Sunday, January 4, 2009
Pictured at right: Caroline Kennedy in January 2004, while she was working for New York City’s Education Department. She was paid $1 a year.
What I think is interesting about Ms. Kennedy's star quality is: she allowed the rules for financial disclosure to be bent for her when she accepted a position with the New York City Board of Education.
Most of us know that Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg make different rules for different people. They also believe that they "know" what is best for New York City, and buy services with no bid contracts. Mike Bloomberg's push to get a third term as Mayor without a referendum was a good example of this policy. So, when Joel Klein wanted Caroline Kennedy to be involved with the fund-raising for public schools, of course they allowed her to by-pass the vetting process which involved filing details about her personal financial situation. Rudy Giuliani tried to do this with Bernard Kerik, even to the level of a Bush cabinet appointment - and look what happened there.
The fact that Caroline Kennedy was not asked to provide her financial portfolio when she became an employee of the New York City Department of Education (for $1/year) is not surprising, therefore, but I think she should have said then - and she should be saying now - "I am not above the law or rules, I'll disclose my assets just like everyone else".
"Why do New Yorkers accept this "arrogance of immunity"? We need to bring back the rule of law.
January 4, 2009
Kennedy Was Spared Financial Disclosure as a Top Aide at City Schools
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN
Like it or not, roughly 7,000 employees of New York City file 32-page disclosure forms each year divulging personal information about their family finances in an effort to bolster confidence in open government.
But when Caroline Kennedy was employed by the city Department of Education from 2002 to 2004, as the chief executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, she was not required to file, even though two people who worked for her had to disclose information about their finances.
City officials have offered a variety of explanations over the last few weeks why Ms. Kennedy did not have to meet this filing requirement despite her title and the responsibilities she has cited in her efforts to convince the public that she has the experience to take Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat in the Senate.
City officials have most often pointed to Ms. Kennedy’s decision to accept $1-a-year in salary. More recently, Joel I. Klein, chancellor of New York’s schools, explained that she was ultimately exempt from the requirement because the department did not deem her to be a “policymaker.”
On Friday, Ms. Kennedy’s spokesman, Stefan Friedman, (pictured at right) declined to comment on the issue.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a billionaire who takes $1 a year from the city, is required to file disclosure forms each year. At least three of his appointees who have worked for nothing over the years have also filed — a sometimes awkward process, but one intended to serve as a conflict-of-interest safeguard for city officials and the public.
Ms. Kennedy’s finances have been a source of curiosity since she entered the contest to be named New York’s next senator. She has property in New York and on Martha’s Vineyard, and estimates of their worth have varied greatly. Great wealth, of course, can be an asset in an age of expensive campaigns.
Until 2004, public servants were generally required to file disclosure forms if they were officers or directors of agencies or if their salaries indicated high-level responsibility. That year, the city was able to shrink the rolls of those required to file by scrapping the salary test, and instead declaring that anyone holding a policymaking position had to file, regardless of income.
The city even spelled out what it meant to be considered a policymaker: someone who has “major responsibilities and exercises independent judgment in connection with determining important agency matters.”
“Public servants with substantial policy discretion include, but are not limited to, agency heads, deputy agency heads, assistant agency heads and public servants in charge of any major office, division, bureau or unit of an agency,” according to the city. Each agency or department makes the initial determination of who should be deemed a policymaker. The list is then subject to the review of the city’s conflicts-of-interest board, which has ultimate responsibility for collecting the annual forms and making them available to the public.
Though the Education Department is supposed to follow the same rules as every other arm of city government, it has issued its own regulations over the years as to who must file. The conflicts-of-interest board has not protested the department’s decisions regarding the Office of Strategic Partnerships, which Ms. Kennedy headed.
Last week, the board again referred all questions about the matter to the Education Department.
The department’s own written regulations make no mention of a class of “policymakers” who must file. Instead, it notes that employees have to file if they are in the management pay plan or have responsibilities over “contracts, leases, franchises, concessions and applications for variances and special permits” or if they are “serving in sensitive, confidential positions.”
In interviews, Ms. Kennedy has said that should she be chosen for the Senate job, she is “going to comply with every kind of disclosure that’s available.”
When she first went to work for Mr. Klein in October 2002, the job was a break from her former low profile. With fanfare, Mr. Klein put Ms. Kennedy in charge of raising money for the public schools from private sources, and said she would work closely with the department’s affiliated nonprofit organization, the Fund for Public Schools.
The department also announced that she would be in charge of the office of special adviser for the arts, and volunteer efforts like tutoring and mentoring. The next year’s official guide to New York City government listed Ms. Kennedy fifth from the top on the list of executives in the office of the chancellor.
By the middle of 2003, the department announced that Ms. Kennedy had second thoughts about accepting the $90,000 salary initially offered and would instead work for $1 a year.
City officials told The Daily News that July that she alone among those who had elected to forgo a paycheck would not be filing disclosure forms for the prior year because “the Ed Department deleted salary specifications from Kennedy’s specially created post.”
But people who drew nominal salaries at other city agencies at the time were still required to file. Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff filed, as did Andrew Alper, then serving as chief of the Economic Development Corporation.
“The department determined that she did not fall into any of the categories in the pre-2004 disclosure law,” that governed the filing for 2002, said Michael Best, the general counsel for the Department of Education. Likewise, he said, Ms. Kennedy was not obliged to file for 2003 or 2004 because “she did not fit into any of the categories” once the law changed and the department concluded that “she did not have any policymaking position at the Department of Education.”
In August 2004, Ms. Kennedy announced that she was quitting her post in city government, though she continues to raise millions of dollars for the schools through her role as vice chairwoman of the board of the Fund for Public Schools.
While her departure from the city’s rolls cut short the debate over whether she should have been filing, two of those who worked for her were not spared.
Aida Bekele, a lawyer who reported that she was making $115,000 a year as chief of staff for the Office of Strategic Partnerships in 2003, had to file disclosure forms for 2003. So did Charissa Fernandez, who listed herself that year as a director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, making $100,000 a year.
THE KENNEDY QUESTION
Rev. Al Sharpton and Caroline Kennedy break bread at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem. (Bill Moore Photo)
By SAEED SHABAZZ, Amsterdam News
Special to the AmNews
Published: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 11:34 AM EST
Queens Congressman Gary Ackerman (D) told a national television audience watching the CBS Sunday morning show “Face the Nation” that Caroline Kennedy has been Sarah Palan-ized, because her staff answers the questions from the press that have to be submitted in writing.
“DNA in this business can take you just so far,” Ackerman said, laughing at his own statement.
New York print media outlets reported over the weekend that Kennedy’s people responded to 15 questions with answers that were mostly “brief” and “some did not fully address the questions.”
Gov. David Paterson, who has to make the appointment to fill the Senate seat of Sen. Hillary Clinton—provided she is the next U.S. Secretary of State— told Albany reporters that Kennedy told him that “she’d like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are.”
So, observers keep hacking away at the daughter of assassinated president John Kennedy, saying she is a non-practicing attorney with little familiarity of the legislative process who has never been tested in the world of electoral politics.
Former Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro sent a letter to Paterson, according to press reports, asking him to appoint one of the six sitting females representing New York in the Congress. Referring to Kennedy, she said, this is not the time for on-the-job-training, because New York is facing a fiscal crisis.
The Associated Press reported on Dec. 19, that Kennedy hasn’t voted in at least six major elections in the last 20 years, including the 1994 election for Clinton’s Senate seat. Kerry Kennedy, a cousin, stated on the television talk show “Hardball” that she didn’t know if her cousin was pro-choice.
“Her short tour of New York, visiting Harlem and Buffalo and talking to political leaders, but making no public statements and taking no media questions, has set exactly the wrong tone,” stated a writer for Salon.com.
Another glimpse into the political goings and comings of Kennedy was reported in the New York Observer in a story claiming that her political debut happened in the Big Apple some 10 years ago, when she showed up at a “teach-in” against the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton. “Her speech was not memorable—nor did she display passion as she read it,” stated the story. So, did Ackerman invoke the name of Sarah Palin as an insult?
Caroline Kennedy eyes U.S. Senate
JFK's daughter tells N.Y. governor of interest in Clinton's seat
Associated Press, December 16, 2008
Caroline Kennedy told New York's governor yesterday that she's interested in the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, making her the highest-profile candidate to express a desire for the job.
Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson will choose the replacement.
"She told me she was interested in the position," Paterson said. "It's not a campaign. She'd like at some point to sit down."
Caroline Kennedy's spokesman, Stefan Friedman, declined to comment.
Clinton is expected to be confirmed as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.
At an afternoon news conference to discuss last week's paralyzing ice storm, New York's senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, said he has also talked to Kennedy about the job.
Kennedy is the daughter of President John F. Kennedy. Her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, once held the Senate seat she wants. Both men were assassinated.
Paterson has sole authority to appoint a replacement for Clinton, who was elected in 2000 and re-elected by a wide margin in 2006. Paterson will appoint someone to fill Clinton's seat for two years if she is confirmed as secretary of state.
During the past week, Kennedy, who lives in Manhattan, has reached out to prominent New York Democrats to tell them of her interest in the Senate seat. They included Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Kennedy worked closely with Klein as executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships for the New York City Department of Education, where she raised about $65 million for the city's schools.
Other Democrats who appear to be on Paterson's short list include New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who has declined to say publicly whether he's interested.
Republicans wasted no time in criticizing Kennedy as unqualified for the job and unfamiliar with the state.
"If anything, it makes me more determined to run," said Rep. Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican who has expressed interest in the seat.
"As far as record of achievement, I strongly believe that I'm much more qualified, much more experienced and have an independent record," King said. "Nothing against Caroline Kennedy, but I don't think anyone has a right to a seat."
Besides being a member of America's famous political family, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, 50, is president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and a member of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Committee.
She also is a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, a director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, honorary chairwoman of the American Ballet Theatre and vice chairwoman of New York City's Fund for Public Schools.
She received a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a law degree at Columbia University. She and her husband, Edwin Arthur Schlossberg, have three children.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, said Kennedy called him yesterday. Sharpton could be an important Democratic ally, and an early call on political matters can be a critical show of respect. If Sharpton eventually supports Kennedy, his endorsement could go a long way toward helping ease any criticism that a black candidate was passed over.
Sharpton said he disagrees with those who say that Kennedy is not qualified to be a U.S. senator.