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POLITICO New York Playbook, presented by AARP New York: CUOMO'S Medicaid whiz-kid departs -- A state agency photoshop faux-pas -- The Shadow Lobbyists

02/21/2018 07:20 AM EDT

By Jimmy Vielkind in Albany and Laura Nahmias in Manhattan, with Daniel Lippman

Former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco's federal corruption trial entered its fifth week on Tuesday, and could stretch on for another two if the four defendants in the case have their say. Nearly two dozen more witnesses may be called on their behalf after prosecutors finally wrap their case, maybe sometime this week. Those witnesses might include some current and former senior members of the Cuomo administration, including former director of state operations Howard Glaser, current head of the New York Power Authority Gil Quiniones, and Kate Burson, former chief of staff to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's energy czar Richard Kauffman.

The trial now threatens to bleed into the most-frenzied month in Albany - the March madness that constitutes the several weeks before the state's looming April 1st budget deadline. That could prove awkward for lawmakers in the Capitol, and for Cuomo, who will be conducting business as usual at a time when "business as usual" itself is on trial in a courtroom 150 miles away.

We reported yesterday on one facet of Albany's business as usual that's come to the fore because of Percoco's trial: the role of influential consultants like Todd Howe, who are close to powerful officials but aren't actually registered as lobbyists. Far from being a huge secret in the state capitol, these unofficial lobbyists are actually an open source of annoyance among the lobbyists who follow the rules.

IT'S WEDNESDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know ... By email:,, and, or on Twitter: @JimmyVielkind, @nahmias, and @dlippman.

WHERE'S ANDREW? Attending a rally for 1199SEIU at Madison Square Garden.

WHERE'S BlLL? In New York City, with no public events scheduled.

The Tabloids: - New York Post: "HOPE FOR GUN CONTROL"- Daily News: "BUMP BAN ISN'T FIXING THIS"- See Them

More Tabloids: - Newsday: "LIRR FIX-UP PLAN"- El Diario New York: "Latinas en busca de poder" -TRANSLATION: "Latinas in search of power"- See Them

The Free Papers: - Metro New York: "SPRING FLING" - AM New York: "SUBWAY SERVICE IS NOWHERE NEAR GOOD ENOUGH"- See Them

The Broadsheets:- New York Times: - 1 col., above the fold: "OUTCRY GROWING, TRUMP ENDORSES 2 GUN MEASURES" - 1 col., above the fold: "Misery Mounts As Syria Shells Rebel Enclave" - 3 col., above the fold: "A Gut Feeling 'Something Is Going to Change'" - Wall Street Journal: - 1 col., above the fold: "Walmart Stumbles In Shift To Web"- 4 col., above the fold: "U.S. Chases a Saudi Nuclear Deal"- 2 col., below the fold: "Before Politics, Russian Trolls Tweeted Hoaxes"- See Them

** A message from AARP New York: Each passing second means less time for New Yorkers to take control of their future. NY's Secure Choice Savings Program would help workers save for tomorrow and small businesses provide employees an easy savings option. The governor proposed Secure Choice in his budget. Now, tell state lawmakers it's their turn. **

QUOTE OF THE DAY - "I'm the f-ing Michael Jordan of the New York State Senate." ~ Sen. Kevin Parker to the New York Daily News.


- JASON HELGERSON IS LEAVING - POLITICO's Dan Goldberg: Shortly after Cuomo was elected governor in 2010, Paul Francis, now serving as deputy secretary for health and human services, drove Jason Helgerson from New York City to Albany to meet with the Cuomo transition team. In the years since, Francis has often joked that his largest contribution to state government was not crashing the car. Helgerson has been the state's Medicaid director for nearly eight years and has presided over some of the most expensive and consequential health care reforms in state history. But on Tuesday, he began telling employees that he intends to leave the Cuomo administration in April. The decision ends months of speculation that he would not last the year. His legacy will be inexorably linked to the state's Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, or DSRIP, an $8 billion Medicaid waiver from the federal government that seeks to both reduce avoidable hospitalizations by 25 percent and provide health systems across the state with the resources they need to transition to value-based care. Perhaps equally important, if not as consequential for health care reform, is how he and the nascent Cuomo administration ended decades of war among the governor's office, the hospitals and 1199SEIU, the state's largest health care union. Read more here

- DEFRAN BRINGS SALT FIGHT TO THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL - POLITICO's Jimmy Vielkind: Proposals to rework New York's tax code are a "red line" for Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, who on the campaign trail this week blasted Cuomo's plans to "thwart" part of the new federal tax bill. While DeFrancisco's declaration brings the issue of tax policy squarely into the nascent gubernatorial campaign, it could also complicate negotiations over the state's $168.2 billion budget. On Thursday, the Democratic governor amended his budget bills to decouple from the federal tax code and skirt new federal limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes, which he says is necessary to protect taxpayers and maintain the state's economic competitiveness. During press conferences on Monday and in a Tuesday interview with POLITICO, DeFrancisco said Cuomo's proposal was a "gimmick" that will be overruled by the Internal Revenue Service. Read more here

- TITLE INSURERS SUE DFS - New York Law Journal's Josefa Velasquez: "Several title insurance companies are asking the state Supreme Court to strike down newly enacted regulations from the New York Department of Financial Services, arguing that the new rules will result in companies shuttering and layoffs. The New York State Land Title Association Inc.-which represents the industry-along with the Great American Title Agency Inc. and Venture Title Agency filed an Article 78 petition with the Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, claiming that the new regulations by the state's banking and insurance regulator 'wreak havoc on title insurance corporations, title insurance agents, and title closers across the state of New York.' The DFS regulations 'will result in company closures, layoffs and reduced services for consumers, hitting small businesses hardest. DFS must be stopped before more companies are forced to close or lay off employees and consumers are harmed across the state,' the title insurance companies said in court documents filed Tuesday. The title insurance companies are being represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Mylan Denerstein, who previously served as Cuomo's chief counsel, as well as associates Akiva Shapiro and David Coon. Reached for comment Tuesday evening, the New York State Land Title Association referred questions to the court documents. A DFS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment." Read more here

- A PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS - Associated Press' Chris Carola: "A New York economic development agency report meant to show the state's growth was illustrated with an 8-year-old photo showing construction cranes in South Africa. The Associated Press discovered the photo in this month's report from Empire State Development. The photo, showing seven towering heavy-lift cranes being used to build a stadium in Cape Town for the 2010 soccer World Cup, is a cropped version of one owned by Getty Images, available for licensing on its website for up to $575. The photo apparently was used to give the impression of heavy construction activity in the state. Empire State Development said on Tuesday the photo was 'a generic stock image' and will be replaced with an image of ongoing economic development in the state. 'We thank the AP for bringing the matter to our attention,' the agency said. The gaffe comes as Cuomo's economic development programs face questions over their effectiveness. Cuomo, a Democrat, said the programs have brought hundreds of thousands of jobs to the state. Critics, though, question those numbers along with the multibillion-dollar corporate incentives paid with taxpayer dollars." Read more here


- A BACKDOOR SUBWAY TAX - Daily News's Dan Rivoli: "New Yorkers may have to pay more money for a reliable subway ride - but this time, it won't be a fare hike. Instead, it could be through higher utility bills, due to a rare state order forcing Con Ed to repair and inspect equipment on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's turf. This work will cost Con Ed $202 million, which includes $25 million the utility had already planned to spend, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.Con Ed could recoup the costs through rate hikes, according to utility spokesman Michael Clendenin. 'It's a back-door MTA tax on the general public,' John Kaehny, director of Reinvent Albany, a good-government group. 'Sure, the MTA needs money, but this is not the way to find it.'" Read more here.

- CITY TESTED, BERNIE APPROVED - Daily News' Glenn Blain: "New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams' bid for lieutenant governor got the backing Tuesday of a group of Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters. The People for Bernie Sanders said it's endorsing Williams' left-leaning candidacy and will carry petitions to get him on the ballot in the Democratic primary. The group, which bills itself as an "all volunteer digital collective," sprang from the Occupy Wall Street movement to back the senator's 2016 presidential campaign, "Jumaane's track record of justice-seeking activism and solidarity with impacted communities and working people is what makes him the perfect candidate for lieutenant governor of New York," said Winnie Wong, the group's co-founder. eWong also noted that Williams, 41, worked with the group during the Occupy Wall Street protests and served as a surrogate for Sanders in the 2016 race." Read more here.

- PUT IT ON THEM- Ja Rule visits City Hall to raise awareness of 'third-world conditions' at NYCHA - POLITICO New York's Conor Skelding: In a visit to the steps of City Hall on Tuesday morning, Ja Rule joined Council members and New York City Housing Authority residents to bring attention to sub-standard conditions at the embattled public housing authority. "We have New Yorkers living in third-world conditions, and it should not be this way," the rapper, also known as Jeffrey Atkins, said. Ja Rule joined Council Investigations Chairman Ritchie Torres and Public Housing Chairwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel as the Council focuses increased scrutiny on the authority. In recent months, NYCHA has faced outcry over lack of heat and hot water, lead inspections and misleading statements given to the Council. Read the story here.

- "Bronx tenants endure 11 months without cooking gas," by Crain's Joe Anuta: "The city has sued, fined and jailed a Bronx landlord, but tenants say they are still living in subpar conditions and have been without cooking gas for 11 months. Residents of 156 E. 178th St. plan to hold a rally tomorrow urging the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to restore service under the Alternative Enforcement Program, a policy tool designed to coerce landlords into repairing buildings. The city said the work is already in motion, but getting the building into livable shape has taken years. ... But tenants say the city has not used all of its tools fast enough and are demanding more action." Read the story here.


LATE NIGHT BEST - SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-N.Y.) interviewed by Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show": 10-min. video


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rodney Kazibwe, staffer for Sen. Schumer, is 26 ... Assemblyman Mike Cusick ... PR strategist Ryan Rudominer ... former Rep. Henry Nowak (D-N.Y.) is 83 ... Yale President Salovey is 6-0 ... Jonathan Safran Foer is 41

HAPPENING TOMORROW - At 12:30 p.m., there's a "grand opening of Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Business of Brooklyn exhibit at Brooklyn Historical Society featuring an historical conversation with current Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and past Brooklyn Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden. 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn."

TRANSITIONS - Rod O'Connor has been named global head of communications and external affairs at McCourt Global, an alternative investment and asset management firm. He previously was a principal at The Messina Group.

MORNING MEDIA, with POLITICO's Michael Calderone:

WHY PARKLAND IS DIFFERENT: Dave Cullen, who wrote the book on the 1999 Columbine massacre, says he's never seen "anything like these Parkland kids" in his years covering mass shootings. "Now we're in our 19th year of the spectacle murder epidemic and we're tired of 'leaders' consoling us," Cullen writes f or POLITICO magazine. "Comforting word[s] ring hollow now. Victims like the Parkland students want to know: What are you going to do? These kids want no part of platitudes and patronizing, telling them it's going to be OK. It's not. They want politicians to step up and make change."

- I interviewed Cullen in 2013 about media coverage of mass shootings following Aurora and Sandy Hook, as well as his own qualms about becoming a go-to authority on the reoccurring American tragedy. "Every time I write about this or talk about this, there's sort of a pang of a moral dilemma of, 'Should I even be involved in this?'" Cullen said. "But I just have to brush it aside. ... You just have to start writing or start talking or get in the shower, shave and put your suit on and go down to 30 Rock and talk about it. It's kind of your job."

TONIGHT: CNN airs "The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action" at 9 p.m. Congressman Ted Deutch (D), who represents the Parkland community, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) will attend the town hall, moderated by Jake Tapper. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump did not accept invitations to attend.

'HIGH LEVEL OF DISTRUST' AT NPR: David Folkenflik reports that an "outside legal review of NPR's handling of allegations against its former top news executive, Michael Oreskes, found that questions were raised about his behavior toward women even before he was hired." The law firm found "a "high level of distrust" in management's willingness to address allegations, Folkenflik reported.

TAVIS SMILEY SUES PBS: The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reports that "talk-show host Tavis Smiley sued PBS on Tuesday, alleging that the network breached its contract and damaged his production company when it fired him in December over sexual-harassment allegations." Smiley has said PBS made "a huge mistake" in firing him.

-- "Newsweek Staffers Threaten to Resign, Claiming Company Tried to Silence Investigation of Owners," by the Daily Beast's Maxwell Tani: "On Tuesday evening, Newsweek published a story about previously unreported ties between Newsweek Media Group (which also owns International Business Times) and Olivet University's efforts to develop a campus in upstate New York. Olivet, which is affiliated with a mysterious religious sect called 'The Community,' has numerous connections to former leaders of NMG. But not before several reporters and editors made it clear to management that they would quit if Newsweek did not publish the story.The team of journalists including Newsweek deputy editor Ross Schneiderman, news director Cristina Silva, politics editor Michael J. Mishak, and IBT reporters Josh Keefe and Josh Saul mulled resigning in protest on Tuesday if the article was not published."

You can read the full Morning Media column and sign up to receive it in your inbox by clicking here.

REAL ESTATE, with POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg:

INHOSPITABLE - "Kushner Cos. Sued by Times Square Food Hall Tenant Over Lease," by Bloomberg's Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: "A dispute over space at a Times Square property owned by Kushner Cos. has escalated into a lawsuit. Outstanding Hospitality Management, a St. Louis-based operator of airport restaurant spaces, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the company owned by the family of Jared Kushner over more than 1,900 square feet at the former New York Times Building in Manhattan, according to the lawsuit. OHM planned to use the space for a Roaring Twenties-themed champagne bar before Kushner Cos. told them the area had to be shared with another tenant -- directly countermanding their lease and previous communications, according to the lawsuit." Read the story here.

HOUSE OF CARDS - "Surprise: Manhattan homes were poor investments during past decade," by Crain's Joe Anuta: "The typical Manhattan home was a poor investment during the past 10 years, according to data released this month. A report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate showed the median price of a home rose from $955,000 in 2008 to $1.14 million last year, an annualized return of 1.8% before closing costs, taxes, maintenance and mortgage interest. Those costs would have put the typical buyer well into the red." Read the story here.

You can find the free version of Sally's real estate newsletter here:


- New York's adult smoking rate in 2016 hit a record low of 14.2 percent.

- Jeanine Pirro paid $393 for driving 119 miles per hour through the Finger Lakes in November.

- The Canal Corporation will again have a shortened season this year.

THE HOME TEAMS - Howard Megdal:

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is backing a lawsuit against the whistleblower who helped reveal Russia's doping program.

The Yankees acquired utility infielder Brandon Drury in a three-team trade, giving up a pair of minor leaguers.

The day ahead: in men's hoops, Canisius visits Niagara.

#UpstateAmerica: An 82-year-old Hamburg woman is selling her 30,000 hat collection out of her house.

#ZooYork: We're Number One! "Report Says New York City is Nation's 'Dirtiest' City"

FOR MORE political and policy news from New York, check out Politico New York's home page:

SUBSCRIBE to the Playbook family: POLITICO Playbook ... New York Playbook ... Florida Playbook ... New Jersey Playbook ... Massachusetts Playbook ... Illinois Playbook ... California Playbook ... Brussels Playbook ... London Playbook ... All our political and policy tipsheets

** A message from AARP New York: Each passing second means less time for millions of New Yorkers to take control of their financial future. While the clock keeps ticking, 3.5 million New Yorkers keep struggling to find a way to save for retirement. But Secure Choice would let workers save for tomorrow, while helping small businesses provide an easy retirement savings option. The savings program is voluntary for employees and employers, and it's up to each worker to decide if they want to participate and how much they want to put away. We thank Governor Cuomo for proposing Secure Choice in his budget. Now, we call upon the NY State Legislature to include Secure Choice in the final budget. Secure Choice: it's fair, it's right, it's time. Learn more here: **

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