NORTH HUDSON, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sought on Tuesday to distance himself from a longtime associate who is now at the heart of investigations into fraud and improper lobbying.
Mr. Cuomo said the associate, Todd R. Howe, who worked for him and his father, was only a casual acquaintance whom he knew mainly though political events.The governor also said he had no knowledge of the various legal and financial woes that Mr. Howe faced over the past decade or so, even as he parlayed his experiences alongside the Cuomo family and other political figures into a lucrative lobbying career in Albany, New York and Washington.Mr. Howe worked for Mr. Cuomo when he was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the late 1990s. Earlier, Mr. Howe spent a decade as an aide for Mario M. Cuomo when he was governor. Mr. Howe was also close with Joseph Percoco, Andrew Cuomo’s former executive deputy secretary and campaign manager, who is also under federal investigation.Despite that résumé, Governor Cuomo said he knew little about Mr. Howe, including that he pleaded guilty to a felony theft in Washington in 2010.“I wouldn’t call us close friends,” the governor said to reporters. “He worked for the state for a number of years, but I had no knowledge of his personal situation.”
Yeah, I dunno, not too sure about Howe, kinda knew of him, he did some work, but no too close, you know?
Except this story showed up in the Syracuse paper this morning:
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - How do you get the ear of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration? When Eckardt "Chris" Beck asked that question, hoping to advance his ambitious plans for a new cargo distribution hub in Manlius, he got this answer from a former Syracuse mayor:
Hire Todd Howe.
Howe, a longtime Washington, D.C., lobbyist with strong ties to the Cuomo family, is now under scrutiny as part of a sweeping federal investigation into New York economic development projects.
Howe was fired from his job as president of WOH Government Solutions after news of the federal probe became public. But until recently, Howe was reputed to be someone who could provide access to the governor's office.
When Beck asked former Syracuse Mayor Tom Young for advice in late 2013, Young recommended hiring Howe.
"The governor's office is so busy. I knew that I didn't really have the type of access that I thought would be necessary to keep them informed," Beck said. "Tom suggested Todd Howe."
Howe traded on his access to Cuomo and top administration officials, Beck said. During their first meeting, before Beck had hired Howe or explained his complex business plan, Howe indicated he had already discussed the project with the governor, Beck said.
"Todd said, you know, 'I've read your resume, and what the governor wants to know is, will you stay with this project until it gets to fruition?' '' Beck recalled. "I was taken aback by that."
Howe also bragged during the meeting that he was "good friends'' with Andrew Kennedy, then Cuomo's assistant secretary for economic development, Beck said. Kennedy, later promoted to deputy director of state operations for policy, is one of six Cuomo administration officials for whom federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records, according to published reports.
The governor's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hire Todd Howe as a lobbyist, he'll talk to the governor about your project before you even have your first meeting with Howe himself.
If true, so much for Cuomo saying he didn't have much personal contact with Howe in recent years.
But there's more - much much more, via Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY:
ALBANY — While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been downplaying his relationship with Todd Howe, a lobbyist at the center of a federal probe of his administration, records show that Howe was steering developers to contribute to the Cuomo campaign as recently as five months ago.
Howe, then a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, hosted a dinner gathering with Cuomo on Dec. 14 in a small upstairs room of the Fort Orange Club, a baronial brick retreat across the street from Whiteman’s Albany offices and up the block from the state Capitol.
The governor walked in at 8:30 p.m., accompanied by two of his top aides, Bill Mulrow and Joe Percoco. He was met by Howe, who worked as his deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, executives from COR Development and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a key Republican ally of the administration, according to public records and four people familiar with the event.
The night’s $25,000 haul came in five checks from three COR executives, the wife of an executive and one of the company’s LLCs. They were deposited on Jan. 12. COR, a Syracuse-based firm, is building two research buildings for SUNY Polytechnic Institute at a business park the company owns in DeWitt.
While Howe’s work was only recently registered with state lobbying regulators, he was a paid adviser to both SUNY Poly and COR at the time of fundraiser. And Percoco, who has managed Cuomo’s political campaigns for more than a decade and shared an office with Howe during Cuomo's 2014 re-election effort, received at least $50,000 in consulting fees from COR that year — something Cuomo has said he did not know.
Cuomo, in trying to distance himself from the lobbyist at the center of a corruption investigation, said this week that he wasn't too sure if Todd Howe worked on his re-election campaign or not.
Well, we know via Vielkind that Howe was working for Cuomo as little as five months ago.
Even better, the dinner gathering Howe hosted with Cuomo just five months ago helped Cuomo take in $25,000 from one of the companies subpoenaed in the Buffalo Billion corruption case.
So much for Cuomo's trying to distance himself from Todd Howe - or the companies subpoenaed by the feds in the corruption investigation.
The more journalists dig into this story, the more ties they find between Cuomo, the companies subpoenaed in the case and the lobbyist under investigation who Cuomo claims not to have had too much personal contact with.
The linchpin between all three?
Donations to Cuomo.