Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fred LeBrun: Bharara Is Focused On Governor Cuomo's Office

Fred LeBrun in the Times-Union this morning:

A week ago Friday late in the day, Preet Bharara finally dropped the other shoe on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A flurry of subpoenas from federal prosecutor Bharara, the first served on the governor's office, left no doubt New York's chief executive and his extensive inner circle are now included in an ever broadening corruption inquiry involving the letting of state contracts and illegal conflicts of interest and lobbying.


We already know there's more than smoke here, in terms of improprieties by the governor's people, although the governor's office has been trying desperately to distance itself from both Howe and even Percoco.

There's been a blizzard of damage control to cover a flurry of subpoenas. A leak to a downstate tabloid to try to control the inevitable bad news from the onset broke the news.

A deliberate attempt to blur the focus of the inquiry from primarily the governor's office to include nine-month old inquiries into Buffalo contractors and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute followed.

That's all misdirection. Preet Bharara's focus is on the second floor of the Capitol.

When Cuomo has talked about the problem of corruption in the past, he always talks about it as if it has nothing to do with the executive branch and is only located in the legislature.

The news of the investigations into Cuomo's people - both current (Alain Kaloyeros at SUNY Poly) and former (Todd Howe and Joe Percoco) - exposes what jive that is.

As for the governor himself, well, there is certainly the appearance of corruption in his campaign fundraising, as Chris Bragg and Casey Seiler at the Times-Union reported this morning:

The federal subpoena received by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration in late April seeks information about any actions taken by certain Executive Chamber officials that might have benefited several major developers in New York, according to a person with knowledge of the subpoena.

The companies include Conifer Realty of Rochester, COR Development of the Syracuse area and Norstar Development, a company based in Ontario, Canada, that has significant operations in Buffalo. Several other companies were identified in the subpoena, which was issued by the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara.


While each of the companies is engaged in a wide range of projects with state and local governments, all three are involved in the development of affordable housing — an industry that has quietly proven to be among the governor's most generous supporters.

Read the piece and you see the pattern - Cuomo gets donations, donors get subsidies, tax benefits and/or contracts.

Steve McLaughlin pointed out this morning that this pattern with Cuomo is not new:

Some people think that Bharara will never get as far as Cuomo, that Cuomo is too smart to get caught in all of this, even as his minions like Kaloyeros, Percoco and Howe appear to be going down (and maybe Steven Pigeon in Buffalo too), but Fred LeBrun writes that is still to be determined:

After two terms of watching how this governor works, in the shadows, with as little accountability as he can get away with, it is small wonder the culture he's created hasn't caught up with him earlier.

And, it's hard to imagine a notorious micromanager like Andrew Cuomo being caught totally blind by the doings of his brother Joseph, and very old friend Todd. That just doesn't pass the sniff test. Again, to be determined though.

And just in case you aren't convinced that Preet Bharara has expanded his probes beyond the legislature, well, there was this warning from the U.S. attorney a few weeks back:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued an executive warning Tuesday, making clear that his push to clean up corruption isn’t limited to the state Legislature.

“We will keep looking hard at corruption in our legislative branch, as we have been,” Bharara said during a keynote speech at Common Cause New York’s annual gala at the University Club in Midtown. “But not just there: in the executive branch, too, both in city and in state government.

“Executive offices in government are far from immune from the creeping show-me-the-money culture that has been pervading New York for some time now.”

Given how many stories there are of Cuomo donors getting contracts, grants, tax breaks, subsidies or even vetoes around the same time they're giving money to the governor, at the very least the appearance of a show-me-the-money culture pervades Cuomo's administration.

Whether Bharara can connect any of this to Cuomo, as LeBrun writes, that's to be determined.

But make no mistake - that's exactly what Bharara is trying to do.

He said as much back in April.

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