Thursday, January 31, 2013

The missing minutes


Several of our regular readers have contacted me to complain that the blog about the recent open mic screw-up at JJOKE left them unsatisfied.  They wanted more.  They wanted to hear what was said in the meeting.  And since we pride ourselves on our ability to get to the truth we have spared no expense to obtain a transcript of what occurred.

It took quite a few resources and the use of highly specialized James Bond type spy equipment along with in depth interviews of those in the room and downloading the listening device that we have had in John Milgrams cigarette for the last year to obtain the following transcript.

Not since the missing 18 minutes of the Nixon tapes has so explosive a recording been published


Biben - CLICK unintelligible garble Rob make sure you don’t put your book down on the mute button

Unknown male _ Okay Miss Biben. . I’m not an idiot I know not to turn on the microphone this is a super secret executive session after all

Biben – Okay where were we? 

Weissman – You were explaining why

Biben – Shut up when I want the opinion of a legislative appointee I’ll be sure to send you a memo  And no you are not allowed to see your mail, sworn complaints or opinion requests unless I let you. Do you understand?

All Legislative appointees – Yes Mamm

Biben – As I was saying we have spent a lot of our valuable time thoroughly examining how we can charge what’s his name?

DiFiore – DiNapoli?

Biben – No the other one

DiIorio – Schneiderman?

Biben – No no the other one the 2nd floor told us they needed to investigate

Horowitz – Silver

Biben – Right Silver anyway so we’ve spent the last six months trying to use that case against the Assemblyman that couldn’t keep it in his pants

DiFiore – Lopez

Biben – Really? Does it matter what his name is Janet?  Don’t you have a parking meter that needs quarters?  I didn’t see Grandeau in the audience but that fat **** is probably lurking about somewhere.  That’s all we need to end up on his blog for you getting another ticket.

Unknown male – Excuse me Miss Biben but what are these buttons on this box for? They have red lights next to them and a sign that says do not press unless you are an idiot.

Biben – I don’t want to admit that I have no idea what all this technology is so Milgram explain to everyone what these buttons are for

Milgram – off the record I don’t know I think it has to do with the microphones but as long as no one acts like an idiot and plays with the buttons we should be fine what’s the worst that could happen?  This is a secret meeting no one will ever know what happens in here.

Biben – Thank you John for that thoughtful and thorough analysis of the issue

Round of applause

Biben – I didn’t see you legislative appointees genuflecting do we need to go over how things work around here again?  Do you want to read in the New York Post how corrupt you are?  All I need to do is push this button and the whole world can hear how Commissioner Yarasomething or other had a conflict of interest in the Silver case and refused to recuse.

Unknown Commissioner – Actually I believe she said that she thought that Judge Yates was an honorable man

Biben – But that doesn’t fit with our case that Silver violated the Public something or other law.  I’m positive the 2nd floor said this Yates guy has to be corrupt right Monica?

Stamm – whisper whisper

Biben – I forgot that Schechtman represents Yates and he’s our guy right?

Stamm – whisper whisper

Biben – Yes yes quite right if the commissioner doesn’t  want to recuse she should keep quiet the less said the better


DiFiore – Point well taken or point taken

Biben – Okay Lets vote to find that Silver did something wrong so we can leak the story to the press.  I know the six executive appointees vote yes.  Renzi? You are a yes right or do I have to have the 2nd floor threaten your wife’s job again?

Renzi – unintelligible mumble

Biben – Good that’s seven in favor how about you the new girl I don’t know your name you replaced that pain in the ass Batra you vote yes


Biben – Okay eight in favor that’s enough the vote carries

Jacobs – I don’t want to impose but I think the law says you need three legislatively appointed democrats to vote in favor to move ahead.

Biben – excuse me the law? The law? I am the law around here

Jacobs – Well the truth is

Biben – The truth? YOU CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH.  The truth is the 2nd floor wants this and that’s all anyone in New York needs to know.

KNOCK KNOCK whisper rustling sound of footsteps

DiFiore – What John?  Speak up stop making those ridiculous hand signals. . What? You want me to stop talking?  Why?  For Christ’s sake why are you picking up Rob’s books?  Leave those buttons alone . . .


There you have it a complete transcript of what happened when the mics were left on.

As always make your own judgments of the accuracy of any material on the blog.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013



“The less said the better.”

That was the message that came through the live feed from the top secret JJOKE executive session yesterday. One commissioner (and I hope he has the integrity to step forward before he is outed) said in reference to recusals: “The less said the better.”

And that got me thinking: Does JJOKE need John Milgram anymore? Can’t they just answer every press inquiry with this comment: “The less said the better”?

For example, who was responsible for turning on the microphone during the top secret executive session? “The less said the better”

Was it done on purpose by one of the 2nd floors toadies to embarrass Speaker Silver and his appointee? “The less said the better”

Did it happen because one of the lawyers at the table who has a history of walking into closets (Fess up, Rob Cohen) put a book down on the mute button? Twice? “The less said the better”

Are DiFiore and Biben scapegoating the IT Department for not idiot proofing the mute button? “The less said the better”

Wow! This is working so well I’m going to try some other areas of interest.

Is Biben preventing the commissioner’s access to their own mail? “The less said the better.”

Can Biben block an investigation into the executive branch by not telling the commissioners of a complaint? “The less said the better”

Has Biben leaked information about investigations to the governor’s office? “The less said the better”

Did the commission start investigations into Senator Libous and Speaker Silver at the behest of the 2nd floor? “The less said the better”

I’m on a roll. Why stop?

Did Biben and other staff members violate the Public Officers Law by refusing to work from the Albany office in February, March and April? “The less said the better”

Did JJOKE spend a fortune that could have been used on enforcement activities to open a NYC office so Biben didn’t have to move upstate to run JJOKE? “The less said the better”

Did JJOKE waste the last 6 months trying to use its power to leverage Silver, DiNapoli and Schneiderman in the Lopez investigation? “The less said the better”

Did the legislative appointees block Biben’s attempt to manufacture violations against Silver, DiNapoli and Schneiderman in the Lopez investigation? “The less said the better”

Did Biben delay disclosure of source of funding data to give the information to the 2nd floor before the public? “The less said the better”

Is the Governor embarrassed by the joke his ethics reform has become? “The less said the better”

Can the media and/or the good government groups point to anything positive that has come out of JJOKE in the past year?

Man, the silence sure is deafening

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time for Ethics Control

The most important thing an integrity agency should do is draw a clear line on right and wrong.

Its main job is to tell the rest of the world – “Here’s the line. Don’t cross it.”

What did JJOKE do today? When it came to toeing the line in its own actions, JJOKE acted as if there was no line at all.

That’s the inescapable conclusion from listening to today’s accidentally broadcast executive session  . It was five minutes or so of candid commentary that revealed that the commissioners were quite aware that one of them should have recused herself from an ongoing case, but had not done so, and didn’t intend to do so.

The commissioners’ collective response was to simply look the other way at this conflict of interest. Worse, one commission member actually had the temerity to say: “The less said on this matter, the better.”

Does anybody need any more evidence that this panel is bankrupt, that it’s a travesty of ethics, that it’s JJOKE instead of JCOPE?

(BTW, recusal rules aren’t complicated. If you have a conflict or an appearance of conflict, you simply don’t participate in the proceeding. It’s a very clear line.)

JCOPE was supposed to clean up things after Herb Teitelbaum and John Feerick ran ethics into the ground. Remember ? Remember? The State Inspector General said that Teitelbaum and Co. leaked information on an ongoing probe to the Governor in an attempt to create a scapegoat. Then, once they were exposed, Teitelbaum and Co. tried to make out that they were being tough on everyone in the administration. But it was a charade. Paterson called for their resignations, and they all refused.

Of course, Teitelbaum was later run out of town, but the rest of them covered their asses. Then came JCOPE and Biben and Co. They were supposed to be beyond reproach. But they’ve done nothing of substance over the last year and today revealed just how crooked this game is.
Now that I've stopped laughing long enough to give todays events some sober thought the only question I have is when will The Governor and the Legislative Leaders realize the people at JCOPE, staff and commissioners, need to be replaced?
Gun control? we need ethics control.

JJOKE meeting quotes translated

Since Ravi left JJOKE meetings are known for what doesn't happen, at least in public session, but today Ellen Biben showed she can use decepetive language with the best of Albany's politicians.

For example when asked by a commissioner about the recent filings and source of funding disclosure she replied that the filings have been received and will be processed and placed online and that it "will happen shortly"   anyone want to bet on what shortly means?   It means as soon as Biben and her handlers have had a chance to review the data.  New York City is available already why isn't New York State?

Next came a question from Commissioner weisman about the reportable business relationships.  Biben responded that the guidelines were the result of "a very thoughtful process".  Which when translated means staff thought about it and decided what the commissioners should know.

When will the commissioners wake up and realize Biben is treating them like mushrooms?

Now I have a new reason for not going to JJOKE meetings, while watching the webcast I got to listen to part of the executive session.  Made my day I guess all that eavesdropping equipment I got for christmas has come in handy.  Keep  streaming the executive sessions and I may never leave my office.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Rumblings at JJOKE

Rumblings at JJOKE
It appears some of the JJOKE commissioners are concerned about JJOKE staff censoring their mail.
Hard to believe but rumour has it JJOKE commissioners are only allowed to see their own mail if JJOKE staffers allow them to.
I'd heard this rumour for awhile but could not believe it could possibly be true.  But I am now hearing that both republican and democratic legaslative appointees are growing concerned that Ellen Biben (and the 2nd floor) are deciding what if any material delivered to the JJOKE commissioners they will be allowed to review.
By statute JJOKE commissioners have to vote within 45 days after receiving sworn complaints but Biben (and the 2nd floor) are ignoring the statute and only bringing those matters they choose to the commissioner's attention (at least to the attention of the legislatively appointed commissioners).  Ravi Batra made this allegation this summer before resigning and I'm hearing others on the commission are upset about it as well.
Can you imagine a system where the staff forces the commissioners to vote on a complaint about a legislative leader but can block the commissioners from even being aware of a complaint filed against the executive branch?  This is New york so not only is that scenario believable it's probably likely.
It's gotten so bad that I've resorted to emailing certain commissioners directly to insure they have documents (see my latest email below)
Hopefully some of these commissioners will realize that they are being treated in such a way as to compromise their reason for existence.  There is no checks and balance when the inmates run the asylum.


Subject: opinion request

Date: Jan 28, 2013 11:27 AM



I have attached a recent request for an opinion that I hand delivered to the commission leaving copies for each of you. It has come to my attention that staff at JCOPE may not be delivering items such as the opinion request to all commissioners so I have taken the liberty of obtaining your emails to insure that you receive the document unedited and in a timely fashion. If you do not wish to receive the delivery of future documents in this fashion just let me know and I will be happy to leave delivery or the lack thereof in the hands of JCOPE staff. For those of you that do not read my blog I have also included a recent piece that discusses the issue of staff's proper role.

David Grandeau

Friday, January 25, 2013

New York City Lobby Commission puts JJOKE to shame

New York City Lobby Commission puts JJOKE to shame

I’d never have believed I’d be saying this but the New York City Lobby Commission is the top lobby disclosure entity in New York State.

It’s not even close.  Ellen “eBay” Biben and Monica “Marcel Marceau” Stamm need to get out of the Beaver Street office and take a stroll or get in a cab and submit an expense report or stop on the way upstate to visit the Albany or Buffalo offices and visit the New York City Clerk’s Lobbying Bureau and take a lesson from Jaime Lynn Eckls and Walter Carcione on how to run a disclosure agency.

For example the city lobby commission has already sent out notices to lobbyists and clients regarding discrepancies in amounts reported on client annual reports and lobbyist’s reports. Now is that a pain in the ass? Sure it means a lot of phone calls and follow-up BUT it also means that every single annual report and lobbyist report are in the online system and are being reviewed.  That’s within 2 weeks of the filing dates.

Compare that to JJOKE.  It will be months before that data is input into the system and reviewed.  JJOKE may send its discrepancy letters out late this summer or this fall . . . maybe.  It depends how long the Cuomo crowd wants to bogart the data. 

What’s the difference between JJOKE and the city lobby commission?

The city lobby commission staffers are not partisan political hacks with an overblown sense of self importance JJOKE’s are.

The city lobby commission staffers understand what their mission is JJOKE’s never have.

The city lobby commission staffers have realized that they don’t have all the answers and are willing to listen to the lobby community JJOKE thinks they only answer to God whom they’ve been told only listens to the 2nd floor.

I’ll say it again . . . I’d never have believed I’d be saying this but the New York City Lobby Commission is the top lobby disclosure entity in New York State.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Marvin Jacob


Has it started to dawn on you Marvin that the commissioners at JJOKE, especially the legislative appointees, are always playing catch-up to the staff?

Was Ravi right? Do certain commissioners get less information than others?

As you are preparing for next Tuesdays meeting Marvin ask yourself if you have all the data you need or have asked for?

Is your briefing book as complete as you were used to when you were in government? As thorough as you would have expected one of your associates to have prepared for you?

Have you even gotten your briefing book yet?

Why not? Marvin why do they always wait to the last minute?

Do you have an agenda yet?

Has any staff member volunteered to meet with you and discuss issues?

They don’t even have to travel Marvin you can meet in the NYC office on Beaver Street and go over all those complex issues the commission deals with.

Trust me Marvin certain commissioners have already had those meetings and choreographed how the meeting Tuesday will go.

And ordinarily I’d let you flounder in that sea of ethics, my initial feel about you was that you were a typical pompous arrogant “smart” New York City lawyer (and no that is not code for Jewish Marvin as I am a member of the tribe myself) it means a lawyer who is so certain that they are the smartest guy in the room that many times they don’t even realize they are in the wrong room.  I mean lawyers like Herb Teitelbaum, Barry Ginsberg, Ellen Biben, Michael Cherkasky, Dan Horowitz (maybe it is code for Jewish lawyers. . . I’ve got to think about that some more) and Andy Celli (whew I’m not an anti Semite after all).  But you’ve shown a willingness to question Biben’s absolute control over JJOKE, following in Ravi’s footsteps so I have hope for you and will try to help if you let me, at a minimum when you read this it may provoke you to act.

So here is my advice Marvin ask Ellen and you fellow commissioners if all the commissioners have received the sworn complaints filed with JJOKE.  And I’m not just talking about the one you saw me serve on the Chairwomen. . Have you seen it? I left 14 copies addressed to the commissioners.  I’m talking about the other sworn complaints that have been filed for example the one related to the recent senate race and the activity of those in favor of “campaign finance reform”.  Have you seen the opinion requests related to source of funding?

On the subject of source of funding do you know why the commission required it to be filed on paper forms when you have a state of the art online system?  Read my previous blogs if you want the answer.

If the answer is no ask Biben why?  You have an obligation under the statute to act on these issues not staff but the commissioners as a body.  And to act you need information.

The best advice I give new commissioners, and I have been asked for that advice by many, even some of your fellow commissioners sitting at the table with you, is that staff only has the power you give them.  And as a former head of an ethics agency if you let them they can control the debate by what and when they provide you with information.

Right now Marvin, Biben and her puppeteers are in complete control of JJOKE and you and your fellow legislative appointed commissioners look foolish.  Ask yourself Marvin are Dan Horowitz and Uncle Vinnie really that much smarter than you?

Feel free to call me Marvin you will not be the first commissioner to discuss things with me and you won’t be the last.  Just ask around the table.

Friday, January 18, 2013




 A familiar refrain from state pols with too much time on their hands.  Everyone in Albany loves to gossip and I’m not above it myself.

In fact I pick up a lot of gossip.  A very wise man (who is doing some unwise things now that he is a JJOKE commissioner) told me when I started my business that I should never miss a chance to chat with people in the game, never turn down the opportunity to have a cup of coffee and to always pick up the phone because you never know what piece of information you might obtain.  That man was right and I’ve followed his advice and normally I filter the information sift the truth from the fiction and file away the good stuff until I need or can use it.

Usually I try to only publish that which I know is true or believe to be true.  If I hear something I can’t verify I keep it to myself or if I tell someone I preface it by saying I’ve been told yada yada yada.

BUT since I can’t review the source of funding disclosures today (and probably won’t be able to without a foil for 6 months) and because I’ve grown bored with foiling various groups source of funding disclosures (that should keep Milgram busy for awhile, maybe even cut down on the smoke from the chimney), I’m going to play the what do you see what do you hear game that is so popular with the in crowd.

So I’ve heard that:

The Silver and Libous cases have been put on hold by JJOKE staff.

The governor has been told by sources close to JJOKE that Silver and Libous have nothing to worry about.

When it comes to Lopez JJOKE isn’t done but isn’t doing anything either.
That Lopez is bragging that JJOKE has nothing on him.
That JJOKE commissioners have not been kept informed of the status of the Lopez investigation in the last 3 months.

That a vote was held on the Silver case and the Assembly democratic appointees blocked it.

That JJOKE employee John Milgram is telling the media “off the record” that no vote was taken.

That Milgram may be facing his own ethics investigation for leaking the false information that no vote was taken.

That the 2nd floor is unhappy with Milgram again.

That the reason for Milgram’s original fall from grace from his 2nd floor gig involved another employee who had to be transferred.

That legislative appointees at JJOKE have been told far less about JJOKE operations than executive appointees.

That Ellen “eBay” Biben has told the commissioners that they can only vote on issues that she presents them including complaints received.

That Former Serph’s angel . . . oops I can’t tell that one I promised another of Serph’s angels I’d leave Serph’s angels alone.

That the blog is read religiously by Milgram, Biben et al and about a third of the commissioners (that one is not rumor it’s fact.  I know I know.)

That a former Spitzer spox is now talking daily with the governor.

That the 2nd floor has begun to think of an exit strategy for Ellen “eBay” Biben and her gang.

That several JJOKE commissioners are considering resignations.

That the legislature is upset with JJOKE’s rules regarding the reporting of business relationships

That the JJOKE legislative appointees are talking amongst themselves about a course of action.

That JJOKE executive appointees don’t care what the JJOKE legislative appointees want.

That JJOKE staff doesn’t care what any of the JJOKE commissioners other than Horowitz and DiFiore have to say.

That changes to the ethics reform of 2011 are in store for 2013.

So let me know what do YOU see? What do YOU hear?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JJOKE Hides Source of Funding data

JJOKE Hides Source of Funding data


January 16, 2013, one day after the vaunted source of funding disclosures were required to be filed by the states numerous well funded and sometimes shadowy advocacy groups.


Everyone had to file their client semiannual report by the 15th.


If they met the $50k/ 3% threshold set in statute they had to report to JJOKE the source of their funding.


JJOKE has known of the requirement for the entire year of their existence.


Ellen “eBay” Biben has known of the requirement for her entire tenure heading the JOKE.


There have been numerous hearings held by the JOKE on the subject.


The public has had a chance to comment on the issue.


Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


Revised Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


JOKE commissioners have commented at the meetings and inquired about the issue (some intelligent and some not).


Emergency Regulations have been drafted and debated at JOKE meetings.


Emergency Regulations have been passed at JOKE meetings.


JJOKE held an educational meeting for the lobbying community (JJOKE’s education coordinator missed it as she was sick . . . again) where JOKE lawyers explained the process for source of funding disclosure.


The JOKE website has on its front page instructions about the source of funding regulations.


The JOKE website has FAQs about source of funding (they are inaccurate and were never approved by the commissioners but they are there)


So as I look at a clean blanket of snow in Albany this am I think how wonderful it will be to go to the JOKE website from the comfort of my office computer and find out who provided the funding for . . . take your pick of controversial issues.


But NOOOOOOO that information is not available to the public.


How is this possible you ask?


Was Ravi Batra successful in his lawsuit against the JOKE?  Nope he never brought one


Did some association get a TRO on the grounds that the regulations were arbitrary and capricious?  Nope I’m not aware of anyone putting up a fight about the statute or the regulations.


Did every client simply ignore the law?  No in fact from what I saw at the JOKE offices this week it’s the exact opposite there are boxes and boxes of paper client semiannual forms that have been filed with source of funding disclosure.


So who is responsible for the fact that the public can’t access this data?


Well as always it’s a self inflicted wound.


JJOKE leadership didn’t consider the why and the how of source of funding disclosure.


Why did this requirement come about?


I think it’s obvious that the governor and the legislature intended the information related to groups source of funding to be disclosed to the public, in short to promote transparency.  But don’t take my word for it ask the stars of ethics reform what they think:


“What we need to do here is maximize disclosure” Ellen Biben


“JCOPE should generally seek to promote transparency of those who fund lobbying activity” Dick Dadey Citizens Union


“The public has an interest in the disclosure of all major entities that may be involved in a layered organizational structure. Common Cause/NY urges the Commission to draft rules which will provide information regarding the original source of funding”.  Susan Lerner Common Cause


“we believe that they play a very important role in informing the public” Barbara Bartoletti League of Women Voters


“provide for unprecedented disclosure in an area where no such disclosure has been required before.” John Milgram


So the why is clear let’s turn to the how?


They had a year to prepare; the JOKE has an electronic filing system so they must have added a data line for the source of funding disclosure right?


Electronic filing would have allowed for real time disclosure in a format that would allow the public a searchable database, so why can’t you see these disclosures today?


Because JJOKE required clients who wanted to list their source of funding to file on paper pdf forms.




That’s right in 2013 clients were using pen and paper to report these disclosures maybe JJOKE should have required quill and ink or rock carvings.


What’s the end result  it will be months and months before commission staff get done with the data input and that’s if everyone including the lawyers sit at a computer amid stacks of forms inputting the data.


On my first day at the old lobby commission I wandered around the office and saw a small cubbyhole with paper forms stacked to the ceiling and an attractive young women sitting in front of an old desktop computer pecking away.  I asked her what she was doing and I was told she was inputting forms she did it 7 hours a day 5 days a week 50 weeks a year.


She was way too smart to waste time with data input.


When they finally abolished my agency she was in charge of an IT staff and a state of the art electronic filing system that allowed New York’s lobbyists to file online and made those filings available in real time.


She is still in charge of the IT department at the JOKE but I’m betting she remembers those stacks of paper too.


So who is to blame for JJOKE returning to the dark ages?


Comeon Mr. Dadey, Ms. Lerner, Ms. Bartoletti tell us how that source of funding disclosure is working out.


Ellen care to take responsibility for the JOKE?


How about you Milgram?  Oh that’s right your busy fulfilling that FOIL request I made this morning for the source of funding disclosures.


And for my friends in the media if you can pry yourself away from the debate about how much safer we are because I can’t buy a semi auto with a bayonet mount AND a grenade launcher ask JJOKE who funded the NRA or who funded the anti fracking group Artists against Fracking or who funded the campaign finance reform group New York Leadership for Accountable Government.  Because you don’t know and they will not tell you without a FOIL request and a long wait.


And the JJOKE commissioners that have any self respect and intelligence, Pat Bulgaro, George Weissman, Mitra Hormozi, Ellen Yaroshefsky, Gary Lavine, Marvin Jacob should immediately get on the phone to Biben and ask why.

And if you do not believe the answer think about this  while we all wait for the data  Ellen has it and much like the investigations at JJOKE if Ellen has it its a safe bet that Linda Lacewell has it and if Linda Lace well has  ityou can be sure Larry Schwartz has it which means you might not know who is funding those groups critical of the governor but he does.

Maybe Ellen "eBay" Biben is not incompetent afterall.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Campaign Finance Reform is a done deal

Wow that's a relief

I was worried that this important issue would end up as the Ethics Reform of the last couple of years

You know what I mean

A governor announces that we need "fill in the blank" type reform

The legislature says it is a priority that they will focus on

The good government types like Susan Lerner and/or the Brennen Center lend thier names and quotes and take credit for this important "fill in the blank" type reform

And everyone can feel better because this "fill in the blank" type reform has been accomplished

Don't think it happens that way? ask any of the above how well ethics reform has worked out

Ask Susan Lerner how many lobbyists have disclosed their business relationships with public officials

Ask Dick Dadey how many lobby clients have disclosed the source of their funding

Ask Ellen "ebay" Biben how much of a difference JJOKE has made to ethics enforcement in Albany (why do I call her "ebay" because the governor can find anything he wants on JJOKE)

Better yet ask Vito Lopez or Tom Libous or Sheldon Silver how well ethics reform has worked

Or ask Ravi Batra

I'm sure one year from now I can write the same blog for campaign finance reform just change some names

What this really has become is reform masturbation the pleasure given equals the pleasure recieved and government keeps jerking us off

Now where did I leave that ethics porn?