November 15th, 2015

Guests: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Investigative Journalist Wayne Barrett, and former Democratic Lt. Governor Nominee Dennis Mehiel

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Read Highlights: Bill Samuels, a strong de Blasio supporters, condemns the Mayor’s Campaign for One New York and calls on de Blasio to shut it down:

BS: First, let me say that, in general, that I am a big supporter of both Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane. And they’re doing a lot of positive things, but I am extremely disappointed with the Campaign for One New York. It violates all the principles of campaign finance reform. … I think the mayor has made a huge mistake here and it makes me question whether Big Money is infiltrating the city again.”

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BS: “I call on the mayor to shut this Campaign for One New York down because it undermines—this one thing that he is doing undermines the tens of tens of things that he and Chirlane have done that I have deep respect for.”

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Investigative Reporter Wayne Barrett

Barrett slams de Blasio’s nonprofit Campaign for One New York as “cesspool of money for the mayor”; says de Blasio consultants are “lobbyists who refuse to admit that they’re lobbyists” engaging in a relationship that is “extraordinary and repellant”:

WB: All it is is just a cesspool of money for the mayor. It’s a complete end-run, if not violation, of the city’s campaign finance laws. I think if we had a more aggressive Campaign Finance Board they might well be pursuing this. But, look, if they’ve spent $2.3 million dollars on the consultants now, and they raised this money completely outside the boundaries of campaign finance laws, with contributions like from the teacher’s union of $350,000, which was given right after the mayor signed a new very, very expensive contract with the teacher’s union … if they’re completely exceeding all boundaries in raising all of this money and spending it all on consultants—77% of the money was spent on the consultants … I don’t think they’re giving him very good advice. His numbers have plummeted all the time that he’s spending all of this money on political advice he’s getting from his allies. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. … It’s not like a political consultant has never received a nickel between elections from an incumbent mayor, but we’ve never seen it on this scale … What’s really troubling about this is, is all the people on his payroll, not only are they consultants to him on his committee, but they’re lobbyists who refuse to admit that they’re lobbyists and refuse to register as lobbyists. … BerlinRosen is the biggest. That company … has 50 clients—50 clients!—and they don’t even register as a lobbyist. 50 clients with business before the mayor. Now how can we possibly know what goes on when the Times revealed how many, many meetings that these lobbyists have with the mayor, these lobbyists who refuse to call themselves lobbyists, how can we possibly know that those conversations don’t include exchanges that are of benefit to their lobbying clients or the strategic advice clients and so the whole appearance of this is the appearance of collusion that’s extraordinary and repellant.

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Barrett says the Campaign for One New York is more troubling than the Committee to Save New York:

WB: First of all, the Committee to Save New York did not employ a whole bunch of people who were effectively strategic advisors or lobbyists for people who had business with the governor. So, that’s one principal distinction … 77% percent of this money [from the Campaign for One New York] is being paid to people who have other clients who have business with the principal. … [The Committee to Save New York] spent almost all of its money on television ads that were issue-oriented around issues, budget issues and others, that the real estate industry, which largely funded it … where they agreed with and supported the governor’s position. Now I’m sure that the governor played some role in the creation of the Committee to Save New York, but I don’t think he played the kind of explicit role [de Blasio did with the Campaign for One New York]… The Campaign for One New York was actually created within a month of the mayor’s election by his campaign manager and is chaired by his campaign manager. So it is clearly much more of a personal vehicle for the mayor than the Committee to Save New York was. That was certainly something created to benefit the governor, but not created expressly by the governor and run by the governor and run by his closest campaign associates.”

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Barrett criticizes de Blasio for his resistance to engaging with the media and public:

WB: “It’s very, very ironic that a liberal mayor with his kind of history would be so resistant to exchanges with reporters or the public. [And] it’s not just reporters that he’s very reluctant to engage, it’s the public, which I find much more troubling. … A lot of politicians are thin-skinned, but Bill seems to rank toward the top on thin-skilled public officials—not just mayors, I’m thinking of governors and others that I’ve covered.

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Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino

Astorino says he knows who the LLC donor is who gave $100,000+ contribution to the Reform Party, but won’t reveal his name because the donor intends to unmask himself:

Morgan Pehme [Effective Radio’s co-host and producer]: Can you tell us the name of the individual behind that LLC?

RA: I can, but I won’t … I’ll tell you why. I did eventually call the person up who, obviously, wrote a check, the LLC, and I said, “You should take absolute credit for what you did.” … And the person said he agrees and he’s gonna step out at some point and say, “This is exactly why I did it.”

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Astorino says that it was not disservice to Stop Common Core Party voters to change its name to the Reform Party:

RA: “When the campaign ended, we thought it was an opportunity because, as I’ve been saying, I think Governor Cuomo is going to play another trick. He started this panel to look into Common Core. I think they’re going to try to fool everybody, tinker around the edges, and rename it, just like some other states have done. They’re going to take Common Core which is kind of, you know, not that popular and rename it, I don’t know, Excellence in New York Education. Whatever. Then so Common Core is like the Edsel. It means nothing.”

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Astorino denies that supporting him will be a litmus test for candidates to get the Reform Party line:

RA: I mean, look, if it’s in Westchester County, I clearly know the candidates that are running, but there were 2,000 people who received the nomination from the Reform Party. I could probably say that there were 1,900 of them that I don’t know, maybe less than that, but there was a large percentage of people I don’t know. There were some Democrats who go it. There were some Independents who got it. Obviously, there were many more Republicans because they were kind of running on that. But, it was kind of all over the place.

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Astorino criticizes NYC Campaign Finance Board system, public financing of elections:

RA: “Ask John Liu how honest [the Campaign Finance Board] was in New York City. You know, I think he had a ripe case there where they absolutely screwed him, to be very honest with you. And when you’re putting a governmental body made up of appointees, yeah, there could be problems. We’ve seen that. There’s no perfect system. I get it. Look, there is no perfect system, but I think the most important thing is disclosure and that’s got to be first and foremost, so people realize where money is coming from.”

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Astorino agrees with Samuels on eliminating the local share of Medicaid:

RA: “I totally agree with you and I would join you in that cause because I’ve been saying it. So I totally agree with you on that. The reality is that they’re never going to do it because that would force Albany to make some tough decisions on how to run it much more effectively or alter some of the eligibility or requirements or offerings. So I totally agree with you. I think we shouldn’t be the only state that forces the county property taxpayers to pay for this. So we’re in agreement.”

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Astorino weighs in on the 2017 Constitutional Convention vote:

RA: I like the idea a lot that the people would actually have a say in changing things because obviously the state Legislature is not doing what they’re supposed to. But I’m really concerned and leery about the free-for-all and the special interests that could really grab hold of the convention in an organized way with a lot of money behind them and make some really drastic, draconian changes that would that would further make this state worse than it is.

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Business Leader and Former Democratic Lt. Governor Nominee Dennis Mehiel

Mehiel explains how he calculated that his Buffalo Wild Wings franchises could pay a $15 an hour minimum wage without hurting the restaurants’ profitability:

DM: “What we found was that if we were to raise our prices for wings and cheeseburgers and nachos and beer and so on by one and a half percent annually, the increase that we would have to give to our people to get to the $15 on the timeframe recommended would be fully paid. Now what I mean by that is, given that all boats would go up together, right, in other words, if everyone had to do this, and that’s an item, our increase in cost can be passed through to our customers with no change in our profitability at a very, very modest rate. And, to me, it just made all the sense in the world. And I may have been the only restaurateur who testified in favor of this $15 dollar an hour wage, but I do feel strongly about it.”

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