Gov. Cuomo said Monday voters will just have to trust him to do the right thing when asked why he won’t return more than $1 million from a real-estate firm involved in two of Albany’s biggest corruption scandals.
“Yes, I received significant funds, donations from that company. And I was their opponent as a matter of policy,” Cuomo said during a WNYC radio interview. “I was advocating for rent reforms.”
He shrugged off the $1.2 million that flowed into his campaign account from Glenwood Management and its employees as irrelevant to his decision-making.
“If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars or a thousand dollars or 50 dollars, then I’m in the wrong place and I should resign immediately,” he said.
“If you can be influenced by the money, then forget the denomination. You just have the wrong person in the office.”
Cuomo claims he doesn't know why Glenwood gave all that money to him or to others in Albany:
Cuomo claimed he had no idea why Glenwood would donate $14 million to elected officials and party committees over the past decade, if not to push its agenda.
“Why do people donate? A lot of reasons. They think he’s their best candidate, they don’t like the other candidate. They like the smile. Who knows?” he said.
“You have to do your job and exercise your judgment . . . absent who supports you, who doesn’t support you. If you can’t do that you can’t be in that position in the first place.”
He has no idea why Glenwood donated all that dough?
He should read the NY Times piece by William Rashbaum from Saturday:
The 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 literally.With 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.At 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.”
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.Mr. 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.For 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.”Glenwood 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 Board.The 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.Glenwood 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.
The governor also makes it sound like he didn't ask for all that Glenwood money - again, he ought to read the Rashbaum NY Times piece so that he can understand that information is already out there publicly:
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.
When 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.Glenwood 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 office.
Cuomo obviously thinks his excuses will work with voters - many of whom aren't paying that close attention to this anyway - and perhaps he's right about that.
But these excuses aren't working well with at least one editorial board which keeps drubbing him day after day - and that's the NY Post.
Here's their latest editorial:
Gov. Cuomo’s excuses for keeping money from a tainted firm prove one of two things: He’s not interested in cleaning up Albany’s reputation for sleaze — or he’s completely tone-deaf.
Asked Monday if he’d take The Post’s advice and return $1.2 million in donations from Glenwood Management, the real-estate firm implicated in the Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos trials, Cuomo declined.
“If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars or a thousand dollars or fifty dollars, then I’m in the wrong place, and I should resign immediately,” he said.
Well, Silver and Skelos claimed they weren’t influenced by Glenwood money, either. But in Cuomo’s case, no one’s even accusing him of that; the question is whether it’s right to keep money from a tainted firm.
Doing so signals a tolerance for corruption — and sends an unhelpful message to Albany’s entire political class.
Officials from Glenwood were said to have conspired with Skelos and Silver in their corrupt schemes, even if they themselves were never indicted. So how can the state’s top pol justify keeping their cash, especially if he hopes to rid the capital of sleaze and restore public trust?
Remember, the gov has more than $12 million in cash on hand. So returning Glenwood’s donations will hardly cripple him.
Nor, by the way, is the issue legislative “reforms,” as Cuomo suggests. One idea has been a ban on lawmakers’ outside income; a city panel Monday backed such a ban for local pols in exchange for higher pay.
But schemers always find ways to skirt reforms. What’s needed are pols who are beyond reproach — and prove it by their deeds. Cuomo so far has little interest in that. So how can he expect anyone to think he’s cleaning up Albany?
Now maybe editorials don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but news coverage does (just ask de Blasio what he thinks the Post coverage, in part, did to his poll numbers), so if they keep at this they can do some damage to him.
But the real danger is that the guy who took Silver and Skelos down - US Attorney Preet Bharara - is watching this and thinking "OK, I got convictions on two of the three crooks in a room who ran Albany but now the third one remains as intransigent as ever in his corruption."
Why Cuomo refuses to return the money is beyond me.
He can raise more, it would show a good faith effort toward cleaning up the corrupt culture in Albany and would provide leadership at a time when Albany politics needs it.
Instead he's digging in his heels and saying a) he's not going to give the money back and b) he has no idea why he was Donor # 1 for Glenwood, the firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos corruption cases, but it surely wasn't for any corrupt reasons.
Preetmas can't come soon enough.