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Audio Feature: WGXC Congressional Report

May 21, 2023 6:03 pm

Here is this week's WGXC Congressional Report, tracking the votes, statements, positions, and campaigns of the representatives and candidates for the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Congressional seats in New York. Democrat Pat Ryan is representing the 18th Congressional District, Republican Marc Molinaro represents the 19th Congressional District, Democrat Rep. Paul Tonko represents the 20th District, and Republican Elise Stefanik represents the 21st District. Click here to listen to this report.

The Troy Record reports that Rep. Paul Tonko is crowing about the $936,414 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment has awarded to the University at Albany for screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment to prevent and address gambling among college students. Tonko, a Democrat representing Albany County and the 20th Congressional District, has taken up gambling as his own cause lately. Tonko is trying to ban online and television advertising of sports gambling, but his HR 967 bill has no co-sponsors. But he is happy that UAlbany is getting more than $4.8 million over the next five years to support this research. Tonko said, “This funding will help ensure that young adults who are struggling with these issues have access to the timely and responsive support they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Tonko serves as co-chair of the Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators committed to advancing solutions to the country’s multifaceted addiction crisis. Read more about this story in the Troy Record.

Paul Kirby reports in the Daily Freeman that a report released this week by the Dutchess County Comptroller’s Office said that a government lease of a luxury vehicle by former Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro gave the “appearance of circumventing normal legislative approval (as required by a purchase) and public transparency.” Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois, a Democrat, wrote the report, and focused on an inventory of county vehicles between 2018 and 2023. A summary in the report said, “This report also addresses the 2021 lease of a $75,876 Chevy Tahoe by the County Executive and identifies the execution of said lease, after a 2020 purchase denial, as giving the appearance of circumventing normal legislative approval (as required by a purchase) and public transparency.... Leasing decisions should be held to the same standards as any purchase in the procurement policy by, ‘assuring the prudent and economical use of public monies in the best interest of taxpayers of Dutchess County,’ and to, ‘guard against extravagance.’ It is evident that the lease in question was not held to the same standard expected of all departments.” Molinaro did not comment on the report, but his advisor Dave Catalfamo did, avoiding mentioning anything specific in the report, saying, “Marc Molinaro’s fiscal stewardship as County Executive is indisputable.... He cut taxes, improved the county’s bond rating, and left his successor with significant reserves. This audit has been extensively reported on and thoroughly explained well before its release.” The report showed how previously county executive vehicles were purchased through bonding and budget requests that go through the Legislature for approval, while Molinaro circumvented that process. Democrat Josh Riley, who lost to Molinaro in 2022 and has announced another campaign for the 19th Congressional District in 2024, said, “It’s ironic that Marc Molinaro is lecturing voters about ‘reckless spending’ even as an independent audit concludes that he wasted taxpayers’ hard-earned money on a luxury vehicle for himself.” Read more about this story in the Daily Freeman.

Tyler A. McNeil reports for the Daily Gazette that Republican Liz Joy will not run for a third time against Democrat Paul Tonko for the 20th Congressional District. Joy is a right-wing Republican who lost in 2020 and 2022 to Tonko by a wide margin in the Capital Region district. Joy attended Trump's rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, though did not enter the House of Representatives during the attempted coup. Now Joy said on social media that she plans on turning her attention to advocate for state-level “election integrity," saying, "Together, we were able to bring serious national attention to the NY Capital Region 20th Congressional District, something that had never been done before. It is a direct result of citizen grass-roots support, our strong common sense message, and daily interacting with the people that live here and work here.” Albany County Republican Chair Randy Bashwinger said he was surprised that Joy won't run again, saying, “I’m sure we’ll find somebody, but it’s going to be tough to find anybody as strong as she was.” Joy lost to Tonko by about a 55-45 percent margin in 2022. Even though she was beaten by about 30,000 votes, Joy’s attorney requested an audit of the election, which the state denied. Joy claimed the state voter rolls have never been “formally audited.” But New York State Board of Elections spokesperson Jennifer Wilson said in an email that Joy is “factually incorrect” on the auditing process. Republican Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st District, called Joy a “dear friend” and “inspiring patriot" and said, "I look forward to continuing to work with Liz Joy as she begins her next chapter to restore election integrity and to secure our elections in New York." Read more about this story in the Daily Gazette.

Mid-Hudson News reports that that seven men have come forth to say they were paid to act as homeless veterans displaced from upstate hotels by incoming migrants. The men were staying at a homeless shelter in Poughkeepsie, and said they were among 15 men recruited for the scam by the non-profit YIT Foundation. They were told to pretend they were veterans that had been kicked out of the Crossroads Hotel in the Town of Newburgh last week, before the arrival of actual migrants bused there from New York City. Assemblyperson Brian Maher now says he was duped by YIT Foundation's director, Sharon Toney-Finch, who appears to have fabricated the entire story. “When Sharon and several veterans explained to me their situation, I believed them at their word,” Maher said on May 19. “I had absolutely no knowledge of any wrongdoing and believed that their stories were real until a phone conversation with Sharon yesterday afternoon when she explained to me that this did not happen the way she purported it to.” The men said they were paid $200 and given food and alcohol to scam the public into believing that homeless veterans were being kicked out of shelters to make room for migrants. One of the homeless men said about Sharon Toney-Finch, “She told us to act like we were the veterans that had been displaced. And she told us that if asked, we were supposed to say we had been kicked out and Sharon found us rooms in Fishkill.” The man also said that anyone in the group who was unwilling to answer was told to respond with, “I am too traumatized to talk about it." The false story that migrants were displacing homeless veterans was repeated widely, both locally and nationally. Local Rep. Marc Molinaro was one of many politicians that amplified a false story. Molinaro quoted a New York Post story about the false story on May 12, writing, "This is absolutely inexcusable and should not be happening in America. This is the result of incompetence and lack of compassion. This be won’t tolerated." Molinaro, a Republican, then commented after the hoax was made public saying, “The fabrication is so disheartening and wrong. It undermines the work of helping our veterans and makes more difficult our efforts to stop NYC from illegally moving migrants to Upstate New York communities without resources or their approval. This must stop.” Read the full story at Mid-Hudson News.

The Daily Freeman tracks the votes last week of Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro, in the 18th and 19th Congressional Districts. The House on May 17 voted, 221-204, to avoid a direct vote on expelling Rep. George Santos from Congress. The freshman lawmaker from Long Island is under federal indictment on 13 charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public money, and making false statements to Congress. Local Republicans Marc Molinaro and Elise Stefanik voted to adopt a Republican motion to refer a Democratic expulsion measure, H Res 114, to the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee is already looking in to misconduct by Santos before and after his election to the House. So Republicans voted to avoid a vote on expulsion. Local Democrats Pat Ryan and Paul Tonko voted against the measure, or in favor of holding an expulsion vote on Santos. Also on May 17, the House voted 232-to-198 to pass HR 3091, that would allow federal law enforcement officers to buy firearms including handguns and AR 15-style assault rifles that federal agencies have retired from their arsenals. The police officers would be allowed as citizens to purchase retired firearms at fair market value for lawful civilian purposes. Currently the Secret Service and Customs and Border Protection must destroy or transfer to another agency weapons they retire from use. Locally, again the score was partisan, with Republicans Molinaro and Stefanik voting for the measure, and Democrats Ryan and Tonko voting against. Read more about this story in the Daily Freeman.

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