Governor Andrew Cuomo said he played no role in a campaign contributor winning a mutli-million-dollar construction bid in Buffalo that is now reportedly the subject of a probe by Southern District U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
As part of the reported investigation, Bharara's office served subpoenas on the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, whose president is heavily involved in Cuomo's economic development programs upstate.
“SUNY has administered the grant process, so literally all I know is what I read in the newspaper, but I’m very proud of what we’re doing in Buffalo,” Cuomo told reporters in Harlem at an unrelated event.
The probe into Buffalo reportedly focuses on how Lou Ciminelli, who donated more than $96,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign, won a narrowly tailored bid to construct a solar panel factory in Buffalo worth around $750 million.
Asked if he was confident the contract was not influenced by the donations, Cuomo replied, “SUNY has administered billions of dollars' worth of programs and they’ve done it all well.”
The governor did acknowledge having communicated with Ciminelli, but said the contract was left in the hands of SUNY officials.
“I have probably spoken with him but I have nothing to do with the selection whatsoever. That was handled by SUNY,” Cuomo said.
You can see more on that donor, Louis P. Ciminelli, and his connections to Andrew Cuomo and various levels of government here.
You can see a little more on other Cuomo donors who may be the focus of Bharara's corruption probe here.
Let me remind readers of the pattern we have seen with Preet Bharara investigations.
First comes the leak and/or leaks about high-powered figures like Sheldon Silver or Dean Skelos.
Then come either the denials or obfuscations from the high-powered figures who are the focus of the leaks.
Then come some more leaks that indicate criminal charges are coming soon.
Then the arrests and criminal charges/indictments.
Finally, there are usually a couple more charges thrown on after the fact for good measure.
As memory serves me, this is how events played out in both the Silver and Skelos cases.
Hard to say if that's how things play out here, but the more we learn about the probe and the number of Cuomo donors involved coupled with Cuomo's denials that he had nothing to do with any of this and besides, it's just politics - well, it is starting to look like this story fits the pattern.
Whether it reaches as high as Cuomo himself, that's another matter.
But I can't remember a time where Bharara leaked info in a case like this that didn't end up with criminal charges in the end.
And now that we have Cuomo acknowledging personally communicating with one of the donors - that does makes things a little more interesting.