Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cuomo’s Sandy Berger Problem

Back in 2006, a senior Clinton administration official went to the National Archives. This official proceeded to rip pages out of certain classified reports and stuff them down his pants. He did this on several occasions and was ultimately caught and convicted of a misdemeanor charge.

The official, Sandy Berger, acknowledged that he was doing this on behalf of the President, a fact that was spelled out in detail in a subsequent Congressional report.

The question now is whether the Cuomo administration has a Sandy Berger or two in its midst? Why, after all, were Linda Lacewell and Josh Vlasto spending hours in the State Archives and removing documents from public view?

Now the parallels here aren’t exact. Berger was actually destroying government records, whereas the Cuomo minions apparently were trying to keep them from public view. But the core conduct is the same: Government officials are trying to hide something.

Some explanation is in order here: Supposedly the Times Union stumbled over a memo written by Lacewell a few days after the original Troopergate report came out in July of 2007. The Lacewell memo reportedly cites things that were left out of the AG’s report – including some tidbits that might have changed the way people looked at Joe Bruno. Remember that Cuomo’s report gave Bruno a pass for his use of the state airplane and slammed the Spitzer people for releasing travel information.

The question now is will Governor Cuomo take a page from President Clinton’s playbook and sacrifice the offending minions to avert a potential Watergate type scandal or will he tough it out and hope that the documents removed never surface and if they do they are not damning?

And that calculation is wholly dependent on what documents Ms. Lovelace and Mr. Vlasto removed from the archives.

Now this isn’t my fight, I’ve got no horse in this race other than the fact that I truly believe Andrew Cuomo is the finest New York political leader I have ever been witness to.  And it is with that thought in mind and the fervent hope, as I have said in the past, that he does not get tripped up by an ethics scandal that I offer the following unsolicited advice.

If it’s just a bunch of schedules and memos about web traffic, tough it out.  It will just be chalked up as more Cuomo control over information stories, with a sidebar about how the Times Union and New York Times are making a mountain out of a molehill.

But if there is a memo detailing the fact that the original Troopergate report (written by Biben and Lacewell) was tailored to exonerate Bruno’s use of the state helicopter and focus attention on Spitzer’s spying by omitting key facts about Bruno’s actual improper use of those state helicopters then Governor Cuomo should act swiftly to fire both Lacewell and Biben.

Now of course if we had a real ethics panel in place they could do a thorough investigation of this matter.

But there’s no way Ellen Biben is going to touch this one. She’d be investigating herself and her former partner Lacewell. Fat chance.

This is yet another example of what a do-nothing joke JJOKE has become. It’s also further evidence of why Biben is wrong for the job.

As an aside I always wondered why John Milgram had then AG Cuomo call me in August of 2007 to try to get me to retract the statements I made in this story

Could it be related to that mystery memo that Jim Odato has?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ravi can't help himself

Ravi responds to everyone but me

Read it here

Ordinarily I would be upset that Ravi had the time to answer the Times Union before he answered my questions but I'm laughing too hard to get upset.

Unless I'm mistaken if you translate Ravi speak into english it basically says and I'm paraphrasing

Hey Ellen Biben go f*** yourself.


Another weekend another ethical glitch at JCOPE.

Last weekend it was the computer filing system that experienced a “glitch”.  BTW it wasn’t a glitch it was pure managerial incompetence.  If you run out of disk space the weekend before a filing deadline someone or someone’s didn’t do their job.  If it takes upper management a full day to realize it they are asleep at the switch or out of touch with their customers.

This weekend the ethical “glitch” is wholly owned by the head of JJOKE, Ellen Biben.  Reacting to an editorial in the Times Union, Ms. Biben authored a letter to the editor titled “No conflict at ethics group”.  I think it’s great that Ms. Biben is sharing with the common folk her view of “Ravigate”.  Finally we get to see what the head of JJOKE thinks.

Not surprisingly she comes to the defense of her chairwoman, while at the same time giving Ravi a mini slap.  The long and the short of it is that the head of New York’s ethics agency thinks Ravi overreacted and the chairwoman reacted appropriately.

Taken to its logical extreme Biben believes a commissioner could work for or have as clients lobbyists as long as they recuse themselves “when appropriate”.  She may even be technically correct under the Act, but the problem arises when they don’t recuse.  For example, DiFiore presided over the hearing on source of funding.  If the District Attorneys Association should be registered lobbyists I’m sure it would have been “appropriate” for DiFiore to recuse.  She didn’t.

Ms. Biben assures us that JJOKE will continue to hold ITSELF to the highest ethical standards.  Whew, I feel better now, it sounds as if Lloyd Constantine and the Spitzer crowd are back in office.

Putting aside that bit of arrogance for the moment, and trust me I will return to it, Ms. Biben also shows us her command of the Lobby Act when she states that the chairwoman, as a sitting District Attorney, would be exempt from the definition of a lobbyist when acting as a “public official discharging her official duties”.  Biben happens to be correct except that the exemption does not relieve the District Attorneys Association itself from the registration requirements of the Act if they or their members and/or officers lobby and exceed the threshold.

And therein lays this weekend’s glitch.  Don’t worry about the chairwomen resigning from this organization or other organizations that she and/or other commissioners are members of, focus on the fact that JJOKE and Biben should be investigating if the District Attorneys Association should be registered as a lobbyist!!!!!   That’s the fundamental fact that Biben et al are ignoring. And have been ignoring since DiFiore got appointed to JJOKE.

Now back to that scrutiny that Biben seems to be encouraging.  How about explaining what you have been up to since you where appointed over 4 months ago, or what the commission has been doing for the last 6 months that it has been in existence.

I listed over 30 questions for Ravi, why don’t you hold a press conference the next time you are in Albany and answer some of them, or better yet let the media have 30 minutes of your time at the next secret commission meeting to ask you whatever they want.

The questions could range from why you fired longtime lobby commissioner staffers to where you operated from before you opened the new expensive New York City command center.  Maybe you can even go back in time and explain if you spoke to the governor’s office about the Libous investigation or who leaked the fact that there is a Libous investigation or go back further and explain your role in troopergate.  Is it possible you knew more about what really happened with Bruno’s state plane trips than the AG’s report stated?  I wonder what was in those papers Lacewell removed from the archives.

Having posed those questions I want to congratulate Ms. Biben for sharing her thoughts on the Times Union editorial.  Keep up the transparency the more you share the more we know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ravi Batra vs John Milgram

Sources inside JJOKE tell us that a mini civil war is breaking out between the ever quotable Ravi Batra and the ever smokeable John Milgram.

The subject?

The surprisingly good press Ravi has garnered for his alleged resignation from the New York State Trial Lawyers.

Which of course has resulted in not surprising bad press for JJOKE Chairwomen Janet DiFiore and the JJOKE in general.

Lobbying in this establishment? I'm shocked!

Word is from inside the JOKE that Milgram is trying to muzzle Ravi.  Protect his turf and let the other commissioners know that they speak at their peril.

The powers that be want one voice and one message and that's John "smokestack" Milgram.

Ravi on the other hand actually believes he has a first amendment right to say whatever he wants.

You gotta love that amendment.

I'm rooting for Ravi.  But I'm betting on Milgram.

Say what you want about Milgram, and I have, but JJOKE has not said anything of substance for six months.

They've been silent about:

secret meetings,
the chairpersons parking tickets,
the vote for Biben,
where Biben was for the first trhree months,
where the NYC office is and why they have one,
The Libous investigation,
why they fired old lobby commission staffers,
the need for a chief economist,
source of funding rules,
business relationship rules,
Uncle Vinny's hiring practices,
what happened with the filing system this weekend,
the list goes on and on

So if Milgram's job is to keep a lid on disclosure he is a master, you have to wonder why someone this talented has worked his way off the second floor and into JJOKE.

But Ravi has a talent too.

It should make for a good fight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Milgram by any other name is still an A-Hole

If Ravi or anyone else has any doubt that John Milgram is an a-hole just read this email exchange I have been having with the human smokestack a/k/a JJOKE PIO Johm Milgram.  Now remember this started when I asked Milgram for the financial disclosure reports of JJOKE commissioners and employees required to file those reports.  Milgram told me at a commission meeting that I needed to specify which employees.  I asked him for a list of employees and he told me to make a document request, which I did.    After waiting a reasonable amount of time and not receiving the list I started requesting reports for those employees that I knew by name and this is what happened:

"Dear Mr. Grandeau,

In response to your July 6 records request identifying financial disclosure statements for certain Commission staff members, and pursuant to Executive Law §94(19)(a) and the Commissions guidelines for accessing publicly available records at, copies of the documents you requested will be available for you at the Commission's reception desk at start of business Monday, July 16, upon receipt of a check made out to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for $5.75 (23 pages at $0.25 per page).

Mr. Milgram
Am I to understand from your response that Ms. Clemente's financial disclosure report is 63 pages? As the commission waives copying fees for the first 40 pages I would be happy to pay for the 23 additional pages. If however Ms. Clemente's report is less than 40 pages I would request an explanation for the commission's change in policy regarding copy fees.
If the response is in reference to one of the other 4 seperate request I made on July 6 please so identify which request you are responding to.
If you are responding to all 5 seperate requests I made on July 6 as one request you are mistaken and I would ask that they be treated seperately and provided seperately.
David Grandeau

Mr. Grandeau,

Your public document request submissions of July 6 are considered part of one public document request submitted on your behalf and indeed appropriately and reasonably describe specific documents you were seeking in a broader request of May 16. As per the Commission's guidelines for accessing publicly available records at, copies of documents requested are assessed a fee of $0.25 per page, with no fee assessed for the first 40 pages. The 23 pages are in addition to the 190 pages already provided to you as part of the same request, and for which you paid $37.50 in copying fees ($0.25 per page for 150 pages). Copies of the additional 23 pages of documents you requested (financial disclosure statements of five specific Commission staff members) are available for you upon receipt of a check made out to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for $5.75 (23 pages at $0.25 per page). This decision may be appealed pursuant to the Commission’s records access guidelines as referenced above.

Mr Milgram

How do you know that the 5 seperate document requests made on July 6 are part of the "broader request" of May 16?

If you can now fulfill the "broader request" of May 16 please do so immediately as it has been over 30 days since it was made.

To the extent you cannot fulfill the broader request please disregard it and provide me the list of employees I requested over 21 days ago and we can start this kabuki dance all over again.

David Grandeau"

Now I'm sure it's possible that Milgram is not to blame and some lawyer, maybe even one related to a commissioner is to blame, but it was Milgram that I am told is handling this request.

Now I am always open to suggestions if anyone has a better word than asshole to describe the foregoing feel free to let me know.

By the way I can't wait to pay the money and get my hands on these reports.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

You owe me a consulting fee JJOKE

Sometime after the blog last night that the JJOKE system was broke it got fixed.

Congrats somebody must have gotten the call after the blog was read to get out of bed (in Albany because none of the New York City JJOKErottis are driving to Albany to do the work) and cleared disk space.

Now would it be too much to ask that Head JOKEster, Ellen Biben, get John Milgram to issue a press release explaining what happened, who caught the error, how it was fixed and what the JOKE will be doing to accomodate the lobbying community that were without the ability to file reports for an entire day just prior to a filing deadline?

An apology would be smart.

Who do I send my consulting fee invoice to?

I'd say forget it but that might be seen as an illegal gift.

Instead of trying to get paid  I'm going to change focus from Biben, Uncle Vinny, the chief economist and Phd and the rest of the overpaid JOKEeratti to the people that are truly responsible for the JOKE being foisted on all of us. . . That would be the appointing authorities that picked the clowns in this three ring circus.

With all due respect might I suggest that while moving on to fix campaign finance you spend a moment and revisit your past triumph of fixing ethics.

While you are tweaking the law consider sh*tcanning the appointees

BECAUSE ITS THE PEOPLE not the law that really matter.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


What you see when you try to file reports on the JJOKE website

Server Error in '/lrr' Application.

Could not load file or assembly 'EO.Web' or one of its dependencies. There is not enough space on the disk. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070070)

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.IO.FileLoadException: Could not load file or assembly 'EO.Web' or one of its dependencies. There is not enough space on the disk. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070070)

Source Error:

[No relevant source lines]

Source File: c:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework64\v2.0.50727\Temporary ASP.NET Files\lrr\91989dde\8239d5e8\App_Web_default.aspx.cdcab7d2.c37zxkvq.0.cs Line: 0

Assembly Load Trace: The following information can be helpful to determine why the assembly 'EO.Web' could not be loaded.

WRN: Assembly binding logging is turned OFF.
To enable assembly bind failure logging, set the registry value [HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Fusion!EnableLog] (DWORD) to 1.
Note: There is some performance penalty associated with assembly bind failure logging.
To turn this feature off, remove the registry value [HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Fusion!EnableLog].

Stack Trace:

[FileLoadException: Could not load file or assembly 'EO.Web' or one of its dependencies. There is not enough space on the disk. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070070)]
   System.Reflection.Assembly._nLoad(AssemblyName fileName, String codeBase, Evidence assemblySecurity, Assembly locationHint, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, Boolean throwOnFileNotFound, Boolean forIntrospection) +0
   System.Reflection.Assembly.InternalLoad(AssemblyName assemblyRef, Evidence assemblySecurity, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, Boolean forIntrospection) +416
   System.Reflection.Assembly.InternalLoad(String assemblyString, Evidence assemblySecurity, StackCrawlMark& stackMark, Boolean forIntrospection) +166
   System.Reflection.Assembly.Load(String assemblyString) +35
   System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssemblyHelper(String assemblyName, Boolean starDirective) +190

[ConfigurationErrorsException: Could not load file or assembly 'EO.Web' or one of its dependencies. There is not enough space on the disk. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070070)]
   System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssemblyHelper(String assemblyName, Boolean starDirective) +11221304
   System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAllAssembliesFromAppDomainBinDirectory() +388
   System.Web.Configuration.CompilationSection.LoadAssembly(AssemblyInfo ai) +232
   System.Web.Configuration.AssemblyInfo.get_AssemblyInternal() +48
   System.Web.Compilation.CompilationUtil.GetTypeFromAssemblies(AssemblyCollection assembliesCollection, String typeName, Boolean ignoreCase) +166
   System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetType(String typeName, Boolean throwOnError, Boolean ignoreCase) +362
   System.Web.UI.Page.get_ScriptManagerType() +61
   System.Web.UI.Page.get_IsPartialRenderingSupported() +74
   System.Web.UI.WebControls.BaseValidator.RegisterValidatorCommonScript() +36
   System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal() +108
   System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal() +224
   System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal() +224
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint) +11051320
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint) +11051018
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest() +91
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest(HttpContext context) +240
   ASP.default_aspx.ProcessRequest(HttpContext context) in c:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework64\v2.0.50727\Temporary ASP.NET Files\lrr\91989dde\8239d5e8\App_Web_default.aspx.cdcab7d2.c37zxkvq.0.cs:0
   System.Web.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() +599
   System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) +171

Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:2.0.50727.3625; ASP.NET Version:2.0.50727.3634

Low Hanging Fruit

Picture it: Early Saturday morning July 14, 2012.  I have a free moment prior to a busy day of kids baseball games and decide to log into the Joint Commission on Public Ethic’s online filing system to review some bimonthly reports that I had previously filed. 

Full Disclosure: I am a long time user of the Commissions electronic system.  As such I am aware that prior to filing due dates, their system slows to a crawl and it becomes almost impossible to navigate.  I know enough to file early and during off-peak times, because that is the safest way to insure timely filing with minimum disruption. As an aside I bet Ellen Biben has never tried to file a report on her own system.  As a result of my obsessive desire to avoid being trapped by the JJOKE vortex of incompetence, I have already submitted the required reports due on July 16, 2012. 

As I type in the Commission’s web address and click on Lobbying Online Filing System, I get Server Error.  Wait, what? I was a little startled for a moment, so I closed my Internet Explorer Browser (because the Commission’s system is only compatible with Internet Explorer) and open a new window and again type in the Commission’s web address.  I click on Lobbying Online Filing System once again and see the same message on my screen.  Server Error.  Along with a bunch of jumbled numbers and letters, there is a statement that says, “There is not enough space on the disk.” Now I am not by any means a “techie” but that’s probably not a good thing.

And then it hits me . . . maybe Ms. Biben  should stop handing out $100,000 jobs to her friends or rushing to open a NYC office to coverup the fact that she has not been in the Albany office on a regular basis since being hired and utilize her multi-million dollar budget more effectively and fix and/or update and/or improve the Online Filing System.  It seems as though newly appointed Commission staffers have already forgotten the real reason why they are in those positions in the first place.  Here’s a reminder, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is first and foremost a disclosure agency.  The mission of the Commission should be to make the information that is reported by lobbyists and clients available for public inspection.  To do that you have to allow them to file their reports.

Well it’s 10:45 on Saturday night and the system is still down.

Do you think any of the mucky mucks at the JOKE could break away from their weekend homes long enough to put down their martinis and lobster and fix the server error?

Do you think they even know about it?

I know I criticize them a lot but this one is too easy.

I guess if I had spent all day needing to use the system I’d be more cutting in my criticism.  Instead I’ll just give some unsolicited advice.

On Monday morning find someone in the IT department to blame, avoid responsibility for the fact no one is monitoring the system prior to a filing date and then tell the lobbying community they have an extension until Wednesday to get their reports in or they will be fined.

Judging by the way the Commission has handled issues in the past six months, I’m sure this will have to be someone else’s fault. 

Maybe just maybe the commissioners will realize that with absentee management comes a broken system.

If Biben et al can't keep the filing system working does anyone trust them to keep the New York State ethics laws enforced?

Care to bet when the system gets fixed?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Chief Economist has a very small travel radius

This one is further evidence that JJOKE either has their collective heads up their collective arses or their office is truly in Albany and all the New York City based employees don't have to follow state rules regarding where they work from.

What am I talking about?

One of my New York City based clients recently got a letter from JJOKE Chief Economist and Phd. Kitty Kay Chan informing them that they had been selected for audit but because their office is beyond the established travel radius they could mail in their material and no onsite audit will be performed.


This client could literally throw a chief economist out their window and hit the JJOKE New York City office where the chief economist and Phd is allegedly working.

Which is it Kitty? is your office in New York City? in which case your travel radius must be measured in blocks or is it in Albany? in which case why don't you report to the office like all other state employees?  Or are you part of that new State rule on working from wherever you want now known as the "Biben exception"?

I'm sure glad the JOKE has created a New York City presence, at considerable taxpayer expense, it seems to be working . . .for Biben.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Message to State Workers: You Can Work From Home Tomorrow

That’s right. If you want to work from home, go ahead and do it.

Huh? How can that be?

This is a new New York State policy. In fact, it’s been in place for several months now and none other than the State’s top ethics official is following it already.

That’s right. Ellen Biben is the executive director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JJOKE). Her official work station at her time of hiring was Albany. That’s where all her staff was based. But not her.

No, for her first three months on the job she was working from an undisclosed location in New York City. In fact, she rarely showed up in the Albany office. And when she did report to the office, she probably charged the state for her travel, lodging and meals.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t do that. If I don’t feel like going into the office, I can’t say I’m working from home today. I can’t work from the beach. And I certainly can’t charge the state for my expenses of reporting to the office when I do go in.”

Oh, but you can! The state’s top ethics official has set the precedent. Just follow her example.

Oh, and by the way, the JJOKE commissioners all know about this arrangement, and they haven’t objected.  In fact I’m hearing rumors that JJOKE chairwomen Janet DiFiore secretly authorized Bibens absence.

And if the JJOKE commissioners know that means their appointing agencies, the Governor and the Legislative leaders also know and haven’t objected.

Sooooo, guess what?

What’s good for Ms. Biben must be good for everyone else.

State workers, one and all, this means you can work from home tomorrow, or anywhere else you want. Enjoy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Uncle Vinny

Okay so it took a little more computer research but the answer is in.

Shari Calnero IS related to JJOKE commissioner Vincent DeIorio's spouse.

The puzzle pieces fit and that explains how and why Shari was rehired by the JOKE after Mitra Hormozi fired her from the last integrity agency.

But now I begin to wonder if this group of ethical mavens bothered to tell the other ethical mavens how and why Shari and Joanna Cohn Weiss got their jobs?

Ravi? any thoughts? do you want to tell me what wonderful family people they are?

Family as in NEPOTISM?  The Public Officers Law actually would apply except for the fact that Uncle Vinny is not an officer by definition because he is paid on a per diem basis (no wonder they are all so quick to tell us they are unpaid, it exempts the JOKE commissioners from the Public Officers Law)

So in the long run it is not a violation of the Public Officers Law but it sure adds to the case that JJOKE is a bunch of conflicted, do as we say not as we do, hypocrites.

The IG actually had a case on nepotism that they referred to Shari's former agency.  I wonder if she worked on it.  The policy discussion is right on point.

Now Uncle Vinny would not be the first person in Albany to help a relative get a job but its just so unseemly when Caesar's wife gets caught with her hand where it doesn't belong.

I'm telling you there is gold in those financial disclosure reports if anyone bothers to look.

And Ellen don't think I've forgotten that you tried to shovel me your bs that Shari was just hired as a temp to get rid of the backlog.  Between the family connections and the law firm connections and your buddies from the IG you hired in NYC its a regular gathering of the tribes.

Ravi feel free to comment anytime you like.  these are your people. . . PLAYA

It's a small world and a company town

Yes it's Financial Disclosure Friday 

We cull the Financial Disclosure Reports of JJOKE commissioners and employees and report to you potential conflicts, connections and interesting data.

It's a slow holiday week so we will save the good stuff for later and just provide two head scratchers.

They may mean nothing, they could just be a coincidence or they may help connect some dots.

This is why these reports are so much fun for me.  Although I must admit a counselling session with a good psychiatrist would be quicker and probably more helpful.

Under the heading it's a small world.

The JOKE recently hired a new associate counsel, Joanna Cohn Weiss, who previously worked at Davis, Polk and Wardwell LLP.

According to her financial disclosure report Janet DiFiore's spouse , Dennis Glazer, is a General Partner at Davis Polk Wardwell.  Makes you wonder how Ms. Weiss got her job.

This next one may be a total reach and may just be an odd coincidence or it may answer a question I've had for awhile.

Why was Shari Calnero the only former PIC staffer fired by present JOKE commissioner Mitra Hormozi hired back?  I've heard Terri Schellaci asked that Shari be brought back to help reduce a backlog caused by the lack of attorneys after Mitra iced them all, but that didn't make sense because there were plenty of other lawyers that Mitra iced that were looking for work.  I heard Shari had some heavyweight political connections with the second floor that put a word in for her, but that didn't make any sense to me either given her prior political patronage connections.

And then I saw this piece of data.

JOKE commissioner Vincent DeIorio's spouse's maiden name is . . . Calnero.

I don't remember where Shari grew up but the DeIorio's are from Utica I believe.

Next week we will get back to more concrete issues from the Financial Disclosure Files.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ravi Batra and the 33 questions

Posted below are Ravi's responses to date to the questions I posed to the most open man in New york government.

Is anyone surprised?