Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Update On The Cuomo Buffalo Billion Corruption Story

Yesterday was quite a day, with leaks coming throughout that US Attorney Preet Bharara was expanding his corruption probe of Albany politics to Governor Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Program and various entities and individuals connected to it.

First the NY Post reported that Bharara had launched an investigation into Cuomo's Buffalo Billion project, looking at the bidding process and the awarding of contracts.

Then the NY Daily News reported that SUNY Polytechnic Institute had been the recipient of subpoenas relating to the Buffalo Billion Project and had hired a criminal defense attorney to deal with the matter.

Last night the Buffalo News reported that the same contractor/Cuomo donor, Louis Ciminelli, who seemed to be the recipient of a rigged contract in the Buffalo Billion project, is also the contractor for the Buffalo Schools Construction Project, a $1.3 billion dollar renovation program that has tens of millions of funds missing.

Documents related to the Buffalo Schools Construction Project have also been subpoenaed by the US attorney's office.

The NY Times reports this morning that Cuomo appoints the majority of SUNY board members and is known for his "hands-on" management style when it comes to governance, especially around large-scale programs like the Buffalo Billion project.

Indeed, even as the leaks kept coming throughout the day about the Bharara probe into Cuomo's Buffalo Billion project, Cuomo was touting it before business leaders at a business conference in Lake George:

Governor Cuomo, in an address before the state’s business leaders,  promoted his economic development plans, including the Buffalo Billion initiative, and fended off questions on reports that some of the projects are under investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Cuomo, who was well received by business leaders meeting at the Sagamore resort on Lake George, gave a power point presentation focusing on his successes in building up the upstate economy, including the Buffalo Billion project, which has received praise and credit for helping turn around the state’s second largest city.

“Buffalo was the most pessimistic community about their economic future five years ago,” said Cuomo. “Today, Buffalo is the most optimistic, tied with Manhattan.”

Last night, WGRZ led their coverage of the Buffalo Billion investigation story with the headline "Is Governor Cuomo Under Investigation?" and gave a great round-up of the day's events, including analysis from Investigative Post's Jim Heaney, who may have kicked off the whole federal investigation with his reporting on the lack of transparency around the Buffalo Billion project bidding and contract award process.

Heaney says the investigation may center on Governor Cuomo's go-to economic development guy, SUNY Poly CEO Alain Kaloyeros, who has led the development of the nanotech industry in Albany as well as the spread of high-tech initiatives to Buffalo, Utica, Rochester and Syracuse.

Heaney was updating Investigative Post throughout the day as more leaks and reports came in - you can see those updates here.

Yesterday was a pretty extraordinary day in New York State.

What we learned yesterday is that a US attorney from Manhattan is rooting around in business dealings and contracts in Buffalo even as it's unknown whether the US attorney for Western New York - Bill Hochul - has recused himself from the investigation or just been passed over by Bharara's office because Hochul is the husband of Governor Cuomo's Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul.

This appears to be part of a larger investigation into state contracts and business dealings with at least part of the focus on one of the state's highest paid employees, SUNY Polytech CEO Alain Kaloyeros, who also happens to have close ties to Governor Cuomo and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

At least one Cuomo donor, Louis Ciminelli, has received subpoenas from the US attorney's office related to the Buffalo Billion project and what appears to be a rigged contract award as well as the Buffalo Schools Construction Project and what is said to be tens of millions of missing funds.

At the center of the Buffalo Billion project is a solar panel company chaired by Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors - SolarCity.

The state is putting $750 million into the building of a manufacturing plant for SolarCity in Buffalo - but Jim Heaney reports that SolarCity lost $375 million last year and has lost over $300 million in the first half of this year.

Heaney also reports that SolarCity is the target of a federal investigation related to federal stimulus funds.

Something smells wrong about the state investing $750 million in a development project for a company that has lost over $675 million in the last year and a half alone, and yet that's what's happening here.

No wonder Governor Cuomo's administration did everything it could to quash FOIL requests for documents related to the project.

Unlike the reports that Preet Bharara was investigating Governor Cuomo's actions regarding the shutdown of the Moreland Commission, which were a little hazy with detail, the reports around the investigation of the Buffalo Billion are detailed, including who has received subpoenas in the case and who has lawyered up.

The pattern with Bharara and these corruption investigations has been leak, indictment, leak, indictment...

That's what happened in the Shelly Silver case and the Dean Skelos case.

These leaks yesterday - at least three separate ones to three different news organizations if I'm counting correctly - suggest Bharara intends to continue the pattern.

Governor Cuomo downplayed the stories yesterday, saying there's no "there" there in this story.

But he's fooling himself if he really believes that.

At the very least, the feds have one of his donors on the other end of a subpoena and one of the state's highest paid employees, the PolyTech CEO, who is leading Cuomo's development efforts for high tech industries in Buffalo, Rochester, Utica and Syracuse is the focus of, if not the target of, a criminal investigation.

Given the previous pattern with Bharara and leaks, you can be sure criminal charges will come and somebody will make a plea deal here to turn evidence over to the feds.

That's what happened in the Silver case and in the Skelos case - and I would bet that's what happens here too.

Will Cuomo's donor, Louis Ciminelli, get the squeeze and turn on Kaloyeros?

Will Kaloyeros get the squeeze and turn on someone else?

I'm speculating here, but given how Bharara worked in both the Silver case (where he got REBNY bagman Charlie Dorego to cooperate) and the Skelos case (where he got Cuomo donor and former NYRA chair Anthony Bonomo to cooperate along with using evidence from Dorego against Skelos and son), this is not idle speculation.

Cuomo's got serious problems here, whether the criminal investigation reaches him or not.

He has made the Buffalo Billion the centerpiece of his upstate economic agenda, spreading it to Rochester, Utica, and Syracuse, and now it appears that centerpiece is rotten to the core.

That's a political problem for sure.

Whats worse for Cuomo is, if Bharara's rooting around in this mess, what else is he rooting around in?

Just last week, Gotham Gazette reported that Cuomo had his mojo back, that he was strutting his stuff again after dispatching NYC mayor Bill de Blasio in a feud.

De Blasio was an easy opponent for Cuomo to beat - Preet Bharara, on the other hand, does not look like he will be so easy for Cuomo to dispatch.


  1. Perhaps your vaunted Preety Boy is putting the screws to ol Quid Pro to squeeze out a bit more payola, being we're in pay to play territory here.And Hochul's husband? Don"t get me started...

    1. If anybody's getting squeezed, it's the SUNY functionaries and Cuomo donors who received subpoenas:

  2. I heard a rumor that that Solar city wasn't going to open. I heard the parent company in Texas was losing money or about to go bankrupt. ( I don't know) And that Some boys in NYC ( friends of Andy) were looking to pick it up at pennies on the dollar.
    I Have no way of backing it up but It might be an avenue for somebody to look at.