Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Horwitz era begins

Todays JJOKE meeting marked the start of the new Dan Horwitz era at JCOPE.

It had some ups and some downs.  First the downs:

Horwitz said he plans on building on the foundation that Janet DiFiore laid at JJOKE - if you ask me anything built on that foundation should be condemned and quickly.

Horwitz read a statement that at best sounded forced and stilted, he forgot to introduce himself but then again it didn't matter since no one was listining.  At worst it sounded like the 2nd floor kabuki dance that it probably was - lets hope Dan takes my advice and starts making himself available to the media for some candid interviews.

Biben was still sitting at the chairs right hand - one can only hope they are actively trying to find a landing spot for Ellen because until she goes JCOPE will be a JJOKE - proof in point Biben announces new gift regulations proud of the fact that nominal is now defined as $10 only problem the statute says food and beverage under $15 is exempt as a gift.  So I guess a coffee cup worth $11 is a crime but if you fill it with $3.99 worth of coffee it's ok.  Makes a lot of sense doesn't it.

Now for the good

Horwitz did not get a parking ticket.

Horwitz announced what happened in executive session thats a big change from the secretive DiFiore days - of course he did not announce the motions or votes held in the executive session but it's a start and under the open meetings law I can now request the minutes of the executive session under FOIL

But most importantly I will go out on a limb and guess that JCOPE will announce shortly that they voted to notify legislative ethics that if they do not release the Lopez/Silver report 90 days from February 13 2013 JCOPE will do so unilaterly pursuant to statute.

The Dan Horwitz era has begun now the only question I have is when is Biben being shown the door?

Having your cake and eating it too

The proverb that one can't have cake and eat it too is found thruout different cultures.  It is believed to have originated in March 1538 in a message from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell, as "a man can not have his cake and eate his cake". It is found in almost every language in various forms. In Bulgarian it is "both the wolf is full and the lamb is whole" in Hebrew "you can't eat the cake and keep it whole" in Italian "to have the barrel full and the wife drunk" and even Tamil (whatever that is) "desire to have both the moustache and drink the porridge"

JJOKE's most recent opinion allowing the governor's "domestic partner" to fly on the state's various aircraft proves the point that while the proverb says you can't have your cake and eat it too that doesn't prevent JJOKE from giving it a try.

The opinion greatly expands the definition of "first family" that previous ethics opinions had established when it comes to who gets the benifits available to a governor's first family.  In a giant leap from previous opinions JJOKE with the stroke of a pen takes the definition of "domestic partner" from the Health Law and applies it to the Public Officers Law but ONLY with respect to the use of state resources.  And the group known as New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms jumped on the cake bandwagon and filed a complaint effectively saying if you want to allow the governors "domestic partner" to get the perks of the first family she should have to file a financial disclosure report as well.

Small problem in the world of cake eating.  The Public Officers Law has a clear definition for the term "spouse" when it comes to financial disclosure and the governor's "domestic partner" doesn't fall within it.  So on its face it looks like JJOKE will be able to keep the barrel full and the wife (or domestic partner) drunk.  But not so fast these proverbs exist because they usually are true and the JJOKE opinion is no different.

It's not the disclosure requirements that the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms should be focused on its the opinion.  Why would JJOKE search out a definition from the Health Law to apply to the Public Officers Law when that Law already has a clear definition for "spouse"?  Further why would JJOKE provide an opinion on a subject that the governor did not request?  The complaint that should be filed should be against JJOKE and its staff and commissioners.  The opinion grants a benefit to the governor not available to other state employees and I'd be willing to bet did not occur without direction from outside JJOKE.  Thought for anyone motivated enough to file a complaint once again it's time to investigate JCOPE.  And with JJOKE's former Chair running for election in Westchester someone ought to apply some pressure and find out what she knew and when she knew it when it comes to first families and their perks.

If I was interested in the prosecution of those with mustaches that drink porridge I'd be at the JJOKE meeting today asking the new chair Dan Horwitz to explain how much cake he has eaten lately.  Or maybe Ellen Biben can clarify yet again where she walks her wolf and lamb.

As for me it's a simple issue.  The governor's "domestic partner" or girlfriend or significant other or best friend with benefits or drinking buddy or live in cook should not be required to file a financial disclosure report anymore than he/she should be allowed to reap the benefits available to the first family.  Taken to it's logical conclusion the JJOKE opinion would allow the governor to fly a harem of playboy bunnies or Chippendale male dancers on the states aircraft as long as he considers them to be part of the first family.

Once again JJOKE proves it's more of a burden for this governor than a help.  To which I say let them eat cake and off with Biben's head, figurativly of course.

Monday, April 22, 2013

3 easy steps for success as the new chair of JJOKE

After 16 months DiFiore is stepping down as chairwomen of JJOKE to run for reelection as DA of Westchester County.  Whomever runs against her should have plenty of JJOKE ammunition to use in a negative campaign.  I'd start by researching the status of all those parking tickets she got in front of the JJOKE offices.

Dan Horwitz is going to replace her and I worry he will make the mistake of saying he wants to build on the foundation that Ms. Difiore established at JJOKE. That is one weak foundation covering a deep pit in the land of ethics.  And while no one will believe it I really do want Dan to succede so I'm going to give him my 3 steps for success at JJOKE.

Step 1 - Ask Ellen Biben for her resignation.

Step 2 - try not to view everything thru the lens of a prosecutor.  This is a tuff one for those that were prosecutors.  It goes against their very instinct.  But if you want to be successful it's a must.  Think like a media person, you have information to provide the public that's your job the prosecutor stuff will come naturally.  And you don't need Milgram fire him and ask Ellen Biben for her resignation.

Step 3 - Ask Ellen Biben for her resignation.

I'll give you a little time to take my advice and I hope you do better than DiFiore, Biben, Ginsberg, Feerick and Teitelbaum did, if not you will be able to read all about it trust me. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Who's wearing a wire?

With all thats going on in Albany when it comes to "ethics reform" I thought I'd go into the archive and rerun one of my favorite blog postings  It's particularly timely and appropriate in todays political environment.  From March 12, 2012

We Should All Be Wired

“As the federal probe into city Controller John Liu’s mayoral campaign widens, the embattled Democrat is so politically toxic that bigwig union supporters are afraid to speak with him, source said Thursday.”

“…One union president said he was very nervous to be chatting with Liu – for fear the controller might be wearing a wire.”

This was in Friday’s Daily News. It’s obviously not good for Mr. Liu, but it got me to thinking: What’s the big deal? Why is the concept of being overheard so problematic?

Take me, for instance. What would the Feds find out about me if someone I was talking to was wired?

Well, they’d find out that I’m intemperate at times. I’m judgmental. I use salty language. I’m obsessed with the hypocracy of ethics officials who fail to follow the laws they are supposed to enforce. And they’d find out I’m a wise ass.

No surprise here – as regular readers know well.

This leads me to ask this question: What have the union “bigwigs” been up to that makes them so nervous?

Such excessive concern about being overheard makes me think that there are some real shenanigans going on. What is it? Payoffs? Quid pro quo arrangements?

Now I’m thinking that being wired is a really good thing. Maybe we should all be wired. Let’s wire the lawmakers. Let’s wire the people who raise funds for lawmakers. Let’s wire the lobbyists.

Think of what the world of Albany would be like if everyone was wired.
If everyone was wired I'm sure Albany would be a better place but far less interesting.
Anyone want to guess which Albany lawmaker used his campaign funds to hire a magician . . . twice?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Read the editorials and the quotes to learn how little the media and our public officials understand about corruption

No surprise the media is full of quotes and editorials on "ETHIC REFORM" again for like the millionth time.

In a moment we will play a new game I have 5 quotes on ethics reform if any reader can identify the party providing the quote and the date it was made I will make them a board member of Ethics Watch Inc.  Thats right the IRS just approved Ethics Watch as a 501c3 charity able to accept charitable donations and as a c3 exempt from the JJOKE source of funding disclosures.  I'll blog in detail about Ethics Watch shortly but not to put too fine a point on it I'm going hunting and after the last week it's pretty obvious Albany is full of ethical game and I intend to bag my share. . . as soon as I put the 3 extra ethical bullets that my high capacity ethical magazine can accept but which I'm sure will be made illegal under "ETHICS REFORM".

But back to the editorials and quotes.

Every paper has figured out what they think is needed in this latest round of "ETHICS REFORM" with one exception they are, as usual, full of sh*t when it comes to "ETHICS REFORM".  Be it campaign finance, cross endorsements or more laws for local prosecutors they are all a day late and an idea short . .  except one.

If you have to read one editorial about "ETHICS REFORM" to get an idea of what is needed read Bill Hammond's piece in the Daily News

Bill seems to get it.  You need to stop the gateway ethical violations if you want to have any hope of draining the ethical swamp that is and has been Albany.

It will not happen overnight and it will not happen with Ellen Biben and JJOKE.  It will not happen with a new "ETHICS REFORM" package from the governor.  It will take time and a dogged resolve to root out the little ethics violations and we have to start scaring the public officials straight.

Now I want to be clear ITS THE PEOPLE STUPID

And right now Governor Cuomo bears the responsibility for installing and supporting the wrong people.  Everyday that JCOPE, Ellen Biben and the rest of the staff and commissioners remain running JCOPE Andrew Cuomo is responsible for Albanys culture of corruption.  Don't like it governor? then change it.  Man up take responsibility for JJOKE and change it.

Now for the fun part who said the following quotes and when?

"we must restore honor and integrity to government, with tough new ethics standards . .  independent investigators to root out and punish corruption"

"we passed ethics reform to restore trust in government"

"everybody ran saying we will clean up Albany - well now you have to do it"

"New York state government used to be a symbol of integrity and performance, but we have lost that standard.  To clean up the government and restore trust in New York, we need to pass a new ethics law that mandates transparency and full disclosure as well as a law that calls for a real independent monitor"

"I have repeatedly said that in order to get this state back on the right track, we must end the dysfunction and corruption that has plagued Albany for too long and bring integrity back to the halls of our capital"

I'll give you a hint all of these quotes are at least a year old  and the author just recently bragged that Albany's dysfunction is a thing of the past . . . timely huh?

*UPDATE*  Here's Ravi Batra's statement about JJOKE


Excitement over last week’s installment of Preet Bharara’s Political Greed Indictment show caused breathless stories, and many editorials to issue. The editorials, all, use a polite "working-within-the-system" incremental approach to incredulously nudge the corrupt and the corrupters towards integrity and honesty - which then permits the "blind eyes," that USA Bharara lamented as un-indicted co-conspirators, to remain blind to the corruption they tolerate, or worse, cause. The irony is that those who accumulate power speak of reforms, after they have neutered the essential exceptionalism that is America: separated powers regime. To a student in elementary school it is clear - to accumulate power is un-American and the corruption-root. Every kid gets it.

In my near 1-year experience as a member of NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics, I witnessed the effects of JCOPE’s extra-legal controlled existence, over and above that which was infused into the law that gave it birth defects, resulting in extra-legal activities of JCOPE, inter alia, changing the effective date of PIRA's source funding disclosure to cloak those who gave to a 501c4, with admitted political candidate-coordination equals nothing less than unregulated, excessive and secret donations of "political money" that is tax deductible to boot, and may even permit money laundering of illegal political campaign contributions by foreigners to a "slush fund."

It had been my intention, when I called the Feds in August 2012 to ask for an independent "look-see" of JCOPE, per the MTA principle of citizenship post 9/11 - "See something, say something," to stay on JCOPE and work within the process to help it achieve what the law allowed it to; but hearing two governors on the radio issuing a calculated insult of my independence was, and is, a price too much to bear for serving the public trust in Casablanca. That Moreland Act powers were officially considered earlier in the day to subjugate JCOPE’s left-over independence, not free it of illegal control as I sought Moreland powers to be unleashed for, makes for a great Kabuki play called "Albany." A trademark lawyer would tell you that "Albany" has taken on secondary meaning. USA Preet Bharara intimated as much. DA Joe Hynes ten years ago spoke of the need for "cultural change" if corruption is to be arrested. Preet Bharara said the same thing last week. I heard Preet Bharara’s "But here we go again. Apparently what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate" statement on March 10, 2011 upon indicting Sen. Carl Kruger - one that I recited while officially sitting on both NYS Boards - IOLA, and later, JCOPE- saying I hear USA Bharara loudly and clearly. It didnt matter. The cancer is cellular, and has metastasized.

All one can hope for is that our great USA Preet Bharara will become a cancer surgeon and continue to roll out new installments, albeit, with a quicker drumbeat, and thereby arresting New York’s corruption-cancer such that the body politic has a "ribbon of clean cells" around the political class. Otherwise, Jane and John Q Public who have given up - see our dismal % of registered voters actually voting - will not re-engage with, nor believe in, Lincoln’s government "for the people. "

Before any so-called "reforms" are accepted, let there be a public confession, like Lady Macbeth’s unclean hands seen in public, for the singular reform-pledge broken in, and by, Albany to Mayor Koch - the Independent ReDistricting Pledge - when 10-year Incumbency-Protection Plan was signed into law a year ago to great scripted support of Goo-Goos - Palace Puppies all who roll over and do tricks for their power-masters - is a glaring truth that is Albany.

Public financing can be a great way to rob the public - I recall in November 2003 then DA Bob Morgenthau, the world's District Attorney,  prosecuting and a just jury, that looked to the evidence and not reputation in convicting a City Councilman, Sheldon S. Leffler, despite his great witnesses in court, for having his real estate contributor, Ms. Stark, break up her obese $10,000 illegal political contribution into $250 checks and money orders so as to rob the public’s match funds pot.

Our media, driven by a 24 hour news cycle, twitter-length stories, and lack of any time for investigations and deliberation have bankrupted their vital function to protect society from the three branches of government. The Fourth Estate’s reckless speed matches its financial insolvency, while we all see Rome burn and the front pages carry press release-based stories of new laws and "best thing since sliced bread" a la Malcolm Smith. The lack of oversight by the Fourth Estate is the greatest gift to the corrupt and the corrupters - no one is seeing what is in open sight: control-cancer leads to diminishing America’s exceptionalism and threatens to make us a third world Banana Republic.

No less than Thomas Jefferson warned that "eternal vigilance" is the price of liberty. Who will help us be free of phony reforms dished out by "blinded eyes" in Casablanca?

Dated: April 9, 2013
Ravi Batra

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ellen Biben could not manage a lemonade stand but she is perfect for the joke that is NY's top ethics agency JJOKE at its best

*UPDATE* So what did JJOKE do when they learned of my having access to the bank account?  Did they start to audit the account? Did they review the internal controls? No of course not  Instead they blamed a low level staffer and called Key Bank demanding to know all the facts about when I found out How I found out etc   I felt like I was being stalked.   Instead of wasting state resources trying to find fault with others Ms. Biben just say thankyou and resign.  And be very careful about what information you try to bully out of Key Bank about my activities I'd love to accuse you of doing something unethical . . . AGAIN

Does anyone want to know how much money JJOKE has on deposit at Key Bank in account number 325750033665?

It was $29954.98 on Thursday and its $31004.98 as I write the blog.

How could I possibly know this information you might rightly ask?

Have I hacked into the JJOKE computers?

Nope I don't have that expertise and if I did the JJOKE bank account would be way down the list of things I'd want to look at Biben's state Blackberry would be a better choice  I'd bet she is using it for non state purposes GATEWAY VIOLATION

Do I have a mole in the JJOKE administrative unit?

Nope not my style and I don't like any of them enough to actually talk to them and if I did the JJOKE bank account would be way down the list of things I'd want to look at I'd want to look at Biben's travel records I'd bet she charged the state for her travels to Albany before the New York City office was opened GATEWAY VIOLATION

So how did I get the information.

Well its actually worse than my just having the information about bank balances I could withdraw those funds anytime I want.

Now I would never do that because I am not a thief and that's not enough money to turn me into one.

I could also put stop payments on any checks written on that account.

I could even freeze the account

I didn't do any of those things much as I wanted to

How is it possible I have those powers?

Because I am an authorized signatory on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics Key Bank account.

There are only two signatories on the account and I am one of them Jeanine Clemente is the other one.

How could that happen?

I asked that same question

And since I was allowed to see the bank records as an authorized signatory I requested and received copies of the latest statements that are being sent to 2 Empire State Plaza suite 1701 (the old Lobby Commission address).

And I found out the account is the JCOPE deposit account being swept into the Office of the State Comptrollers account once a month.

It didn't look like anyone was using the account inappropriately so I checked further and discovered the account was opened in 2004 (back when the Lobby Commission was still in existence) so there was a reason for my name being associated with the account.

I had one last request for Key Bank I wanted to see the signature cards to make sure its my signature.

And then I instructed them to remove me from the account and investigate why I was still on it 5 years after I left an agency that was eliminated.

Still lots of questions for Biben to answer though.

Why would a Lobby Commission account still be used after the agency was abolished?

Why hasn't the address been changed and who is getting the statements at the old address?

Why didn't anyone notice that for over 5 years a nonemployee had access to the account?

Why weren't any of the many executive directors since  my position was abolished added to the account to replace me.  Tietelbaum, Ginsberg and Biben (thats a real whose not who of ethics huh)?

How many internal controls have you violated by only having one person (Jeanine Clemente) as an authorized signatory who actually works there?  Do you realize the potential for misappropriation of funds?  There is a very good reason to have two signatories.

I hate to do your job AGAIN Ellen Biben but you better order an audit of this account back to September 2007 and review all the internal controls and then RESIGN

I don't think Biben could manage a lemonade stand much less New Yorks top ethics agency.

Oh you probably want to know how I found all this out.

Thats easy I bank at Key Bank and a 24 year old teller without the sterling resume Biben and Clemente have reviewed my accounts and was sharp enough to realize I HAD NOT HAD ANY CONTACT WITH THIS ACCOUNT FOR THE ENTIRE TIME I HAVE BANKED AT KEY and told me to look into it

Do you think the teller might be the right person to run JJOKE?

Nah she is too talented.

Oh and before you get your shorts in a bunch after finding this information out I immediately notified the bank, a former FBI agent and a former high ranking state employee to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong and I wasn't but someone at JJOKE probably was and is.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Whom do we blame for New York's political corruption?

Predictably todays editorials are filled with outrage and shock and dismay and folks being troubled by the arrest of yet another (this time several) New York Public officials on various sundry and sordid corruption charges.

And predictably the good government advocates are doing what they do best and talking about ethics reform (aka ethical masturbation), specifically campaign finance reform as if changing to the New York City model of matching funds would have prevented this latest dive into Albany's ethical morass. 

I hate to burst the campaign finance crowds bubble but one of the accused in this latest ethical cluster f*ck is a New York City Councilman.  Thats right someone elected under the very same campaign finance reforms that are supposed to be the magic bullet.


Not the laws, we have plenty

Not the campaign finance system, New York City has not solved the public ethics problem with matching funds by a long shot.

Not more disclosure, the criminals don't disclose their crimes has anyone looked at Joe Bruno's disclosures or Malcom Smiths for that matter.

So who is to blame?

In the most recent case you can certainly blame:

Malcolm Smith, just listen to the tapes the fact that there is a single politician that has not called on Malcolm to resign is a disgrace.

While we are on the subject of resignations how about all the politicians that are expressing shock and dismay and voicing how troubling this episode is hold a press conference and tell us who else they think is involved in corruption.  In all my years in government the one thing I learned about politicians is they copy other politicians.  Trust me they know who the bad apples are but they will not out them remember there but for the grace of God go I and politicians in glass houses know better than to throw stones.  But just once it would be refreshing to see a high level public official actually rat out one of their comrades just once.  This isn't the mafia you can tell the authorities when you know about wrongdoing it won't hurt and it might help.

Speaking of authorities I'd be out of character if I didn't heap some blame on JCOPE.  What did they have to do with Malcolm you might rightly ask.  Nothing thats the point they've done nothing.  When you let the streetlights stay broken and don't cleanup the garbage in a neighborhood pretty soon its not safe to walk the streets.  JJOKE has had no effect on improving public ethics in New York.  I've said it before why doesn't JJOKE use their extensive resources to investigate the abuse of the per diem system.  It's an easy investigation.  It will bear fruit and it might give some of these crooks pause before they move on to other more extensive forms of corruption.  I'll go out on a limb and predict if you looked at per diems more than 1/3 of those collecting them are doing so improperly.  Come on JJOKE prove me wrong.

Hell just check Bibens own records for time and attendance and what she has charged the state for in the way of travel before the New York City JJOKE office opened.  Ethics starts from the top.

Which brings me to the governor.  You can't take credit for cleaning up Albany when it's still a cesspool.  Biben is yours, JCOPE is yours, at the end of the day Albany's corruption is happening on your watch 


I'm sure you have the talent just put your mind to the problem.

UPDATE since a picture is worth a thousand words a video saves me the trouble of typing a new blog

Here's what I think

BTW Ms. Bartoletti I guess campaign finance reform isn't the answer anymore for the goo goos  Newsflash the goo goos have become irrelevant on the issue of ethics reform

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to make popcorn

I walked into the JJOKE offices the other day and the smell of burnt popcorn permeated the building

A little research soon disclosed that the microwave on the 2nd floor had been ruined by the head of the JJOKE education unit.

So recognizing the lack of training at JJOKE and  how that is creating serious problems both inside and outside the agency I decided to become proactive

Watch the following

I've now provided more training on the blog than JJOKE has done in the last year.

Not only that but the head of training may actually learn something that could help her do her job without burning down the JJOKE offices and ruining any more microwaves.

Just think if Governor Cuomo's new ethics agency and it's self aggrandizing director, employees and commissioners learn how to make popcorn they may someday be able to solve the rest of the states ethics problems.

No more Malcom Smith issue

No more Lopez issue

No more Libous issue

No more Yoko Ono issue

No more Campaign Finance issue

No more Katz issue

No more Democratic Party lobby ads issue

I could go on and on and on and on and on

But for now I'll just settle for seeing if Biben et al can learn how to make popcorn

Every watchdog/lapdog/attackdog has to be housebroken before you can expect them not to ruin your . . . microwave.

The longer Biben remains in charge of JJOKE the more responsibility the Governor has for the state of ethics in New York.

One last thing  I know that JJOKE opened a Buffalo office recently to "serve" the western part of the state but is there any truth to the rumor than an office in Colorado is soon to open?  It seems quite a few commissioners and high level employees have been dialing in to meetings apres ski.  Ahhh the life of the rich and clueless.