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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Information on the NYS Senate Coup and Collapse

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith Accepts Award from the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Joined by Senators Adams and Schneiderman (The Council's Chief Executive Officer is William E. Rapfogel, the husband of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's Assistant, Judy Rapfogel).

Back to regular senate madness in Albany: Rogue Democrat Pedro Espada returning to fold
By Kenneth Lovett, Elizabeth Benjamin, and Glenn Blain, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Updated Friday, July 10th 2009, 12:58 AM

Its over - for now.

The month-long Senate fiasco seemingly came to an end much as it began - with a betrayal.

Turncoat Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., who participated in the June 8 Republican-led coup, held true to reputation by flipping back to the Democrats. He was promptly named the Senate's new majority leader.

His return gives the Democrats a 32-30 majority. The Senate for the first time in more than a month returned to regular session Thursday night and at 9:35 p.m. started passing bills.

At about 1:30 a.m., the Senate gave final passage to a bill giving the city permission to raise its sales tax by 0.5%. Mayor Bloomberg said the Senate delay was costing the city $60 million a month and led to a hiring freeze on firefighters and police.

The bill passed 43-19 early this morning with Republican help because a number of Democrats opposed it as too regressive. Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) ripped Mayor Bloomberg, a billionaire, for "thinking it's okay to tax regular people when he doesn't want to see rich people pay their share."

Meanwhile, the issue of mayoral control over the city's schools will likely go into next week.

The Senate has been paralyzed since the GOP-led coup, which occurred with just two weeks left in the legislative session.

Gov. Paterson tried to force them into action by requiring them to meet every day, withholding their pay and doing his best to embarrass them.

Espada's return to the Democratic conference posed problems for many Democrats, who for weeks attacked him as an unethical political opportunist "thief" who may not live in his district and was once indicted. Fewer than half attended the press conference trumpeting Espada's return.

"Can I use the same shower you've been using for the past four weeks?" Long Island Democrat Craig Johnson (pictured above) joked to Brooklyn Republican colleague Martin Golden about Espada's return.

Espada, who for weeks said Democrats had to recognize the June 8 coup and his election as Senate president, yesterday insisted the coup was never about titles.

He said his alliance with the Republicans taught the GOP about inner cities problems and will lead to needed reforms.

"I never left the Democratic Party," Espada said. "I never left my conference. We were in conflict; that conflict is resolved."

Under the deal that brought him back, Malcolm Smith (D-Queens),(pictured at right) the man toppled in the coup, returns as as Senate president. (see article blow - Editor)

John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) will be Democratic conference leader.

"To the 19.5 million people in the state of New York, we apologize," Sampson said. "We are getting back to work."

Just hours before the deal was sealed at midnight Thursday, Espada vehemently denied he was going back to the Democrats or wanted to be majority leader.

Some Democrats who initially opposed Espada's return grudgingly recognized that it might have been necessary to end the stalemate with the Democrats in charge.

"Our job . . . is to move bills and this appears to be a way to move legislation," said Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).

A top Senate Democrat said Espada will have no real power as majority leader. He was not running the floor debate last night.

Republicans were taken aback by Espada's betrayal after his repeated denials that he would go back to the Democratic conference.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos predicted the fractured Democratic conference will crumble within a few months.

"There are so many factions there that would like to . . . slit the other faction's throats that I think it is going to be difficult for them to lead and govern," he said.

Updated: 10:02 AM ET July 14, 2009
Skelos Plot Against Espada Topples Coalition
Republican Treachery Costs Them Power


By Roger Stone

Republican State Senate leader Dean Skelos and his Press Secretary and Chief Political Advisor John McArdle attempted to stage a coup that would cast Senator Pedro Espada aside and make Senator Jeffrey Klein (D) the new Senate President. Klein was to bring a handful of other Democrats to the 'new' coalition with Skelos delivering all the Republicans. The plot brought the so-called bi-partisan coalition down and cost Skelos the Majority Leader's position.

When Klein was unable to deliver any other support, Skelos and McArdle opened negotiations with Senator Carl Kruger and the so-called 'Amigos' including Senators Rueben Diaz, Sr., Senator Hiram Monserrate offering to make Kruger Senator President if the Amigos would back a new coup. Kruger demanded both positions be filled by Democrats asking Skelos if he wanted the "title or the power?"

The plots back-fired when Klein and Kruger informed Espada of the treachery of his new Republican allies and the Bronx Democrat rejoined the Democrats with the inducement of the Senate Majority Leader's position. Democrats who were denouncing Espada and vowing never to recognize him as Senate President in that morning's New York Post, were electing him Majority Leader by lunchtime.

Espada extracted commitments that the reforms in the Senate passed to make the Senate more open and divide resources more fairly would stand and Upstate billionaire Tom Golisano extracted similar reform commitments from the new leadership. It was made clear that Smith will leave in January to make way for Sampson.

Skelos and McCardle conducted the secret talks that brought their rule down behind the backs of Senator Tom Libous and Senator George Maziars, the two senators most instrumental in staging the stunning and legal Senate take-over and without the knowledge of Upstate reformer Tom Golisano who was also key to getting Espada to join a coup and commit to a rapid reform agenda for the rotting Albany process.

Gov David Paterson was right when he said the perks being proffered to the turn-coats including those offered to Klein by Skelos to jump ship bordered on the illegal. Senate Republicans upset about being out of the majority again can blame Skelos and his clueless sidekick McArdle for ending their brief return to power.

Ousted Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith didn't mind store - or rats
Daily News, Wednesday, June 10th 2009, 12:02 AM

Malcolm Smith ignored two cardinal rules of politics, says Juan Gonzalez.

Malcolm Smith is today the ex-majority leader of the state Senate because he ignored two cardinal rules of politics.

Rule No. 1: Count your votes - and do it every day.

Rule No. 2: Keep your enemies close.

Smith revealed himself as a bumbling bystander totally unprepared for prime time this week. Two disaffected and devious Democrats,

Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate, pulled off a stunning revolt and handed majority control of the Senate back to the Republicans.

"They caught us with our pants down," a chagrined Smith adviser conceded. "It's amazing that Espada planned this for so long and no one saw it coming."

Democrats have held the slimmest 32-30 margin in the Senate since the November election. Smith's main job was to preserve that lead - and maybe even win over some Republicans.

He failed to do either.

Instead, Smith further alienated the already wounded Republican minority. He hoarded the dispensation of pork barrel member items even more for his own party. He neglected to keep a close eye on Espada and Monserrate, who had already shown a willingness to buck his leadership and flirt with the opposing side.

Tuesday night, a handful of key Senate Democrats met with Monserrate and Espada in a desperate effort to win their votes back for another Democrat.

Everyone recognizes that Smith's brief reign as Democratic leader is over. Everyone, that is, except Smith, who was still refusing late Tuesday to step aside.

For the Democrats, who just finished moving into bigger Senate offices and hiring more staff as the new majority party, the thought of giving all that up is almost too much to bear.

Several are said to be willing to accept the new Republican majority - if they can keep their offices and committee chairmanships.

Meanwhile, Espada and Monserrate are basking in their kingmaker status.

In the case of Espada, whom I have known for 20 years, there could not be a sleazier spokesman for political reform.

Back in 1999, he invited me to his offices at the Soundview Health Center in the Bronx, the nexus of his poverty program fiefdom.

At the time, Espada was under investigation by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. The probe would later lead to his indictment and eventual acquittal on charges of using Medicaid funds for his political campaign.

Espada claimed the probe was a political vendetta orchestrated by the Bronx Democratic Party machine because of his independence. He offered to play some secret recordings he had made of conversations with top politicians in the Bronx that proved his allegations.

The tapes were of Bronx Democratic Party chief Roberto Ramirez, Assemblyman Larry Seabrook, former Sen. Guy Velella, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Dick Gidron, the deceased auto dealer and big-bucks contributor to Bronx Democrats and others.

The conversations were embarrassing, but not incriminating.

But I was astonished at how willing Espada was to wear a wire against any politician, Democrat or Republican, to save his own skin.

This is the same man Republicans have agreed to name temporary Senate president, placing him a heartbeat from the governor's mansion.

Monserrate, of course, has his own legal problems. He will soon stand trial on charges of assaulting his girlfriend. If he is convicted, the Republicans will quickly lose their newfound majority.

Many who know Monserrate see him differently from Espada. Monserrate at least once showed some integrity. Espada, on the other hand, has been a consistent opportunist his entire career.

Now both sides, Republicans and Democrats, are wooing Espada and Monserrate. My advice to both sides - check Pedro for wires.