Thursday, October 25, 2012

JJOKE reform for legislative pay raise? Are you kidding me?

JJOKE reform for legislative pay raise?


Here we go again.


And I could care less if the legislators get a pay raise or not.


I’ve always believed if you think you are undervalued go get another job or earn more money by taking on additional work.


It’s the idea of JJOKE reform or tweaking or whatever phrase the powers that be decide to use when they package this latest attempt to get it right . . . again.
How many times do we have to do this?


I’ve said it before I’ll say it again it’s not the law or the structure IT”S THE PEOPLE STUPID!!!!


We keep picking the best and the brightest with the most outstanding resumes and they keep walking into closets looking for the bathroom, or parking their cars at expired meters, or hiring their family and friends while telling us they are recruiting only the finest talent or insisting on employing chief economists in an agency that has nothing to do with the economy.


I had an illustrative experience today with one of the JOKE’s best and brightest.  I received a call from JJOKE chief investigator Pat Coultrie (I’m not sure of the spelling and in the long run who cares what his name is).  Pat needed to ask a question about one of my clients but made the mistake of talking to me about another case because he was confused I assume.   Oops I guess that’s how all those leaks keep happening at the JOKE.  Anyway I’m sure by now Pat has turned himself in to the IG as having disclosed confidential information without the commission’s approval.  And whomever Ms. Tyrone (not sure about the spelling) is I’m sorry to hear you are being investigated by JJOKE but rest assured it will remain confidential, just ask Libous or Lopez or Silver or DiNapoli.


Do you think the FBI makes those types of slips of the tongue?



Anyone that wants to see how productive JJOKE is just drive by 540 Broadway and look at all the JJOKERS standing outside smoking.  I counted 5 today that were there for over 30 minutes  the same group that was there Tuesday, and I'm sure the smart JOKERS smoke out back.  Why are they not working? Is it because Biben and the rest of the top staff only show up in Albany for commission meetings?  Anyone really think that NYC office was for any other purpose other than as a reason to avoid being in Albany, where the work is?
And don't tell me that getting JJOKE to be more open is worth it, you don't need legislation to make JJOKE more open.  Marvin Jacobs has proved all you need is a commission vote to open up the process.  They can vote to be as open as they want to be.


So if the governor wants to trade a pay raise for “reform” of JJOKE let me counter with a pay raise for the legislature AND executive branch commissioners in return for a new cast of JJOKE commissioners and staff.


You could always move Biben to Tax at a higher salary she can then work for Ginsberg . . . again.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Things need to change


I know regular readers are probably going to look at the title and say here he goes again, complaining that New York’s ethics agency is incompetent, partisan, and lacking in independence in short a laughingstock. 


But this blog is different it’s not JJOKE that I think needs to change it’s my approach to ethics enforcement in Albany.


I’ve turned into a one trick pony, the Don Quixote of ethics, tilting at windmills.


I’ve been writing the same blog for 4 years detailing one ethical misadventure after another.  I’ve been answering reporters’ questions on and off the record providing roadmaps to getting at the heart of the ethical hypocrisy that is New Yorks government, be it JJOKE and Biben or PIC and Teitelbaum.  And while I’ve enjoyed some success both intellectually and financially, at the end of the day while I’m in a far better place than I was when Spitzer and Bruno eliminated my job (far better than both of them that’s for sure) and I’ve been able to help nudge Albany to change ethics enforcers and agencies (Feerick, Tietelbaum, Cherkasky, Ginsberg,and the entire PIC)  I don’t think JJOKE and Andrews attack dog Ellen Biben are a significant upgrade over the past and in fact some might argue that independent ethics enforcement has never been more endangered than it is right now.


But it wasn’t until a series of news articles over the last few weeks that I realized I need to change how I approach whatever role I choose to have.


In no particular order here are the news snippets that have led to my epiphany.


Our Governor goes fishing and invites the media to tag along. The media take canoe rides on a pristine Adirondack lake and watch the governor enjoy a guided trip to fish for trout.  All on private land owned by the Nature Conservancy, a registered lobbyist governed by the Lobby Act and its rather laxly enforced gift ban.  Does anyone question why JJOKE is not commencing an investigation to determine if this is an illegal gift?


Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings while answering a question regarding his city owned vehicle being parked at Saratoga Race Track in a very preferred parking spot admits that he was there to attend a party hosted by the AFL-CIO, you guessed it, another registered lobbyist governed by the Lobby Act and its rather laxly enforced gift ban.  Does anyone question why JJOKE is not commencing an investigation to determine if this  is an illegal gift?


Campaign finance reformers meet with the governor to plot strategy, they are well financed and connected but they are not registered to lobby.  Does anyone question why JJOKE is not commencing an investigation to determine if these folks are unregistered lobbyists?


Speaker Silver’s Counsel Jim Yates hires Paul Schectman as his attorney in the JJOKE investigation of Vito Lopez an investigation commenced as a result of the goo goos formal complaint following the governor’s informal complaint.  Does anyone question why goo goo leader and JJOKE sycophant Dick Dadey  was the media’s choice to comment on the propriety of that arrangement?


The answer to all the above is NO, no one cares or at least no one cares enough to risk the wrath of the folks holding the leash on the attack dog.


And that includes me.


I don’t get paid to do that kind of work.


My clients pay me to be their ethical bodyguard and sometimes their ethical assassin but not to get involved in the bigger issues, those surrounding Albany’s hypocricy.


And that was when it hit me, I can’t help myself I want to point out these ethical transgressions but there is no benefit in doing so.


The solution?


Let’s see if anyone is willing to put their money where their mouth is.


I’m going to create a not for profit entity to do the job these ethics agencies have failed to do because they are controlled by government.  I’ll pay to set it up and get it off the ground.  If others see value in it, it should take on a life of its own if not then at least I tried and knowing that there is no support from the public for honest ethics reform has value in and of itself.


Step one I need a name does anyone out there have a suggestion?


Thursday, October 4, 2012



There is a rumor going around town that JJOKE is under active investigation.


By whom?  That’s the question and my best guess is it’s the Inspector General’s office.


What for?  Well that’s easy they are being investigated for the leaks that continue to fill reporters boats (notice the veiled reference to last week’s double entendre blog title “The man in the boat”?  I may have the maturity of a 13 year old but I’m complex).


Just Monday Fred Dicker, using unnamed sources, reported that JJOKE would be issuing its "gropergate" report shortly.


Now I have no doubt Fred is accurate, I also have no doubt his sources are “close” to JCOPE; in fact I’d be willing to bet they are only a phone call or two away from Ms. Biben.  This isn’t my first rodeo I can even guess what that report will say; let me try a little prognostication.


First it will say Vito Lopez is a pig and should be run out of the legislature on a rail.  But because the only section of the Public Officers Law that he violated does not provide for a punishment all JJOKE can do is say shame on Vito and shame on the legislature for tolerating his behavior.


Next in a little troopergate dejavu (and remember this investigation and report is brought to you by the same folks that were behind troopergate) JJOKE will say that the actions of Silver, Schneiderman, Dinapoli and everyone else in government other than those loyal to Andrew were ill advised, against public policy, craven, cynical, thoughtless, amateurish, incompetent and any other adjective short of a violation of the Public Officers Law but not illegal.  It will then recommend new procedures for the legislature and pat itself on the back for a job well done.


Why am I so sure they will not find a violation?


Is it because I am aware of facts that lead me to that legal conclusion?


Nope, I don’t have that level of knowledge.  It’s far simpler.


JJOKE has to find no violation if they want to get the report made public in the next few weeks as Fred Dicker’s “sources” said they would.


You see JJOKE can’t release the report, they can only send their findings to legislative ethics AFTER the commissioners hold another special meeting and vote in favor of Biben’s conclusions.  And does anyone think the legislature is going to release a report that says they violated the law before the election?  Not a chance.


End result a troopergate oops gropergate report that finds no illegality.


I guess if I’m wrong some source close to the commission could leak the findings but that brings me full circle to where I started is JJOKE being investigated by the Inspector General?


If the answer is yes then we need to know is it a real investigation? Is it a whitewash? Or is it a witch-hunt?


Or is it two of the three?   It won’t matter because this is a political miscalculation.  The inspector General is the wrong entity to be tasked with this investigation.


Putting aside everything else it just looks like the executive branch is investigating a non executive branch organization.  Any findings the Inspector General comes up with will be tainted by that perception.


Remember the Inspector General works for the governor.  I’ve blogged about this point before; any legitimate investigation of leaks at JJOKE will by necessity involve investigating the governor’s staff at a minimum.  The statements made by the governor and those close to him leading up to the last emergency meeting of JJOKE would leave a serious investigator no choice.


And as we saw in troopergate once that happens the inspector general must recuse and turn this investigation over to an office that is not involved in the scandal.  In my opinion, as I have said before, that’s Albany County District Attorney David Soares.


That’s exactly the path that cost former Ethics czar Herb Teitelbaum his reputation, his job and if you believe ex governor David Paterson almost cost him his liberty.


Add it all up and it’s no wonder JJOKE and Ellen Biben might be a little distracted.


And I can’t think of any other reason why anyone as competent as Ellen Biben would have missed the opportunity to enforce the new definition of lobbying that requires those attempting to advocate for or against the introduction of legislation to be registered as lobbyists.


Who am I thinking about? The irony here is too good to be true.


The same people that brought you the last reforms, the same gang that created JJOKE, the same bunch that insisted on adding “introduction of legislation” to the lexicon of lobby enforcement are now working on campaign finance reform. 


And this time they brought in big money supporters and high profile lawyers, people with connections to the man holding the leash on the ethics attack dog.


People that have not registered as lobbyists, people that I’m sure do not want to have to disclose the source of their funding.


Stay tuned, I’ll out them in future blogs.


You see unlike JJOKE I’m not distracted at all.