Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cuomo Approaches Teacher Evaluations With Same Illiteracy He Uses For His Economic Development Programs

It's been quite the couple of weeks for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo, who likes to spend his days finding new ways to torture Bill de Blasio, found himself on the end of some of his own torture in the form of state and federal audits of some of his signature economic development programs as well as a legislative hearing that laid bare the failures of another one of his signature economic development programs.

First came state audits conducted by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli which were critical of Cuomo's economic development program compliance and accountability mechanisms:

The governor escalated yet another feud with yet another fellow Democrat after an unrelated press conference in the Bronx this afternoon. Responding to a series of unflattering summertime analyses of his signature programs, Cuomo bashed DiNapoli’s two-decade tenure representing parts of Nassau County in the Assembly and argued that history discredited the comptroller’s assessments.

The governor did not specifically attack any particular proposals the comptroller voted on in Albany but insisted the Assembly had been “part of the problem” and had “basically abandoned upstate New York.”

Cuomo’s slap at DiNapoli was a reaction to the comptroller’s findings earlier this month that the New York Power Authority, which was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates under the governor’s Recharge NY program, had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility. This meant noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public-private venture, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli found that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

Cuomo claimed DiNapoli's audits were not quantifiable but were instead "opinions":

“What you’re getting in an audit is that person’s opinion, right?” the governor said. “Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree, because it is only an opinion.”

Except that the state audits weren't "opinions":

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were, in fact, based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established. A DiNapoli spokeswoman refused to respond to the governor’s personal attacks.

“The reports completed by our professional auditors speak loudly for themselves,” said Jennifer Freedman, communications director for the comptroller.

Nice work by the governor there to take an audit based on numbers and hard data from Cuomo-controlled entities like NYPA and ESDC and turn them into "opinions", eh?

Later on, Cuomo tried a diversionary tactic to defend against the state audit findings:

Facing numerous analyses showing his signature jobs programs misallocated resources and put few New Yorkers to work, Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued today that any such assessments are only a matter of political point of view.

Speaking after an unrelated event in the Bronx, the governor defended his attacks last week on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who released unflattering audits of two Cuomo programs this summer. The governor again insisted that those findings were just DiNapoli’s opinions, opinions which are open to debate given the comptroller’s history as an assemblyman from Long Island.
“I said these are matters where people give their opinion. I have certain opinions that are my opinions. I believe in marriage equality, right? I believe in $15 as a minimum wage. You could not believe—there are assemblymen who don’t agree with me, there are senators who don’t agree with me on the minimum wage. And if they write a report, they’re going to say my minimum wage idea was a bad idea, because they disagree with it. And that’s fine—that’s democracy. And assemblymen take positions during the course of their tenure. And some people support minimum wage, some people don’t support minimum wage. Some people don’t support economic development. There are people in the Assembly who say there is no economic development possible, leave it to the private sector. So you get opinions,” the governor said. “It’s a matter of opinion on many of these issues, and there’s no right or wrong. That’s why we have elections; that’s why we have debates. Donald Trump thinks one thing. Hillary Clinton thinks another thing.”

How any of this commentary was relevant to the Observer’s specific question about DiNapoli, a well-known liberal Democrat, is unclear. The audits the comptroller’s office produced had nothing to do with gay marriage or with the state’s new pay floors, but with Cuomo’s Recharge NY and Excelsior programs.

Of course none of that nonsense Cuomo spewed about the minimum wage or gay marriage had anything to do with the questions about the state audits and Cuomo's lame defense that they were "opinions."

Rather this nonsense was pure diversionary tactic - "Hey, look over there!  Gay marriage! Minimum wage hike!  Whee!  Yayy Cuomo!" - not a reasoned defense of his economic development programs to the scathing audit findings.

And again, as Will Bredderman at the Observer shows, DiNapoli's audits were anything but opinion:

Recharge NY, run through the Cuomo-controlled New York Power Authority, was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates. But DiNapoli’s auditors found NYPA had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility—meaning noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Excelsior jobs program, run through the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public private entity, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli discovered that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established.

But hey, what's some hard data and numbers taken from Cuomo's own entities when you can be diverting with some nonsense about gay marriage?

Cuomo tried a similar nonsensical defense with a federal audit this week that found New York State wasted $22 million dollars in Sandy funds:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development today for alleging New York mishandled $22.4 million in hurricane relief funds from Washington—insisting that his administration understands federal law better than Obama’s.

Cuomo, a Democrat who headed HUD during the Clinton administration, lashed out at an audit by Obama’s inspector general for the agency while addressing the press after an unrelated event in the Bronx this morning. IG David Montoya’s office found that Cuomo’s  Office of Tourism and Marketing did a poor job meeting the requirements of the block grant money it received in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

But the governor argued that Montoya and his staff don’t understand HUD rules.

“Some federal person, entity, did an audit. We believe they misread the law, and misread the regulations, about how the funding should be spent, and so we’re contesting their opinion,” he said, boasting of his administration’s response to the disaster. “During Hurricane Sandy, we expended billions and billions of dollars, literally. In the handling of the emergency and the construction and the aftermath, trying to get people to come back to the effected communities. So I’m very proud of what the state did.”

So what did the federal audit find?

In particular, Montoya’s auditors discovered that the state handed millions for marketing and promotions to the Empire State Development Corporation—a Cuomo-run public-private organization—and the city of Long Beach on Long Island without first obtaining an independent analysis of the costs of their respective programs. It also determined the state did not get sufficiently detailed budgets from either ESDS or Long Beach on how the federal dollars would get spent.
“State officials did not always establish and maintain financial and administrative controls to ensure efficient and effective program administration,” the audit report reads. “We attribute these conditions to State officials not placing sufficient emphasis on ensuring compliance with all procurement requirements.”

Montoya’s office brushed off Cuomo’s criticism.

“We believe that the audit speaks for itself, period,” said spokesman Darryl J. Madden. “Throughout the audit process the state was given ample opportunity to comment on our findings and results.”

Another scathing audit, this time federal, but same lame defense tactic from Cuomo - the audit's bullshit, it wasn't done right, we did everything we were supposed to do, etc.

But notice, Cuomo never uses any facts, figures or hard data in his defense against these audits - all we get are personal attacks and diversionary tactics.

The audits came on the heels of a legislative hearing that took another signature Cuomo economic development program to task - the infamous START-UP NY program:

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top economic-development official on Wednesday bemoaned a wave of skepticism surrounding Start-Up NY, a state program that created just 408 new jobs in its first two years despite a $53 million advertising campaign.

Over more than two hours of questioning, a bipartisan group of state Assembly members grilled Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky about the much-debated jobs program at a hearing Wednesday on the state's efforts to boost its economy.

Zemsky was defiant as lawmakers repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the Start-Up program, which allows qualifying businesses to operate free of state and local taxes for a decade if they set up shop in pre-determined zones, mostly at State University of New York campuses.

He repeatedly characterized Start-Up as a single "tool" in the state's economic-development "toolbox" and suggested criticism of the program is outsized and unfounded.

Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the Start-Up program in 2013, and the state spent $53 million promoting it with television advertisements in and out of state in 2014 and early 2015. The governor referred to the program as a potential "game-changer" and "catalyst for economic development" in upstate New York.

Empire State Development, which oversees the program, faced significant criticism after it was three months late in releasing a required annual report on Start-Up's progress.

That report, which was ultimately released on the Friday evening ahead of the July 4 weekend, showed the program created 332 new jobs in 2015, on top of 76 in its first year. The legally required information on Start-Up was confined to a few pages and a footnote within a broader report on the state's economic development program.

$53 million dollars, 408 jobs - but the Cuomo administration defends the program, calling criticism of the program outsized and unfounded.

Let's see, $53 million divided by 408 is $129,901 a job - yeah, that's quite an achievement in economic development.

How anybody defends that kind of program with a straight face is beyond me, but that's what you have to do if you're a member of the Cuomo administration and you've got all these failures on your hands and independent officials and/or entities scrutinizing them (as opposed to the Cuomo shills Cuomo is used to having prop up his record for him.)

In addition to all of this, the criminal investigation into another Cuomo economic development program, the Buffalo Billion Project, continues apace, with one former Cuomo crony, Todd Howe, reported to have dropped a dime on other Cuomo cronies, including former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros.

When the indictments in that case come down, Cuomo will be the subject of another scathing expose into his economic development program expertise, this one at the hands of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, but I'm sure we'll get defense tactics out of Cuomo similar to the one's detailed above here.

Which brings me, finally, to my point about teacher evaluations here in New York State under Governor Cuomo.

Not so long ago, Cuomo claimed the old teacher evaluation system in New York State was too easy for teachers, not enough teachers were being declared ineffective and the whole thing needed an overhaul.

So, overhaul it got, though no one is quite sure what the overhaul has in it - Cuomo used the same numerical illiteracy he uses in his economic development programs for this new "scientific" teacher evaluation system.

And the best catch is, budget funds for schools are tied to the whole mess: 

School districts are still on the hook to evaluate every teacher, the results can still be used to make decisions about educators’ futures, and a 2015 law is about to require a host of new rules. And with just days left in this year’s legislative session, it’s becoming clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has little desire to see that change.

“This is a major issue that is right now going ignored,” State Senator Todd Kaminsky said. “People are saying it’s a time-out and it’s not.”

The strange situation came about because legislators passed a law overhauling the state’s teacher evaluation system last year to put more emphasis on state tests — and then education policymakers walked it back, banning state test results from being used altogether.

Lawmakers were responding to Cuomo’s view that too many teachers were earning top ratings. The state education department was listening to a growing movement of educators and parents upset about the growing influence of state tests.

In the end, the state education department decided teachers would get two evaluations. Next year, one will include state test scores but have no consequences. The real evaluations will use different metrics and can affect teacher tenure and firing.

Within those frameworks, districts and their teachers unions will have to agree on key details and those negotiations are ongoing.

“We are working with districts across the state to support their efforts as they complete their contract negotiations and to provide them as much flexibility as possible within the law,” State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

But many had hoped that lawmakers would agree to scrap the universally unpopular 2015 law by now, making it unnecessary for districts to negotiate the details of the two new plans at all. So far, that hasn’t happened — and since there are just three days left in the legislative session, few think change is on the way.

“The big hangup is obviously the governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Edward Ra, who supports repealing last year’s law. “It really creates a little bit of a mess for everybody.” (Officials from Cuomo’s office did not say whether the governor would support changes to teacher evaluations.)
Now, it’s up to school districts like New York City to work out the details of new evaluation plans with their teachers unions. Barring a big change in the next few days, they are facing a tight timeline: They need an agreement by Sept. 1 or they risk losing state funds.
What a mess - a Cuomo-created mess - and yet, somehow this child-man remains in power, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, issuing idiotic attacks and lame defenses when those expenditures are scrutinized, and continuing on to do more an more damage to the state.

One thing is pretty certain from all of this:

We have yet to get an independent audit of Cuomo's education policies that he's imposed on the state via the budget process (including teacher evaluations), but you can bet that if/when we get one, it will be as scathing as the ones we got on his economic development programs.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cuomo Looks To Take Out De Blasio In Election But Ought To Be Looking Over His Own Shoulder

This showed up in the NY Times today:

Maybe it was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rough week at the Democratic National Convention, when he was relegated to a daytime speaking slot and upstaged by his archrival, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Maybe it was the drumbeat of bad news related to the multiple federal and state investigations swirling around City Hall. Or maybe it was a recent poll suggesting that half of New York City voters believe Mr. de Blasio does not deserve to be re-elected to a second term.

Whatever the reason, members of New York’s political class have turned their attention to the 2017 mayoral race, or more precisely, to the question of whether Mr. de Blasio will even face a serious challenge when he seeks re-election.

While the recent poll, released this month by Quinnipiac University, found that a majority of respondents disapprove of Mr. de Blasio’s performance as mayor, none of his obvious potential opponents fared well against him in hypothetical matchups.

The poll’s findings, however, suggested that there may be an opportunity for a Democrat running as an independent against Mr. de Blasio in the general election, perhaps after a strong but losing run in the Democratic primary or after skipping the primary altogether.

The piece goes on to suggest that one third party option against de Blasio in the general could be - wait for it - Cuomo's fake women's party:

The poll results showed that Mr. de Blasio would handily beat two prospective challengers — Christine C. Quinn, the former City Council speaker who ran against him in 2013, and the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer — in a primary. But it also showed a closer race if either Ms. Quinn or Mr. Stringer ran as an independent in the general election, although the survey’s questions did not reflect the presence of a Republican candidate, which may have affected some voters’ responses.

“I am certain somebody somewhere is going to challenge the mayor,” said Rachel Demarest Gold, acting state chairwoman of the Women’s Equality Party, a third party closely aligned with Mr. Cuomo. “He is a lightning-rod mayor and he has whipped up extreme feelings on both ends of the spectrum and people are going to respond to that.”

The Women's Equality Party (WEP) is not just a third party aligned with Cuomo - it's a third party created by Cuomo as retaliation against the Working Families Party (WFP) for humiliating him back in 2014 and forcing him to grovel for the WFP endorsement.

The idea was, WEP would end up on the ballot near WFP and confuse just enough voters to drive down WFP support and, maybe, drive down enough support to force WFP from the ballot next time around.

That didn't happen, but now we see WEP, Cuomo's fake women's party, being floated as the possible vehicle for a de Blasio challenger - clearly a gambit by Cuomo to convince somebody to run third party against de Blasio since, at least so far, de Blasio appears fairly strong against direct party challengers within the Democratic Party.

Cuomo is spending an awful lot of time trying to take out de Blasio, as was reported by Fred Dicker in the NY Post a while back, and this WEP gambit appears to be just one more attempt at that.

But even as Cuomo plays games with de Blasio, he has his own potential challenger on the horizon for 2018 - Tom DiNapoli, the New York Comptroller.

DiNapoli has released multiple audits this year questioning the effectiveness of Cuomo's economic development programs and the veracity of the PR Cuomo uses to sell them - something that apparently irks King Cuomo and came to a head this week:

In Buffalo on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized state lawmakers and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for expressing skepticism over the effectiveness of his economic development spending upstate.

Cuomo, who has long had a truculent relationship with DiNapoli, a fellow Democrat, said the comptroller was “dead wrong” on the issue of tax breaks for jobs and “should educate himself in the area.”

“You will not attract jobs, you will not keep jobs unless you are willing to work with the private sector and incentivize them,” Cuomo said. “This is not a highly competitive arena. If we are not as competitive, we will lose to the other states.”

DiNapoli’s office has issued a series of critical audits and reports questioning Cuomo’s handling of the START-UP NY program, which provides a decade of tax-free operations in New York for companies that move to the state and create jobs.

The program has come under scrutiny after a report found only 400 or so jobs have been created so far despite the heavy spending for the effort.

But Cuomo insisted the tax breaks were necessary in order to compete with other states who have similar programs in place.

“The incentives are working and the incentives are working by definition by what it requires to win,” he said.

DiNapoli, in a statement, responded to Cuomo’s criticisms.

“There is no debate on the need to create jobs in New York,” he said. “Our audits have thoughtful, constructive recommendations for how New York’s economic development programs can be more effective.”

Perhaps further irking Cuomo, DiNapoli has been making the rounds on the radio and appearing with hosts that, well, let's just say might be DiNapoli's way of sending a message to Cuomo:

There was talk during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that Bernie Sanders supporters are looking for a challenger to take out Cuomo in the 2018 primary.

DiNapoli is starting to look like he could be that challenger.

How delicious the irony, even as Cuomo desperately works to find a challenger to take on de Blasio in 2017, he appears to be getting his own challenger in 2018.

Now here's the thing about all of this.

Until we know how the various federal investigations into de Blasio turn out, we're not going to see any prominent Dem (e.g., Stringer, Diaz Jr.) make any public moves to primary de Blasio - the Q poll shows the potential futility of taking on de Blasio directly in the primary, at least for now.

But if indictments come to de Blasio's inner circle, that will change but quick and if de Blasio is indicted himself, well, put the fork in him.

The machinations against de Blasio here, from Cuomo behind the scenes, from Bloomberg crony Bradley Tusk publicly, make for a good summer story in the NY Times, but I'm not sure how meaningful any of it is until we get some resolution from US Attorney Preet Bharara on de Blasio.

The same can be said for Cuomo.

Bharara is investigating many of those Cuomo economic development programs the governor loves to tout and news came early this week that one of his cronies, lobbyist Todd Howe, has made a deal with the feds in return for leniency.  Howe has been close to Cuomo since the HUD days and, while the governor has said he isn't really that close with Howe anymore, news reports (and photographs) suggest otherwise.

If/when indictments come to Cuomo's inner circle, the prognosis for Cuomo's 2018 re-election gets a little murkier, especially if the US attorney takes apart Cuomo's economic development programs as little but a cash register for Cuomo cronies like Todd Howe and former aide Joe Percoco.

There also remains the possibility that Cuomo himself is the ultimate target of these investigations, since many of Cuomo's donors have been subpoenaed and the pattern - "donate to Cuomo = get state contract/tax break/favors in return" remains in play in many of these instances.

In the end, I think we'll know fairly soon what's going to happen with de Blasio and Cuomo regarding the Bharara investigations. 

There was a report in Dicker's column in the Post that the public would get some inkling of what's going on in the Cuomo investigations by the end of the summer. With the election coming soon, the likelihood is we'll get some inkling on de Blasio too.

But until Bharara makes his moves, all of the 2017 and 2018 jockeying is little more than noise.

You know, the kind of shit Cuomo is best at.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cuomo Associate Has Cooperation Deal With Preet Bharara

Have been waiting post-conventions for some Preet news.

Here is an interesting bit of it:

The corruption probe of Gov. Cuomo’s two longtime associates has taken a critical turn with Todd Howe, onetime lobbyist and longtime Cuomo family confidant, signing a “cooperation agreement’’ with US Attorney Preet Bharara, a source close to the investigation told The Post.

The agreement promises Howe, whose ties to Cuomo go back three decades, “favorable treatment’’ and “leniency’’ in the event that he’s criminally charged, in exchange for full details of his lobbying activities on behalf of several major state contractors with senior Cuomo administration officials.
Those officials include Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s closest friend and top aide who is currently senior vice president at Madison Square Garden, the source said.

Howe has been interviewed by federal prosecutors “about six times,’’ most recently about two weeks ago, when he “traded something that has to do with Percoco’’ and provided information on the influential, Albany-based, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna law firm, with which he had been affiliated, the source said. 
Howe, who worked for Cuomo when the current governor was federal housing secretary under President Bill Clinton, was described by the source as isolated from friends and family and disconsolate as Bharara’s investigation continues to unfold.
“He doesn’t have a job and no one from Andrew Cuomo’s entourage will even deal with him,’’ said the source.

Cuomo claimed that he didn't have much to do with Howe in the recent past, but Tim Knauss discovered that he was showing up at Cuomo functions like this one:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A smiling Todd Howe was photographed, standing in the background, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo enthusiastically shook hands with the president of COR Development Co. during an October 2012 visit to Syracuse.

Four years later, Howe is no longer in the background. The Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist is front and center in a federal investigation of Cuomo's Upstate economic development projects, according to published reports.

Another person named in the federal probe is Joseph Percoco, Cuomo's former executive deputy secretary, who appears with Howe in the background of the 2012 photo from Syracuse.

The photo was taken during sunnier times for Cuomo's Upstate economic initiatives, years before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation raised a cloud of suspicion.

The picture captures the role that Howe has apparently been playing for years in Syracuse economic development projects. Since the federal probe became publicly known, Howe's image has emerged as an affable guy to see for help in getting state funding or access to Albany power.

In the foreground of the 2012 photo, Cuomo shakes hands with Steven Aiello, president of COR, a Fayetteville company. COR is one of more than 20 companies about which Bharara has subpoenaed information from the Cuomo administration, according to reports.

Howe was also used as the "hand model" for Mario Cuomo's portrait in Albany:

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo claims he barely knows a fired lobbyist under federal investigation — yet he was close enough to the family to be the secret hand model behind Mario Cuomo’s official portrait, The Post has learned.

The liberal legend Mario had scoffed for years at having his likeness hung among the Empire State’s other leaders, so Andrew went behind his back to have the work secretly created from a 1989 photograph.

But the artist demanded it include Mario’s hands clasped on his knee, even though the photo didn’t clearly show his mitts.

“The artist insisted that he needed to see the Governors [sic] hands to paint them,” Howard Glaser, Andrew’s former director of state operations and Mario’s senior advisor, wrote in a private Facebook post obtained by The Post.

Enter Todd Howe, who is being probed by the feds for lobbying work he did for three firms that are part of the Cuomo administration’s economic-development program, the Buffalo Billion.
He raced down to the painter’s Maryland studio and literally lent a hand.

“The artist painted Todd’s hands into the painting to complete the work. So, yeah, it’s actually Todd Howes hands you see painted in the final portrait!!!!! Classic!” Glaser wrote.

Peter Cutler, a former Cuomo spokesman who is also named in a federal subpoena, replied, “Todd told me, saying it was pretty nerve-wracking — as I’m sure we can all understand,” he wrote.

“Thank God GAMC [Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo] pushed to get the portrait done & installed.”

The artist, Simmie Knox — who also did official portraits for then-President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary — recalled Howe giving guidance on how they wanted the painting done, but clammed up when he found out that the lobbyist was under a federal probe.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented the painting to his dad as a birthday gift at a 2012 ceremony.

Cuomo distanced himself from Howe in May and in June, claiming he and Howe were not "close."

The record appears to contradict that Cuomo assertion.

Whether Howe is telling tales on Cuomo or just providing evidence against Percoco and the entities involved in state contracting, well, that's hard to say.

Fred Dicker's piece says Howe is promised "'favorable treatment' and 'leniency' in the event that he’s criminally charged, in exchange for full details of his lobbying activities on behalf of several major state contractors with senior Cuomo administration officials."

The phrase leaves "senior Cuomo administration officials" is the interesting thing there.

That may mean people around Cuomo, or previously around Cuomo (like Percoco.)

But, since Cuomo has been known to leak anonymously to the press under the moniker "a senior Cuomo administration official," it also could mean Cuomo himself.

Time will tell whether Cuomo is actually the target of all of this or if Bharara gets to his inner circle without touching Cuomo himself.

So far, we have no direct indication that Cuomo is in any legal jeopardy.

But you can bet that if the Cuomo people didn't already know that Bharara has Howe wrapped up with a cooperation agreement, they're not happy now that the news is in Dicker's column in the NY Post.

Because who knows what Howe is telling Bharara now that he's cooperating.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Quid Pro Cuomo's Fundraising Track Record: Collect Cash, Dish Out Favors, Contracts And Legislation

Bill Mahoney at Politico NY anticipates Governor Cuomo's release of his last six months of fundraising with an analysis of last year's haul:

POLITICO New York examined each of the 454 checks Cuomo collected in last year’s July filing period. More than 90 percent of his money, or $4.5 million of the $5 million he raised, came from advocates for legislation or donors with business directly before the state.
This includes $268,250 from registered lobbyists and the firms for which they work. Clients for these lobbyists accounted for an additional $2 million, and companies that were identified as recipients of executive branch contracts by the comptroller’s Open Book New York site gave $393,500. The rest of the money primarily came from appointees to various state posts, companies that received contracts from authorities or individuals who were the principal funders of lobbying campaigns.

Mahoney shows how Cuomo collected the money at roughly the same time he was doling out favors, contracts or legislation in return.

For example:

The Cleveland-based NRP group was one of two companies involved in an affordable housing development in Corning. On May 12, the governor announced a $4.7 million state grant for the development. On May 13, the developer gave $25,000 to the governor. (In Cuomo’s first term, that company loaned the governor a private jet for campaign purposes and it received $3.3 million to construct housing in Ballston). 

Or this:

New York State Homes and Community Renewal joined MacQuestern Development to break ground on a Mount Vernon project on March 27; the company and its executives gave Cuomo $30,000 over the succeeding five days and an additional $30,000 in July.

Or this:

An executive at Triangle Equities, to whom the Cuomo administration proposed giving $16.5 million in subsidies for work in Staten Island, gave $25,000. And as the Times Union previously reported, Steven Aaron — whose LLCs gave the governor $25,000 during this six-month stretch and much more in prior years — received millions from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal for work in Schoharie after Cuomo-appointed commissioner Darryl Towns “bypassed competing projects that had higher recommendations from his staff.” 

There's a lot more - read the whole piece.

Some of the contributions Mahoney details are ones we've heard about before - like the $250K Cuomo took from multiple LLC's linked to a Kiryas Joel developer at the same time he was vetoing legislation the developer wanted vetoed or the education reformer/hedge fundie money he was taking at the same time he was pushing through "reforms" to the system.

The governor says he is not swayed by any of these donations in the least.

But the message here is pretty clear here.

If you want the governor to do something for you, pay him. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Congress Probes Cuomo Adminstration's Handling Of Hoosick Falls Water Crisis

This is very, very good news:

ALBANY — A congressional oversight committee has requested documents from the Cuomo administration and the federal Environmental Protection Agency related to toxic chemical pollution in Hoosick Falls.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeking all of the administration’s documents and communications related to Hoosick Falls and PFOA.
In the letter, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who chairs the oversight committee, and Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Interior, questioned why state and county officials improperly assured local residents that their water was safe, when federal regulators warned of the health risks.
“It raises serious questions that the county and state would continue to assure residents the water was safe to drink even though the federal government had already warned residents to the contrary,” he wrote. “The Committee is seeking information as to why the state and county delayed in acknowledging the health risks of PFOA exposure in Hoosick Falls and continued to provide the public with false and confusing information.”

Cuomo has done his best to stonewall questions into his administration's handling of this health crisis by having his cronies in both the state Assembly and state Senate put the kibbosh on public hearings into the mess.

That stonewall began to crumble when Senators Schumer and Gillibrand both called for hearings (and Gillibrand is holding a forum in Hoosick Falls tomorrow), then crumble further when Assembly Dems put hearings on the schedule for September.

With Congress now probing Cuomo's handling of the matter, there is a high likelihood we will get some light shed on this crisis, who knew what when, who took action to help with the contamination and who took action to keep the lid on it.

That is a good thing.

As Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin put it today:

The probe does not say there will be hearings, but bet that if the Cuomo administration's handling of this crisis turns out to be as egregious as it appears from the outside, there will be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

John Flanagan Rakes In $150K In Outside Income Despite Claims To The Contrary

Go get him, Preet:

ALBANY — Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan earned up to $150,000 last year from a Long Island law firm despite claims that he was giving up his outside legal work, according to documents made public Tuesday.

Flanagan's 2015 financial disclosure statement showed that he earned between $100,000 and $150,000 from Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana in Uniondale — the same amount he reported earning in 2014.

After he became majority leader in May of 2015, Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) told reporters that he’d stopped working for the firm to fully concentrate on his legislative job.

Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif insisted that Flanagan has not done any “active legal work” since becoming majority leader.

Must be nice to do "no active work" and still make an extra $150K a year.

According to the DN, Flanagan's disclosure claimed:

that he did not provide “direct services” to clients in 2015. Instead he provided “indirect services to the law firm in the areas of corporate trusts, tax certiorari, wills and estate, land use and planning.”

I bet if somebody with subpoena power were so inclined, he/she could look to see just how much "indirect service" Flanagan provided for the $150K.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cuomo Closely Tied To Politico Indicted For Bribery/Extortion

Fred Dicker reported Governor Cuomo's close ties to indicted Western New York power broker Steven Pigeon in yesterday's New York Post, noting that Pigeon was so tied to Cuomo last election cycle that the governor had him attending both election strategy and policy meetings:

Cuomo was so close to Pigeon — charged last week with nine felonies in connection with the alleged bribing of a state Supreme Court justice — that he gave him a key role in his 2014 re-election campaign despite objections from more important political aides like Joseph Percoco and Larry Schwartz, who considered him “untrustworthy and a little sleazy,’’ a source close to the campaign told The Post.

Cuomo directed Percoco, the focus of an ongoing probe by corruption-fighting US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Schwartz, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, and a handful of other trusted aides to allow Pigeon to attend key strategy meetings at the campaign headquarters from which virtually all other political operatives were excluded, said the campaign source.
“They objected, but the governor forced Pigeon on them,’’ according to the source. “At first Pigeon started to just show up at campaign strategy meetings, even though no one knew who had invited him to come.
“But it turned out that it was the governor who invited him to be there because the governor had come to believe that Pigeon was some kind of a political genius,’’ said the source.

Cuomo sought re-election obsessed with racking up a big vote in Buffalo and Erie County, Pigeon’s bailiwick, which he had lost four years earlier to Republican Carl Paladino, the source said.
Pigeon, the longtime Erie County Democratic chairman, “was the guy who Andrew was taking counsel from as to how to win in Buffalo this time around, but he was also taking his counsel on broader statewide issues,’’ the source said.

A second source said Cuomo was so close to Pigeon that in 2010, Gov. David Paterson refused to allow then-Attorney General Cuomo to name a special prosecutor to investigate election-related corruption charges being made against Pigeon — because he felt Cuomo “couldn’t be trusted to authorize a fair probe.’’

“Everyone knew at that time how close Cuomo was to Pigeon,’’ said the source.

Dicker writes that Cuomo was partly behind the 2009 Senate coup by turncoat Dems that Pigeon helped engineer, with Cuomo and Pigeon in close communication as the coup unfolded and control of the state Senate went to Republicans after turncoat Dems like Pedro Espada and Hiram Montserrate threw their lots in with Republicans (both men ended up in prison for corruption charges unrelated to the state Senate coup.)

Just as Cuomo has tried to distance himself from his former aide and lobbyist pal, Todd Howe (now squarely in the sights of federal prosecutors for corruption), Cuomo wants to distance himself from the now-indicted Steve Pigeon and make believe like he barely knows him.

But the record, when fully examined, shows Cuomo was as close as could be with both Pigeon and Howe (see here how Howe kept showing up at Cuomo functions and/or raising money for the governor simultaneous to the time Cuomo claims not to know what Howe was doing.)

Same goes for Pigeon - see the Buffalo News piece on Pigeon from 2013 as well as yesterday's Dicker piece.

You can bet if investigators look real close at the Cuomo relationships with his corrupt associates - Pigeon, Howe, former aide Joe Percoco, SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros - they will find some interesting things, some of which may turn out to be criminal.

Whether they go that far, well, that's hard to say.

But Preet Bharara has warned executive branches in the state that malfeasance in the executive will be rooted out.

So Cuomo shouldn't get to comfortable thinking all he's got to do to keep himself from scrutiny is just keep repeated "I don't know these people, I don't know these people..."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Cuomo Crony Scene Right Out Of Goodfellas

The NY Post says this scene is right out of The Sopranos, but I see Goodfellas as the better comparison:

ALBANY — Like a scene from “The Sopranos,” a political operative busted by the state Attorney General’s Office held secret meetings at his elderly mother’s house and had a campaign worker paid with grocery bags stuffed with cash, a former upstate prosecutor told The Post.

Steve Pigeon — a Buffalo-area Democrat — had a waterfront condo but the neighborhood was also home to a number of judges, so he conducted his shady business at his mom’s, according to former Erie County prosecutor Mark Sacha.

“It was like ‘The Sopranos.’ They wanted to hire this phone-bank guy to make calls for a candidate,” Sacha recalled.

“So, they go to his elderly mother’s house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in the middle of the night. This is where they agree to hire the phone-bank guy for $20,000, but the campaign account is drained so they arrange to deliver cash in grocery bags,” said Sacha, a former assistant DA who investigated Pigeon three years ago and who is now running for district attorney.


Twice, the operative was paid $10,000 stuffed in Tops Supermarket grocery bags, Sacha said.
“I’ll never forget this phone-bank guy telling me about meeting the donor [a Pigeon crony] having this ‘hoochie coochie’ girl with him,” Sacha said.

“I see no difference between these guys and organized crime, except these guys are corrupting elections,” Sacha said. 

Sources say Pigeon helped Cuomo navigate politics in Western New York and backed the governor’s unsuccessful first bid for the seat he now holds.
Through a spokesman, Cuomo denied Pigeon is a close ally.

Reminds me a little of this scene in Goodfellas where the boys make a late night trip to Tommy's mother's house (sans the not-quite dead Billy Bats, of course):

Friday, July 1, 2016

Buffalo Schools General Counsel Linked To Pigeon Bribery/Extortion Case

New details on the Steven Pigeon/John Michalek corruption case, with an education angle:

A new element from Michalek and Pigeon’s relationship emerged in court over the last two days – an extortion charge against Pigeon.

One of the favors Pigeon allegedly asked from Michalek was for the judge to appoint a young local attorney as a receiver. Appointment of a receiver to temporarily manage a business, property or other entity involved in a foreclosure action or some other litigation can be lucrative for an attorney, according to legal experts.

“Depending on the length and complexity of the litigation, a receivership can earn an attorney anywhere from a few thousand dollars to six figures,” one knowledgeable Buffalo attorney told The Buffalo News.

Michalek admitted in court that, in 2012, Pigeon asked him to appoint a local lawyer as a receiver in a case Michalek was handling. The attorney was a recent law school graduate and had not yet been approved by the state courts as a qualified receiver. Nonetheless, Michalek gave him the assignment.
“We pushed it through anyway … have to give them a spec reason etc. … will figure it out … John,” Michalek emailed to Pigeon in May 2012.

Later, according to state prosecutors, Pigeon pressured this receiver to hire some of Pigeon’s “cronies” to do some work on a property the receiver was overseeing. The receiver refused to hire the “cronies,” and Pigeon retaliated by taking $5,000 from the receiver by “extortion,” according to court papers.

That receiver was Edward A. Betz, a former Pigeon associate who is now general counsel for the Buffalo Public Schools.

While declining to talk in any detail about the receivership or the alleged extortion, Betz told The News: “My only involvement in this matter is that I was asked to violate my ethical responsibilities as a receiver, and I steadfastly refused to do that.”

While Betz confirmed that he was the attorney appointed to the receivership, he declined to address any further questions about the Pigeon case. Sources said he has cooperated with the state attorney general’s investigation.

Here's a fun question to ask: How did Betz get the Buffalo schools gig?

Here's how:

It was several months in the making, but it’s official: Rashondra M. Martin is out as general counsel for Buffalo Public Schools.

Edward A. Betz is in.

After a closed-door session lasting about an hour and a half Wednesday evening, the Buffalo Board of Education took only a matter of minutes to fire Martin and appoint Betz, who was recommended by Superintendent Kriner Cash.

The two separate resolutions were supported by board majority members Jason McCarthy, Carl P. Paladino, Patricia Pierce, Larry Quinn and Board President James Sampson. The actions were opposed by the other board members who were present – Sharon Belton-Cottman, MaryRuth Kapsiak and Barbara Seals Nevergold. Theresa Harris-Tigg was absent.

In the end, Martin, who was hired by then-Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, was fired effective immediately and Cash was given the green light to negotiate a contract with Betz to take over the position at an annual salary of $160,000, which is $33,000 more than Martin was making.

Prior to voting, Belton-Cottman, Kapsiak and Seals Nevergold said the termination seemed like “punitive action” against Martin, who had filed a civil rights complaint against Paladino with the state Division of Human Rights. It was filed after a February 2015 board meeting in which Martin was asked to give advice on a key matter of parliamentary procedure. Her response frustrated members of the board majority, including Paladino, who asked Martin, “How can you be so ignorant?”

Terminating Martin was not an act of retaliation, argued some of the majority members of the board, but rather an issue of incompetence.

Paladino said Martin failed to disclose pertinent and time-sensitive information to the superintendent and the board, and she has failed to cooperate with Cash.

Members of the minority bloc said hiring Betz gave the perception of favoritism because Betz has no experience in school board law or as a district counsel, and he will be paid more than Martin was. They also pointed out that Betz was Quinn’s campaign manager when he won his School Board seat last year, and represented McCarthy in a matter that went before the state Education Department.
Members of the majority bloc and Cash countered that Betz is a former assistant corporation counsel for the City of Buffalo, a former general counsel for the Erie County Water Authority, has extensive knowledge of state Civil Service Law and the Taylor Law and experience in public employee relations matters. 

I'm sure Betz's "extensive knowledge of state Civil Service Law and the Taylor Law and experience in public employee relations matters" was why Betz got the general counsel gig.

I mean, three and a half years out of law school is a lot of time, you know?

Here's one commenter on the Betz hire:

There is no doubt that Martin was incompetent and needed to go. However, what happened to hiring QUALIFIED candidates? This is yet another disappointing hire by the superintendent. He continues to hire every political hack that Quinn and Paladino send his way. (For the record, I supported Quinn and Paladino until they continued the nepotism that they vowed to correct.)

I challenge the Buffalo News and the Board of Ed to pull the resumes of the attorneys who applied for this job and then tell me that Betz, a lawyer with NO education law experience, is the man for the job. Moreover, look into HIS resume and I think you will find that his qualifications, as noted in this article, are inaccurate. It is clear that qualifications didn't come into play, as it was common knowledge that Betz had the job before it was even posted. I did a little research and Betz isn't some prize lawyer, every job he has had was given to him as a favor. Take this one for example:

As for the salary, while Martin clearly ended up not being the person for the job, she was more qualified and paid much less. Explain how that works?
Follow the link above and you'll find this:

Edward A. Betz, an attorney who has been active in Democratic political campaigns, was promoted last month on a temporary basis to serve as associate attorney at a salary of $117,877. Betz previously worked in the Law Department at Buffalo City Hall and has managed local political campaigns.

Pigeon only extorted $5000 from Betz?

Hell, the number of sweetheart gigs Betz was getting from his connections, he could have hit him up for so much more.

What a sewer New York is.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cuomo Ally Pleads Not Guilty To Nine Count Felony Indictment (Update)

Niagara Gazette:

G. Steven Pigeon, a longtime Western New York political operative and former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple corruption charges filed in an indictment announced by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The 55-year-old political consultant has been charged with bribery in the second degree, a class C felony; bribery in the third degree, a class D felony; grand larceny theft by extortion in the third degree, a class D Felony; and six counts of rewarding official misconduct in the second degree, a class E felony.

Pigeon, who appeared in court with his attorney, Paul Cambria, entered his plea during an arraignment Thursday morning in front of State Supreme Court Judge Donald F. Cerio, Jr. who set bail at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

Following the arraignment, Cambria met with reporters outside the courtroom where he said Pigeon vehemently denies any wrongdoing and looks forward to his day in court.

Pigeon's arraignment follows Wednesday's guilty plea from former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek. The 65-year-old Michalek resigned from the bench after pleading guilty to various charges in what Schneiderman's office has described as a scheme that involved receiving bribes from Pigeon, and for filing a false document with the New York State Office of Court Administration when he appointed a receiver who had been suggested by Pigeon. Michalek admitted guilt to a pair of felonies, including bribe receiving in the third degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. In addition to entering the plea, Michalek submitted a letter of resignation to the chief administrative judge, effective immediately.

The charges stem from an ongoing public corruption investigation by the attorney general's office. Schneiderman is scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon at his office in Buffalo to discuss both cases in greater detail.

The Buffalo News reported this morning that this case is not likely to end with only Michalek and Pigeon facing criminal charges:

Schneiderman, who investigated Pigeon’s activities based on original complaints about election law violations, emerged as the only prosecutor or official in New York State willing to take on the case. And according to a source familiar with the charge, more counts could be forthcoming. The source pointed out nothing in this week’s court proceedings yet addresses the concerns that led Schneiderman’s investigators, the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI in May of 2015 to raid the homes of former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey and Christopher M. Grant, former chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.

For now, the state focuses its next steps on Pigeon, who has garnered complaints from political opponents and elections officials for many years over his controversial methods of raising money for independent political committees. Much more serious charges now face Michalek and Pigeon as a result of the original complaints, though those close to the case say more charges could still be pressed.

Pigeon's connections to Cuomo are well known and the governor's name even popped up in the indictment:

In March 2012, Michalek emailed Pigeon regarding a lawsuit pending before him, providing Pigeon with details concerning a motion filed by a non-party to the litigation seeking a protective order from a subpoena served by one of the parties.

In a written decision issued approximately two weeks later, Michalek denied the motion for a protective order, just as Pigeon had requested. Michalek then sent Pigeon an email with a copy of the decision attached and thanked Pigeon for “his efforts” on behalf of his first relative looking for a job, the complaint said.

Pigeon responded by email a short time later with an offer of additional assistance to the relative.
The complaint also indicated that on Dec. 10, 2012, Michalek emailed Pigeon concerning assistance in securing the Appellate Division appointment. Michalek wrote: “think there is a seat open in App Div … I applied … Normally I wouldn’t mention it to you … wonder if you could help.”

That same day, Pigeon replied: “I will start talking u up.”

The documents then indicate that on Jan. 8, 2013, Michalek wrote to Pigeon: “Unc Steve...How’d you do with the Gov??? ...” Later that day, Pigeon responded: “Bunch happening ... in albany now... Gov went well ... Talked u up ... Let’s have coffee soon.”

The complaint draws a clear link between Pigeon and Michalek’s desire for a gubernatorial appointment to the appellate court.

Pigeon had bragged that he was Cuomo's go-to guy in Western New York (this was the subject of a Buffalo News story back in 2013), so the Michalek appointment convo may not be the only time Cuomo shows up in this case.

We'll see.

No matter what happens with the Pigeon case, the Buffalo Billion case is still ongoing as well, with two former Cuomo aides and one current Cuomo associate facing what will almost certainly be criminal charges for corruption.

It is going to be an interesting summer waiting to see how all of this shakes out.

Today Cuomo went to the Catskills with Robert DeNiro.

Here is a transcript of what transpired:

UPDATED - 1:55 PM: Former assistant district attorney Mark Sacha insinuates  Attorney General Schneiderman is engaging in a cover-up by going after low-lying fruit with the corruption indictment while ignoring the election fraud crimes Pigeon was engaged in that could take down a whole swath of politicians:

Would note also that Risa Sugarman, Cuomo's hack at the Board of Elections, referred the Pigeon case initially.

That itself is interesting, since it's doubtful that the independent in name only Sugarman, appointed by the governor, would initiate anything without Cuomo's OK.

In any case, a sordid affair exposing Erie County corruption right to the very core - the justice system, the political system, the election system.

More as we get it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cuomo Ally To Be Arrested For Bribery


A New York State Supreme Court judge pleaded guilty on Wednesday to bribery in connection with the state attorney general’s investigation into his relationship with a Buffalo-area political consultant with ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The judge, John A. Michalek, who also pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, said he would cooperate with the probe.


 A spokesman for the state courts system said that as part of his plea agreement, Mr. Michalek had resigned as a state Supreme Court judge.

Mr. Michalek has been under investigation for months by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in connection with his relationship with Steven Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman who has raised money and occasionally advised the governor on western New York-related matters.

According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Messrs. Michalek and Pigeon had “an understanding” in which the judge “engaged in official conduct” that benefited Mr. Pigeon’s interests, which included lawsuits before the judge. Mr. Michalek received benefits from Mr. Pigeon, such as hockey tickets and assistance seeking judicial appointments for himself and jobs for his relatives.

Mr. Pigeon is set to be arrested on Thursday and indicted later that day, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria Jr., didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Today’s proceedings expose a corrupt, multiyear scheme to use political favors to buy off a sitting state judge,” Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday.

Here are some previous Perdido Street School blog posts on Pigeon and Cuomo (here, here, here and here.)

And of course, there's the wonderful Buffalo News story in 2013 in which Pigeon brags he's Governor Cuomo's go-to guy in Buffalo:

If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seems obsessed with all things Buffalo in the months leading to his re-election campaign, those familiar with the governor point to his rejection by the voters of nine western counties in 2010.
Perhaps that’s why Cuomo is turning to G. Steven Pigeon, one of his oldest – and most controversial – Western New York allies, for fundraising, politics and even policy, according to several sources.
The former Erie County Democratic chairman is taking on more assignments from Cuomo and is telling political leaders here of a larger role, according to at least half a dozen highly placed sources with knowledge of the situation.

And while Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi would not discuss Pigeon specifically when questioned by The Buffalo News, he did not deny the suggestion that Pigeon plays a role for the governor.
“The governor has many friends in Buffalo, from the mayor to the county executive to Sam Hoyt to Steve Pigeon,” Azzoparadi said.
Pigeon’s larger profile may also stem from other roles such as major campaign donor and the $50,000 check he presented to Cuomo’s birthday fundraiser at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel last December.
Other Democrats say a senior official for the governor has told members of the Cuomo administration, including Hoyt, to have regular contact with Pigeon. They say that Pigeon has joined conference calls and meetings and that his involvement transcends politics to include economic-development matters.
One major Democrat said local officials “employed by the State of New York” are aware of Pigeon’s enhanced position for the governor.
“He’s going to be his top political person,” the Democrat said of Pigeon’s role for the governor in Western New York. “Steve is telling people that."

Now that Pigeon, the governor's top political person in Buffalo, is set to be arrested on bribery charges tomorrow, the governor may be wondering just what that top operative has to trade with the authorities for a lighter sentence.

Pigeon was in on Cuomo's economic development matters in Buffalo?

Gee, there might be something there, especially since those matters are already under investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

This Pigeon arrest is just one strand of the investigations into the governor's world that Cuomo's got to worry about.

There are also the various strands in the Buffalo Billion and state contract mess, with offshoots to former aides Todd Howe and Joe Percoco and Cuomo's man at SUNY Poly, Alain Kaloyeros.

Bharara has warned that he's scrutinizing malfeasance in executive branches around New York.

Going to be an interesting, interesting summer.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Legal Fees In Cuomo Investigations Mount

From Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY:

ALBANY — The state’s economic development authority is tripling the amount of money it’s spending to deal with a federal probe of the Cuomo administration’s Buffalo Billion, documents show.

Empire State Development voted on Thursday to amend its contract with WilmerHale, which has been advising the authority since it received a federal subpoena for records last summer.
The firm was originally retained for $200,000, but the amount was increased by $400,000 in the final minute of Thursday’s board meeting. The unanimous vote came after 40 minutes of discussion in executive session. 
The allocation by ESD is just one slice of taxpayer-covered legal payments related to Bharara’s probe. SUNY Poly has retained Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, but a spokesman would not say how much he is being paid.

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month confirmed that Elkan Abramowitz is still representing the governor, as was the case with an earlier Bharara probe. It’s unclear if Abramowitz will be paid by taxpayers or from the Democratic governor’s campaign war chest.

And there is an outside inquiry by Bart Schwartz that Cuomo commissioned after his executive chamber was subpoenaed on April 29. Schwartz and his firm, GuidePost, are examining what took place and are reviewing ongoing payments.

His contract has not been finalized.

We have found that corruption is rife in a lot of institutions in New York and throughout New York,” Bharara said during a national TV interview.

“That’s true in the legislature. It’s also the case that there’s corruption, we believe, in the executive branches as well. And we’ll ferret it out wherever we find it.”

Clearly a bow shot at Cuomo, as well as de Blasio - no wonder the legal fee expenditures from Cuomo and his minions are mounting.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bharara Warns Cuomo And De Blasio He's Coming For Them

Preet Bharara was on ABC this morning with a warning for both Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio:

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara publicly put Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo on notice Sunday that he’s actively searching for evidence of corruption in their branches of government.
“We have found that corruption is rife in a lot of institutions in New York and throughout New York,” Bharara said during a national TV interview.

“That’s true in the legislature. It’s also the case that there’s corruption, we believe, in the executive branches as well. And we’ll ferret it out wherever we find it.”

Bharara’s stinging comments on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” come amid probes by his office into fund-raising efforts by Mayor de Blasio and suspected bid-rigging in state-funded development projects.

They also followed an interview last month in which Bharara bristled at the suggestion that Cuomo had been cleared of wrongdoing when Bharara declined to charge him for unexpectedly shutting down the anti-corruption Moreland Commission in 2014.

“Nobody gave a clean bill of health to anybody. A non-indictment is not an endorsement of anyone’s conduct,” Bharara told the New Yorker in what the magazine described as “an uncharacteristically icy tone.”

Cuomo's administration is the subject of a massive federal investigation into his economic development projects all over the state.

Cuomo's top former aide, Joe Percoco, is one focus of that investigation.

A second is another former Cuomo aide and close associate, Todd Howe.

A third is SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros, Cuomo's man in charge of the economic development projects.

As the Post piece notes, de Blasio is the subject of a few investigations too.

The election is coming in November, so if anything is going to come of these investigations, it will come before then.

It's not a mistake that Bharara was on ABC News this morning to talk about corruption in the executive branches in this state.

That's a little head nod that something's coming soon.

We know that one of de Blasio's fund raisers is cooperating with the feds, so my guess is, the de Blasio investigations will get movement first.

But there's a lot going on with the Cuomo investigations too.

There's no certainty that Cuomo's going to go down, but given the subpoenas that went out across the state as part of the investigation into his economic development programs, you can pretty much bet some of those associates of his are going down.

And there's an outside chance that after some squeezing, some of those associates will have tales to trade to prosecutors for lighter sentences.

One way or another, it's beginning to sound a lot like Preetmas.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Closing In On De Blasio

From the NY Times:

Three New York Police Department commanders were arrested on Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges linked to one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising.

The arrests were one of the most significant roundups of police supervisors in the recent history of the department — a deputy chief and a deputy inspector accused of accepting expensive gifts from two politically connected businessmen who prosecutors say were seeking illicit favors from the police.

In court papers unsealed on Monday, federal agents describe how the two men, who are at the center of one of the City Hall fund-raising inquiries, showered gifts on senior police officials: jewelry for the police inspector’s wife; a video game system for the chief’s children; tickets to Brooklyn Nets games; hotel rooms in Rome and Chicago; even a private-jet flight to Las Vegas, with a prostitute on board.

The police officers arrested on Monday were Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington, 50; Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, 43; and Sgt. David Villanueva, 42, who was charged in a separate but related scheme involving gun licenses. The businessman arrested was Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, Brooklyn.

The other businessman, Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, has pleaded guilty and has provided information in the police case and in at least one of the fund-raising investigations focused on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his inner circle, according to several people familiar with the case.

Let's repeat that last part:

The other businessman, Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, has pleaded guilty and has provided information in the police case and in at least one of the fund-raising investigations focused on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his inner circle, according to several people familiar with the case.

Bharara said yesterday “there is no allegation that has anything to do with the mayor anywhere” in the court documents.

But the news that Rechnitz is providing information in the case against the cops and at least one of the cases focused on de Blasio suggests it is only a matter of time before some of the people around de Blasio - and perhaps de Blasio himself - have their own day in court.

Monday, June 20, 2016

John Flanagan Is Nothing But Cuomo's Flunky

Fred Dicker in the NY Post:

As the 2016 session of the Legislature wrapped up last week and came to a typically ugly end in the wee hours Saturday morning — with bleary-eyed lawmakers forced to vote on measures they didn’t even have time to read — The Post asked several lawmakers, lobbyists and journalists to assess the first full year’s performance of Democrat Heastie, a key ally of Mayor de Blasio, and Flanagan, the most powerful Republican in the state.


“It’s clear that Carl lacks Shelly Silver’s strengths — keen intelligence and tough negotiating skills — while possessing his own weaknesses of indecision and a lack of clear strategy,’’ said the influential lobbyist.

“While Carl took on [Gov.] Cuomo on behalf of the mayor, he wasn’t very effective in doing so because he’s basically afraid of the governor, and hence you wound up with just that one-year extension [of mayoral control of the city schools],’’ the lobbyist continued.

As for Flanagan, “It’s clear that to an embarrassing degree Flanagan is Cuomo’s flunky, his most loyal ally in the Legislature, a guy who will abandon the supposed fundamental positions of his own Republican Party in order to hold on to power,’’ said the lobbyist, a Democrat who has worked with both leaders.

Nothing to add here except this:

As corrupt as he was, when Silver was taken out, the only check to Cuomo's power was removed from Albany.

Now the governor essentially gets whatever he wants and makes sure that what he doesn't want - like real ethics reform - doesn't happen.

About the only possible check on Cuomo's power resides in the Southern District of New York, but it remains to be seen if and when that power will act to take down Cuomo.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

New York Legislature Creates "Parallel System Of Charter Schools" In New York City

In the middle of the night, John Flanagan shoved through an extension of mayoral control of NYC schools that essentially frees charter schools from having to follow any rules:

ALBANY — State lawmakers on Friday reached a long-awaited deal to conclude the 2016 legislative session that included a modest ethics package, state funding for supportive housing for the homeless, and a one-year extension — with major caveats — of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of New York City schools.


Bowing to demands from the State Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan, a Republican who is not disposed to be helpful to a mayor who has openly worked to flip control of the chamber to the Democrats, the mayor and his allies in the Democrat-dominated Assembly agreed to disclose more information about city school districts’ spending and to accept a change to the oversight structure for more than half the city’s charter schools.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

More - italics mine:

There was concern within City Hall that the charter school provision would significantly change how such schools in the city run.

Charter schools can be authorized by three agencies — the State Education Department, the city’s Education Department and SUNY — but all operate according to the same state law. Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.

There are 111 charters authorized by SUNY in the city. Another 55 are authorized by the city’s Education Department, and 39 by the state department.

Going to repeat the italicized part from above:

Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.

Wheee - let's all switch to charter-friendly SUNY, where we can set our own rules and be free from the usual state standards!!!

Quite a midnight passage.