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Danny Hakim Albany Bureau Chief The New York Times The Capitol, Third Floor Albany, New York 12224 Dear Danny: From your questions and Nick Confessore’s comments to people, we understand the story you are trying to construct. We have seen this play before. Your scenario suggests unethical, if not illegal, conduct on the administration’s part, or in the alternative, a malicious or reckless disregard for the facts on your part. We therefore believe it is best to respond in writing. Your questions suggest, and the theory Confessore espouses essentially suggests, that gaming interests contributed to CSNY, a purported political entity for the Governor, and that monetary support prompted the Governor’s support for casinos in New York. The suggestion is obviously insulting and sensational but more, is also dead wrong. Your theory is factually an impossibility: the Governor came out for casinos first, and then the gaming interests joined with CSNY to support the legislation’s passage. Here are the facts: July, 2010: While campaigning for Governor, Cuomo came out in support of commercial casinos, stating: "I support casino gambling. We have to make this (Sullivan) county a destination.” (Middletown Times Herald Record) May 2011: Massachusetts begins hearings on casino gaming bill. June 2011: Governor appoints Ben Liebman as Deputy Secretary for Gaming and Racing, noting that he is an expert in casino gambling and legalized gaming, and charges him with developing a statewide gaming plan. August 2011: Massachusetts Governor and leaders agree on casino gaming package. August 9, 2011: Governor Cuomo says he is open to legalization of full scale casino gambling – NEW YORK TIMES, August 9th, Thomas Kaplan.
August 10, 2011: New York may yet have commercial, non-Indian casinos as part of a comprehensive gambling plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo – ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 10th, Michael Gormley. August 10, 2011: Gov. Cuomo said yesterday it may be time for the state to go all in on casinos – NY Daily News, August 10th, Glenn Blain. September 2011: Quinnipiac Poll shows majority of New Yorkers support casino gaming in NY. September 2011: Published reports say that Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos will support legalized gaming in NY. November 2011: Massachusetts statehouse passes and Governor signs into law casino gaming bill. December 2011: The time when Confessore says gaming interests contributed to CSNY. Thus, the Governor’s position on casino gaming was established and articulated prior even to the existence of CSNY, let alone Genting’s association with them. So, as a factual matter your theory is impossible. There can be no cause and effect because the Governor’s position came first. In truth, the gaming interests joined with CSNY to get the legislature to pass the law that the Governor initiated. Also, and most important, and as your reporters fully know, the Governor OPPOSES the central position of the gaming interests. The racino interests want casinos to be located exclusively at their racing tracks. The Governor insists on an open competition which would allow casinos to be located anywhere in the state. The gaming companies in question are diametrically opposed to the Governor’s interests and will be his greatest obstacle in getting the casino legislation passed next year. The administration told track owners that we will never support casinos at racino sites exclusively and we should all cooperate to get the law passed by the legislature this year and reserve our controversy for next year. We suspect that is what you mean by “encouraging them to work with CSNY” (whatever that means). Your reporters also know that the main gaming company, Genting, was in talks with the administration for 6 months and never consummated an agreement for a racino/convention center. To try to suggest an improper relationship between the Governor and gaming interests is to distort the facts in a malicious or reckless manner. To address other points broached by you or Confessore: First, you have suggested that CSNY has improperly “coordinated” with the Governor’s staff. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the law. CSNY is a lobbying organization; it is not an election committee. The prohibition against coordination or more precisely the need for “independence” only applies to election committees. Under both federal and New York election laws, activities by a purportedly independent group cannot be "in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of" a candidate, candidate's campaign committee or any agent of the candidate, or else it is not independent and may be treated as a direct 2
contribution. 2 USC 441A(a)(7)(B)(i); see NY Elec. L. 14-100(9)(3). Such rules regarding coordination are applicable to PACs and super PACs in the context of an election campaign. They are inapplicable here. By contrast, for an issue advocacy and lobbying organization such as CSNY -- a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation and not a PAC or "political committee" -- such coordination with elected officials is wholly proper, common and necessary. Groups and individuals advocating for changes to laws or spending priorities work with legislators and electeds every day to enact or to block such changes. Lobbying organizations by law and by definition must work in concert with elected officials to support or oppose. You suggest that CSNY’s purpose is to help Governor Cuomo politically. Your analysis seems to confuse two issues. The first is the effect of political organizations, directed by or coordinated with the candidate, such as super PACs, without financial limits and without adequate disclosure. The second is the effect of lobbying organizations in Albany, now subject to disclosure, and CSNY as a major new lobbying force. They are wholly unrelated and different situations. The first is, in our opinion, a real issue to be resolved. The second is a welcome addition to the debate and dialogue in Albany too long manipulated and controlled by a small handful of multimillion-dollar vested interests. Of course lobbying groups can help or hurt elected officials by their activity but that political effect is coincidental to their lobbying effort. When the marriage equality (c)(4)s ran ads saying in essence, “Cuomo is great because he is for fairness,” that had a positive political effect. However, the political effect was not their purpose. Likewise when the AFL-CIO, Teachers and PEF this year spent approximately 7 million dollars advertising in essence “Cuomo is against working men and women because of Tier VI” their goal was to lobby against Tier VI but it had a negative political effect. If and when the campaign finance C4s will advertise “Cuomo is great, he is for clean elections” the goal will be to lobby for campaign finance. But it will have a positive political effect for the Governor. You know this distinction because for many years unions spent tens of millions lobbying against Governors and unions spent millions against Governor Cuomo this year. They may have a political effect, positive or negative, but the purpose is to lobby. Such coordination by elected officials with issue advocacy organizations is and not new or novel. In fact, 501(c)(4) organizations like CSNY have been a major part of efforts to lobby Albany for decades. For example, Mayor Bloomberg's administration formed and coordinated with Education Reform Now in 2010 to run TV ads and conduct in-person lobbying in an effort to raise the cap on charter schools in New York State. NYPIRG, American Cancer Society, Labor Unions, Citizens Union, Education Advocacy groups, all work with or against elected officials. Similar organizations were formed and coordinated with this administration in the campaign to pass same-sex marriage last year. Lobbying organizations must be wary of their in near proximity to political elections and some policy makers and courts restricted ads supporting or opposing candidates 60 days prior to an election. This administration works closely with 501(c)(4) organizations on mental health, campaign finance reform, and many other issues to try to achieve changes to the laws.
You suggest CSNY has influenced the Governor’s positions. CSNY has not influenced the Governor’s positions because his identical positions existed prior to CSNY’s formation. The Governor laid out his vision for a fiscally responsible state government in his campaign -- a property tax cap, a 2% cap on growth in state spending, no new taxes, and a budget without gimmicks or one-shots -- long before CSNY appeared or supported those positions in their advocacy. In fact, any objective analysis would show that any changes in the Governor’s policies have been directly contrary to CSNY’s interests. The Governor has taken numerous positions that directly conflict with those held dearly by CSNY's principal members. Indeed, the member organization’s signature and formative issues are opposed by the Governor. REBNY exists in large part to seek to end rent regulation in New York State; Governor Cuomo championed and got passed a robust extension of such rent regulation much to the chagrin of REBNY. The Partnership for NYC opposed any continuation of the tax on high-income earners known as the Millionaire's Tax; Governor Cuomo crafted and got passed a progressive taxation plan that included taxes on such high-earners rather than just allowing the Millionaires tax to expire. Gaming companies like Genting’s major issue is to have casinos located at their race tracks; Governor Cuomo opposes having casinos only at the tracks. You have been reporting to disclose CSNYs donors. On the issue of donor disclosure, Governor Cuomo has made a dramatic reform in requiring (c)(4)s to disclose donors for the first time in history. CSNY will disclose its donors this year as the direct result of Governor Cuomo's Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011. This reform makes New York the only state in the nation that requires (c)(4)s, like CSNY and other similar groups, to disclose their source of funding. Investigative journalism aside, donor disclosure is now the law. Curiously, The Times did not editorially support this historic reform. You suggest that CSNY are all “rich business types”. While we do not think rich business people are bad, it is just factually incorrect. CSNY has merged these groups with officials of the labor movement – the head of the Building Trades Council, and major Democratic standard bearers like Carl McCall. (The Times endorsed Democratic governor candidate against Andrew Cuomo in 2002.) You have suggested that CSNY spends more money than any other lobbying group in Albany. Not true. Unlike CSNY, the largest unions in NYS spend millions of dollars directly supporting candidates through political contributions and run ads. CSNY only ran TV ads. CSNY made no political contributions; in fact, in 2011 the combined total of political campaign and lobbying expenditures for the public employee unions well exceeded CSNY's entire lobbying expenses. You suggest that CSNY is essentially a nonentity manipulated by the Governor. CSNY is comprised primarily of Partnership for New York and REBNY. The Partnership represents the leading companies in New York. The membership includes CEOs of American Express and Macys, as well as Barclays, MetLife and most major New York State corporations. REBNY represents leading real estate companies in the state and nation. Companies like Related and Brookfield. The associations are led by Kathy Wylde and Steve Spinola, two seasoned government professionals with years of Albany experience. Neither is a political partisan or Cuomo political ally. Most members traditionally support Republicans. The gaming interests 4
are represented by a small army of Albany lobbying professionals. The Times may object to the political ideology and agenda of CSNY but it cannot be denied, dismissed or attributed to the Governor. Their lobbying agenda predates Governor Cuomo and for the most part is at odds with the Governor’s agenda. The commonality this year has been on moderate fiscal policies and basic bipartisanship functioning of government. In reality the 18 months of Governor Cuomo’s tenure would show that the largest amount of lobbying money was actually spent against Governor Cuomo by the unions, AFL-CIO, CSEA and PEF on the Tier VI issue and tax cap. CSNY would be next in spending to support certain economic policies and bipartisanship and functionality in Albany. Marriage equality spent millions lobbying and advertising on perhaps Governor Cuomo’s greatest political benefit – the passage of marriage. The Democratic Party and Mayor Bloomberg also ran ads supporting the Governor’s agenda. But more lobbying and political money was spent against the Governor’s agenda than in support of the Governor’s agenda. There is no doubt that this year’s legislative debate had more voices and was more balanced than past years. The Albany lobbying monopoly was broken, much to the chagrin of some but to the benefit of the people of the state. Albany has functioned better than the past by all measures and public confidence in the state government and the direction of the state is much more positive. To malign, distort, or intimidate CSNY supporters or cast suspicion on their efforts is wrong on the facts, law and effect. To report CSNY’s lobbying efforts without reporting the context, history and totality is misleading. We understand The Time’s desire to win awards for breaking scandals, but that is different than trying to manufacture them. We reserve the right to make all or part of this letter public or provide it to other sources of publication. Sincerely,
Richard Bamberger Director of Communications
Jeremy Creelan Special Counsel
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