethics reform.

Cuomo to Alfonso: How dumb are these two? We do ethics reform every year.

OK great meeting guys go tell the media that you are fully behind the strictest ethics reform in the cosmos.

So what do the pillars of transparency do after the meeting?

They tell the press they can't talk about what was discussed.

Bobbleheads one and all

Bobbleheads discussing ethics reform

I read the story about the legislature being told to return the bobbleheads they received from the Alzheimers Association as a thankyou for passing some piece of legislation the Association had lobbied for and I started laughing.

Not about how absurd Albany has become when it comes to ethics but about how willing a participant the media has become in "ethics reform".

And I get how the media has to report on the great bobblehead scandal but how about just one reporter or columnist or editor slow down and think about the larger issues this puts in play.

Here is how my thought process went when I read the bobblehead story:

Why is it a violation?

There is a specific exemption in the lobby act for promotional items given to public officials if the item is marked with the givers logo etc.  It is well settled that a Yankee's lobbyist can give a public official a baseball cap with the Yankee's logo.  A Pepsi lobbyist can give a public official a commemorative bottle of Pepsi marked with the Pepsi logo, the exemption taken to the extreme would even allow for the presentation of more expensive items like crystal vases and a governors book as long as they are marked with the givers logo, marked not for resale and presented in a public fashion (just read JJOKE's guidelines on exempt gifts).

But even if it was a violation for the public official why is the penalty only that they give the bobblehead back?  If it's a violation somebody should be paying a penalty for it.  You don't tell the bank robber to just give the money back.  (Maybe this is the natural result of JJOKE's handling of the Ellenhorn/Boies private plane scandal). 

And if it's a violation shouldn't The Alzheimer's Association have to report the expense as a lobbying expense?

I looked to see if they did and you know what I found?


The Alzheimer's Association doesn't show up in the 2015 database of registered lobbyists.

How is that possible?  They are a big lobbying group they know the rules.  Granted I don't represent them (If I did they never would have had to be embarrassed the way they have) but still they must know to register and report.

The answer is simple.

JJOKE has not processed there filings.  It's 3 months into 2015 and JJOKE has not processed the vast majority of filings.  A competent agency (like the old lobby commission) would have been done processing the registrations by the end of January, but JJOKE is far from competent.

And this is where it gets scary.

With all this talk of "ethics reform" I'm hearing that JJOKE will be given more power and more funding.   It's bad enough the bobbleheads in charge of New York's government are trying to make us believe the latest bullshit will be the strictest ethics requirements in the known universe now you are going to give the clowns at JJOKE more power and more money?

That's like giving the governor another sweetheart book deal.  Fool me once shame on you fool me for the hundredth time and you can go fuck yourself.

Blair Horner and I have argued for a decade about the ethics issue of change the people or change the law.  It's gotten so repetitive we just use the old vaudeville habit of referring to the joke by number rather than tell the joke.  I say 17 Blair says 28.  But now I can prove substantively that I am right.

I have statistics.

JJOKE receives approximately 5000 to 6000 registrations for each biannual period.  In 2013-2014 they got 5624 to be precise.  The vast majority of registrations are filed in the first 2 weeks of the year.  We are now 3 months into the year and JCOPE has approved exactly 1311 registrations.  That's less than 1/4 of the registrations it receives.  At this rate by 2016 you will know who registered in 2015.  IT IS A TRAVESTY.

They are approving approximately 22 a day.  The old lobby commission would average over 50 an hour.  What is JCOPE doing?

Are they oblivious to the backlog?

Nope I told LT about it a while ago.

And I know the person in charge of approving registrations, Maria Guevarra, is aware because she has complained about how much work she has to do. 

What makes it worse is that Maria is sending emails to the lobbying community warning them to amend reports within 10 days of a change to the terms of a lobby agreement but you can't amend until Maria approves your registration and she is over 3 months late in doing so.

And until the registrations are approved the public can not see how much money is being spent because the bimonthly reports can not be approved and therefor the disclosures of money spent lobbying are not available for public review.

The governor and the legislature are negotiating new disclosure requirements while the existing law and it's disclosure requirements are not available for viewing because JJOKE sucks at being a disclosure agency.

Someone should be publicly humiliated for this and I suggest the entire JCOPE Board resign over it.

Why worry about the governor's girlfriends financial disclosure we will never see it if JCOPE is in charge.

Why worry about legislators outside income we will never see it if JCOPE is in charge.

Why worry about local lobbying JCOPE can't get the state lobbying disclosure correct.

Why worry about bobbleheads when they would do a better job of disclosure than JCOPE.

I'm serious the bobbleheads are more competent than JCOPE