Rattling the Cup

Budget Lobbying, Redistricting Continues, Border Clash

Good morning from Hearing Room B where lawmakers will wrap up this year’s joint Legislative Budget Hearings with Mental Hygiene, Taxes, and Housing on tap. Last week saw hearings on Higher Education and Environmental Conservation, as well as General Government, unofficially known as “Tin Cup Day” as municipal lawmakers make the pilgrimage to Albany to lobby for their local priorities. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams made the case that New York City alone cannot shoulder the costs of the migrant crisis and implored state lawmakers to do more saying, “Making the city more livable means investing in cleaner streets, more vibrant public spaces. To continue this investment, we need financial support to cover the cost of the asylum seeker humanitarian crisis. These are urgent needs that support working-class families in New York City, and our administration is asking for your help once again.”

The other item on Adams’ wish list is a four-year extension of mayoral control over public schools which is currently set to expire on June 30th. Governor Kathy Hochul has thrown her support behind the request and included it in her Executive Budget proposal, however many in the Legislature are at least skeptical and others opposed. Senator John Liu, Chair of the New York City Education Committee offered, “Many legislators are critical about the way the mayor has handled education and schools. They’ve been concerned about ongoing budget cuts to schools even as we’ve continued to increase state funding for New York City public schools, and people are concerned about the city’s reluctance to embrace class size reduction.” Adams had the same request in 2022, and subsequent negotiations resulted in a two-year extension rather than the four years Adams was seeking. 

The education fight extends beyond New York City, with affected school districts across the state apoplectic over Governor Hochul’s proposed changes to the school aid formula. Citing a 25% to 30% decrease in enrollment in various districts since the formulas were developed in 2008, Hochul is seeking to end the “hold harmless” policy which guarantees that a school district will not receive less funding than they did in the previous fiscal year.

Opponents of the plan have argued that now is not the time for drastic changes to the school aid formula as school districts are still recovering from pandemic-era learning loss. Among those critics is New York State United Teachers President Melinda Person who offered, “To say we are profoundly disappointed is an understatement.” The reactions from Hochul’s fellow lawmakers have been equally skeptical, with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins saying, “Our conference … is open to having conversations about it, but anything that starts with half of the school districts in the State getting less money is obviously a very difficult conversation to begin in earnest.” There will be much more to come on this story as the Senate and Assembly release their respective one-house budgets. 

Which issues will dominate the 2024 Legislative Sessions from D.C. to Albany?

Jack lays it out in our annual Legislative Preview.

Read it here.

It was a busy week for law enforcement agencies in New York City. First, a former colleague of Eric Adams from his time in the NYPD has pleaded guilty to organizing a ring of straw donors to illegally contribute to Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign.

Dwayne Montgomery agreed to complete 200 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine, and a ban on hosting political events for one year. Adams has denied any prior knowledge of the scheme saying, “I think the DA clearly reported that there was nothing our campaign did that was a part of what was done wrong. I say let the DA handle the situation.” 

Over 70 current and former employees of the NYC Housing Authority were arrested last week following a wide-ranging public corruption and bribery investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The arrests were the largest single-day bribery takedown in Justice Department history according to U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. The defendants are accused of a corruption scheme in which NYCHA employees received cash for awarding no-bid contracts and illegally signed off on completion orders so contractors could be paid by NYCHA before work was completed. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "The crimes alleged in this case are serious violations of the public trust, and I am grateful to the agents and our partners across government who worked on this case, and to the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York for their tireless efforts to root out corruption.”

Independent Redistricting Commission

The State’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) has until the end of the month to develop new congressional maps after the Court of Appeals restarted the redistricting process with their ruling in December. Once the IRC submits their proposed map, the Democratic-controlled Legislature will decide whether to adopt them or draw their own. Top Republicans have called on the IRC to keep the maps as they are, arguing that it is too late to enact new lines before the June primary elections. The GOP has argued that Albany Democrats have demonstrated themselves to be incapable of coming up with fair lines, and warned against giving them another chance. Former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin said, "This state is falling to shit. You know what it looked like just a few years ago. You see it inside of cities across this state. How much power do you need to give the Democrats in Albany? How much more are they allowed to abuse?” While Democrats are not going to cede to Republican requests to keep the maps that won them eleven seats in 2022, there could be room for a compromise to avoid further legal fights. The IRC, comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans, has not held a public meeting since the last days of 2023 and has provided little indication on their timeline. 

"This state is falling to shit. You know what it looked like just a few years ago. You see it inside of cities across this state. How much power do you need to give the Democrats in Albany?

Former Republican Congressman and Gubernatorial Candidate Lee Zeldin

The influx of migrants into New York remains a top issue for lawmakers. Last week, Governor Hochul did not mince words when asked about the assault on two NYPD officers by a group of migrants in Times Square saying, “Get them all, send them back. You don’t touch our police officers. You don’t touch anybody.” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the House Republican Conference Chair, placed the blame for the migrant crisis squarely on Governor Hochul, saying in a letter, “As an all-time high number of illegal immigrants cross our borders and bleed into New York, your refusal to reverse course has created an unsustainable environment that has taken a financial and humanitarian toll on the state.”

The Hochul Administration pushed back in a letter of their own, accusing Stefanik and House Republicans of refusing to act on a border measure in order to secure political points in an election year. Hochul reiterated that point in a press conference saying, “The only thing standing in the way is that the House Republicans refuse to take action. They don’t want there to be a resolution because they want to keep the chaos going.” More moderate members who represent districts won by Biden in 2020 have been looking for cover on the border issue, eager to find a win they can bring back to their constituents before the election in November without bucking party leadership. Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) is one of those moderate members walking a fine line on immigration issues saying, “I am calling for an immediate conference meeting with the House, Senate, and White House to develop a real bipartisan solution. We must secure the border and I have always been ready to get it done.” Not all of his colleagues share the same desire for a bipartisan solution. 

“The only thing standing in the way is that the House Republicans refuse to take action. They don’t want there to be a resolution because they want to keep the chaos going.”

Governor Kathy Hochul

On Capitol Hill, The Senate had spent months working on a bipartisan border deal after the House insisted a border security package must be passed before foreign aid bills are considered. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) led the negotiations on the Republican side and announced they had come to a bipartisan agreement on a $118 billion measure that would secure the border and provide funding to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Despite asking for the bill just months earlier, House Republicans, and later Senate Republicans, swiftly came out against the measure, with Speaker Mike Johnson saying the bill would be dead on arrival before even seeing the actual text of the bill.

Lankford was rightfully frustrated, accusing his Republican colleagues of intentionally misleading their constituents about the contents of the bill so that former President Trump can run on the issue in 2024. He even went as far as to share a conversation he had with a popular conservative media personality who told him, “I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.” For the crime of negotiating with Democrats in good faith, Lankford was formally censured by the Oklahoma Republican Party and Trump has promised to field a primary challenge against him. The border bill ultimately failed to advance out of the Senate, all but guaranteeing no substantive legislation on the border before the election in November. 

In another display of dysfunction, the Republican-led House of Representatives failed in their vote to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The GOP’s thin majority, made even smaller by a slew of resignations and Rep. George Santos’ expulsion, meant that Speaker Mike Johnson would need almost all of his members on board. Republicans thought they had a small cushion because Rep. Al Green (D-TX) was recovering at a nearby hospital from intestinal surgery, but Green checked himself out and was wheeled onto the House floor in scrubs to cast the deciding vote. The final tally was 216-214, with Republicans Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) voting against impeachment. New York Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), have been pushing leadership for a vote on impeachment, but failed to get enough colleagues on board.

Republicans thought they had a small cushion because Rep. Al Green (D-TX) was recovering at a nearby hospital from intestinal surgery, but Green checked himself out and was wheeled onto the House floor in scrubs to cast the deciding vote.

House leadership has vowed to take up the measure again in the coming weeks when Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) returns from his absence to receive cancer treatment. If the House does vote to impeach Mayorkas, it will certainly fail in the Senate.  Perhaps all this really is the fault of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) who made running the House look easy, but losing both votes was a terrible display, made worse by Speaker Johnson actually presiding himself.

Whether the impeachment push works the second time around could very depend on who wins Tuesday’s Special Election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. The Democrat is former Congressman and former gubernatorial candidate and former County Executive Tom Suozzi who is running against the Republican candidate (though an enrolled Democrat) Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip to serve out the remainder of disgraced Rep. George Santos’ term. Suozzi nearly doubled Pilip’s fundraising totals and maintains a slight lead in most polling, but issues like crime, the migrant crisis, and congestion pricing all work against Democrats on Long Island. Early vote numbers also favor Democrats but, somewhat unusually, not by very large numbers.  We will be watching Tuesday night.

President Biden was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing last week as Special Counsel Robert Hur completed his inquiry into Biden’s handling of classified documents. The report found that Biden willfully kept classified documents following his vice presidency, but that “no charges were warranted” largely due to Biden’s cooperation which Hur noted was a key difference from  Trump’s classified documents case. Hur, a Republican, did take several swipes at Biden’s memory and cognitive function in the report writing, “Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” In a hastily arranged press conference, Biden took particular issue with Hur’s claim that Biden could not remember when his son Beau died saying, “How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden’s response was swift and forceful before totally undermining himself by mixing up President Obrador of Mexico and President Sisi of Egypt. 

Nevada held their primary contest last week with both a caucus and primary election. The Democratic-led Legislature transitioned away from caucuses in 2021 and focused on improving voter turnout through a primary election. As a way to protest that move, the Nevada GOP held their own caucus and structured it as the only way to receive delegates, a move that certainly helped former President Trump. As a result, Trump did not appear on the primary ballot and Haley did not participate in the caucuses. Trump won the caucus as expected and in the primary, Haley lost to “None of these Candidates” by over 30 points.

It was an embarrassing result for the Haley campaign who is struggling to stay above water as Trump continues to amass delegates. Her team downplayed the results, saying, “We made the decision early on that we were not going to pay $55,000 to a Trump entity to participate in a process that was rigged for Trump, so Nevada is not and has never been our focus.” The next primary will take place on February 24th in Haley’s home state of South Carolina. 

The battle for control of the United States Senate has been widely overshadowed by Trump v. Biden and the craziness in the House, including additional retirements this week, but there we two major developments.  One good for Democrats and the other for Republicans. First, in Montana, Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale launched a Senate bid complicating matters in a state that is critical to Republican hopes of winning the majority. After several misses in recent election cycles chalked up to divisive primaries and far-right candidates like Rosendale, Republican leaders had tried hard to discourage his candidacy.  Many see Rosendale as the latest in a line of unelectable candidates doomed to crash and burn in November.  In fact, Rosendale lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.  Many of those candidates were supported by Donald Trump.  Not this time, within hours of Rosendale’s announcement, Trump ruined the congressman’s launch by endorsing National Republican Senatorial Committee-backed Republican Tim Sheehy in the GOP primary.

In Maryland, former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan also announced a Senate bid Friday.  This is a significant recruit for the RSCC. Hogan, a longtime critic of Trump, is likely the only candidate who can put the Maryland race into play in the general election.

“Hogan is one of the only Republicans in Maryland who can make this race competitive,” said Mileah Kromer, who directs the Goucher College Poll in Maryland. “With Trump on the ballot and McConnell and other social issues, he’s got significant baggage to deal with. But I would never discount someone who was a proven winner in Maryland.”  Win or lose, a competitive Senate contest in Maryland expands the Senate map and potentially takes money from other states where Democratic incumbents are facing tough challenges.

Democrats are defending 23 seats in November — three in red states and five more in swing states — compared to just 11 for Republicans. Democrats still likely win Maryland, but it makes a tough map tougher. 


It is probably best to be sober when buying a dog. 

Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of OD&A client New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) talks to our Alec Lewis about the importance of public safety partnerships in preventing gun violence in NY, including a panel discussion in Buffalo in response to the racial mass shooting in 2022.

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Hiram Rhodes Revels arrived on Capitol Hill to take his seat as the first Black member of the U.S. Congress in 1870. But first, the Mississippi Republican faced lawmakers determined to block him. [Read more.]

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Employee Spotlight

What do you do at OD&A?

As Director of our Campaigns & Advocacy practice, I help our clients elevate their presence in political and public affairs campaigns, by highlighting their stories, generating interest in their core brands, and in working with them to both identify and connect with their targeted audience. I’m also a regular fill-in host of “From the Lobby with Jack O’Donnell”, our firm’s podcast, that’s become a leading platform for important conversations with New York’s public officials, business leaders, and community activists.

What do you like most about your work?

I appreciate the variety and scope of opportunities. In addition to my roles highlighted above, I’ve gotten to engage in lobbying efforts to federal and local elected officials along with state agencies & authorities.

What are your proudest accomplishments at OD&A? 

City & State 2023 Albany 40 Under 40, Top 40 Ranking on City & State’s 2023 Top 100 New York State Political Consultants

Campaign Wins:

Maurice Brown for Onondaga County Legislature, Primary/General Election, June/November 2023

Emily Essi for Onondaga County Clerk, General Election, November 2023 (flipped seat to Democrat)

Michael Cinquanti, reelection for Amsterdam Mayor, November 2023

What is something you wish people knew about your job?

Between lobbying and campaign & advocacy clients, it’s critical that I stay on top of the issues that matter to my clients. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into meetings, phone calls, and emails. It’s a lot more than just attending fundraisers and galas.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m also a performer having grown up in a SAG-AFTRA/Actor’s Equity Union family. I work as a content creator and health/wellness/fitness influencer in Upstate New York partnering with various gyms, wellness centers and yoga/Pilates studios. Oh, and the late actor Ned Beatty is my godfather!

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