First, they look at Flanagan's law firm:
ALBANY — For years, the newly installed State Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan, has added to his income by working part-time as a lawyer.The Long Island law firm where he has worked for more than a decade, Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, has a long list of prominent clients — some of which, including Cablevision and Citibank, are directly affected by decisions made in the state capital. Its website notes that the firm “regularly works on matters involving key governmental agencies,” including New York State agencies.Yet when Mr. Flanagan was asked this week whether the firm had clients with business before the state, he responded, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” Told the firm did indeed have such clients, he said, “I’m telling you I don’t know.”
He doesn't know?
Well, the Times does:
A review of public records and a client list from the firm’s website found numerous clients that have business before state government, like lobbying or obtaining government contracts. The firm’s clients have included Chase Bank, General Motors, HSBC, Northrop Grumman, Yum Brands, Vornado Realty Trust, Walgreens and the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association.
As with Skelos (and as reported first by Ken Lovett at the NY Daily News), it's a little unclear what Flanagan did at his law firm to qualify for the $100,000 - $150,000 a year he made:
After he was installed as majority leader on Monday, Mr. Flanagan said he had given up his law firm position the week before because of the demands of the new job. But little is known about the work he did at the firm, where he listed his position as “of counsel” and made $100,000 to $150,000 annually in 2012 and 2013, according to his annual financial disclosure filings. Before his elevation to majority leader, his Senate salary was $97,500. He will earn $121,000 in his new post.
As for Flanagan's legal specialty, that's a little unclear too:
Mr. Flanagan, 54, has served in the State Legislature for nearly 30 years. He was 25 and in law school when his father, Assemblyman John Flanagan Sr., died of a heart attack in 1986. The younger Mr. Flanagan decided to run for his father’s seat, and won. Four years later, in 1990, he received his law degree from Touro Law Center on Long Island.Around 15 years ago, at a different law firm, Mr. Flanagan listed his specialty as transportation law, according to his financial disclosure filings. He joined the Forchelli law firm in 2003, which was also the first year Mr. Flanagan served in the Senate. In his disclosure filings over the last decade, he has listed his specialty as land use and planning. The first sentence of his biography on the firm’s website, which has recently been removed, cited his elected office.
Does one go from a specialty in transportation law 15 years ago to a specialty in land use and planning, yet get hired at a high-powered Long Island law firm that serves a client list that includes Chase Bank, General Motors, HSBC, Northrop Grumman, Yum Brands, Vornado Realty Trust, Walgreens and the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association?
Then there's Flanagan's background.
His legal pedigree is from Touro Law Center.
Here's a little bit about Touro Law Center:
AcademicsTouro College offers 9 concentrations and 1 option for joint-degree programs, giving you additional educational opportunities beyond the JD.Bar ExamThe bar exam is one of the most important benchmarks for law school graduates and 70% of Touro College students pass the bar exam on their first try. Compared to other schools, this is a lower passing rate, so you should consider additional preparation for the exam after graduation.EmploymentWithin a year of graduating, 70.9% of Touro College graduates find employment....LSATThe most recent set of students admitted to Touro College had a median LSAT score of 148 out of 180. This is a low score compared to the scores needed to gain admission to other schools. Keep in mind that competitive admission requirements are often indicative of school quality.GPAThe most recent class of students admitted to Touro College had a median GPA of 3.02, which is below average compared to the GPA needed for admission to other schools. However, less stringent admission requirements should not discourage you from applying to more competitive schools.Acceptance Rates & RetentionTouro College had an acceptance rate of 72.7% for its recent set of admitted students. Of these accepted students, 27.2% matriculated. After the first year, 28.3% of students chose to leave Touro College, and 0.25% of students transferred out.
Not the most prestigious of law schools, this Touro Law Center.
Yet, Flanagan managed to get employed at Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, which describes itself as "one of Long Island's most acclaimed and distinguished full service law firms."
There is one associate lawyer at the firm with a law degree from Touro, but most of the associate lawyers have degrees from Fordham, St John's, NYU, Brooklyn Law, Hofstra or New York Law School.
Flanagan was listed "of counsel" at the firm.
There are three others listed "of counsel," including Assemblyman Ed Ra.
All three have law degrees from St. John's and one has an additional law degree in taxation from NYU.
It's possible that "one of Long Island's most acclaimed and distinguished full service law firms" hired John Flanagan for his legal expertise, but you can't help thinking he was making $100,000 - $150,000 a year there to provide the firm's clients access to an ear in Albany.
The Times reports that Flanagan's law firm was to be one of the recipients of a Moreland Commission subpoena before Governor Andrew Cuomo shut the commission down in exchange for a lukewarm ethics deal from then Assembly Speaker Silver and then Majority Leader Skelos:
Mr. Flanagan’s law firm was also one of more than two dozen employers of state legislators that were subpoenaed in 2013 by the Moreland Commission, an anticorruption panel created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat.The panel, which was examining the outside income of lawmakers, sought documents regarding his clients and compensation, as well as building access records showing when he came to work, according to a copy of the subpoena his firm received.The law firm joined with other firms employing legislators to challenge the subpoenas in court, and the matter was unresolved when Mr. Cuomo struck a deal last year to shut down the Moreland Commission.
There's smoke around Flanagan and his "of counsel" job at Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana and while it's all well and good that Flanagan has stepped away from that gig now that he's majority leader, that doesn't wipe away whatever funkiness came before.
Did Bharara pick up the string on that Moreland investigation as he did with others and look into what Flanagan was doing to make his $100,000 - $150,000 a year?
The Times further reports some funkiness around a real estate consulting business Flanagan was running out of his house:
Mr. Flanagan’s law firm job was not his only business activity in recent years. In 2007, a limited liability company, ASJ Consulting, was registered at Mr. Flanagan’s home address. On his disclosure filings, Mr. Flanagan listed his position as “director” and described the company as a “real estate consulting firm,” but little is known about what the company did.Kelly Cummings, a spokeswoman for the senator, said that Mr. Flanagan had formed the company “to do real estate work” and that it had been inactive “for some time.” She declined to offer details.
A real estate consulting firm operating out of Flanagan's house that the senator refuses to offer details on?
Yeah, nothing funky there.
Finally the Times reports on a "family friend" who lent Flanagan money:
Mr. Flanagan, who is married and has three children, listed no stocks, bonds or mutual funds in his disclosure filing covering 2013. Under liabilities, he listed a personal loan valued at $20,000 to $50,000, whose purpose was listed as college and home improvements.Ms. Cummings said that the senator’s financial resources had been dedicated to paying for the college education of his children, and that the loan was given by a “close family friend.”
Yes, who doesn't have a "close family friend" ready and able to provide a $20,000 - $50,000 loan so you can send a kid to college?
Well, I don't.
Maybe you do.
Flanagan certainly does.
I wonder if Flanagan hadn't been a state senator if that "close family friend" would have been available with the ready cash to lend Flanagan?
There's no smoking gun in any of this, but there's certainly enough funkiness around Flanagan to make you think that the feds could (and should) be looking into him, especially since the Moreland Commission apparently had Flanagan's outside law income targeted but never got to the bottom of what he did to make it.
So the question becomes, are the feds looking into Flanagan?
When asked if he's under criminal investigation, Flanagan responded "There's nothing to worry about."
Given the Times story out today, I wouldn't be too sure about that.