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POLITICO New York Playbook, presented by the New York State Association of REALTORS(r): SCHNEIDERMAN unmasks Tillerson -- MIKE GRIMM's comeback trial balloon -- KUSHNER'S latest deal

03/15/2017 07:16 AM EDT

By Jimmy Vielkind in Albany and Azi Paybarah in Manhattan, with Addy Baird and Daniel Lippman

MASSEY'S MONEY: Aside from Donald Trump's $100 million tax write-off, the big number in New York today will be fund-raising figures candidates submit to the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Mayor Bill de Blasio is crushing his Democratic opponents, namely, because the big-name primary rivals aren't jumping into the race.

On the Republican side, Paul Massey -- whose strategy is built less on specific policy proposals and more around knocking de Blasio for being late and under investigation - has said he will set another fund-raising record when his numbers are released. If the number is big enough, it may help convince reporters and other onlookers that he is not only serious, but has a shot at taking down the incumbent Democrat. So far, de Blasio's former campaign manager is skeptical. But before Massey can take on de Blasio, he has to prevail in the Republican primary, where money may be the least of his worries. Among his primary obstacles: a press corps with a ton of questions about Trump, a possible mayoral bid from a telegenic councilman, and a mayoral campaign from an oil and supermarket billionaire who doesn't need to raise any money.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY. The storm was a dud in New York, but upstate areas are still digging out. The Legislature is sobering up after a snow day. Got a tip? Feedback? News to share? Let us know. By email:,,, and , or on Twitter: @JimmyVielkind, @Azi, @addysue, and @dlippman.

WHERE'S ANDREW? In New York City and Albany with no announced public schedule.

WHERE'S BILL? On a tele-town hall in the morning, and another town hall meeting this evening, in Chelsea.

TABS - Daily News: "TRUMP TAX SECRETS: Don paid $38M on $150M income in 2005; Leak forces fuming Prez to confirm details" - Post: "FLAKE NEWS: Feds: Forecast was snow job" - SEE THEM

- Newsday, bottom: "White House: Trump Paid $38M in Taxes On $150M Income in '05" - El Diario [translated]: Stella slippery - SEE THEM

FREEBIES - amNew York: "SLUSH FUN: City gets back to business as worst of storm skips town" - Metro: "ONE STELLAVA BREAK" - SEE THEM

BROADSHEETS - New York Times, 1-col., above the fold: "Trump, in '05, Had Write-Off of $100 Million: He Paid $38 Million to U.S., a Rate of 25%" - Wall Street Journal: "GOP Plan Hits Snag With Own Senators" - SEE THEM

PIC OF THE DAY: NY1's Zack Fink found Sen. Gustavo Rivera with two cases of beer, snowed into his office.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I hope somebody wakes up Mayor de Blasio and lets him know it's safe to go to the gym now. I mean, the storm is not as bad as originally anticipated," - Councilman Eric Ulrich, on WNYC

PLAYBOOK POOL COLLEGE BBALL CHALLENGE IS LIVE - SUBMIT YOUR BRACKET NOW! Here's how: 1) Head to our website and make your picks. 2) Be sure to list your "sponsor" - aka, the Playbook that referred you. (DC, NY, NJ, MA, FL, IL, CA). 3) Choose wisely - you'll be up against POLITICO insiders, VIPs and elected officials like Chuck Schumer. 4) Sit back and compete to win prizes including Amazon Echos & Dots, BEATS headphones, Snapchat Spectacles and more (not to mention major bragging rights). 5) Brag to your friends as you see your name atop the leader board. Make sure to submit by the first four games on 3.14!

** A message from the New York State Association of REALTORS®: Help create an opportunity for first-time homebuyers by asking your Representative to support NY First Home. Becoming a homeowner in New York is harder than ever. NY First Home is a real plan for real help. Visit to learn more. **


- SCHNEIDERMAN SAYS REX TILLERSON IS WAYNE TRACKER - Wall Street Journal's Christopher Matthews and Erin Ailworth: "The New York attorney general accused Exxon Mobil Corp. Monday of withholding documents from his office as it investigates whether the energy company misrepresented its understanding of climate change to investors and the public. Lawyers for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office said in court documents that Exxon hadn't disclosed that Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive, used an alias email address to discuss risk-management issues related to climate change. Mr. Tillerson, now the U.S. secretary of state, used the pseudonym 'Wayne Tracker' from at least 2008 to 2015, according to the attorney general. 'Despite the company's incidental production of approximately 60 documents bearing the 'Wayne Tracker' email address, neither Exxon nor its counsel have ever disclosed that this separate email account was a vehicle for Mr. Tillerson's relevant communications at Exxon,' Senior Enforcement Counsel John Oleske said in a letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager." Read more here.

- CUOMO 'DIDN'T FOLLOW' PREET SAGA - Buffalo News' Tom Precious: "Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he wasn't really aware of the controversy surrounding the firing of Preet Bharara as U.S. Attorney and therefore had no comment. 'I didn't follow the situation. There's a transition from one administration to the next, but beyond that I haven't followed it,' Cuomo said. It was Cuomo's first public statement on the firing of Bharara by the Trump administration. As the top federal prosecutor for the southern district in Manhattan, Bharara investigated the Cuomo administration over its handling of the closure of an anti-corruption panel while it had cases still open. No charges were brought in that matter ... Bharara's office [also] brought the case involving several major Cuomo economic development programs in upstate, including the Buffalo Billion. That matter, involving associates of the governor, including his longtime friend Joseph Percoco as well a former executives of Buffalo's LPCiminelli construction company, is expected to go to trial sometime this year." Read more here.

- LEGISLATORS MODIFY TUITION PROGRAM - POLITICO New York's Keshia Clukey: Both the Senate and Assembly majorities are pushing back on Cuomo's tuition scholarship proposal, setting up a possible confrontation as budget negotiations move forward. Cuomo's "Excelsior Scholarship" program, one of the cornerstone proposals of his 2017-18 state budget, has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and advocates who question the cost, eligibility requirements and the ability for the State and City University systems to handle a possible influx of students as a result. It also has drawn fire for its exclusion of and impact on private colleges and universities. In one-house budget bills released Monday and Tuesday, the Democratic-led Assembly proposed modifying the plan and increasing the state Tuition Assistance Program to help students who attend private schools. The Republican-led Senate's plan increases TAP, but scraps the Excelsior scholarship, instead proposing what it calls an "Enhanced Tuition Assistance Program." Read more here.

- Booze in movie theaters. Tougher sanctions for "bad apples" in the financial sector. The reauthorization of design-build contracting. Power to hold back spending in the middle of the year. The re-branding of Start-UP New York. Local government service consolidation. Status: Rejected. Legislators in the Assembly and Senate offered modified versions of several of Cuomo's major budget initiatives, including his proposal to increase tuition subsidies, but they simply discarded several others in one-house budgets introduced this week. Read more here.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! The LCA show is on Tuesday, May 23 at the Egg in Albany. Here's the latest trailer. The Inner Circle Show is on Saturday, April 1, at the Sheraton New York. Here's the flier.


- POLL: Former Rep. Mike Grimm for Staten Island Borough President? - Staten Island Advance's Rachel Shapiro: "Michael Grimm, the former Staten Island congressman who served seven months in federal prison for tax fraud, may be considering a run for the Island's borough president, beginning with a primary against Republican BP James Oddo. Some Republicans in the borough were recently contacted for a telephone push poll, asking a series of questions to gauge interest in a GOP showdown between Grimm and Oddo. Reached Monday, the Republican Grimm said, 'I have no comment other than, look a lot of people have asked me to run.' While he claims he has no knowledge of a plan for Grimm's political return, sources say Guy Molinari held a meeting last week to discuss such a comeback. ... One GOP source with direct knowledge of the meeting said ... Grimm isn't moving forward full speed, but weighing whether it's the right move. 'He needs to be convinced' the source said. Another source, speaking about the poll, said it asked what issues are important in a Republican primary for borough president, asking whether voters would support Oddo or Grimm. 'It's obvious that this poll was an attempt by those who want to see Michael Grimm back in office to see whether he's a viable candidate,' the source said." Read more here.

- DE BLASIO, media critic - Gotham Gazette's Ben Max: "On Friday, [Mayor Bill] de Blasio issued another insult to members of the city press corps when, on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, he said New Yorkers should not trust journalists to report on the city budget. 'I would really strongly advise, Brian, anyone listening who wants to actually understand the budget to look at the budget and not go through a journalistic outlet to understand the budget,' de Blasio said. ... [I]nstead of simply explaining the budget process, his approach to it, and how it applies to the specific issue at hand, on WNYC de Blasio issued a broadside against the media writ large, calling into question all reporting on the city budget. At a press conference on Monday, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he stood by his Friday statement that New Yorkers shouldn't trust media outlets to report on the budget. De Blasio disputed the characterization of his comments, saying, 'I was referring to a specific article that I think failed, clearly, to look at the adopted budget of the last three years, which I thought was an omission that went beyond ignorance.'" Read more here.

- THE SNOW ONE UP - New York Post's Yoav Gonen and Kristan Conley: "Another storm, another chance for Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to try and outdo each other. The mayor scheduled a noon press conference Tuesday in Brooklyn to update New Yorkers about the storm - but Cuomo jumped the gun with his own press briefing at 10 a.m. in Manhattan. Not only that, Cuomo turned up on CNN, MSNBC and CBS, long before the mayor's event. So de Blasio 'stopped into' WABC-TV to provide his own storm update at 9 a.m. At his noon briefing, however, de Blasio said he backed the state's decision to shutter the outdoor portion of the city's subway lines. 'Based on the information that was available yesterday when the decision had to be made, I think it was the right call,' he said. Mayoral press secretary Eric Phillips insisted there was no competition between the two officials. 'Our staffs were working closely together all morning. The mayor and governor have different jobs and roles to play in these scenarios. We coordinate but don't duplicate,' he said." Read more here.

BEST NEW PIZZA SLICE - Gothamist's Scott Lynch: "Ivan Orkin, the Jewish kid from Long Island who fell in love with noodles and today makes some of the best bowls of ramen in New York City, now sets his sights on another beloved urban staple: the pizza pie. His place is called Corner Slice, located within Gotham West Market over on the farthest fringe of Hell's Kitchen ... Their pizza doesn't fit into a neat category. It's not a classic, cheesy New York fold. It's not a burnt-edged, wet-centered Neapolitan. It's not a spongy Sicilian, or a Detroit-style pie. Frankly, it doesn't look like too appetizing when it hits your paper plate. But man does it taste good." Read more here.


- UPSHOT OF LAST NIGHT'S TRUMP TAX RETURN SCOOP? Good chance we can expect more of this to come. Granted, the overall response to the two pages circa 2005 anonymously leaked to Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, and beamed out to the world via Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night, was underwhelming, if not downright cynical -- perhaps due to Maddow's preliminary Twitter hype and her long-winded wind-up on air. (Sampling: Chris Cillizza: "This 2005 Donald Trump tax return is a total nothingburger"; Brian Fallon: "Dems should return focus to Trumpcare tomorrow & the millions it will leave uninsured, not get distracted by two pages from '05 tax return"; Rem Reider: "Maddow extravaganza: lots of hype and throat-clearing for not much payoff.") But keep in mind: Trump's elusive tax returns are a holy grail for many journalists. Click through for more on this in today's column.

- FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: The Donald Trump-Rupert Murdoch relationship is drawing increasing scrutiny these days. Here's Murdoch-ologist David Folkenflik analyzing the intersection of their interests for NPR: "The rapport forged by Murdoch and Trump may prove handy for both men. Murdoch's news outlets often shine a favorable light on the new president; meanwhile, his media properties have many interests pending before the federal government. ... [T]heir political views do not always align. ... Yet Murdoch has embraced the new president. And their links extend beyond business and politics." Fox News, M&A, Javanka, The Wall Street Journal -- click through for all the inside baseball.

- MEGYN KELLY IN LIMBO?: "Is Megyn Kelly still under contract at Fox News? Depends on who you ask," Joe Flint writes in The Wall Street Journal. "The cable news juggernaut said in a statement that it released Ms. Kelly from the network on March 9, almost four months before her contract expires on July 1, so she can start working at NBC News. ... Ms. Kelly's camp contests that. Leslee Dart, Ms. Kelly's spokeswoman said, 'the terms of the termination are still being negotiated.'"

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:

- TAX TALKS: The GOP-controlled State Senate increased eligibility for condos to receive the 421-a property tax exemption, now known as "Affordable New York," in its one-house bill. It proposed increasing the ceiling on condos that could receive the tax break over a period of 20 years from an assessed value of $65,000 to $85,000. (Assessed value, which is determined by the city's Department of Finance, is a fraction of market value.) The Senate also proposed increasing the number of developments that qualify from ones with a minimum of six units and a maximum of 35 units to ones with four to 80 units. Brooklyn senators Simcha Felder and Marty Golden have pushed for increased condo eligibility in the outer boroughs. The city's budget office and housing agency released a joint analysis Tuesday night that concluded the changes, which they say come with no additional affordable housing requirements, "significantly increase the overall cost of the program, and its costs on a per-affordable-unit basis" to $592,000 per unit. Cumulatively, the Senate's proposal would raise the overall cost of 421-a by $1 billion over 10 years, the city says.

De Blasio proposed expanding the benefits of 421-a in exchange for more affordable housing in a deal that was halted by Cuomo in 2015 because it did not include a wage requirement for construction workers. De Blasio has since been hesitant to say much about Cuomo's recent proposal to revive the tax break and mandate labor wages on certain projects, depending on size and location. The mayor assailed the Senate's moves on Tuesday night, saying: "This is an affordable housing program, not a giveaway for condos. We can't accept the Senate's proposal. There is no justifying more and more costs piled on New York City taxpayers without a single affordable apartment to show for it."

- One day after Bloomberg News reported that Chinese company Anbang was investing $400 million in President Donald Trump's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner's 666 Fifth Ave. office tower, the White House press secretary defended the transaction. "Jared went through extraordinary lengths" to comply with conflict-of-interest rules, Sean Spicer said during a press conference, as reported in the New York Times. A spokesman for Anbang said, "there is no investment from Anbang for this deal." "If signed, the potential agreement would create a financial marriage of two politically powerful families in the world's two biggest economies, but it would also present the possibility of glaring conflicts of interest. The Kushner family, owners of the tower, would reap a financial windfall courtesy of a Chinese company, even as Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump as well as his son-in-law, helps oversee American foreign policy," the Times writes. Read the story here.

- "Anbang wants a bunch more condos at Waldorf conversion," by The Real Deal's Will Parker: "Chinese investment enigma Anbang Insurance filed a 'test-the-market' application with the New York State Attorney General's Office for its planned condominium conversion of part of the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The application reveals Anbang is now considering 409 apartments for the vintage skyscraper, up from the 321 it included in last fall's filed construction plans. Anbang shuttered the doors of the iconic, 1,413-key hotel on March 1 in order to begin conversion work. In November, the company filed its first construction plans with the city's Department of Buildings. The company announced it would maintain the building's distinctive art deco interiors last summer after facing pressure from preservationists (it's now officially landmarked). Anbang famously bought the Waldorf Astoria from Hilton Hotel Group for $1.95 billion in 2014." Read the story here.

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

BIRTHDAYS: Mark Green, former NYC Public Advocate and 2001 Democratic mayoral nominee, is 72 ... Jenny 8. Lee, NYT alum, now co-founder of literary studio Plympton ... Edelman's Kevin Infante is 28 ... Niambe Tomlinson of Sen. Gillibrand's office (h/ts Legistorm) ... actress and Hillary Clinton supporter, Eva Longoria ... and the 7th president, the late Andrew Jackson, who "recommended eliminating the Electoral College."

THE HOME TEAMS - POLITICO New York's Howard Megdal: Thunder 122, Nets 104: 25 from Brook Lopez, 24 from Jeremy Lin, but not nearly enough defense.

- Knicks 87, Pacers 81: Solid home win, though Kristaps Porzingis left early due to injury, and Jeff Hornacek acknowledged after that the playoff chase is moot.

- The day ahead: a rescheduled NIT game between Syracuse and Jim Boeheim's nemesis, UNC-Greensboro.

#UpstateAmerica: A Buffalo girl won a $1,000 scholarship for growing a 38-pound cabbage.

#PlanetNYC: A cab driver near Columbus Circle tried picking up two passengers, and wound up in the set of Veep.

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: and our friends at POLITICO Brussels Playbook: ... All our policy and political tipsheets

** A message from the New York State Association of REALTORS®: The NY First Home Program, S.4058-Litte/A.5616-Ramos, modeled after the State's 529 College Savings Program, has bi-partisan support and passed the State Senate unanimously last year. This savings program would help New Yorkers address several housing challenges including affordability and high closing costs.

Homeownership rates remain at historic lows, while increasing costs make achieving the dream of owning a home more di cult than ever for many New Yorkers.
If the legislation is passed, New Yorkers could:

· Save up to $5,000 ($10,000 for couples) of after-tax dollars annually in a special savings account toward a first home purchase.
· Receive a state income tax deduction on the principal investment and any gains would NOT be subject to state income taxes.
· Apply the savings and any interest earned towards the closing costs or down payment for a first home in New York State.

Visit to learn more. **

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