Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fred LeBrun: Andrew Cuomo Has Been In The Sights Of The US Attorney All Along

In the Times-Union, Fred LeBrun argues Cuomo has been US Attorney Preet Bharara's target all along:

Three men in a room running state government is a system Bharara in the past has strongly and repeatedly criticized as undemocratic, repugnant.

So let's see what Bharara's done about it. Silver got knocked down by a 35-page federal complaint detailing allegations of bribes and kickbacks disguised as fees.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was the subject of speculation late last week that he too is under investigation by Bharara over ties to the real estate industry. That speculation is admittedly in its infancy. Still, that leaves Andrew Cuomo so far seemingly unscathed.

Yet there are tea leaves to read that suggest Cuomo has been in Bharara's sights all along.

The latest is the brutal timing of the Silver takedown, the morning after Cuomo's combined State of the State and budget addresses. The devastating federal complaint took all the air out of the room and all attention away from the Cuomo agenda. The governor hasn't gotten it back. Bharara could have dropped that bomb whenever he chose. Arguably, he was sending a message.

With the fall of Silver, and the fact that significant material had been gathered to this end by the governor's defunct Moreland Commission, Bharara's sharp public rebuke of the governor at the time for peremptorily shutting down the commission when he did takes on a different coloration.

If the dots are there to show that Cuomo inappropriately shut down the Moreland Commission without warning and in the process obstructed justice, they won't be that hard to connect. So what did the governor know and when did he know it about the commission's developing investigation of Sheldon Silver? Did his closing down the commission have anything to do with that investigation, or any other being developed by commission staff?

The governor at the time deflected such speculation by saying the Legislature had given him the ethics reforms he demanded, and therefore the Moreland Commission was no longer needed. It had accomplished its task by bringing pressure on the Legislature to act. That answer did not seem to satisfy Bharara at the time, and I would suspect does even less so now.

Corruption is not negotiable and I suspect that its investigation by an empowered public commission like Moreland can't be turned on and off like a spigot would be more along his line of reasoning.
Apparently the Moreland files the federal prosecutor hauled away after it shut down had rich and potent material, if what emerged against Silver is any indication. So it would seem the actual work of the panel was real and getting somewhere.

Of course, if there is a problem, the governor has a fall guy in the person of his secretary at the time, Larry Schwartz, who was the liaison between the commission and the administration.

Schwartz is now out of state service. But it was also apparent at the time that the governor was well informed and current on matters Moreland. So for him to hide behind Schwartz's skirts will be tough to do. Then there's the matter of Schwartz steering investigations or even mere scrutiny away from big money contributors to the governor and similar ham-fisted antics.

Bharara has plenty of material to work with, if that's what he's doing. We'll find out when he's ready.
Meanwhile, the suspense is killing us. You can imagine what it must be doing to the governor.

Schwartz was said to be leaving Cuomo's service to work in the "private sector," but so far, nobody knows what that private sector gig is or, for that matter, where Schwartz is.

There is speculation this story from August is the reason why Schwartz is MIA and incommunicado:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo 's highest-ranking aide has agreed to meet with federal prosecutors this month as their investigation into the disbanding of an anticorruption commission intensifies, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Larry Schwartz, who holds the title of secretary to the governor, agreed in recent weeks to meet with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, the person said, a development that suggests investigators are interested in learning more about the administration's actions before and after the commission was shut down in March.

Mr. Schwartz was Mr. Cuomo's conduit to the Moreland Commission, and it is his alleged actions that have served as the basis for accusations that the administration improperly interfered with the commission's investigations, directing them away from any entities with ties to the governor. Mr. Schwartz didn't respond to email or phone messages on Sunday evening.

Federal prosecutors also sent a letter last week to an attorney for the administration, Elkan Abramowitz, saying that the administration's contact with people on the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption could represent witness tampering or obstruction of justice, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last week, prosecutors sent a similar letter to Michael Koenig, an attorney for the Moreland Commission, the person said.


Mr. Schwartz, who has been Mr. Cuomo's top aide since July of his first year in office, 2011, is the governor's most important emissary in Albany, and consults with Mr. Cuomo on virtually every aspect of the administration.

During the short existence of the Moreland commission, Mr. Schwartz communicated regularly with its members. In one instance, he instructed a commissioner to pull back a subpoena to a media-buying firm, Buying Time, that had done work for Mr. Cuomo's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The commission did, but reissued the subpoena several weeks later.

Mr. Cuomo's office has acknowledged that Mr. Schwartz made known his desire to see the subpoena pulled back, but the governor last week pointed to the fact that the commission decided to resend the subpoena as evidence that its actions were independent of his administration's instructions.

Ah, so much to speculate on here, not much really known other than, it's a real possibility that the feds are working their way up the chain, nailing Silver, leaking about Skelos being next, and then connecting all the dots to take out Cuomo as the final act.

The timing of the Silver arrest, the disappearance of Larry Schwartz, the relative silence from Cuomo on the Silver arrest (he's used every other arrest of legislators to try and push an advantage for himself) - these all suggest that all is not well in Andrew Cuomo's semi-homemade world.


  1. The hunter is now the hunted....doesn't get much better than this...enjoy it.

  2. In an environment of rampant corruption selective prosecution can be used to shape the actions of a deliberative body. The potential for blackmail is immense. Is the prosecutor governing now?

  3. The question is, will they take him down before he pushes his education agenda through?