U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sought to bookend the Silver and Skelos sentences. “While Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better,” Bharara said in a statement.
His next comment captured even more attention.
“These cases show – and history teaches – that the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown. That will continue to be our guiding principle in exposing and punishing corruption throughout New York,” Bharara said.
That was a not-so-subtle jab at Gov. Andrew Cuomo on two fronts. Bharara has been sharply critical of Cuomo’s decision in 2014 to shut down an anti-corruption commission at the time it had several open investigations.
The comment also comes after Cuomo two weeks ago said he was hiring a private lawyer to run an internal investigation of the Buffalo Billion economic-development program. That announcement came hours after Bharara issued a subpoena to Cuomo’s office – which left his administration reeling – for a range of information about the Buffalo Billion and other matters, including questions about possible wrongdoing by two longtime and trusted advisers to the governor.
We'll see if Bharara does more than jab at Cuomo in the coming weeks.
With more and more evidence surfacing in the Buffalo Billion case that starts to look very much like quid pro quo stuff, we may see just that.
Take yesterday, when it was revealed that Todd Howe, the lobbyist under investigation by the feds, hosted a fundraiser for Governor Cuomo on December 14, 2015.
At this fundraiser - held in a small backroom with just a few people - Cuomo took in $25K from COR Development, a company that has been subpoenaed in the Buffalo Billion investigation.
COR Development got some help from both a local government and state government:
The day after the fundraiser was a big one for COR: The Onondaga County Industrial Development Authority (OCIDA) approved a 15-year package of tax breaks on its $324 million Inner Harbor project, which will erect apartments, stores and a hotel at the site of a former barge terminal between Syracuse and the Destiny USA Mall on the south shore of Onondaga Lake.
The December fundraiser also came one week after Cuomo announced that Central New York was one of three upstate regions to win $500 million in economic development subsidies. The funds were awarded in a contest among seven regions, with Central New York winning by promising to use the money for an inland port, to encourage municipal consolidation and encourage the nascent drone industry.
COR also got this:
Earlier this year, the state’s economic development entity directed $70 million of that funding to cover the cost of an LED factory that SUNY Poly and COR are building in DeWitt.
The LED factory and the company that will run it, Soraa, weren’t mentioned in the 88-page plan that won the state money. Officials at SUNY Poly and Empire State Development, though, insisted the project aligned with the region’s stated strategies.
If Politico NY is aware of this, you can bet Preet Bharara is as well.
Perhaps everything the governor did here was above board, totally fine.
For his sake, he had better hope so.
Because Bharara didn't sound too happy in his statement yesterday that was clearly aimed at Cuomo.