Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, May 27, 2016

SUNY Office Raided, Net Closes In On Cuomo Cronies


From the NY Times:

ALBANY — Agents from the state attorney general’s office conducted a search at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute here on Thursday, scouring an office once used by a lobbyist as part of an inquiry into possible bid rigging.

Agents arrived with search warrants and looked through an office used by Todd R. Howe, who has past ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat. Mr. Howe had worked as the president of the lobbying arm of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, a prominent Albany law firm which had SUNY Polytechnic as a client. Agents also served a warrant to examine communications from Alain E. Kaloyeros, the school’s president.

Mr. Howe and Mr. Kaloyeros have recently emerged as central players in a multipronged federal investigation led by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, surrounding the Buffalo Billion, the governor’s signature upstate economic initiative. Mr. Howe was fired from Whiteman after news of the federal investigation broke last month.

The search — conducted by several agents, who looked into electronic files and removed at least two boxes of material — focused in part on a plan to build a dormitory near the university’s sleek campus. But according to an official with knowledge of the investigation, agents were also looking into other projects connected with SUNY Polytechnic, as well as several developers who had worked with the school.

They're looking at bid-rigging - that the proposal for a dormitory project was written up in such a way that only a Cuomo donor (Columbia Development, $195,000 to Cuomo since August 2013) could win it.

This would follow what appears to be an emerging pattern of rigging proposals for Cuomo donors, as happened with LP Ciminelli in the Buffalo Billion Project or NAH for a proposed for-profit charter school that got backdated under older rules that still allowed for for-profit charters.

Investigators are also looking at the relationship between Cuomo administration officials and COR Development, which gave the governor $325,000 through various individuals and entities and received $100 million in state contracts.

Something similar is happening with Cuomo's vaunted LaGuardia Airport redo, where Cuomo donors stand to do very well in plans set forth by the Cuomo administration, though there's no indication that investigators are looking at that - yet, at any rate.

Yesterday's raid suggests former Cuomo aide/Cuomo hand model Todd Howe is done for - it's only a matter of time before he's picked up and squeezed by the feds.

And since he acted as a "de facto chief of staff" to SUNY Poly guy Alain Kaloyeros and the feds are looking at Kaloyeros too, well, you'd have to think it's only a matter of time before the highest paid state employee gets picked up too.

Cuomo threw Howe and Kaloyeros under the bus this week, along with former aide/confidante Joe Percoco, saying that the the investigation was really limited to those individuals, but with news that the investigations by the U.S. attorney and the attorney general continue to widen (see here, here and here), that appears not to be the case.

There is still no evidence that this will reach as high as Cuomo, but here's the thing that should give some hope on that.

There's one string that links all of this disparate strands together and it is this: Cuomo donors gave money to Cuomo and got state contracts, grants, subsidies and/or other help in return.

This happened not once or twice but seemingly over and over and over.

Maybe Cuomo's got a firewall between himself and the rest of his cronies pulling these shenanigans, but he'd better hope it's a very strong firewall.

Because the authorities are looking not just at some corrupt individuals in basically a good system - they're looking at some corrupt individuals operating in a just-as-corrupt system.

And no pol has taken advantage of that system more than Cuomo, who had a huge war chest for his last re-election and even now is sitting on $16 million raised from dubious sources.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Federal Probe Appears To Go Right At The Way Cuomo Administration Works

Scott Waldman at Politico NY:

ALBANY — U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s inquiry into the state Department of Public Service has broadened in recent days, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

A federal subpoena is now seeking all communication, including records of emails and in-person meetings, between senior state energy officials and top Cuomo administration officials, according to the sources. It seeks information on interactions between Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former senior aide, Joseph Percoco, Department of Public Service chief of staff Tom Congdon, New York Power Authority president and CEO Gil Quiniones and Len Walker, who has worked as a director of special projects at NYPA.

The subpoena also seeks information about the organizational structure of the Department of Public Service from January 2012 to December 2015, sources said. That period includes most of the tenure of DPS head Audrey Zibelman, who was confirmed in June 2013. She is also chairwoman of the Public Service Commission.

Under Zibelman, Cuomo’s executive branch has taken a more direct role in the inner workings of the DPS and the decisions that come before the PSC, insiders say. At the behest of Cuomo, Zibelman is now conducting a series of investigations into energy companies in New York, including the Indian Point nuclear center. She is not named in the subpoena.

Cuomo wants you to think these investigations are only focusing on the malfeasance of two associates of his - he said so again yesterday:

Cuomo said the federal investigation is focusing on whether two people committed wrongdoing, his former deputy secretary Joseph Percoco, and lobbyist Todd Howe.
...
"I come from a tradition, started by my father, of 100 percent integrity in public service," Cuomo said.
"If there's any violation, I will be the first...I literally have put people in jail. No one is stricter than I am," he said.

But given the widening of the subpoena to include "all communication...between senior state energy officials and top Cuomo administration officials," it seems Bharara is looking at more than just malfeasance by Percoco and Howe.

And note that his investigation of DPS is looking at the "organizational structure" from January 2012 to December 2015, a time period when Cuomo subsumed much control of DPS through the hack he installed there, as well as that"decisions that come before the PSC."

That suggests Bharara's investigation has gone well beyond Percoco and Howe and right to the root of the way the Cuomo administration works - including the way Cuomo's executive branch seems to control decisions at entities that are allegedly independent of it.

In other Cuomo corruption news yesterday, Cuomo not only threw his two aides, Percoco and Howe, under the bus (as detailed in the quote above), but also Alain Kaloyeros at SUNY Polytechnic.

Cuomo was making an announcement in Syracuse when he was asked about the $325,000 in donations he took from one of the companies at the center of the U.S. attorney's investigation into his economic development programs:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he had no input into SUNY Polytechnic Institute awarding $100 million in contracts to his top campaign contributor in Central New York, COR Development.

He said the more than $325,000 in campaign contributions that COR Development, its executives and COR subsidiaries gave to him had no influence in the awarding of contracts to COR.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in April subpoenaed Cuomo's office for records related to contracts given to COR Development as part of the prosecutor's investigation into Cuomo's marquee economic development projects in Upstate New York.

Bharara, the prosecutor who has already won convictions against former Senate leader Dean Skelos and Assembly leader Sheldon Silver, has issued subpoenas for records related to the Buffalo Billion projects, state contracts with COR Development for Central New York projects, and for a controversial energy project in Orange County, among other things.

Cuomo said the federal investigation is focusing on whether two people committed wrongdoing, his former deputy secretary Joseph Percoco, and lobbyist Todd Howe.

"The way it worked...the state didn't do any of the contracts," Cuomo said when asked about the COR contracts and donations. "It's all done through SUNY, the state university system. They are the ones that actually managed the contracting process."

"They are the ones who ran the contracts, ran the competitions, made the selections," he said. "I had absolutely nothing to do with that."

"It was done by SUNY," the governor said.

Shorter Cuomo: Hey, nothing to do with me, look at Alain Kaloyeros, the head of SUNY Polytechnic,

And yet, look at all the money awarded to COR directly through Cuomo:

SUNY Polytechnic Institute is run by Alain Kaloyeros, the highest paid state employee at $1.1 million in 2015. A board of directors that ran a nonprofit subsidiary set up by SUNY Poly requested proposals to build a nanotechnology building in the Syracuse area.

COR Development was the only company to submit a bid. The SUNY Poly subsidiary awarded COR a $15 million contract to build the Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries, commonly called the film hub, in DeWitt.

Cuomo then awarded Central New York a $500 million award as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative contest between seven Upstate regions.

From that award, Cuomo directed that $90 million be used to pay for another contract to COR, to build a factory for Soraa, an LED lighting manufacturer, adjacent to the film hub.

Through his annual awards to regional economic development councils, Cuomo has also approved state grants of about $4 million to COR to demolish the former Kennedy Square housing project in Syracuse and about $4 million to COR to redevelop the former Mercy Hospital site in Watertown.

Cuomo is throwing as many of his cronies as he can to the wolves in order to save himself - it's Percoco, it's Howe, it's Kaloyeros!

Doubtful that this kind of "Not me, them!" thing will fool federal investigators looking into all of this.

And with news coming almost weekly that the investigations into Cuomo's economic development programs are widening, it's doubtful too that Bharara is just looking at Percoco, Howe and Kaloyeros for malfeasance.

As the NY Times reported yesterday, the link between all of this is quite simple - Cuomo donors gave money to Cuomo, got contracts, grants, subsidies or state help in return.

That's at the center of all of this, and while Cuomo wants you to believe that if there's any malfeasance in the donors/state contracting relationship, it was conducted by his under-investigation associates, not him, that seems absurd.

If this kind of thing only happened once, twice, even three times - you might say, "Oh, OK, sure."

But it's pretty clear that this kind of thing happened again and again and again, with Cuomo donors giving money to Cuomo and getting contracts, grants, subsidies or state help in return.

At some point, the feds are going to say, "How is it this happened again and again and again and Cuomo didn't know?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Gaming Out A Post-De Blasio City Hall

After weeks of getting hammered by news that there are multiple federal investigations into his fundraising, Mayor Bill de Blasio's poll support has fallen to its lowest levels ever in the latest Quinnipiac poll.

That's not a surprise, given the coverage of those stories, coupled with the tabloid headlines.

The Q poll has de Blasio down to 41% approval, 52% disapproval.

Against potential challengers, de Blasio fares poorly:

The poll also tests him against potential Democratic challengers running as independents. Mr. de Blasio wins 37% to 36% against Comptroller Scott Stringer, 35% to 34% over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and 37% to 32% over Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. None of the men has declared as candidates for 2017.

They didn't test the Eva Moskowitz shill, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, but I would imagine Jeffries would fare somewhere between Diaz' and Stringer 's numbers.

Ken Sherrill says there's still time for de Blasio to turn things around:

Kenneth Sherrill, a professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, said the numbers are “a warning signal” that the mayor needs to make changes.

“He’s lost control of the debate. He’s not setting the agenda. In some ways he might seem to be acting as someone with something to hide,” Mr. Sherrill said.

“But people might be for the most part paying attention to the presidential race. He has a lot of time to make some changes. I don’t think this is fatal.”

I am less convinced about that.

Given the number of investigations, given the press coverage he's garnering, given the "Agents of the City" nonsense he offered to keep some correspondence secret, I think we can conclude in the immortal words of Michael Ray Richardson that "This ship be sinking."

Leaving aside who might run as a Republican for now, the Dems appear to be Stringer, Diaz, perhaps Jeffries and perhaps Adams (though Adams continues to say he is not interested in running until 2021 - when de Blasio's second term would be over, assuming he's not in prison by then.)

Whether there are tweaks to mayoral control or not, the next mayor will have great power and influence over the school system.

De Blasio has been Bloomberg Lite on schools, saying some of the right things about testing, teachers, school closures, et al., but really changing little from the Bloomberg Years.

The morale in the school system is lower now than even during the Bloomberg Years, as the UFT has become essentially a company union that works in concert with Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio.

These days I feel "Meh" about a de Blasio loss (or arrest), though I am concerned about what comes next.

An Eva shill like Jeffries or Diaz is particularly concerning, though that kind of ascension to City Hall could theoretically get the UFT out of its company union status and force them to stand up to out-of-control administrators and other abuses.

Couple of things to think about regarding this - there are more health care plan "savings" benchmarks to be hit in the next couple of years (i.e., we pay more, city saves more) and the contract expires in 2018 but the "retro" goes through 2020.

There's lots of damage a pro-charter, pro-reformer mayor can do.

Given that, I suppose if I had to back a horse in a primary race, I'd take Stringer, though I don't trust him much.

Given his hostile relationship with Moskowitz and past support from the UFT, I suppose he would be the least bad choice.

I have a difficult time seeing Diaz run citywide, especially given the corruption he and his family have been involved in.

But that doesn't mean he won't run, though I suppose what Jeffries does could influence what Diaz does because Eva and the charter shills are going to want just one horse in a primary race against de Blasio.

Cuomo's no doubt pulling strings to try and get challengers to run against de Blasio, but he's got his own scandal trouble with the federal investigations into his economic development programs and campaign donors, so I'm not sure how much juice he'll really have here.

In any case, all of this really depends on how these investigations into de Blasio turn out.

If there are indictments of his top people, he's got serious political trouble, but if he's indicted himself, well, that's game over.

It's difficult to take out an incumbent mayor in New York City, but it's not impossible, and looking at how may headwinds de Blasio's got blowing against him, that near impossibility appears to get more possible by the day.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How Many Clinton Cronies Under Investigation?

Let's see, Hillary herself is the subject of an investigation into her use of a private email account when she was secretary of state, her two New York buddies, Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo, are undergoing various investigations and now this:

Washington (CNN)Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department's public integrity unit, U.S. officials briefed on the probe say.

The investigation dates to at least last year and has focused, at least in part, on whether donations to his gubernatorial campaign violated the law, the officials said.
 
McAuliffe wasn't notified by investigators that he is a target of the probe, according to the officials. 
"The Governor will certainly cooperate with the government if he is contacted about it," said Marc Elias, attorney for McAuliffe campaign, in a statement to CNN.
 
As part of the probe, the officials said, investigators have scrutinized McAuliffe's time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a vehicle of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton. 
 
 There's no allegation that the foundation did anything improper; the probe has focused on McAuliffe and the electoral campaign donations, the officials said.

Another day, another investigation into a Clintonista.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Another Monday, Three More Cuomo Corruption Stories

The "Never Leave A Trail" Cuomo administration strikes again 

Gov. Cuomo’s controversial email policies could potentially hamper a federal investigation into his administration, some fear.

As part of a probe into former top Cuomo aide and friend Joseph Percoco and others close to the governor, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a subpoenaed to the administration for records and communications pertaining to various economic development and nano-tech projects.

But in some cases, material being sought might have already been deleted--or never been retained in the first place.

That’s because the governor’s office until May 2015 had a policy that automatically deleted all emails after 90 days unless they were deliberately saved.

“We don’t know what the motivation at the time was for automatically deleting state emails after 90 days, but it did offer the opportunity to get rid of an enormous amount of emails without breaking the law,” said John Kaehny, of Reinvent Albany.

“It not only gets rid of an email on the agency end, but also on the governor’s office end,” he added. “That definitely means fewer emails around that could be inconvenient to the governor or anyone being investigated.”

And of course that was always the point of the deletion policy - as well as the untraceable communication system used by Cuomo and his minions within the administration:

The Daily News first reported in 2012 that Cuomo himself doesn’t even use email. Instead, he communicates either by phone or by using a BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN messaging system — a function that leaves no lasting trail because it bypasses data-saving email servers.

But just because all of this stuff got deleted on Cuomo's end doesn't mean it's gone forever:

Daniel Richman, a Columbia Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, said it’s hard to tell just what impact the old deletion policy might have on Bharara’s investigation.

He noted that while emails might have been killed internally, investigators could potentially recover them from servers or from those who received them from outside the administration.

“Prosecutors are greedy and want all kinds of things from all relevant parties,” Richman said.

That deletion policy - first started under Spitzer but expanded under Cuomo until public pressure forced him to stop, was always an egregious middle finger to the public by the governor.

Here's hoping that federal prosecutors get what they need to throw some of the criminals in and around the Cuomo administration in jail.

And according to Fred Dicker in the NY Post, that is exactly what they're worried about:

Joseph Percoco — Cuomo’s former top aide and close friend and, since December, senior vice president at Madison Square Garden — and Cuomo family associate Todd Howe are the subject of an explosive investigation by Bharara over the fees they received helping clients with business before the state.

Bharara served Cuo­mo’s office with a subpoena late last month seeking records related to Percoco, Howe and 24 other individuals and companies involved in a massive set of state contracts, including the Buffalo Billion project.

The subpoena rocked the Cuomo administration, where what some call a fearful “lockdown’’ is in effect, and has left many close to the governor convinced that criminal indictments are forthcoming.

“Preet Bharara’s subpoena is a turning point for the Cuomo administration,’’ said a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

“The administration isn’t what it was and, depending what Bharara comes up with, it may never be the same.’’

Almost every day there is new information ferreted out about the investigation (today we learn that Cuomo's vaunted New York weather system project may be under investigation as well), so it does have the feel of a turning point.

But given how much Cuomo and his flying attack monkeys have deleted and how much they have acted like an organized crime family in their communications, it remains to be seen if that really is the case.

Nonetheless, Cuomo has admitted there were problems with state contracting:

After it received the subpoena, the Cuomo administration acknowledged that Bharara's investigation, which has been under way for at least a year, raised questions of "improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest" related to the portfolio of Buffalo Billion projects and related upstate development deals.

If Cuomo's admitting that publicly, you can just imagine what's under the surface.

Nevertheless, how far up the chain prosecutors can go to catch these guys.

Still, it's amazing how the Cuomo corruption stories keep coming.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cuomo Caught In Photo With Lobbyist He Barely Knows


Governor Andrew Cuomo claims he barely knows Todd Howe, the lobbyist and former aide at the center of a federal investigation into corruption in Cuomo's economic development programs statewide.

And yet, there is Cuomo, along with lobbyist Todd Howe, back in 2012, at a function in Syracuse involving one of the companies that has been subpoenaed by the feds in the investigation, COR Development.

Also in the photo is Cuomo's former aide, Joe Percoco, also at the center of the federal investigation.

In case you're having trouble seeing, here's a close-up:



That's Howe on the right, Percoco on the left - like twin devils, exerting their corrupting influence on the good governor.

Or, more likely, the fish rots from the head and the corruption emanates from Cuomo, who surrounds himself with people who think and act like the rules don't apply to them because Cuomo himself thinks and acts like the rules doesn't apply to him.

Tim Knause of Syracuse.com found this photo and gives context for it all here:

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.
...
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.

...

The photograph, which comes from a public archive on Syracuse University's website, was taken Oct. 2, 2012, during the governor's tour of projects promoted by the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. The council makes annual funding recommendations to the governor.

It's not clear why Howe was at the event. He is not among the 24 invited guests listed on the governor's official schedule.

Cuomo arrived that morning at Syracuse University in a state police helicopter, accompanied by Percoco and another aide, according to his official schedule. From there, they went to nearby Kennedy Square to begin the tour.

Cuomo stopped at the CNY Biotech Accelerator, the only new building at the former Kennedy Square public housing site. The biotech business incubator is a joint project of Upstate Medical University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Neil Murphy, then president of ESF, recalls giving Cuomo a tour of the building that day. In the photo, Murphy and David Smith, then president of Upstate Medical, are looking on as Cuomo and Aiello shake hands.

Murphy said he did not yet know Howe in 2012 and does not know why he was at the event. Murphy said he first met Howe in 2014, when college officials met with COR to discuss plans for a $20 million state research facility to be built at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, where COR is the developer. Howe was a consultant to COR at that time, Murphy said.

Howe's association with COR's Inner Harbor project dates back at least to April 2012, when Howe accompanied COR to a meeting with officials of the state Thruway Authority, which then owned the harbor lands to be developed.
...

After touring the Biotech Accelerator building, Cuomo and other officials got a briefing on COR's plans to develop Kennedy Square. (Those plans have yet to be acted on.) Then they boarded a bus to tour other project sites, including St. Joseph's Hospital and the Inner Harbor.

For years, Howe was sought after by Syracuse developers and others looking for state money or access to the Cuomo administration.

Last year, Howe represented two successive developers, the Pemco Group and Carnegie Management, who were angling for a $2.5 million state grant to renovate the former Nynex Building in Syracuse. Bharara has subpoenaed Cuomo's records related to both companies, the Buffalo News reported. Company officials have not responded to requests for comment.

Howe also represented 3Gi CNYIP Inc., a company that is trying to develop a cargo transportation hub in Manlius. 3Gi was included in Bharara's subpoena to the governor's office, the Buffalo News reported. Company leader Eckhardt Beck said he was not happy with Howe's work for his company, but does not think Howe did anything improper while representing 3Gi.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Bharara is looking at whether Percoco received illegitimate outside income from companies doing business with the state, including COR. On a state disclosure form, Percoco reported between $50,000 and $75,000 in payments from COR during 2014, a year during which he left Cuomo's administration to run his re-election campaign. COR officials have repeatedly denied paying Percoco.

For more on the players in the federal investigation into Cuomo's economic development programs, contracting, donors and former aides and associates, see this handy guide at Syracuse.com.

On, and that photo of Cuomo, Percoco and Howe?

That wouldn't be the first time they were all together in recent years.

As Jimmy Vielkind reported, Howe "hosted" a fundraiser for Cuomo in December 2014 and guess who came with offerings for the Cuomo camapign?

That's right - COR Development execs:

ALBANY — While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been downplaying his relationship with Todd Howe, a lobbyist at the center of a federal probe of his administration, records show that Howe was steering developers to contribute to the Cuomo campaign as recently as five months ago.

Howe, then a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, hosted a dinner gathering with Cuomo on Dec. 14 in a small upstairs room of the Fort Orange Club, a baronial brick retreat across the street from Whiteman’s Albany offices and up the block from the state Capitol.

The governor walked in at 8:30 p.m., accompanied by two of his top aides, Bill Mulrow and Joe Percoco. He was met by Howe, who worked as his deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, executives from COR Development and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a key Republican ally of the administration, according to public records and four people familiar with the event.

The night’s $25,000 haul came in five checks from three COR executives, the wife of an executive and one of the company’s LLCs. They were deposited on Jan. 12. COR, a Syracuse-based firm, is building two research buildings for SUNY Polytechnic Institute at a business park the company owns in DeWitt.

While Howe’s work was only recently registered with state lobbying regulators, he was a paid adviser to both SUNY Poly and COR at the time of fundraiser. And Percoco, who has managed Cuomo’s political campaigns for more than a decade and shared an office with Howe during Cuomo's 2014 re-election effort, received at least $50,000 in consulting fees from COR that year — something Cuomo has said he did not know.

But that lobbyist under federal investigation for corruption?

Yeah, Cuomo doesn't know much about him or associate with him.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Over/Under On A De Blasio Indictment


That's the front cover of the NY Post and it refers to this (which is actually from the NY Times):

To most, they are known by their public personas as speechwriters, political consultants or, in one case, a United States ambassador to South Africa.

But to the office of New York’s mayor, they have another identity: agents of the city.

What makes them unique, the office argued on Thursday, is that the communications between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the five close advisers should be as immune from public scrutiny as those of any city employee.

City Hall described the designation amid mounting scrutiny over its shielding of communications between the mayor and Jonathan Rosen, whom the counsel to the mayor described at a news conference on Wednesday as an “agent of the city.” Mr. Rosen, who corresponds and meets with the mayor regularly, is also a principal at a public affairs consulting firm, BerlinRosen, whose clients include real estate developers and nonprofits.

Others on the list provided on Thursday rounded out a who’s who of figures often cited by government watchdog groups as representing New York’s “shadow government” under Mr. de Blasio: Nicholas Baldick and Bill Hyers, of Hilltop Public Solutions, a political consulting firm; John Del Cecato, of AKPD Message and Media, who has helped Mr. de Blasio write important speeches; and the United States ambassador, Patrick Gaspard.

None received payment from the city, the mayor’s office said. But with the exception of Mr. Gaspard, each represents a firm that got large payments from Mr. de Blasio’s political nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, now at the center of several inquiries into the mayor’s fund-raising efforts.
One firm, BerlinRosen, has received subpoenas in connection with investigations by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Manhattan district attorney into Mr. de Blasio’s fund-raising on behalf of Senate Democrats in 2014.

The notion of designating a special class of unpaid advisers — many of whom also represent clients with business before the city — appeared to be an unusual, if not novel, approach to city governance, former officials said. City Hall, however, was careful to clarify that “agent of the city” is not an official designation.

Agent of the city.

When you start doing shit like this, you know the end is near.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Noticing The Not-So-Subtle Way Cuomo's State Contracts Seem Rigged For His Donors

The pattern for how Cuomo and his associates rig bids for his donors gets some scrutiny in this Albany Business Review piece looking at a SUNY Polytechnic contract for a dorm:

Richard Gefell is always looking for potential business opportunities, so when he heard last year SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany needed dormitories for 500 students near its campus, he was intrigued.

Gefell, director of business development at Purcell Construction Corp. in Watertown, signed a confidentiality agreement to get the project specifications, a requirement 12 other companies also fulfilled, according to documents released to Albany Business Review under the state Freedom of Information Law.

But his interest waned when he read the Request for Proposal, or RFP, and realized developers must have their headquarters or “major operations” in the Albany region. Watertown is 175 miles west, near Lake Ontario.

He was also dismayed to see the college preferred the dorms be built within a 10-minute walk of campus.

“The way the RFP was written, you could kind of tell they had already selected their site,” Gefell said. “The more research I did down there, there’s really one site that was suitable.”

He added, “They had very tight parameters on where the site could be located, and a very short window of time to secure it. It appeared there weren’t that many sites that met that criteria.”

Another builder said the deadline to submit proposals — just 43 days after the RFP was issued — made it impractical to get control of land near the campus on time.

“We thought someone had an inside track,” said the builder, who asked not to be identified because of concerns it could threaten future dealings with SUNY Polytechnic. “It was so highly specific. Unless you knew about it before the RFP was released, you would not have been in a position to respond.”

Only one developer submitted a proposal - Columbia Development.

If you guessed that Columbia Development was a Cuomo donor, well, you win a government contract from the Cuomo administration.

Here was Chris Churchill in the Times-Union back in September following some of the money around the Columbia Development/SUNY Poly dorm story:


SUNY Poly just awarded a contract for dormitory construction to Columbia Development, whose entities have given at least $175,000 to the governor's campaign fund since the start of 2014.

...

June 2014: The Times Union learns that Columbia is the developer for the so-called ZEN building, a $191 million project that is still under construction. Columbia will be also be a ZEN tenant.

July 2014: We learn that Columbia is buying homes on Loughlin Street, just south of the SUNY Poly campus. "Nobody here has any idea what that's about," Gretzinger said at the time.

March 2015: SUNY Poly issues a request for proposals to construct dorms. The school asks that the dorms be within a 10-minute walk of campus, and it requires that the developer be based in the Capital Region and have experience in dorm construction.

The requirements seemed perfectly suited for Columbia, but SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros cautioned against jumping to conclusions. "It would be an erroneous assumption to presume at this point that we have a preferred developer or location," Kaloyeros said then.

September 2015: We learn that Columbia has, indeed, won the bid and will develop three dorms and parking on land that includes Loughlin Street. SUNY Poly is negotiating to buy the land from the developer. The project architect is EYP, which is headquartered on the SUNY Poly campus.

OK, so take that timeline and overlay it with what I found on Monday while searching the Board of Elections online records.

August 2013: A Columbia entity gives $25,000 to Cuomo's campaign fund. It's the company's first donation to Cuomo in the database.

June 2014: Two Columbia entities — Ridgehill LLC and 25 Monroe LLC — give $50,000 each. All together, Columbia and related LLCs give $115,000 to the governor over the course of 2014.

July 2015: Six separate Columbia entities give a total of $50,000 to the governor on just one day, July 13. All together, Columbia has given $60,000 so far this year, according to state records.

The three-year total: $200,000.

That's a significant amount of money — and it's probably an undercount of Columbia's contributions. It's so difficult to ferret out all the various Columbia-associated LLCs that it's likely I missed a few. Columbia President Joe Nicolla, who also is a SUNY Poly Foundation board member, could probably provide the precise number, but he declined comment Monday.

Churchill went on to note the similarities between the Columbia Development/SUNY Poly dorm story and the Buffalo Billion/LP Ciminelli story:

In Buffalo, a similar pattern was uncovered by the Investigative Post, a Buffalo-based online news outlet.

Jim Heaney, its editor, dug deep on the Buffalo Billion, a Cuomo economic development effort in which Kaloyeros is heavily involved. His reporting peeled away layers of secrecy to find that a request-for-proposals seemed written for LPCiminelli, which is owned by a major Cuomo donor.

This week we found what seems to be a similar RFP rigging from SUNY over a proposed for-profit charter school run by NHA - a Cuomo donor in the past.

I'm no lawyer, but I would imagine that this kind of pattern - RFP's seemingly tailored so only Cuomo donors can get the contract - will interest the U.S. attorney and his merry men and women looking into potential criminality, conflicts of interest and malfeasance in Cuomo's economic development programs.

It's Attorney General Schneiderman officially looking into this SUNY Polytechnic dorm proposal, but it's not like he and Preet don't talk, you know?

Cuomo Continues To Defend Buffalo Billion Project Despite Federal Investigation

Andrew Cuomo says the Buffalo Billion Project, currently under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara,, is still the swellest thing ever:

It's a fine line for the governor to walk. While he has sought to distance himself from certain people being probed in connection with the "Buffalo Billion" economic development program, he also continues to defend it because it's a centerpiece of his upstate agenda.


Cuomo spoke to reporters in Rochester.

"Also remember, it is a vitally important program," the governor said. "It's doing great work in upstate New York. Buffalo has turned around dramatically. Job growth is way way up. Dr. Alain Kaloyeros' work has been extraordinary."


Kaloyeros helped develop the nanotechnology industry in upstate New York. He is currently under investigation, along with former lobbyist Todd Howe and former longtime Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, for possible bid rigging and inappropriate lobbying. No one has been charged.


But recognizing there are questions about their conduct, the governor has ordered his own internal investigation.


"These are questions at this point," Cuomo said. "I am the former attorney general. I got a lot of "tips," quote unquote, and I did a lot of investigations. Frankly, most investigations turned out to be nothing."

Oh, so few lines from the governor, yet so much here to contemplate.

Job growth is way up in Buffalo as a result of the Buffalo Billion Project?

Where, exactly?

Dr. Alain Kaloyeros' work has been extraordinary?

Surely it has, if by extraordinary he means extraordinarily secretive and non-transparent.

As for Cuomo's saying he got lots of tips as attorney general but the investigations never turned into anything, that was one of the big criticisms of Cuomo from back in the day - that he was only interested in investigations that would help him politically and garner big headlines.

In fact, Cuomo's record as attorney general was overall pretty mixed, as the NY Times reported in 2010, so maybe Cuomo ought not to compare the work of a U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted the former assembly speaker and former state senate majority leader to his own lackluster days as A.G. when it comes to talking about the investigation into his economic development programs that has widened in the past few weeks and seen subpoenas go all over the state to different individuals and entities involved with the Cuomo administration and/or state business.

Cuomo's defense of his scandal-scarred administration gets weaker and weaker by the day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cuomo: Every Buffalo Billion Dollar "Sacred"

Try not to be drinking anything as you read the following response from Andrew Cuomo over whether he and his administration are on the defensive over the expanding corruption probe into the governor's economic development programs:

“We take any allegation very seriously, we’re not getting defensive,” Mr. Cuomo said today, recalling his own experience as New York attorney general. “What’s vitally important to me, not just as governor but as a person, is I want people to have full confidence and trust in the integrity of this government. Any relationship is only as good as the level of trust.”

...

The governor told the Observer that he had a “purely personal” conversation with Mr. Percoco just a few weeks ago. He also maintained that the state had treated every dollar it expended through the Buffalo Billion as “sacred” since the project’s inception, and argued the probe did not prove any kind of misconduct.


“The U.S. Attorney started an investigation for whatever reason, right? As attorney general, I started all sorts of investigations,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You get a tip, you get information, your job is to follow it up and conduct an investigation. It does not mean something bad happened. It means you have gotten a tip or some information that merits looking into. And that is a good thing.”

“All sorts of questions, all sorts of rumors. So, you get a tip, God bless you, follow it up. That’s just what I did as attorney general, that’s what the U.S. attorney should be doing,” he continued.

But his long, meandering answer also seemed to allow some malfeasance may have transpired.

“I’m realistic enough to know, in an operation this size, with this much money and this many players, it’s unrealistic to say ‘nothing bad is ever going to happen.’ People are venal. Some people have bad intent. Some people, frankly, are stupid. And things will happen,” he said. “What I can say is, ‘if and when something bad happens, we will have zero tolerance for any abuse. We will throw the book at anybody who does anything wrong.'”

Cuomo and his minions did everything they could to make the Buffalo Billion Project as opaque and secretive as possible.

Just ask Jim Heaney at Investigative Post, who was stonewalled at every turn by the Cuomo administration as he tried to report on Cuomo's economic development program for Buffalo (see here, here, here, and here.)

As for having "zero tolerance for any abuse," given the number of subpoenas that have gone out in the investigation, the project seems to have been rife with abuse, much of it coming from people very close to Andrew Cuomo himself (former aide Joe Percoco, former aide/lobbyist Todd Howe, SUNY Polytechnic's Alain Kaloyeros.)

So this whole performance by Cuomo was one big joke with laugh line after line.

The investigation appears to be very big and very wide.

Cuomo can try and bullshit the press and the public all he wants.

He's got an ambitious U.S. attorney who just watched the former state senate majority leader and the former assembly speaker get sentenced to prison time over corruption charges.

Somehow I doubt that U.S. attorney will be swayed by Cuomo's faux-earnest words.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Proposed For-Profit Charter School In Rochester Linked To Cuomo Corruption Probe

We've already had one education link to the ever-expanding Cuomo corruption probe, with former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco's wife, the ex-teacher, getting paid for some education consultant work from a company of interest in the federal investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo's economic development programs.

We now have a second education link:

Maple Street Charter School, the for-profit charter school hoping to open in Rochester next year, has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a lobbying firm at the center of a rapidly expanding federal investigation into improper influence in Albany, state records show.

Maple Street's parent company, National Heritage Academies, has been using the Albany-based lobbying firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna since at least 2007. A WOH subsidiary in Washington, D.C., was led until recently by Todd Howe, a former associate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who is at the center of the probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The Buffalo News reported earlier this week that Bharara issued a subpoena to Cuomo's office requesting, among other things, all documents relating to Howe and WOH. That would likely include aspects of its lobbying on behalf of the Maple Street application.

...

The most recent disclosure report shows NHA paid WOH $12,000 in the last six months of 2015 for lobbying related to charter schools. The expected lobbying targets included Cuomo's office, the state Assembly and Legislature and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.

In the same six-month time period, NHA also paid $45,000 to Park Strategies, a powerful lobbying firm run by former U.S. Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y.

NHA Chairman J.C. Huizenga has given more than $400,000 in campaign contributions in New York since 2005. Most of it went to Republicans, but he also has given $49,000 to a Cuomo fundraising entity.

For-profit charters are banned in New York State, in part because a previous NHA for-profit charter was such a problem, but NHA got this current proposal through a loophole - the SUNY charter board used one charter slot left over from 2007 to give the Maple Street Charter School the opportunity to open under the old, less onerous charter rules.

How did they get the loophole exception?

Could it be the lobbying through WOH or D'Amato's Park Strategies?

Could it be the $49K to Cuomo?

Could it be a mixture of all three?

You bet it could.

And then, just as a Buffalo Billion Project RFP was written so that only a Cuomo donor could win it and a SUNY dorm RFP was written so that only a Cuomo donor could win it, this RFP was written so that NHA was pretty much guaranteed to win it:

Because it predates the 2010 ban, that charter can go to a for-profit provider. The request for proposals was written in such a way that NHA was one of only two possible candidates; the request also was not publicized along with a concurrent, broader charter school proposal cycle.

Ah, such fun in New York - if you pay-to-play, you can achieve just about anything.

What an exciting message to teach the kids at the new NHA Maple Street Charter, with its emphasis on "character education."

But I'm guessing now that there's some sunlight on this deal, the Maple Street Charter School may not open as NHA hoped.

NYSED Subpoenaed In Cuomo Corruption Case

Scott Waldman at Politico NY:

ALBANY—The state Education Department has received a subpoena in connection with a probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office into a number of energy-related state entities and developers, according to sources familiar with its contents.

The state Education Department is independent of the Cuomo administration. The subpoena seems to indicate that the federal investigation, which reportedly focuses on the Buffalo Billion project, entails a wide net.

...

A Bharara spokesman has declined to speak on the probe, which appears to focus on longtime Cuomo aide Joe Percoco as well as Todd Howe, a lobbyist and longtime Cuomo associate.

The subpoenas that have been issued touch on several pieces of the Cuomo administration’s energy policy.

The broad-based subpoena received by the education department names the Department of Public Service and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as well as the New York Power Authority, according to the sources.

The education department crosses into energy policy with energy service contracts as well as through a solar initiative to put solar panels in schools.

This investigation into Cuomo's economic development programs gets bigger and bigger by the day.

Would love to see the look on Cuomo';s face every time he learns about another subpoena.

Because the more Preet subpoenas individuals and entities involved in Cuomo's economic development programs, the bigger the case he's building to eventually bring against some people.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fear Pervades Cuomo's Office

Fred Dicker in the NY Post:

Gov. Cuomo’s scandal-wracked office is in “lockdown’’ with tight-lipped aides fearful that US Attorney Preet Bharara’s ongoing investigation of former top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco and lobbyist Todd Howe may snare other officials, administration sources have told The Post.

Some senior Cuomo aides, waiting for the next shoe to drop, have stopped taking calls from other high-level state officials and many, including longtime loyalists to the governor, are talking privately about lasting damage to their reputations from what they believe is Bharara’s widening probe, the sources said.

“Cuomoland is in lockdown,’’ said a source close to Cuomo’s office.

“There’s a palpable sense that no one knows who to trust, that they don’t know who was involved with what, and who is saying what to whom.

“The investigation has wreaked havoc on the internal relationships and the function on the second floor, which I assume is what the investigators want in order to get people to turn on each other,’’ the source said, referring to the location of Cuomo’s office at the Capitol.

Given the information Bharara has subpoenaed on the Cuomo administration, it is with good reason that fear permeates Cuomo's office.

Dicker writes that Cuomo has stopped communicating as directly with staff and others, as he has in the past, perhaps worried that Bharara's listening in on communications or will subpoena them after the fact.

That's probably a realistic fear on Cuomo's part, since Tom Precious reported Sunday that:

Bharara wants to see what the administration has been saying internally about the now expanding Buffalo Billion probe. The subpoena seeks “all documents or communications related to the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office” that are in possession of Cuomo’s office.

Also, Thursday's comments by Bharara after the Dean Skelos sentencing apparently struck fear throughout the office.

The comments were seen as a hit at Cuomo over his Moreland Commission shutdown:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sought to bookend the Silver and Skelos sentences. “While Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better,” Bharara said in a statement.

His next comment captured even more attention.

“These cases show – and history teaches – that the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown. That will continue to be our guiding principle in exposing and punishing corruption throughout New York,” Bharara said.

That was a not-so-subtle jab at Gov. Andrew Cuomo on two fronts. Bharara has been sharply critical of Cuomo’s decision in 2014 to shut down an anti-corruption commission at the time it had several open investigations.

The comment also comes after Cuomo two weeks ago said he was hiring a private lawyer to run an internal investigation of the Buffalo Billion economic-development program. That announcement came hours after Bharara issued a subpoena to Cuomo’s office – which left his administration reeling – for a range of information about the Buffalo Billion and other matters, including questions about possible wrongdoing by two longtime and trusted advisers to the governor.

Good to see these people in fear, wondering who's wired, who's dropped a dime, who's ready to drop a dime and who might be next for arrest.

It couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving bunch of people.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bharara Subpoenas Information On Six Current And Former Cuomo Aides And/Or Associates

If anybody buys Andrew Cuomo's claim that the fed investigation into his Buffalo Billion Project is limited to two former aides (Joe Percoco and Todd Howe) and nothing else, the Buffalo News has a handy guide to who and what else Bharara has subpoenaed as part of his probe.

Here it is:

Federal subpoena seeks information about these past or present aides to Cuomo 

Joe Percoco

Title: Vice President of Madison Square Garden; former deputy executive secretary and confidant to Cuomo.
What we know: Close to Andrew Cuomo dating to Mario Cuomo administration. Graduate of Wagner College and St. John’s Law School. Under investigation by Manhattan U.S. Attorney over role in Buffalo Billion; has received payments while off state payroll from two companies doing business with the state.
Investigators want to know: Any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion and other upstate economic development programs.

Jim Malatras

Title: Director of state operations.
Background: Top aide to Gov. Cuomo and member of his inner circle; veteran of state government dating to 2001; doctoral degree in political science from SUNY Albany. Enjoys Cuomo’s “full confidence,” according to Alphonso David, counsel to the governor.
Investigators seek: Information on any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion and other upstate economic development programs.

Andrew Kennedy

Title: Deputy director of state operations for policy.
Background: Reports to Malatras, was formerly Cuomo’s assistant secretary for economic development. Also rates Cuomo’s “full confidence.” Slated to soon take private sector job as president and CEO of Albany’s Center for Economic Growth.
Investigators seek: Information on any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion and other upstate economic development programs.

Bill Mulrow

Title: Secretary to the governor – effectively serving as chief of staff.
Background: Former senior managing partner of the Blackstone Group and veteran of state Democratic politics dating to the administration of Gov. Hugh Carey. Graduate of Yale University and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; lost to Alan Hevesi in 2002 Democratic primary for state comptroller. Also rates Cuomo’s “full confidence.”
Investigators seek: Information on any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion and other upstate economic development programs.

Gil Quinones

Title: President and CEO of New York Power Authority
Background: ConEd employee for 16 years before serving for four years in administration of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Elected in 2015 as chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute. Also has governor’s “full confidence.”
Investigators seek: Information on any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion program.

Peter Cutler

Title: Vice president of communications and external affairs for Erie County Medical Center.
Background: Served in administration of both Gov. Cuomos, as well as spokesman for Mayors Anthony Masiello and Byron Brown. Most recently was communications director for Empire State Development in Buffalo; also a former top aide to Andrew Cuomo.
Investigators seek: Information on any of his actions related to the Buffalo Billion program.

Sure, Percoco's on that list, but Howe's not even mentioned and we still have five other guys, including Cuomo's two top current aides, Bill Mulrow and Jim Malatras.

Oh, and here are the companies that Bharara's subpoenaed as part of the investigation, again courtesy of the Buffalo News:

Federal prosecutors have asked the Cuomo administration for information relating to its connections to a number of firms headquartered throughout the state.

COR Development Company LLC

Headquarters: Fayetteville, N.Y. (Syracuse)
Description: National full-service real estate developer, founded in 1998. Includes different individual projects: COR Clay (N.Y.), COR Arizona Ave. (Chandley, Ariz.) , COR Inner Harbor (Syracuse) and COR Arsenal Street Co. (Watertown)
Principal: Steven F. Aiello, president

CHA (Clough, Harbour & Associates LLP)

Headquarters: Albany
Description: Civil engineering consulting firm, founded in 1952
Principal: Mike Carroll, president and CEO

Columbia Development Companies

Headquarters: Albany
Description: Real estate developer in Capital Region and Northeastern U.S., founded in 1988
Principal: Joseph R. Nicolla, founder and president

Hueber-Breuer Construction Co.

Headquarters: Syracuse
Description: Largest continuously operating, family-owned general construction and construction management company in Central New York. Founded in 1880
Principal: James V. Breuer, president

Pemco Group

Headquarters: Syracuse
Description: Commercial real estate company, was tapped for a $2.5 million grant by the Cuomo administration in 2013. Represented at one point by Todd Howe, the Cuomo adviser now under investigation. Principal: Peter Muserlian

Norstar Development USA LP/Norstar Companies

Headquarters: Buffalo
Description: Part of a full-service development, construction and management group of companies in U.S. and Canada, and nationally recognized affordable housing developer.
Principal: Richard Higgins, president.

Swan Street Lofts LP

Headquarters: Albany
Description: Project by Norstar and Albany Housing Authority renovating old high school into Academy Lofts building.
Principal: Unknown

Conifer Realty LLC

Headquarters: Rochester
Description: Nationally ranked full-service real estate company that develops, builds, owns and manages affordable housing communities. Has developed and/or acquired more than 260 properties and more than 19,400 units, and now manages/owns over 14,600 in N.Y., N.J., Pa., Md. and Ohio.
Principal: Timothy D. Fournier, president and CEO

Pyramid Network Services LLC

Headquarters: Syracuse
Description: Leading nationwide communications systems contractor that designs, develops and deploys wireless communications networks, offering property acquisition, zoning/permitting, project management and construction management services. Has completed work on more than 19,500 sites nationwide. Affiliate of Pyramid Brokerage Co.
Principal: Mark Zagger, director of business development

Center Armory

Headquarters: Syracuse
Description: Mixed-use real estate development in former warehouse district, redeveloped by Paramount Realty Group LLC
Principal: Robert Doucette, partner

STV Group Inc.

Headquarters: New York
Description: Engineering and architectural consulting and design firm that also offers planning and construction management services.
Principal: Dominick M. Servedio, executive chairman

Carnegie Management Inc.

Headquarters: Brooklyn
Description: Real estate management company
Principal: Isaac Jacobs

3Gi Terminals LLC

Headquarters: Syracuse
Description: Joint venture formed to create new inland port on 100 acres of land in suburb of Manlius. Received endorsement from Central New York Regional Economic Development Council.
Principal: Brian Macrae, project manager

Competitive Power Ventures Holdings LLC (CPV Valley LLC)

Headquarters: Silver Spring, Md.
Description: Leading North American electric power generation development and asset management company, with two projects in New York State, including Athens and CPV Valley LLC
Principal: Gary Lambert, co-founder, president and CEO

Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP and WOH Government Solutions

Headquarters: Albany
Description: Largest law firm in Albany, with specialty practice in legislative and regulatory lobbying
Principal: Richard E. Leckerling, co-managing partner

Potomac Strategies LLC

Headquarters: Unknown
Description: Unknown
Principal: Unknown

In case you missed Tom Precious' accompanying story in the Buffalo News today about how broad the investigation into Cuomo's economic development programs has gotten, see it here.

Bharara is taking a long, hard look at the Cuomo administration and it's various doings - this cannot make Sheriff Andy all that comfortable, given Cuomo's penchant for control and secrecy.

There have been many readers of this blog who have been skeptical that Bharara would go after Andrew Cuomo and after Bharara gave Sheriff Andy a clean bill of health on the Moreland tampering in January, I joined them in that skepticism.

But I've been trying to follow this current investigation as best I can and I have to tell you, day after day we're getting more and more damaging information about Cuomo and his associates that has got to make you think Bharara's looking to make it an early Preetmas this year.

Take a look at the people and the companies Bharara's subpoenaed - there can be no mistake, Bharara's got the Cuomo administration in his sights well beyond just Joe Percoco and Todd Howe.

Federal Investigation Into Cuomo's Economic Development Program Expands Statewide

Tom Precious of the Buffalo News does an amazing job of putting together the various strands of the federal investigation into Governor Cuomo's economic development programs.

According to Precious, here is what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has subpoenaed:

All documents relating to the October 2013 request for proposals for the Buffalo Billion program as well as a development project by the same state university-created corporation – Fort Schuyler Management Corp. – in Syracuse, along with a March 2015 RFP by a sister entity for a since-stalled dormitory project at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany;

• Details about certain actions taken by Percoco, Howe, several top current Cuomo advisers and the head of the state Power Authority, as well as Peter Cutler, a longtime Democratic operative from Buffalo who recently left Cuomo’s economic development field office in Western New York. The New York Post first reported that last week. Cutler last week confirmed he, too, had received a subpoena from Bharara’s office, though he declined to say what he is being asked to provide;

• Any actions by those individuals “for the benefit of” nearly two dozen companies, including LPCiminelli, the Buffalo construction company handling construction of the RiverBend complex, and Norstar Development USA, a Buffalo-based company headed by the former top housing czar in the administration of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father;

• Phone logs, visitor logs and calendar entries going back to January 2012 that might show meetings or contacts between administration officials and two dozen people or entities, including Ciminelli, Norstar, several Syracuse firms, a Brooklyn real estate developer, a Rochester real estate company, and two firms that, according to Percoco, paid him up to $120,000 in consulting fees sometime in 2014. Also on the list: Alain Kaloyeros, the SUNY Polytechnic president and Cuomo point person on the Buffalo Billion, as well as Howe.

In addition, Bharara wants to see what the administration has been saying internally about the now expanding Buffalo Billion probe. The subpoena seeks “all documents or communications related to the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office” that are in possession of Cuomo’s office.

The broad subpoena has “driven the administration crazy,” according to a source close to the matter.

It seeks all documents Cuomo’s office has on file about Howe, the Washington lobbyist and Cuomo insider. He has been described as the go-between person between companies looking to expand to upstate ventures, such as the Buffalo Billion and high-tech projects in other upstate cities that SUNY Polytechnic, and the state’s economic development office oversee, according to sources.

Prosecutors want Cuomo’s office to also give them all documents relating to WOH Government Solutions, the lobbying entity Howe headed before he was recently fired, and its parent company, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, the Albany lobbying and law firm. That firm has worn many hats, representing, for instance, SUNY Polytechnic or one of its subsidiary corporations and LPCiminelli.

Precious writes that "Bharara wants to know if key Cuomo people, past and present, did anything to “benefit” several companies that have been a part of various state-financed projects."

Now it's possible that he's looking at just Cuomo's minions like former aides Joe Percoco and Todd Howe or Suny Polytechnic's Alain Kaloyeros to see if and how they've enriched themselves off the contracting process with many of the companies subpoenaed in the investigation.

But it's also quite possible that he's looking at the donations Cuomo received from those subpoenaed companies, in which case Cuomo himself may have a bit of trouble.

See, it's a quid pro quo to solicit campaign donations in return for favors, contracts, tax subsidies or grants, so if there's any evidence anything like that occurred, Governor Cuomo would have some legal problems.

The most interesting instance where you could see Preet making that case is with COR Development and the report that came this week from Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY.

The gist is this:

On December 14, 2015, Governor Cuomo attended a dinner hosted by Todd Howe, his former aide who was then a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna.

The dinner took place "in a small upstairs room of the Fort Orange Club, a baronial brick retreat across the street from Whiteman’s Albany offices and up the block from the state Capitol."

At the dinner?

Cuomo and Howe (who Cuomo said last week he doesn't know that well), two other aides (Bill Mulrow, the governor's secretary, and Joe Percoco, Cuomo's closest aide who is also reported to be under federal investigation for conflicts of interest and other corruption charges), Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a key Republican ally of the administration, and three executives from COR Development, a company of interest in Preet Bharara's federal investigation.

Cuomo took in $25,000 in five checks that night, three from COR executives, one from one of the wives of a COR executive and one from an LLC linked to COR Development.

COR Development has been Cuomo's biggest donor from Central New York, giving him more than $300,000 since 2010, including $50,000 in the last year.

And what did COR Development get in return?

The company has received contracts from the state for numerous projects under Cuomo. COR built a $15 million film hub for New York state in 2015 on land it owns in DeWitt. Cuomo announced COR would also build a $90 million facility for Soraa, an LED lighting manufacturer at the same nanotechnology hub.
COR is also developing the Syracuse Inner Harbor, but that project has run into trouble. The city of Syracuse, which named COR as its developer, is now suing COR over tax breaks for the Inner Harbor project that the company obtained from Onondaga County's industrial development agency.

There's another interesting Cuomo angle here too.

Cuomo's D.A. buddy, William Fitzpatrick, who served as a Cuomo ally and apologist on the Moreland Commission that Cuomo shut down in 2014 (and whose wife needed to be reappointed to a judgeship by Cuomo), is investigating Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner (once a Cuomo ally, now a Cuomo enemy) over the lawsuit the City of Syracuse brought against COR Development.

That Fitzpatrick investigation appears to be both frivolous and retaliatory, judging by this piece of news from Syracuse.com:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -€“ Saying he does not intend to assist a "fishing expedition,'' an Onondaga County judge this week delivered a setback to District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and his efforts to investigate alleged wrongdoing at Syracuse City Hall.

County Court Judge Walter Hafner Jr. blocked Fitzpatrick's subpoena for emails, notes, drafts and other communications produced by Syracuse city lawyers, saying the DA made "no showing'' that the documents were part of any crime or fraud.

...

The district attorney, who criticized Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner for bringing a lawsuit against COR Development Co., the Inner Harbor developer, has launched an investigation into Miner and some of her political allies.

Among other things, Fitzpatrick is looking for evidence of alleged wrongdoing connected with what he called "phony affidavits'' filed in the lawsuit by two city councilors who are friendly with Miner.
But in his ruling to decide what documents city hall must turn over, Hafner said Fitzpatrick has not produced evidence of wrongdoing to justify his demand to see communications between city lawyers and other city officials. Most of those records are protected from disclosure by attorney-client privilege, the judge wrote.

In response to the district attorney's request that Hafner review all the city hall materials privately to determine whether any should be forwarded to the grand jury, Hafner called that proposal "patently absurd.''

"It is not . . . the function of this court to assist the district attorney in a fishing expedition,'' Hafner wrote.

Interesting how Cuomo's ally/apologist, William Fitzpatrick, is taking on Cuomo's enemy, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner for Cuomo's biggest donor in Central New York, COR Development.

Here's Miner's rationale for the lawsuit:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Mayor Stephanie Miner set out Tuesday to kill the biggest Syracuse development in years – the $324 million Syracuse Inner Harbor project – after the developer went around the city to negotiate lucrative tax breaks from Onondaga County.

The mayor is trying to halt a transformative Inner Harbor project that she herself launched four years ago, after previous mayors tried and failed. The ambitious new waterfront neighborhood would have been her most visible accomplishment as mayor.

Miner's drastic move came after the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency was squeezed out of control over the Inner Harbor deal by a developer with strong ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and to Cuomo's allies in Onondaga County leadership.

"What you are seeing here is a clash of philosophy on economic development,'' Miner said in an interview today. She said the lawsuit aims to preserve the city's sovereignty over how the project gets done.

''It's about this: The developer doesn't get to set the terms and conditions of all the things that they want to do, which, in my experience is different from what has been done previous to my administration,'' Miner said.

Miner filed a lawsuit Tuesday that aims to halt the Inner Harbor project by nullifying the city's sale of the land to COR Development Co. She said COR should be required to meet significant local hiring and job-training quotas in return for any discount on property taxes.

Also should note that Cuomo's Republican ally, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney (who just happened to be at the December 14, 2015 fundraiser with COR Development, Cuomo, Howe and Company), has launched attacks against Miner for the COR lawsuit, calling Miner "emotional" and hurting the City of Syracuse for "lashing out" after getting her feelings hurt.

Yeah, kid you not - that's what she said.

There's so much here in this COR Development story and at the center of all of it is not Todd Howe, the lobbyist and former aide to Cuomo who is reported to be under investigation by the feds, but rather one Andrew Cuomo, whose allies have launched attacks and investigations against one of his enemies after said enemy filed a lawsuit against his bestest donor in Central New York.

This Syracuse/COR story is just one of the strands Preet Bharara is following in his investigation - as Tom Precious reported in his Buffalo News story, there are many others as well.

But it's this COR Development strand that really intrigues the more one follows it, because you can see how the guy at the center of so much of the action is Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo told reporters last week that as far as he knows, the investigation is just related to two of his former aides, Percoco and Howe, thus sending out the not-so-subtle message that he himself is not under investigation.

Perhaps that's how the investigation started, but what do you think Bharara does when he gets all this interesting information and evidence in the COR Development strand?

Does he not continue to follow up to find out just how the tax breaks got handed out, why Stephanie Miner was pushed out of the deal and Cuomo's Republican ally, Joanie Mahoney, elevated, why Cuomo's D.A. ally/apologist is investigating Miner (and was it at the behest of Cuomo himself)?

Oh, so much to look at here, so much to marvel at.

It's the perfect Cuomoesque ratfuck that got pulled here, but in the end, if Bharara follows this Syracuse/COR strand to its very end, it may be Governor Cuomo himself who gets screwed.

Precious wrote that the Cuomo administration is being "driven crazy" by all the information Bharara is looking for.

Good - couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.