Wednesday, May 28, 2014

JJOKE meeting gives ED LT a chance to shine

The public portion of the meeting lasted 4 minutes start to finish, and for that congratulations go out to executive director Latizia Tagliafierro.  LT took the lead when Dan "I hate this job" Horwitz asked who would explain the status of the various regulations on the agenda.  Those of us who follow JJOKE were dreading a long boring 45 minute convoluted explanation from Shari Calnero.  And Shari looked like she was ready to do just that as she shuffled her copious notes but LT stepped in and basically said everything is on track and we can vote on them next meeting.   2 minutes max.  Nice job LT.

But you really have to wonder why they bother having a public meeting at all.  The private closed door meeting they had before the 4 minute public meeting was ongoing for over 15 minutes and they did a 4 hour executive session followed by Horwitz's cryptic "we did some of this and we did some of that" wrap up speech.   By the way Dan why not tells us in detail what you did?  There is no reason for secrecy if you can announce that you did a substantial basis investigation report you can tell us the who why and when.

These guys and gals will never understand it's not the substance of what you do in secret it's the appearance.  Dress like a hooker and you should not be surprised if someone like ex governor Spitzer offers you cash.

And speaking of cash when will JJOKE announce who they retained to represent them in the US Attorney's investigation of who really controls the independent JJOKE?

News from inside JJOKE

Big JJOKE commission meeting today.

And while the agenda appears to be another boring, lawerly examination of how many different ways JJOKE can screw up their attempt to pass regulations I'm reliably informed by my web of inside sources and hidden listening devices that the real action will be during the executive session where . . .

They will be discussing hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent JJOKE as part of the ever expanding federal investigation into gubernatorial control of the state's various ethics agencies.

Please lord let Rob Cohen hit the mute button again so we can listen in.

I'd love to hear the various arguments for and against the criminal defense attorney the 2nd floor  ooops, Chairman Horwitz has selected.

Commissioners like Gary Lavine and Seymour Knox will be lobbying hard for their own attorneys paid for by the commission while Marvin Jacobs, Renee Roth and Gary Busey will insist on the selection of a firm with ties to the Speaker's office.

My guess is Weismann already has contacted his own lawyer and Cavullo and Rath are waiting for Skelos's office to tell them who to use.

And then you have the staff at JJOKE.  Everyone of them will be shocked when they have to talk to the US Attorney's Office, and everyone will do their best Sgt. Schultz impersonation "I know nothing".

Just a friendly reminder Gary, over six months ago I told you I no longer cared to speak with you and when you asked why I told you it was because I never wanted to have to testify in a criminal prosecution related to gubernatorial control over JJOKE.   Consider this my


Monday, May 19, 2014

David Boies, integrity, airplanes and why I must be the dumbest guy in the room

I just did a blog on Peter Moschetti, one of if not the best lawyers I've ever met and certainly one of the most ethical ethics commissioner's I've ever been exposed to.  The blog had to do with integrity and airplanes.

And it got me thinking about David Boies, airplanes, integrity and great lawyers.

Now I've never met David Boies but he did keep me waiting for 2 hours one Saturday for a conference call that never happened about airplane investigations and JJOKE.  I still have an unpaid invoice for $2000 outstanding for those 2 hours but after watching Mr. Boies performance surrounding his giving a free lift to David Ellenhorn, a state lawyer in litigation involving one of Mr. Boies clients, I know I'm not nearly smart enough to ever collect that invoice.

For almost 6 months I've been trying to figure out how David Boies could have stated that "I do not believe there was any misconduct on Mr. Ellenhorn's part in accepting the ride I offered". 

For almost 6 months I've been trying to figure out how neither David Boies nor David Ellenhorn have been charged with violating the Public Officers Law for offering and accepting an illegal gift.

For almost 6 months I've been trying to figure out how David Ellenhorn could have even been in Omaha deposing the head of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet, given that David Ellenhorn was a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway. 

For almost 6 months I've been trying to figure out how David Ellenhorn could have failed to disclose this fact on his financial disclosure report at the time.

For almost 6 months I've been trying to figure out how David Boies's former law partner Harlan Levy could have made all those phone calls to David Boies current partner Nick Gravante the weekend the plane trip first appeared in the media,  when Harlan Levy was suppose to be "walled off" from cases involving his former partners.

And after 6 months I've realized if I can't figure it out it has to be because I am wrong on the law regarding offering and accepting gifts from a disqualified source or David Boies is the greatest ethics lawyer ever.

Lets review the law first.  It's pretty straight forward.

JJOKE's predecessor commission stated as follows in Opinion 8-01:

"The Commission reaffirms this general rule that State officers and employees should not, directly or indirectly, solicit a gift of nominal value from a disqualified source, nor should a disqualified source, directly or indirectly, offer or give a gift of nominal value to a State officer or employee. 

            A “disqualified source” is an individual who, on his or her own behalf or on behalf of a non-governmental entity, or a non-governmental entity on its own behalf which:
(4)        is involved in litigation, adverse to the State, with the State agency with which the State officer or employee is employed or affiliated, and no final order has been issued;"
It seems you don't have to be the greatest lawyer of your generation to understand if you are involved in litigation with the state (David Boies was) you don't offer a free chartered jet trip worth thousands of dollars to opposing counsel (David Ellenhorn).  And if you are a state employee (David Ellenhorn was) you don't accept the offer and take the free trip on the private jet.  Yet they did and neither has been punished for it.  David Boies is still representing the party litigating with the State and David Ellenhorn is still the lead counsel on that case.
So if the law is as clear as it is why hasn't JJOKE done something about it?
Because David Boies is that good.
As far as a JJOKE investigation goes David Boies may just be bulletproof, the Teflon barrister when it comes to providing private jet trips to state employees.  
I had heard disturbing rumors about JJOKE and Boies and I had wondered why Boies acted like he had nothing to worry about when he was discussing the jet trip in the media.
Now after seeing Boies in action I have to wonder why Al Gore wasn't president.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Peter Moschetti integrity airplanes and gubenatorial control of ethics

Peter was confirmed today as the Senate's pick on the Gaming Commission.

For once they got it right although I have to wonder who vetted Peter.

I've known Pete for a long time.

We were classmates at Albany Law.  Pete was a serious student, boring but serious.

Pete was one of my commissioners at the old Lobby Commission.  Pete was a serious commissioner and above reproach.  If you don't believe me you should read his dissent to the commissions amended opinion on David Paterson's use of a lobbyist's plane.  It's opinion 60 and I have reproduced Pete's dissent below:

Commissioner Peter J. Moschetti, Jr.

The Commission's recent action in amending Commission Advisory Opinion No. 60 which it had unanimously approved less than six months ago necessitates this dissent. The Commission's majority wholly fails to articulate a reason for its unprecedented action. Why would the Commission revisit this request for an opinion when the requesting party did not request a modification and factually, absolutely nothing has changed between the original opinion and the amended opinion. If one were to accept the proffered explanation that the Commission desires its opinions to be consistent with that of the New York State Ethics Commission, then we must be prepared to revisit all of the Commission's Advisory Opinions regarding gifts so as to complete the journey to consistency. Having done so, will this Commission now aggregate the value of all gifts given by a lobbyist during a calendar year so as to be consistent with the New York State Ethics Commission's view that a public official may not accept gifts exceeding the $75 threshold annually as opposed to this Commission's former opinion that each gift would be valued independently.
More upsetting is the fact that the Commission's amendment of its previous opinion has absolutely no effect on the conclusion that an illegal gift was made. In the matter before the Commission, the lobbyist provided chartered airfare and was reimbursed through the payment of the highest published Coach fare. New York State Ethics Commission Opinion 97-3, now adopted by this Commission, would require the reimbursement by the public official of First Class fare. The end result of this Commission's unprecedented action of amending its previous unanimously approved opinion?...nothing, the action in question is still an illegal gift, either under the Commission's original Advisory Opinion No. 60 or its more recently amended Commission Advisory Opinion No. 60.
When will we ever see an ethics commissioner so willing to call out his fellow commissioners for their own intellectual corruption?  Pete was replaced on the commission shortly after this dissent.  I guess the senate staffer who vetted Pete never read the dissent.
This is not a guy they can control!!!!!  How awesome is that?
By the way full disclosure Pete, myself and a couple of our classmates still have lunch every couple of months . . . he hasn't changed since the time he wrote that dissent.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nostradamus ain't got nothing on me

Every now and then I check the data to see which previous blogs are getting the most interest from the readers.  When I did that this morning it's obvious that the musical series I did on Moreland and what would result from the appointment of the commission is getting the most looks.  And when I reread what I had written last fall I realized . . . I may be Nostradamus when it comes to ethics in NY.

Which got me thinking about some other predictions I have made on ethics.  Predictions I made to Gary Lavine, LT, Ravi, Pat Bulgaro and a bunch of other JJOKERS past and present.  A simple thank you would be nice.   As to all the predictions I have made to clients that have been spot on no thanks necessary that's what you pay me for.  For you reporters that call wanting to know what comes next . . . the ones I respect get my intel and your stories are thanks enough.  The ones I don't respect get nothing and the ones I don't even like a little get hung up on.

Realizing I have these prognosticator powers I have decided to start a new feature in the blog.  Every so often I'll list those ethics violations I think are occurring that JJOKE will never investigate.  We can see if my predictions come true.  I know when it comes to JJOKE NOT investigating it is a self fulfilling prophecy but will make for an interesting read.  And just maybe LT can be shamed or frightened into doing a good job.

So in addition to all the prior predictions (State Democratic Party lobby ads, Duffy's business relationship not being reported, Susan Lerners source of funding disclosure, Artists against Fracking non registration, etc etc, yada yada yada) Here's a couple more:

Larry Schwartz using state time and resources to respond to allegations about Sandra Lee's home improvements.

21st Century Consumers unregistered lobbying unregistered lobbying

Now to be fair those last 2 are based on reviewing the JJOKE database which is so far behind and backlogged as to be virtually useless, but that's for another blog.

Now let me go wayyyyy out on a limb and predict that JJOKE becomes even more secretive and paranoid as a result of the subpoenas Preet served on them.

Hey Gary remember when I used to tell you what was coming in the way of problems?   Good luck in the future.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

JJOKE not a target? Milgram's wishful thinking

It is with great interest and satisfaction that I have read the recent news articles related to the US Attorney for the Southern Districts interest in Albany corruption.

I chuckled when I read our Governor's comments in Crain that he could not be accused of controlling the Moreland Commission since it was his to control to begin with.

I chuckled not because I thought it was amusing that the most controlling force in New York government lost control (how did the Gov's staff let him make those comments?)  No I chuckled because I had predicted to several very smart and powerful people that you can't "trade" an investigatory body for legislation any more than you can use your official government position to threaten an investigation if you don't get the legislation you want.  And once I saw Preet Bharara had subpoenaed JJOKE records it became obvious to me that he is investigating who may be controlling decisions at JJOKE.  Decisions like who should be the next executive director to who should receive 15 day letters to when and if the commissioners should be made aware of complaints and have an opportunity to vote on if a substantial basis investigation should occur.

And the beauty here is JJOKE has already provided a road map of what they will do when properly motivated by the Governor.  Just look at the Lopez investigation.  It's all on line.

Now has JJOKE followed that model for Blair Horner's complaint about the State Democratic Party being an unregistered lobby?  Have they followed that model for Trump's complaint that the AG solicited his family for campaign donations WHILE investigating Mr. Trump? Have they followed that model for any of the complaints related to AG employee David Ellenhorn receiving free private jet rides on David Boies jet or Mr. Ellenhorns conflict of interest or his failure to timely file financial disclosure reports?   It's been over 45 days for all those complaints and if I was a JJOKE commissioner reading this blog I'd be asking staff why no vote has been taken and I'd ask that question before the US Attorney does.  OOOPS that train may have left the station already.

Now let me be clear I have no actual first hand knowledge of what JJOKE has done and I have no actual first hand knowledge of what the US Attorney is doing or why but I do have an opinion.

I think Mr. Bharara is investigating what influence the Governor's office has used to manipulate the various ethics agencies to follow his direction and why.

If I'm right I think a new day for ethics may be dawning and JJOKE is heading to the ethics cemetary to join the agency it replaced.

And in case you think I just came to this opinion you can read my public position here and here and here and thruout the last 2+ years on my blog.

And I think we all owe former JJOKE commissioner Ravi Batra a debt of gratitude for his willingness to publicly identify this problem at JJOKE and for having the courage to resign over it.