A fascinating piece in the NY Times this morning that you should read in total.
In it we learn Glenwood Management owner Leonard Litwin - Governor Cuomo's largest and most generous campaign donor - was an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of Dean Skelos and his son, Adam.
We also learn that Glenwood had expectations about all that money they gave (which they saw as the "cost of doing business") and boy did those donations ever pay dividends.
Here's the opening of the piece (by William Rashbaum):
The recent federal trials that ended in the quick convictions of Sheldon Silver
and Dean G. Skelos
laid bare a world of greed, flagrant corruption and abuse of power in
Albany, with evidence showing payoffs taking a deceptively circular
route from business interests to the elected officials whose help they
one man who was a key player in both cases — and identified by the
government as a co-conspirator at the trial of Mr. Skelos, the former
Republican majority leader of the State Senate, and his son, Adam —
never appeared in the courtroom.
man was Leonard Litwin, the 101-year-old owner of Glenwood Management,
an influential developer of luxury high-rise apartment buildings in Manhattan
that is among the state’s most prodigious political donors. Prosecutors
named Mr. Litwin as a co-conspirator during a sidebar conference with
the judge and defense lawyers that went largely unnoticed.
addition to its role at the heart of the government’s case against the
Skeloses, both of whom were convicted of bribery, extortion and
conspiracy this month, Glenwood also figured prominently in the federal
corruption trial of Sheldon Silver
, the Democratic assemblyman and former speaker who was convicted of extortion, wire fraud and money laundering 11 days earlier.
name of Mr. Litwin was just one example of the way the two corruption
trials revealed how entwined the interests of Glenwood and other
developers are with the business of the state.
emails and other evidence provided the most detailed look to date at the
ways in which Glenwood and others deftly worked the levers of power to
marshal tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions through a
maze of limited-liability companies, trade associations and political
groups, with Senator Skelos himself soliciting and directing the money
Prosecutors had a 54 page printout of Glenwood donations to Albany political players over the last 10 years through 26 different entities.
Number #1 on the list of recipients?
The biggest beneficiary of Glenwood’s giving: Mr. Cuomo, who, in the
last election cycle, received more than $1 million from limited
liability companies, or LLCs, connected to the company.
it came to the governor, Glenwood was considered such a reliable
contributor that his fund-raisers suggested to the developer that it
spread what would become a multiyear million-dollar donation “into
biannual installments,” according to documents uncovered by
investigators from the Moreland Commission, an anticorruption panel that
Mr. Cuomo created in 2013, but abruptly disbanded nine months later.
also funneled money to Mr. Cuomo indirectly: On a single day in 2011,
10 of the company’s LLCs combined to give a total of $500,000 to the
Committee to Save New York, a group of business interests that spent $16
million to support Mr. Cuomo’s agenda during his first two years in
And what did Glenwood get in return from the governor for all that cash?
contributions seemed to pay dividends for Glenwood and the real estate
industry as a whole in the form of a seat at the table — sometimes quite
a law that governed rent regulations set to expire in 2011, Mr. Dorego
testified that he and other real estate executives were called to two
meetings with state leaders in June, one at the governor’s office in New
York City and one at his office in Albany.
the meeting in Albany, Mr. Dorego testified, he and other executives
met first with Mr. Cuomo in the governor’s office. And then they were
summoned by Mr. Skelos, who sought to reassure them. Everything, Mr.
Skelos said, “seemed to be falling in line.”
Glenwood bagman Charlie Dorego explained more of the benefits Glenwood reaped from the politicos they donated to - especially the "three men in a room," Silver, Skelos and Cuomo:
Mr. Dorego told the jury the company reaped an estimated $50 million to
$100 million in savings over an unspecified period from one state
program alone, a real estate tax-abatement law called 421-a. The State
Legislature must renew the law periodically through a process
essentially controlled by the two legislative leaders and the governor.
Dorego testified that the law’s continued renewal was an “absolute
necessity” for Glenwood. Without it, he said, the cost of city real
estate taxes — the largest component of a luxury high-rise’s operating
budget — would make building such towers unfeasible, in part because
lenders would not finance them.
that reason, Mr. Dorego told the jury, keeping the State Senate in the
control of Republicans — who, in his words, “were more business-oriented
and had more of an interest in making sure business thrived in the
city” — was “the No. 1 priority” for Glenwood’s political strategy and
“Mr. Litwin’s No. 1 concern.”
also benefited from another state-administered program, using it to
obtain more than $1 billion in low-interest, tax-exempt bond financing
since 2000, to buy land and construct eight buildings it has put up
since 2001, according to testimony at Mr. Silver’s trial. Each
application to the program, under which a developer must set aside 20
percent of a new building’s units for low-income housing, must be
approved by an obscure state agency, the Public Authorities Control
three-member board is made up of the governor and the two legislative
leaders, or their designees. All applications require unanimous
approval, giving each member a potential veto as well as, prosecutors
suggested, power and leverage.
also depended on the governor and the legislative leaders to renew
favorable rent regulations that determine when a developer or landlord
can shift rent-stabilized apartments to market-rate rentals.
Okay, let's recap:
Governor Cuomo's largest donor, Leonard Litwin, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Skelos case.
Litwin's firm, Glenwood, reaped at least $50 million in tax savings from one state program (421a tax abatement) and maybe as much as $100 million, got $1 billion in low interest, tax-exempt bond financing to build 8 towers since 2001 that had to be approved by a board made up of three men - either the heads of the two legislative houses and the governor or their "designees," - and lots of other help in renewing "favorable rent regulations" for shifting rent-stabilized apartments to market-rate rentals.
In return for all that help and largesse they gave $10 million in campaign contributions since 2005, with over $1 million going to Governor Cuomo just last election cycle.
Governor Cuomo's allies at the shadowy Committee To Save NY PAC that spent millions touting his "pro-business" agenda early in his first term also enjoyed Glenwood largesse, receiving half a million in contributions through ten different entities one day in 2011.
Let's consider the five men tied most closely to all of this:
One was Shelly Silver, convicted on seven corruption counts.
Another was Dean Skelos, convicted on eight corruption counts.
A third was Glenwood bagman Charlies Dorego, who received a non-prosecution agreement for working with prosecutors against Silver and Skelos.
A fourth was Leonard Litwin, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Skelos case.
And the fifth was Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, so far unindicted but seemingly not uninvestigated.
Where did this Times story come from?
It's got the feel of someone beginning to lay the public groundwork for an eventual takedown of Cuomo.
If Preet's "Stay Tuned..." tweet during Governor Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Mach II presser
was the First Day of Preetmas (signaling there is more to come - especially around Cuomo's other economic development program, the Buffalo Billion Project, which is under investigation by federal prosecutors for what looks to be bids rigged for Cuomo donors), this interesting little story here has the feel of the Second Day of Preetmas, detailing as it does Glenwood's generosity and largesse in return for political benefits.
There's an awful lot of Litwin money that ended up in Cuomo's coffers, either directly or to Cuomo allies like CSNY (or other allies, which Bill Mahoney of Politico NY reported on back in August).
Glenwood got an awful lot of access for all that dough and certainly the governor looked to hide that access, "forgetting" that he had meetings with real estate executives, including Glenwood execs
, in his offices in both NYC and Albany in 2011 when rent regulations were set to expire.
2011 was the year his Committee To Save NY friends got $500,000 in one day through 10 different LLC's to help tout Cuomo's message, btw.
The smoke swirling around Cuomo and his campaign donors is starting to get awfully heavy, isn't it?
And this is just the Glenwood stuff.
Don't forget, there's more - the feds subpoenaed Cuomo donors and state entities connected to his Buffalo Billion Project
for funkiness around the bidding process (and donations that ended up in Cuomo's coffers right around the same time as the bidding process was going on.)
If Preet Bharara was able to take down Shelly Silver for quid pro quo corruption without ever proving an explicit quid pro quo agreement, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's going to look to take down Governor Andrew M Cuomo for quid pro quo agreements around campaign donations and political benefits reaped by donors in return without anyone ever expressly admitting to an explicit quid pro quo.
Again, whether this all ends with criminal charges against Cuomo, well, that's hard to say.
But these stories about Cuomo and his donors (i.e., the Glenwood/Cuomo connection and the Buffalo Billion/Cuomo connection) aren't coming out of the ether.
Preet leaks as a way to set
the stage for eventual criminal charges.
He did it with Silver (leaking news of a federal investigation into the speaker one month before the criminal charges were filed in January), and he did
it with Skelos (leaking first in January, then again in May right before
the criminal charges were levied against Skelos.)
Just something to think about when you see these stories about Cuomo and his donors.