The governor short-circuited his own earlier probe of Albany corruption — basically meant to be an attention deflector — when it began to show signs of going beyond his control. This excited Bharara’s interest, and he demanded a boxcar of relevant documents while hinting broadly that more will be heard on the topic.
Then the prosecutor took direct aim at Cuomo’s signature “Buffalo Billion” economic-development project — and seems to have extended that probe to the multibillion-dollar SUNY Poly nanotech initiative, which dates to the Mario Cuomo administration.
It’s in this context, then, that an intriguing story appearing in an upstate newspaper over the weekend should be read.
The Albany Times-Union reported that a Hudson Valley developer with millions in state contracts — and a frequent big-bucks Cuomo contributor — has benefited in spades from government decisions that placed competitors at a serious disadvantage.
The paper says that the developer, Steven L. Aaron, and some of his associates have kicked in more than $250,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns since 2010 — no small sum even by the governor’s loose-but-nominally-legal standards.
Whether Bharara has taken an interest in Aaron, et al., isn’t clear, but stories like that don’t fall out of trees — and the prosecutor is nothing if not a master of the strategic leak.
So it’s hard not to suspect that soon more will be learned of Aaron, his associates and their interests.
Certainly the details loosely parallel those in the Buffalo case that Bharara is openly pursuing — where local construction contractor Lou Ciminelli saw bidding requirements on one state project egregiously tailored to his advantage. (Presumably, the $125,000 Ciminelli and his wife contributed to Cuomo’s campaign is of some interest to the feds.)
To be sure, it’s not clear where any of this is headed. But it seems that the very best Cuomo can hope for from the upcoming trials is to come away covered in the mud that inevitably will be flung about during the proceedings.
That Times Union story about Steven Aaron and the $250K in donations to Cuomo intrigued me when I read it as well because of the parallels to the Buffalo Billion donor stories.
As McManus writes, these stories just don't fall out of trees - they come from somewhere and Bharara has use strategic leaking before to lay the groundwork for future criminal charges.
These days, we're getting leaks about Cuomo donors getting all kinds of goodies in exchange for cash to Cuomo.
I would add the Kiryas Joel story to the Buffalo Billion and Aaron pieces in that vein.
Now all this might be nothing significant - just intrepid reporters doing some investigative reporting.
But given how Bharara has worked in the past, it's possible these are leaks that add up to something significant in the tea leaves.
As the cliche goes, time will tell.