Chris Churchill reports in the Times Union about another Cuomo donor who got what appears to be a rigged SUNY contract:
We don't know exactly why SUNY Poly's involvement with the Buffalo Billion has attracted the attention of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
But from what we can surmise, the decision to subpoena records was at least partly motivated by the awarding of a construction bid to one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's major donors.
Hmm. Now why does that sound familiar?
Oh, that's right. We have similar concerns in Albany, where 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.
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.
Heaney's work raised eyebrows — and Bharara's were apparently among them.
Is Bharara looking into Columbia and the Suny Poly contract?
We don't know but we do know that SUNY Poly was on the end of subpoenas from Bharara's office.
We also see a curious pattern here - entities that win contracts from SUNY Poly giving money to Cuomo after the contract is awarded.
Happened with McGuire Development, which gave $25,000 to Cuomo after it won a $55 million dollar contract as part of the Buffalo Billion project.
And then there's LP Ciminelli, the contractor that had given Cuomo close to $100,000 and won the $750 million dollar Buffalo Bill project contract that appeared rigged for only LP Ciminelli.
Two examples of contractors winning huge contracts and money flowing to Cuomo directly afterward.
One example of a Cuomo donor winning a really huge contract.
Couple that pattern of donors winning contracts with the lack of transparency around the contracts and the bidding process, add in the herculean efforts by SUNY Poly and Fort Schuyler, the non-profit affiliated with it, to maintain that lack of transparency, and you really do have to raise your eyebrow at the whole thing.
Fortunately for us, US Attorney Preet Bharara has apparently raised his eyebrow too and followed that up with subpoenas to some of the entities involved in this.
Dunno about you, but the more I read about the Buffalo Billion project investigation, SUNY Poly and how Cuomo's donors kept getting these huge contracts and steering money back his way, the more I think someone's going to get indicted.