Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, December 8, 2014

Albany Remains A Cesspool Of Corruption - With Governor Cuomo At The Center Of The Rot

Sheriff Andy Cuomo convened "his" Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in order to clean up Albany - he told us so:

Cuomo of course shut "his" Moreland Commission in order to get a budget deal earlier this year, leaving much of the "clean-up" he had promised undone.

The NY Times reports this morning that Albany remains as dirty as ever - and the governor is up to his hairline in the dirt along with everybody else:

Now, eight months after its work was cut short, little in Albany has changed.
■ Powerful politicians — including the governor himself — continue to exploit a loophole in state law that allows corporations to funnel huge donations to them in smaller gifts that disguise the true sources of the money.
■ Lax personal financial disclosure laws, critics say, give corrupt legislators a way to mask political payoffs under the guise of part-time jobs. A 2011 reform presented as requiring disclosure of some clients was so narrowly drawn as to be meaningless, and another enacted this year allowed enough wiggle room that lawmakers could well continue to avoid scrutiny.
■ The line between political donations and outright bribery remains murky. Some politicians used their campaign treasuries as piggy banks for personal expenses, the commission’s investigators found, and bank records showed that lawmakers had failed to report some donations and expenditures altogether. A new, beefed-up Board of Elections enforcement unit has yet to show its strength.

Cuomo is essentially taking millions in legalized bribes by exploiting loopholes:

Mr. Cuomo easily won a second term in November. To pave the way for that victory, he raised about $47 million — much of it through the same kinds of enormous donations that the commission was building a case to outlaw.

For powerful politicians and the big businesses they court, getting around New York’s campaign donation limits is easy.

Emails that investigators unearthed between a fund-raiser for Mr. Cuomo and an executive at Glenwood Management, a developer of Manhattan rental apartments, show how it is done.

Corporations like Glenwood are permitted to make a total of no more than $5,000 a year in political donations. But New York’s “LLC loophole” treats limited-liability companies as people, not corporations, allowing them to donate up to $60,800 to a statewide candidate per election cycle. So when Mr. Cuomo’s campaign wanted to nail down what became a $1 million multiyear commitment — and suggested “breaking it down into biannual installments” — the company complied by dividing each payment into permissible amounts and contributing those through some of the many opaquely named limited-liability companies it controlled, like Tribeca North End LLC.

The Cuomo campaign reminded the firm later of 10 Glenwood-controlled LLCs that had already made donations.

A lawyer for Glenwood, Alan Levine, declined to comment. Ms. Lever, the governor’s spokeswoman, said his campaign “operates within the bounds of the current campaign-finance system.”

The torrent of money that flows into New York politics was a central concern for the Moreland Commission, and the LLC loophole was one of the most glaring weaknesses it saw in the campaign-finance system. Investigators subpoenaed several companies known to exploit it, including Glenwood and the Durst Organization, another real estate powerhouse.

Documents the investigators obtained provided unusual insight into what watchdog groups had long asserted: Corporations were strategically dividing up huge contributions to maximize their giving — and their influence. The use of limited-liability companies concealed the magnitude of their gifts from public view. 
Mr. Cuomo has collected more than $2 million in donations from limited-liability companies, according to campaign finance records. In all, the governor received more than $9 million from LLCs over his entire first term — roughly 20 percent of the $47 million he raised.
When Mr. Cuomo ran for governor in 2010, he characterized large LLC contributions as one of the campaign finance system’s “loopholes,” proposing that such donations be counted against the parent company’s $5,000 contribution limit, to make that limit “meaningful.” In June 2013, he proposed lowering that limit to $1,000 and applying it to limited-liability companies as well.
But Mr. Cuomo has also defended his continued exploitation of the LLC loophole — even if it meant contradicting himself. “Those aren’t loopholes,” he said in July 2013. “Those are the laws that are written.”
Just before his re-election this year, Mr. Cuomo renewed his call to shut off the spigot of LLC contributions, again using the word loophole. But he rejected any suggestion that he model good behavior by voluntarily declining contributions that exploited it.

Albany - as dirty as ever, with Sheriff Andy Cuomo up to his hairline in the corruption and rot.

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