I think that it becomes clearer everyday that Preet Bharara neither Sheldon Silver or Dean Skelos are his ultimate target and that he is methodically arresting and indicting his way through Albany with a certain bigger fish in his sights. And he’s picked up some prime cooperating witnesses along the way while leaning hard on those he’s already nabbed to flip.
Look at was happened in just the last few months. Bharara turned up the heat on Sheldon Silver after his arrest and indictment by then indicting his son-in-law for allegedly running a $7 million Ponzi scheme through a firm co-owned with Silver’s daughter who also serves as the firms CPA. A week later, he added some fresh charges to the former speaker’s indictment just to make sure Silver got the message.
Then Bharara’s office leaked that not only was Dean Skelos under investigation, but that Bharara was presenting a criminal case to a federal grand jury that targeted not only Skelos, but also his son. He then arrests them both on federal corruption charges. Then, to turn the screws on Skelos further, tosses in this new charge, one that wasn’t mentioned at all in the initial criminal complaint against Skelos and son, about the no-show job from the firm run by a guy with significant ties to Cuomo.
Along the way, Bharara flipped the bagman for the state’s largest political donor, a man responsible for spreading millions in campaign cash all over the state to politicians in both parties, and let it be known that he now had god-only-knows how many new wiretap targets thanks to Sheldon Silver. That sent shockwaves through Albany and has lawmakers all over town freaking right the hell out. Bharara is so far in their heads that they are too scared to even do typical end of session horse trading for fear that Bharara will nail them for it.
This is all reminiscent of how prosecutors run mafia cases, working their way up the food chain by arresting and pressuring the hell out of the underlings to make a case against the boss. Bharara is doing exactly that. He’s getting closer and closer to the top of the pyramid. He’s putting enormous pressure on both Silver and Skelos to cut a deal, and in New York, there’s only one chair above them on the org chart.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Preet Bharara is not conducting a number of separate, unrelated investigations into corrupt Albany pols. He is conducting one massive investigation, one that is moving ever closer to the guy at the top.
Cuomo appointed the latest federal cooperating witness, Anthony Bonomo, to run the New York Racing Association in April.
Bonomo and family have donated $400K to Cuomo over the last four years.
Bonomo gave Dean Skelos' son, Adam, a no-show job worth a hundred grand.
Bonomo is cooperating with the feds in the case against the Skelos men.
I suppose you can make the case that Bharara is just taking a scattershot approach to corruption in New York, but the Albany Project theory makes a lot more sense.
He's working his way up the food chain.
One of the critiques on Bharara is that he's Wall Street's boy, that he's never gone after systemic corruption on the Street but instead has targeted insider trading cases and Madoff.
The critique goes that Preet, out of the Schumer shop, is being very careful not to antagonize the big boys so that if he does run for higher office some day, he doesn't have to worry about them trying to "Spitzer" him.
As a side note to this theory, it's said by some that Bharara won't take down Cuomo because he's Wall Street's puppet.
But I don't think that's necessarily so - the part about taking out Cuomo, I mean.
Kathy Hochul, the former bank lobbyist, would become governor if anything ever happened to Cuomo, so it's not like Wall Street's interests won't be taken care of if Cuomo goes down.
I would add that Cuomo's become a bit of a liability of late, what with all the Cuomo donors becoming cooperating witnesses and such, so you can make the argument that maybe, just maybe, Wall Street wouldn't be so sad to see Cuomo taken out and replaced with the equally amenable but much less troublesome Hochul.
We'll just have to see what happens.
Regardless, you can bet with all these Cuomo donors cooperating and with some other Cuomo cronies getting squeezed, Sheriff Andy isn't happy and doesn't really know what to do about it.
Today he argued that he has passed the "most dramatic" ethics reforms in history so you know, everything's cool.
I dunno, I'm no lawyer, but I'm going to guess that Bharara doesn't see it that way - not with the case he seems to be building against Sheriff Andy.