In campaign filing, Ball details spending from nearly seven years ago | Politics on the Hudson

Gannett reports:

[State Sen. Greg] Ball showed that he spent $25,000 in May 21 on high-profile New York City attorney Joseph Tacopina. He announced May 16 he would not seek re-election.

Ball spent $2,860 on a poll in February and then another $3,000 on a poll May 5, the filings with the state Board of Elections showed.

Ball has criticized media reports that suggested his campaign spending is under review by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.


Michael Benjamin

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New today: A State Assembly Candidate’s Ragged Efforts for Hope-and-Change | NY Post Opinion

Michael Blake’s run for a corruption-plagued South Bronx seat in the state Assembly may be turning out to be “historic” for the wrong reasons, former state Assemblyman Michael Benjamin writes in the NY Post:

Michael Blake’s run for a corruption-plagued South Bronx seat in the state Assembly may be turning out to be “historic” for the wrong reasons.
A former top operative for Barack Obama going back to the 2008 Democratic primaries, Blake is running for the seat that Eric Stevenson vacated after being convicted of bribery in January. But his own efforts to stand for “hope and change” — and for the people of the district — are looking a little ragged.
Blake recently bragged on Facebook about the “record-setting and historic” $160,000 he’d raised. But he’s rumored to be getting help some odd places. Is Johannesburg, not Jersey City, the sixth borough? Why Johannesburg?
Well, that’s where US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard calls home. And Blake is a protégé of Gaspard, who once headed the Democratic National Committee and the political-action arm of powerhouse union 1199 SEIU.
Some Bronx Democrats are accusing Gaspard of calling his pals at 1199 SEIU urging their support of Blake — and, indeed, the union endorsed him Friday.
Gaspard already stands accused of violating the federal Hatch Act, which limits the political activity of federal employees. GOP operative O.B. Murray says he learned that Gaspard advised Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) during his recent heated primary campaign.
In June, the White House Office of Special Counsel cleared Gaspard of violating the Hatch Act. But Murray notes that the State Department is still investigating because it has stricter rules regarding political activity.
Meanwhile, for all his celebrity status as a former Obama campaign staffer and White House aide, Blake needs to shore up his community base.
Hours after his Facebook post about his 3,087 petition signatures and “record-setting” war chest, word broke that Blake had broken promises to local leaders.
Bronx Democratic bosses learned that he had assembled a slate of community leaders to challenge their district leaders and state committee members.
He quickly got a disapproving call from party adviser Patrick Jenkins. Blake says Jenkins told him that running for the Assembly was one thing, but running an opposing slate was a declaration of war.
Blake said he was shocked at the audacity of the Jenkins upbraiding. But shock soon turned into compliance, as the Blake campaign severed ties with his reform slate and filed nominating petitions for his candidacy alone.
Rev. Bruce Rivera, the Blake-recruited candidate for district leader, says he doesn’t feel bitter and continues to support Blake’s Assembly bid. But other members of the slate were outraged by his betrayal.
Asked for comment, Blake campaign spokesman Aaron Carr e-mailed: “After discussion amongst the members of the slate we felt it was in the best interest of all the campaigns not to file together.”
A Bronx operative fresh off of Rep. Rangel’s primary victory thought it was important for Blake to have local leaders on his team.
But this betrayal of his own slate could bring its own problems, he says, since “[Blake] doesn’t need negative word of mouth.”
Like many, he can’t see why Blake would curry favor with County, as the local power­brokers are known.
I circled back with Carr, the Blake spokesman, to ask whose best interests were served by the candidate splitting from his slate. The answer: “We are staying with our original comment.”
Community activist Camella Price says locals are viewing Blake as a con artist. “Many are saying that if he’s doing this now, what can we expect when he’s in office?”
Blake may need to use every penny in his $160,000 war chest and all the luminescence of his Obama wattage to win over voters who are growing alienated by his style and actions.

Follow Michael Benjamin at:; Twitter: @SquarePegDem

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Second Tier 79AD Candidate Outraises County Democrats Favorite

Synopsis of 79AD (Bronx) campaign finance reports:

George Alvarez – Contributions: $41,171; Expenditures: $15,912; Cash on-hand: $25,239

  • Much of Alvarez’s contributions were raised from Upper Manhattan, Bronx and 79AD

  • Notable donors

  • E. Alvarez, $4000 and A. Acosta, $4000 – both reside at 807 Elton Av, Bronx

  • F. Batista, $4000

  • D. Sena, $3500

  • C. Encarnacion, $2400; also residing at 807 Elton Av, Bronx

  • R. Tallaj, $2000

  • F. Tavares, $1000

  • Christian Multiservices (Manhattan), $500

Notable expenditures

  • $7000 in unitemized spending

  • $5000 on lawyers, Maldonado & Cruz PC – 181 E 161st Street, Bronx

  • $3500 on petitions, Rafael Vega

Marsha Michael – Amt raised: $32,929; Amt spent: $10,019; Cash on-hand: $22,909 (Favored candidate of the Bronx County Democratic organization)

  • over 60% donations from LLCs, PACs and Bronx elected officials

  • Trial lawyers, $4000

  • Bronx County Democrats, $12,100

  • only 18 Bronx donors; 1 donor from the 79AD

Notable expenditures

  • Benny Catala (campaign mgr), $2065

  • Jesus Ocasio (petitions), $2000

  • LJW Community Strategies (consultant), $1,000

Raul Rodriguez – Amt raised: $1971; Amt spent: 1998; Cash on-hand, $2.31

**In a telephone interview, Rodriguez claimed an incomplete filing; claims $7,300 cash on-hand

  • Notable contributions

  • Rodriguez loaned his campaign, $553.91

  • Eighteen Bronx donors; two from the 79 AD

Notable expenditures

  • Virtual PBX phone service (web-based), $1000

Frederic Ricks – No disclosure filing made as of July 15 (SBOE)

Latina Jones – No disclosure filing made as of July 15 (SBOE)

Follow Michael Benjamin at


Read his columns in the NY Post and City and State NY.

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Feds go after convicted former NY Sen. Pedro Espada’s full pension – NY Daily News

The Daily News Ken Lovett reported:

Disgraced former state Sen. Pedro Espada has now lost his entire pension.A judge in June ordered that 25% of Espada’s $612 monthly pension be garnished to help collect the $118,981 Espada owes the Internal Revenue Service.

And last week, state Controller Thomas DiNapoli’s office last week received another federal court order to withhold the remaining 75% to help satisfy a $368,088 criminal forfeiture judgement against the crook convicted crook.

Espada, 60, was sentenced in 2013 to five years for plundering funds from his Bronx health clinic and tax evasion.

Michael Benjamin

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Bronx Senator Diaz Questions US History Regents Essay

Today, my friend and former colleague state senator Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. released a copy of his letter to Chancellor Merryl Tisch of the NYS Board of Regents inquiring why students taking the recent US History and Government Regents exam were precluded from using the Brown vs. Board of Education case in their thematic essay (although they could use other landmark Supreme Court decisions).

I replied to Senator Diaz that the Brown case was too easy to reference. The other cases listed on the history exam required real thought and analysis. And in my opinion, 60 years later Brown remains a pyrrhic victory for black public school students nationwide.

Rev. Diaz’s letter is attached below:

July 2, 2014Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Board of Regents, Room 110 EB
Albany, New York 12234 

Dear Chancellor Tisch:

This letter is to inquire why the Board of Regents limited students, in the thematic essay, to not use Brown vs. Board of Education, as they could use other important Supreme Court decisions, during the June 2014 United States History and Government Regents.

United States History and Government / Content-Specific Rubric 
Thematic Essay / June 2014

Theme: Change —The Supreme Court 
Throughout United States history, the Supreme Court has dealt with many controversial issues. The Court’s decisions in these cases have had a significant impact on the United States and/or on American society 
Task: Select two United States Supreme Court decisions that have had a significant impact on American society and for each 
• Describe the historical circumstances surrounding the case 
• Explain the Court’s decision in the case 
• Discuss the impact of the decision on the United States and/or on American society

You may use any Supreme Court decision from your study of United States history. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Schenck v. United States (1919), Korematsu v. United States (1944), Engel v. Vitale (1962), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), New York Times v. United States (1971), Roe v. Wade (1973), and United States v. Nixon (1974). 
You are not limited to these suggestions. 
Do not use Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka as one of your Supreme Court decisions.

We all know that this year, the United States celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, ruling that segregated schools for black and white children were unconstitutional.  We also know that for the past 60 years, segregation in enrollment is not legally enforced in New York City – but by virtue of economics and the allocation of resources, segregation in New York City’s public schools for Black and Hispanic children remains a harsh reality of separate and unequal education.

As a New York State Senator representing the South Bronx – the poorest community in the nation – I believe that in one of the last tests our high school children take before graduating, they should focus on and be inspired by the promise of the Brown vs Board of Education decision – not told to exclude it.  Clearly, our youth will have to devote themselves to furthering and fulfilling that promise and for the generations of those to come.  I cannot appreciate nor understand why your History and Government Regents has so dampened this inspirational decision. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I await your earliest reply.

Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz

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79 AD (Bronx) Contenders Gather at Concourse Village Forum

Thursday night, I dropped by the Concourse Village Concerned Shareholders of NYC 79 AD Candidates Night which brought together four of the six announced contenders. Marsha Michael, the choice of the Bronx Democratic organization, was a notable no-show. Local businessman, George Alvarez was the other no-show.

Michael Blake, Raul Rodriguez, Frederick Ricks and Lanita Jones were in attendance. Blake and Rodriguez seemed to be hits with the Concourse Village shareholders. At times during the forum, all but Blake seemed in over their heads.

Entrepreneur/entertainer/actor Frederick Ricks, who voiced his support for Zephyr Teachout, said that NY is a corrupt state. Ricks, a native of Forest Houses/NYCHA, is a father of three college-aged children. He vowed to walk the streets with “comrades” to reach our youth.

Lanita Jones, a resident of Claremont Village (NYCHA), although game was clearly out of her depth. Afterward, she stopped to answer a few questions before leaving the forum. Ms. Jones had no response when I asked her about the sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the Assembly. Nor did she know who Sheldon Silver is. Nice woman but definitely not ready for prime time.

Obama operative, Michael Blake was easily head and shoulders above the other contenders. He was knowledgeable and personable (he threw out an oxtails and rice reference to a West Indian woman). Blake forced to answer the residency and community ties questions that have dogged his candidacy. He responded that he has resided on Washington Avenue near the 42 police precinct for one year and four months. Michael Blake also announced that he won the endorsements of NY Communities for Change and the Manhattan-based Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.

Parent coordinator, Raul Rodriguez was easily the most personable and accessible candidate. He used humor and being a husband and father to four daughters to illustrate his points. When asked about corruption, Rodriguez drew laughs when he said, he’d have to answer to his wife first before the police arrived.

After a night off from gathering nominating petitions, the candidates must return to the campaign trail to knock on doors and meet voters. Assembly candidates need the signatures of 500 enrolled Democrats to qualify for the September 9 primary.

[I'll be adding video and audio in later posts.]

[Editor's note: Late last night, a campaign spokesperson for Marsha Michael said his candidate received a candidate questionnaire last Friday but Ms. Michael already had a Central Labor Council endorsement scheduled for Thursday night. The spokesperson questioned the wisdom of holding a candidates night before nominating petitions were filed and candidacies certified.]

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Michael Benjamin is former state legislator from the Bronx. He is currently a contributor to the NY Post and City and State NY. He works as a public affairs consultant. Follow him on Twitter: @SquarePegDem
Skype: SquarePegDem

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Challenging Inequalities in NYC Housing Plans

Challenging Inequalities in NYC Housing Plans (video) via @bxperspectives @BronxnetTV

Go to link =>

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Bronx Democrats, Public Advocate Letitia James, back two for state Assembly – NY Daily News

The Bronx Democratic Committee and Public Advocate Letitia James are throwing their support to two contenders for state Assembly.

Lawyers Latoya Joyner and Marsha Michael are seeking to represent the 79th and 77th Assembly Districts, respectively.

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NY-13 Election Results Probably Won’t be Certified Until July 8

NYC BOE: NY-13 Recanvass Begins July 2

Tuesday night’s AP tallies for the congressional primaries are unofficial. State election law requires an official recanvass of all ballots. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by June 23 and received by the Board of Elections no later than next Tuesday, July 1.

As of this afternoon, neither the Espaillat nor the Rangel campaigns (NY-13) have filed papers challenging yesterday’s federal primary. Neither LatinoJustice nor any other third-party voting rights organization has raised questions or filed papers alleging voting irregularities and/or machine breakdowns in NY-13.

According to NYC Board of Elections spokeswoman Valarie Vazquez, valid absentee ballots will be opened and counted on July 2 beginning at 10am in the borough offices (MN and BX). Vazquez says that there are 747 absentee ballots in the Manhattan portion of NY-13 and 242 such ballots in the Bronx portion. That makes for a total of 989 absentee ballots in NY-13.

There are over 2300 affidavit ballots to be validated by BOE personnel. There are 1,857 “A” or affidavit ballots in Manhattan and 459 in the Bronx. Usually 50% of A” ballots are found to be valid. As of 5PM Wednesday, the exact number number of “A” ballots in ten (10) Manhattan election districts in NY-13 has not been determined.

Approximately 2000 ballots (i.e., absentee and “A” ballots) will be counted beginning next Wednesday, July 2. Due to July 4th holiday, a complete recanvass may not be finished until July 7. BOE commissioners could certify as early as their scheduled July 8 Commissioners Meeting.

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Michael Benjamin is former state legislator from the Bronx. He is currently a contributor to the NY Post and City and State NY. He works as a public affairs consultant. Follow him on Twitter: @SquarePegDem

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Judge Declares Mistrial in Malcolm Smith Corruption Trial | NBC New York

A federal judge has declared a mistrial in the corruption trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and one other politician because of conflicts with the jurors’ schedules. Smith and former Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone are accused of scheming to bribe Republican party leaders so Smith, a Democrat, could run for the GOP line in the New York City mayoral race. Former Councilman Daniel Halloran is also accused, but the case against him is expected to proceed.The new trial for Smith and Tabone will begin in January.The case ran into trouble last week when a witness disclosed the existence of more than 90 hours of secret recordings involving a government informant, including 28 hours in Yiddish. The prosecution had not shared the recordings on the grounds they weren’t relevant to the case, but defense lawyers differed and Judge Kenneth Karas ordered full disclosure, which would mean the case would run until at least mid-July.

The jurors had only committed to stay with the case through late June and, because of their schedules, could not commit for another month, the judge said.

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