Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cuomo Ally Pleads Not Guilty To Nine Count Felony Indictment (Update)

Niagara Gazette:

G. Steven Pigeon, a longtime Western New York political operative and former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple corruption charges filed in an indictment announced by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The 55-year-old political consultant has been charged with bribery in the second degree, a class C felony; bribery in the third degree, a class D felony; grand larceny theft by extortion in the third degree, a class D Felony; and six counts of rewarding official misconduct in the second degree, a class E felony.

Pigeon, who appeared in court with his attorney, Paul Cambria, entered his plea during an arraignment Thursday morning in front of State Supreme Court Judge Donald F. Cerio, Jr. who set bail at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

Following the arraignment, Cambria met with reporters outside the courtroom where he said Pigeon vehemently denies any wrongdoing and looks forward to his day in court.

Pigeon's arraignment follows Wednesday's guilty plea from former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek. The 65-year-old Michalek resigned from the bench after pleading guilty to various charges in what Schneiderman's office has described as a scheme that involved receiving bribes from Pigeon, and for filing a false document with the New York State Office of Court Administration when he appointed a receiver who had been suggested by Pigeon. Michalek admitted guilt to a pair of felonies, including bribe receiving in the third degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. In addition to entering the plea, Michalek submitted a letter of resignation to the chief administrative judge, effective immediately.

The charges stem from an ongoing public corruption investigation by the attorney general's office. Schneiderman is scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon at his office in Buffalo to discuss both cases in greater detail.

The Buffalo News reported this morning that this case is not likely to end with only Michalek and Pigeon facing criminal charges:

Schneiderman, who investigated Pigeon’s activities based on original complaints about election law violations, emerged as the only prosecutor or official in New York State willing to take on the case. And according to a source familiar with the charge, more counts could be forthcoming. The source pointed out nothing in this week’s court proceedings yet addresses the concerns that led Schneiderman’s investigators, the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI in May of 2015 to raid the homes of former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey and Christopher M. Grant, former chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.

For now, the state focuses its next steps on Pigeon, who has garnered complaints from political opponents and elections officials for many years over his controversial methods of raising money for independent political committees. Much more serious charges now face Michalek and Pigeon as a result of the original complaints, though those close to the case say more charges could still be pressed.

Pigeon's connections to Cuomo are well known and the governor's name even popped up in the indictment:

In March 2012, Michalek emailed Pigeon regarding a lawsuit pending before him, providing Pigeon with details concerning a motion filed by a non-party to the litigation seeking a protective order from a subpoena served by one of the parties.

In a written decision issued approximately two weeks later, Michalek denied the motion for a protective order, just as Pigeon had requested. Michalek then sent Pigeon an email with a copy of the decision attached and thanked Pigeon for “his efforts” on behalf of his first relative looking for a job, the complaint said.

Pigeon responded by email a short time later with an offer of additional assistance to the relative.
The complaint also indicated that on Dec. 10, 2012, Michalek emailed Pigeon concerning assistance in securing the Appellate Division appointment. Michalek wrote: “think there is a seat open in App Div … I applied … Normally I wouldn’t mention it to you … wonder if you could help.”

That same day, Pigeon replied: “I will start talking u up.”

The documents then indicate that on Jan. 8, 2013, Michalek wrote to Pigeon: “Unc Steve...How’d you do with the Gov??? ...” Later that day, Pigeon responded: “Bunch happening ... in albany now... Gov went well ... Talked u up ... Let’s have coffee soon.”

The complaint draws a clear link between Pigeon and Michalek’s desire for a gubernatorial appointment to the appellate court.

Pigeon had bragged that he was Cuomo's go-to guy in Western New York (this was the subject of a Buffalo News story back in 2013), so the Michalek appointment convo may not be the only time Cuomo shows up in this case.

We'll see.

No matter what happens with the Pigeon case, the Buffalo Billion case is still ongoing as well, with two former Cuomo aides and one current Cuomo associate facing what will almost certainly be criminal charges for corruption.

It is going to be an interesting summer waiting to see how all of this shakes out.

Today Cuomo went to the Catskills with Robert DeNiro.

Here is a transcript of what transpired:

UPDATED - 1:55 PM: Former assistant district attorney Mark Sacha insinuates  Attorney General Schneiderman is engaging in a cover-up by going after low-lying fruit with the corruption indictment while ignoring the election fraud crimes Pigeon was engaged in that could take down a whole swath of politicians:

Would note also that Risa Sugarman, Cuomo's hack at the Board of Elections, referred the Pigeon case initially.

That itself is interesting, since it's doubtful that the independent in name only Sugarman, appointed by the governor, would initiate anything without Cuomo's OK.

In any case, a sordid affair exposing Erie County corruption right to the very core - the justice system, the political system, the election system.

More as we get it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cuomo Ally To Be Arrested For Bribery


A New York State Supreme Court judge pleaded guilty on Wednesday to bribery in connection with the state attorney general’s investigation into his relationship with a Buffalo-area political consultant with ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The judge, John A. Michalek, who also pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, said he would cooperate with the probe.


 A spokesman for the state courts system said that as part of his plea agreement, Mr. Michalek had resigned as a state Supreme Court judge.

Mr. Michalek has been under investigation for months by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in connection with his relationship with Steven Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman who has raised money and occasionally advised the governor on western New York-related matters.

According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Messrs. Michalek and Pigeon had “an understanding” in which the judge “engaged in official conduct” that benefited Mr. Pigeon’s interests, which included lawsuits before the judge. Mr. Michalek received benefits from Mr. Pigeon, such as hockey tickets and assistance seeking judicial appointments for himself and jobs for his relatives.

Mr. Pigeon is set to be arrested on Thursday and indicted later that day, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria Jr., didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Today’s proceedings expose a corrupt, multiyear scheme to use political favors to buy off a sitting state judge,” Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday.

Here are some previous Perdido Street School blog posts on Pigeon and Cuomo (here, here, here and here.)

And of course, there's the wonderful Buffalo News story in 2013 in which Pigeon brags he's Governor Cuomo's go-to guy in Buffalo:

If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seems obsessed with all things Buffalo in the months leading to his re-election campaign, those familiar with the governor point to his rejection by the voters of nine western counties in 2010.
Perhaps that’s why Cuomo is turning to G. Steven Pigeon, one of his oldest – and most controversial – Western New York allies, for fundraising, politics and even policy, according to several sources.
The former Erie County Democratic chairman is taking on more assignments from Cuomo and is telling political leaders here of a larger role, according to at least half a dozen highly placed sources with knowledge of the situation.

And while Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi would not discuss Pigeon specifically when questioned by The Buffalo News, he did not deny the suggestion that Pigeon plays a role for the governor.
“The governor has many friends in Buffalo, from the mayor to the county executive to Sam Hoyt to Steve Pigeon,” Azzoparadi said.
Pigeon’s larger profile may also stem from other roles such as major campaign donor and the $50,000 check he presented to Cuomo’s birthday fundraiser at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel last December.
Other Democrats say a senior official for the governor has told members of the Cuomo administration, including Hoyt, to have regular contact with Pigeon. They say that Pigeon has joined conference calls and meetings and that his involvement transcends politics to include economic-development matters.
One major Democrat said local officials “employed by the State of New York” are aware of Pigeon’s enhanced position for the governor.
“He’s going to be his top political person,” the Democrat said of Pigeon’s role for the governor in Western New York. “Steve is telling people that."

Now that Pigeon, the governor's top political person in Buffalo, is set to be arrested on bribery charges tomorrow, the governor may be wondering just what that top operative has to trade with the authorities for a lighter sentence.

Pigeon was in on Cuomo's economic development matters in Buffalo?

Gee, there might be something there, especially since those matters are already under investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

This Pigeon arrest is just one strand of the investigations into the governor's world that Cuomo's got to worry about.

There are also the various strands in the Buffalo Billion and state contract mess, with offshoots to former aides Todd Howe and Joe Percoco and Cuomo's man at SUNY Poly, Alain Kaloyeros.

Bharara has warned that he's scrutinizing malfeasance in executive branches around New York.

Going to be an interesting, interesting summer.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Legal Fees In Cuomo Investigations Mount

From Jimmy Vielkind at Politico NY:

ALBANY — The state’s economic development authority is tripling the amount of money it’s spending to deal with a federal probe of the Cuomo administration’s Buffalo Billion, documents show.

Empire State Development voted on Thursday to amend its contract with WilmerHale, which has been advising the authority since it received a federal subpoena for records last summer.
The firm was originally retained for $200,000, but the amount was increased by $400,000 in the final minute of Thursday’s board meeting. The unanimous vote came after 40 minutes of discussion in executive session. 
The allocation by ESD is just one slice of taxpayer-covered legal payments related to Bharara’s probe. SUNY Poly has retained Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, but a spokesman would not say how much he is being paid.

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month confirmed that Elkan Abramowitz is still representing the governor, as was the case with an earlier Bharara probe. It’s unclear if Abramowitz will be paid by taxpayers or from the Democratic governor’s campaign war chest.

And there is an outside inquiry by Bart Schwartz that Cuomo commissioned after his executive chamber was subpoenaed on April 29. Schwartz and his firm, GuidePost, are examining what took place and are reviewing ongoing payments.

His contract has not been finalized.

We have found that corruption is rife in a lot of institutions in New York and throughout New York,” Bharara said during a national TV interview.

“That’s true in the legislature. It’s also the case that there’s corruption, we believe, in the executive branches as well. And we’ll ferret it out wherever we find it.”

Clearly a bow shot at Cuomo, as well as de Blasio - no wonder the legal fee expenditures from Cuomo and his minions are mounting.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bharara Warns Cuomo And De Blasio He's Coming For Them

Preet Bharara was on ABC this morning with a warning for both Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio:

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara publicly put Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo on notice Sunday that he’s actively searching for evidence of corruption in their branches of government.
“We have found that corruption is rife in a lot of institutions in New York and throughout New York,” Bharara said during a national TV interview.

“That’s true in the legislature. It’s also the case that there’s corruption, we believe, in the executive branches as well. And we’ll ferret it out wherever we find it.”

Bharara’s stinging comments on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” come amid probes by his office into fund-raising efforts by Mayor de Blasio and suspected bid-rigging in state-funded development projects.

They also followed an interview last month in which Bharara bristled at the suggestion that Cuomo had been cleared of wrongdoing when Bharara declined to charge him for unexpectedly shutting down the anti-corruption Moreland Commission in 2014.

“Nobody gave a clean bill of health to anybody. A non-indictment is not an endorsement of anyone’s conduct,” Bharara told the New Yorker in what the magazine described as “an uncharacteristically icy tone.”

Cuomo's administration is the subject of a massive federal investigation into his economic development projects all over the state.

Cuomo's top former aide, Joe Percoco, is one focus of that investigation.

A second is another former Cuomo aide and close associate, Todd Howe.

A third is SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros, Cuomo's man in charge of the economic development projects.

As the Post piece notes, de Blasio is the subject of a few investigations too.

The election is coming in November, so if anything is going to come of these investigations, it will come before then.

It's not a mistake that Bharara was on ABC News this morning to talk about corruption in the executive branches in this state.

That's a little head nod that something's coming soon.

We know that one of de Blasio's fund raisers is cooperating with the feds, so my guess is, the de Blasio investigations will get movement first.

But there's a lot going on with the Cuomo investigations too.

There's no certainty that Cuomo's going to go down, but given the subpoenas that went out across the state as part of the investigation into his economic development programs, you can pretty much bet some of those associates of his are going down.

And there's an outside chance that after some squeezing, some of those associates will have tales to trade to prosecutors for lighter sentences.

One way or another, it's beginning to sound a lot like Preetmas.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Closing In On De Blasio

From the NY Times:

Three New York Police Department commanders were arrested on Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges linked to one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising.

The arrests were one of the most significant roundups of police supervisors in the recent history of the department — a deputy chief and a deputy inspector accused of accepting expensive gifts from two politically connected businessmen who prosecutors say were seeking illicit favors from the police.

In court papers unsealed on Monday, federal agents describe how the two men, who are at the center of one of the City Hall fund-raising inquiries, showered gifts on senior police officials: jewelry for the police inspector’s wife; a video game system for the chief’s children; tickets to Brooklyn Nets games; hotel rooms in Rome and Chicago; even a private-jet flight to Las Vegas, with a prostitute on board.

The police officers arrested on Monday were Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington, 50; Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, 43; and Sgt. David Villanueva, 42, who was charged in a separate but related scheme involving gun licenses. The businessman arrested was Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, Brooklyn.

The other businessman, Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, has pleaded guilty and has provided information in the police case and in at least one of the fund-raising investigations focused on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his inner circle, according to several people familiar with the case.

Let's repeat that last part:

The other businessman, Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, has pleaded guilty and has provided information in the police case and in at least one of the fund-raising investigations focused on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his inner circle, according to several people familiar with the case.

Bharara said yesterday “there is no allegation that has anything to do with the mayor anywhere” in the court documents.

But the news that Rechnitz is providing information in the case against the cops and at least one of the cases focused on de Blasio suggests it is only a matter of time before some of the people around de Blasio - and perhaps de Blasio himself - have their own day in court.

Monday, June 20, 2016

John Flanagan Is Nothing But Cuomo's Flunky

Fred Dicker in the NY Post:

As the 2016 session of the Legislature wrapped up last week and came to a typically ugly end in the wee hours Saturday morning — with bleary-eyed lawmakers forced to vote on measures they didn’t even have time to read — The Post asked several lawmakers, lobbyists and journalists to assess the first full year’s performance of Democrat Heastie, a key ally of Mayor de Blasio, and Flanagan, the most powerful Republican in the state.


“It’s clear that Carl lacks Shelly Silver’s strengths — keen intelligence and tough negotiating skills — while possessing his own weaknesses of indecision and a lack of clear strategy,’’ said the influential lobbyist.

“While Carl took on [Gov.] Cuomo on behalf of the mayor, he wasn’t very effective in doing so because he’s basically afraid of the governor, and hence you wound up with just that one-year extension [of mayoral control of the city schools],’’ the lobbyist continued.

As for Flanagan, “It’s clear that to an embarrassing degree Flanagan is Cuomo’s flunky, his most loyal ally in the Legislature, a guy who will abandon the supposed fundamental positions of his own Republican Party in order to hold on to power,’’ said the lobbyist, a Democrat who has worked with both leaders.

Nothing to add here except this:

As corrupt as he was, when Silver was taken out, the only check to Cuomo's power was removed from Albany.

Now the governor essentially gets whatever he wants and makes sure that what he doesn't want - like real ethics reform - doesn't happen.

About the only possible check on Cuomo's power resides in the Southern District of New York, but it remains to be seen if and when that power will act to take down Cuomo.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

New York Legislature Creates "Parallel System Of Charter Schools" In New York City

In the middle of the night, John Flanagan shoved through an extension of mayoral control of NYC schools that essentially frees charter schools from having to follow any rules:

ALBANY — State lawmakers on Friday reached a long-awaited deal to conclude the 2016 legislative session that included a modest ethics package, state funding for supportive housing for the homeless, and a one-year extension — with major caveats — of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of New York City schools.


Bowing to demands from the State Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan, a Republican who is not disposed to be helpful to a mayor who has openly worked to flip control of the chamber to the Democrats, the mayor and his allies in the Democrat-dominated Assembly agreed to disclose more information about city school districts’ spending and to accept a change to the oversight structure for more than half the city’s charter schools.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

More - italics mine:

There was concern within City Hall that the charter school provision would significantly change how such schools in the city run.

Charter schools can be authorized by three agencies — the State Education Department, the city’s Education Department and SUNY — but all operate according to the same state law. Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.

There are 111 charters authorized by SUNY in the city. Another 55 are authorized by the city’s Education Department, and 39 by the state department.

Going to repeat the italicized part from above:

Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.

Wheee - let's all switch to charter-friendly SUNY, where we can set our own rules and be free from the usual state standards!!!

Quite a midnight passage.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Stringer Readies Primary Challenge Against De Blasio

Ross Barkan in New York Magazine:

With next year’s election looming on the horizon, the progressive mayor is becoming vulnerable to a primary challenge.

While a few prominent local politicians are toying with the idea, it’s City Comptroller Scott Stringer who seems to be getting the most serious about taking on de Blasio. He held a fundraiser on Tuesday night and is quietly assembling a campaign team. Elected to his citywide post in 2013, Stringer has talked up the possibility of challenging de Blasio to several Democrats over the last two months, and his chief of staff has approached at least one veteran Democratic operative about signing on to a potential bid next year.

“Stringer sees that de Blasio is weaker and more vulnerable than ever before because of the multiple scandals facing City Hall,” said a party insider familiar with Stringer’s thinking. “That’s why it’s no surprise Stringer’s political team is reaching out to consultants and operatives to gauge their interest about a 2017 mayoral bid.”

If you're looking to make book on Stringer's chances compared to other New York pols rumored to be considering challenges:

A range of Democratic sources who are aware of Stringer’s plans say he is the most hungry among a group of potential challengers that also includes Bronx borough president Rubén Díaz and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Stringer has more than $1 million in his campaign account, according to the latest filings. De Blasio has about $890,000 in his 2017 account, and may not be able raise cash as readily as a typical incumbent, given his investigatory woes.

Stringer's plan is to run against de Blasio as a liberal who can get things done - only without the corruption.

We learned recently that Eva Moskowitz is pushing Ruben Diaz Jr. to run against de Blasio.

Given past corruption involving the Diaz family - including Ruben Diaz Jr. himself - I have a difficult time seeing Diaz Jr. take out de Blasio based on a "He's Corrupt!" campaign message.

But Stringer on the other hand...well, that's certainly conceivable.

In any case, I'm beginning to think de Blasio himself is going to be indicted on corruption charges.

The leaks we're getting on the mayor's scandals are beginning to hint at just that - take last night's leak for instance.

That's the way Preet works - ready the public for high profile arrests with leaks.

He did this with Shelly Silver, he did this with Dean Skelos.

We'll see how this all shakes out, but the way things look right now, at best de Blasio's in serious trouble and facing a primary challenge from a well-funded, well-connected Stringer while at worst, he's going to be carted out in cuffs to join Silver and Skelos in ignominy.

As for teachers supporting Stringer as a better alternative to de Blasio, pay attention to some of Stringer's backers:

One advantage Stringer has over Díaz and Jeffries is a large orbit of loyalists in the public and private sector that has been privately compared to a “Ready for Hillary” operation. They include Audrey Gelman, his former press secretary; Micah Lasher, attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s former chief of staff and a candidate for State Senate on the Upper West Side; Amy Rutkin, Rep. Jerry Nadler’s chief of staff; and Camille Joseph, deputy comptroller for public affairs and Anthony Weiner’s former campaign manager. Any 2017 bid would also likely involve Anson Kaye, a Hillary Clinton ad-maker and top strategist on Stringer’s comptroller campaign. At the center of it all, there's Sascha Owen, Stringer's current chief of staff and former campaign manager.

Micah Lasher is a former StudentsFirstNY guy and Bloomberg aide.

I've been off the de Blasio bandwagon for a while now but I wouldn't be all that thrilled to back a mayoral candidate whose large orbit of loyalists includes Micah Lasher.

Barkan writes that it's not a done deal that Stringer runs, he wants to see how the investigations proceed and if de Blasio's poll numbers continue to fall.

But given the news de Blasio's facing these days, with his chief fundraiser the focus of a federal investigation and stories about de Blasio's afternoon's at Bar Toto making fundraising calls with said chief fundraiser, I can't imagine things are going to get better for him any time soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Investigators Focus On De Blasio's Chief Fundraiser

Enjoy that one year mayoral control extension, Bill - you're probably not going to make it to renewal time:

Federal and state investigators have received thousands of documents related to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising activities and have begun interviewing some of his donors, people familiar with the matter said.

Investigators have focused on specific donors to Mr. de Blasio as they examine whether the mayor and his allies traded favorable government action for contributions to his various political efforts, including Mr. de Blasio’s 2014 campaign to bring the state Senate under Democratic control, people familiar with the matter said.


As part of the records demand, investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have received a trove of documents, including internal emails, evidence of financial transactions and correspondence between the mayor’s political operation and county political committees, people familiar with the matter said.
The documents have come from city aides, political consultants close to the mayor and a number of donors who are cooperating, people familiar with the matter said.

The authorities are looking, in particular, at any donations that appeared to coincide with favorable official action by Mr. de Blasio’s administration, these people said. One person said the authorities are examining when donors’ communications with city officials occurred in conjunction with interactions with Mr. de Blasio’s fundraising staff.

According to people familiar with the matter, one person under scrutiny is Ross Offinger, who served as a fundraiser for the mayor’s 2013 campaign and for the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit organized by the mayor’s allies and dedicated to the mayor’s agenda. In March, the Campaign for One New York announced it would shut down its operations.

Messrs. de Blasio and Offinger worked together on fundraising, sometimes sitting together on afternoons at Bar Toto in Brooklyn making calls, according to people familiar with the matter.

So let's say the feds pick up Offinger and ask him, "What do you have to trade for a lighter sentence?"

Think he'll bring up any of those afternoons at Bar Toto making fundraising calls with de Blasio?

Oh, you bet he will.

So far in the Cuomo investigation, there's no inkling yet that the feds are closing in on Cuomo himself - just the people around him.

But in the de Blasio investigation?

They're closing in on him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cowardly Cuomo Has His Thugs Shut Down Criticism At Vigil For Orlando

Sherry Wolf Confronts Gov. Cuomo at the Vigil for Orlando from TheDustyRebel on Vimeo.

Moskowitz Backs Corrupt Ruben Diaz Jr. To Take On Corrupt Bill de Blasio

This is funny:

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz may not be running for mayor in 2017, but she's raised money for a potential candidate charter school supporters are hoping can unseat Mayor Bill de Blasio — Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Moskowitz finished bundling nearly $15,000 for Diaz in May 2015 — six months before she held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to announce she would not challenge de Blasio in 2017, even though she’d been hinting at a run all summer. The early fundraising effort demonstrates that the city’s charter sector, and its legion of wealthy supporters on Wall Street, are open to a Diaz candidacy, should he choose to challenge de Blasio.
Moskowitz appears to have held a fundraiser for the borough president on July 22, 2014 — nine of the 11 contributions were made on that date — and then did a second round of fundraising on May 7, 2015, when she netted two more contributions for Diaz.
A spokesman for Moskowitz declined to answer questions for this story, including why she raised money for Diaz when she was still indicating her own interest in running for mayor, and why she supports Diaz’s potential bid.
Diaz’s 2017 campaign account does not indicate what office he is seeking, and he has not ruled out a potential run for mayor. He has raised $833,924 and spent $372,912, campaign finance records show. De Blasio, by comparison, has raised a little more than $1.1 million and spent $244,761.

De Blasio's vulnerable to a challenger next year because of all the corruption probes, but here's the thing about Moskowitz backing Diaz Jr. for a run against the mayor:

Diaz Jr.has his own corruption problems.

Take this story from the NY Times in 2007, for example:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of corruption against two Bronx lawmakers — State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. and his son, Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr., according to an official familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The investigation, first reported by The Daily News, came to light on Thursday, when F.B.I. agents visited the city’s Board of Elections office in the Bronx seeking voter petitions and other records for the elder Mr. Díaz and his son. The agents obtained copies of their personal voter registration and voter history records as well as candidate petitions signed by voters, a Board of Elections spokeswoman said.

And this NY Post story from 2012:

It was a tough week for state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. 
On Monday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the indictment of Clement Gardner, CFO of the Christian Community Benevolent Association — a nonprofit founded by Diaz in 1977 and which he ran until 2003.

On Wednesday, the federal corruption trial of Diaz’s friend and former colleague, ex-Sen. Pedro Espada, got under way.

In charges first brought to light in years of Post reporting, Espada is accused of looting hundreds of thousands from the Medicaid-funded Soundview Health Care Network to finance his lavish lifestyle and employ numerous relatives and associates.

The two cases shed light on New York’s kleptocratic culture, in which politicians use taxpayer dollars to enhance their political and personal status.

Schneiderman charges that Gardner embezzled as much as $400,000 from CCBA between January 2004 and May 2007 — a time when Diaz was showering the organization with cash through the corrupt member-item pork-barrel process.

Between 2003 and 2005, Diaz and his son, then-Assemblyman (now Bronx Borough President) Ruben Diaz Jr., reportedly directed $940,000 in member-item support to CCBA — a charity for the elderly and needy that would contribute nice sums to other Diaz-connected political organizations. In 2006 and 2007, Diaz the elder authorized another $500,000.

So, with $1.4 million in public money pouring in, should anyone be surprised that CFO Gardner — also Diaz’s onetime campaign treasurer — opted to help himself to some of the goodies?
Diaz claims to be “shocked” over the arrest, but isn’t worried that he might be implicated in the AG’s investigation, because “I’m not in the business of taking; I’m in the business of giving.”

Well, thanks for the clarity, senator.

That sentiment perfectly captures the essence of the culture: It’s about “giving,” all right — giving away other people’s money to friends, family members and “community” cronies.

Diaz Jr. has managed to mostly avoid scrutiny from the press because he hasn't run for a citywide office yet.

That will change if and when he decides to run for mayor.

It's one thing to challenge a sitting mayor running for re-election because said mayor appears to be corrupt and is facing five corruption probes.

It's another thing to challenge a mayor over corruption when you're corrupt yourself, as Ruben Diaz Jr. appears to be.

Moskowitz's backing of Diaz Jr. shows you how desperate she is to try and get some Eva-friendly face back in City Hall.

With the other Eva-friendly pol, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, saying (at least for now) that he wants to stay in Congress, Diaz Jr. may be Eva's best bet, but he surely is not a good one.

Even a routine Google search of "Ruben Diaz Jr." and "Corruption" pulls up some interesting information.

Imagine what we'll learn after Diaz Jr. announces a run and somebody drops the oppo research on Diaz Jr. and his corrupt family.

Cuomo's Worried About The Corruption Probes

That's the takeaway I get from the two pieces out in the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times this morning about Joe Percoco and the Cuomo administration.

They're appearing simultaneously and have a very Cuomoesque slant to the corruption investigation (i.e., this is all the fault of former aides Todd Howe and Joe Percoco.)

They appear to have come directly from the Cuomo administration itself.

In addition, Fred Dicker has a piece out today saying the Scheiderman raid of SUNY Polytechnic was encouraged by the governor in order to throw SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros under the bus:

Cuomo’s reaction to Bharara’s probe — which focuses in part on two of his closest friends and longtime associates, former aide Joe Percoco and lobbyist Todd Howe — was to push Kaloyeros aside and hire a special outside investigator, Bart Schwartz, to oversee the development projects going forward.


Bharara has been focusing his attention on Percoco and Howe — who were paid by major companies doing state business — and large state-hired construction firms that contributed to Cuomo’s re-election.

Schneiderman is focused more narrowly on possible bid-rigging and a violation of a state antitrust laws in relation to a SUNY Polytechnic dorm-construction project.

Schneiderman’s raid — to which some journalists were given notice even before investigators seized materials from an office once used by Howe — was described by a source close to SUNY as having been “clearly conducted with Cuomo’s encouragement’’ in an attempt to shift blame away from the governor to Kaloyeros.

“Cuomo and his people are trying to save their asses at the expense of everyone else,’’ the source said.

Kaloyeros did not return calls seeking comment. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi insisted the sources “clearly don’t know what they’re talking about’’ and denied that the governor was involved in trying to undermine Kaloyeros.

Dicker also says Schwartz is slowing down work in the Buffalo Billion Project "to a crawl" in order to scrutinize everything.

The Cuomo admin responded with this doozy:

Put it all together and what you have here is Cuomo going on the PR offensive in the Times and WSJ against Percoco and more evidence that Cuomo, despite talking more cautiously in public about Kaloyeros than he has about Percoco and Howe, looking to throw Dr. Nano under the bus as well.

This says he's very worried about what's going to come out of the Bharara probe and is going on the offensive once again to try and distance himself as much as possible from Percoco, Howe, and Kaloyeros.

Good luck with that, Andy.

The pattern - donors donate to you, get contracts/grants/subsidies/favors in return - remains.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's Pay-To-Play All The Way With Andrew Cuomo

Jon Campbell takes an extensive look at Governor Cuomo's economic development programs and finds the following:
Two of New York’s most-powerful landlords are little-known nonprofits with deep pockets, well-connected boards of directors, ties to Rochester contractors and a growing portfolio worth billions that has attracted attention from federal prosecutors.

Meet the Fort Schuyler Management Corp. and Fuller Road Management Corp., owners of an increasing number of the facilities at the center of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to revitalize upstate New York’s long-lagging economy.

The two nonprofits act as the real-estate arm of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, the Albany- and Utica-based college whose clout has spread as Cuomo entrusted founding president Alain Kaloyeros with overseeing the Buffalo Billion development program, a $600 million photonics institute in Rochester and facilities in Greece, Canandaigua, Utica and Syracuse.

The nonprofits have awarded lucrative contracts to big-money donors to Cuomo’s political campaign, including two Rochester-based contractors. Board members at various points have seen their companies or clients receive leases and deals, a review by Gannett’s Albany Bureau shows.

For years, Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road have operated with little scrutiny — largely faceless, quasi-public organizations existing as a mechanism to comply with IRS rules when transferring billions in state funds to facilities that house private companies.

That has changed: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are separately investigating contracts awarded by the two entities, with Cuomo’s administration acknowledging the federal investigation is examining possible “improper bidding.”

Here's the way this worked:

Contractors submitted bids (often rigged by the state so that only one local contractor could win), then submitted contributions to Cuomo, then won the contracts - whee!!!!

How often did this happen?

A lot - take the Rochester contracts, for example:

As their portfolio grew, Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road have doled out construction contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years. Often, those contracts went to Cuomo campaign donors, records show.

In Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Plattsburgh, Fort Schuyler put out separate requests for proposals for a “qualified local developer” to develop a “strategic partnership” with.

The requests for proposals were detailed and extensive, requiring a locally based contractor with at least 15 years experience and the ability to build high-tech infrastructure such as clean rooms and smart classrooms.

Fort Schuyler’s contract in Rochester went to LeChase Construction and The Pike Co. in 2014, meeting minutes show.

On Sept. 24, 2014, eight days after Fort Schuyler’s board was informed of the Rochester bids, LeChase CEO Wayne LeChase contributed $25,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign, state records show. The same day, Pike President Rufus Judson contributed $10,000.

Five days later, Wayne LeChase contributed another $11,181.

And the Buffalo contracts:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is probing the process by which three developers who are Gov. Cuomo donors came to get the bulk of a billion dollars in state contracts to develop major projects in Buffalo. Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, the president of which, Alain Kaloyeros, oversees the Buffalo Billion program. The program is supposed to generate thousands of upstate jobs through the tech, clean-energy, and pharmaceutical facilities the Cuomo cronies were tapped to build with $855 million in taxpayer money.

Pressed earlier this summer by a reporter for Buffalo's Investigative Post who was seeking details of the bidding process and faced illegal stonewalling across multiple state agencies and state-run nonprofits, Kaloyeros said, "We are not political operatives nor do we respond to perceived threats and terrorism." That "terrorism" apparently consisted of repeated phone calls, emails, and Freedom of Information Law requests.

Still, little is known about the selection process. What is clear, according to the Investigative Post, is that developer McGuire Development scored the $55 million contract to renovate skyscrapers in Buffalo to accommodate IBM, then three months later, donated $25,000 to Cuomo's campaign. The firm LP Ciminelli scored a heftier $750 million contract to build a solar-panel factory. Its president, Louis Ciminelli, is one of Cuomo's biggest donors in the region, having contributed $96,500 to the governor's two campaigns. Until competitors balked, the request for bids was written with the requirement that bidders have 50 years experience working in Buffalo, which only LP Ciminelli did. That company and Ciminelli Real Estate, run by Louis Ciminelli's brother, won the $50 million contract to build drug research space at a Buffalo medical campus. Paul Ciminelli's $10,500 to Cuomo and $5,000 to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul cannot have hurt.

And the Syracuse contracts:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- COR Development, the politically connected company developing the state's nanotechnology hub in DeWitt and Syracuse's Inner Harbor, gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo $50,000 in the past six months, making them Cuomo's top donor in Central New York.
Cuomo has $16 million in his campaign account, according to a campaign finance report he filed Friday.
Cuomo received $25,000 last week, on Jan. 12, from a COR Development subsidiary, Clay South Development Co., and four COR executives, including President Steven Aiello, Executive Vice Presidents Joe Girardi and Paul Joynt, and Julie Aiello, the wife of Executive Vice President Jeffrey Aiello.
That came on top of $25,000 that COR Route 31 Co. LLC gave to Cuomo on Aug. 24.
COR has been the governor's biggest contributor from the Syracuse region since Cuomo was elected governor in 2010, giving him more than $300,000.
The company has received contracts from the state for numerous projects under Cuomo. COR built a $15 million film hub for New York state in 2015 on land it owns in DeWitt. Cuomo announced COR would also build a $90 million facility for Soraa, an LED lighting manufacturer at the same nanotechnology hub.

And the timing of the donations?

Often coordinated:

COR Development, its subsidiaries, four partners and their wives are among the largest Cuomo donors in Central New York. They have given a combined $337,500 to Cuomo's election campaigns between October 2010 and January 2016.

Partners and family members write checks to the governor's campaign for as much as $25,000, sometimes on the same day, records show. A statewide candidate can accept up to $44,000 per individual for the four-year election cycle. An individual donor is limited to $150,000 in combined contributions to all candidates in a calendar year, according to the NYS Board of Elections.

A clear pattern - RFP's rigged so that only one or two contractors can win them, proposals submitted by the contractors, donations sent to Cuomo concurrent to the proposals, contracts doled out to the donors.

Now whether Bharara is able to tie Cuomo to this, make a criminal case out of it and take him out in handcuffs is another matter.

But the pattern throughout is quite clear - it's pay-to-play all the way with Andrew Cuomo.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Note To Preet Bharara: Discrimination And Retaliation Is The Official Policy Of The NYCDOE

From the NY Times:

The federal government accused the New York City Department of Education in a lawsuit on Thursday of engaging in a pattern and practice of discrimination against the three black teachers who worked at the Pan American International High School in Queens.

The lawsuit, filed by the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, made it clear that the government believed that the school’s principal, Minerva Zanca, had targeted the three teachers with the goal of having them removed from their jobs.

Ms. Zanca once told the school’s assistant principal, Anthony Riccardo, that one of the black teachers “looked like a gorilla in a sweater,” and that she could never have “nappy hair” like another of the teachers, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also claims that Ms. Zanca retaliated against Mr. Riccardo for his complaints about her treatment of the black teachers. Once, when he refused to give an unsatisfactory rating to a lesson by one of the teachers, Ms. Zanca yelled at Mr. Riccardo, accusing him of “sabotaging her plan,” and calling school security to have him removed from the building, the lawsuit says.

The Pan American school, on 94th Street in Elmhurst, says on its website that it serves “374 recently immigrated English language learners from Latin America.” The lawsuit says that during the 2012-13 school year, when it says the discrimination occurred, the school had a total of 27 teachers. Three of the teachers were black, the suit notes.

Mr. Bharara, in a statement, said, “It is nearly unthinkable that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination and retaliation to flourish.”

At schools all over the city, principals and assistant principals are going into observations with pre-conceived notions of who will be given negative ratings and who will be given positive ratings.

This is the official policy of the Bill de Blasio/Carmen Farina DOE (though the discrimination detailed above took place under the Bloomberg/Walcott DOE.)

The NYCDOE is telling school administrators that there are a certain number of "ineffective" and "developing" ratings that each school must have and that it will be held against a principal if a school does not comply with that directive.

Any principal or assistant principal not on board with the increased "ineffective/developing ratings" plan is retaliated against - either by the DOE (if the person not on board with the policy is a principal) or by a higher school administrator (if the person not on board with the policy is an assistant principal but the principal at the school is on board.)

What happened at the Pan American International High School is particularly egregious because of the vile racism attached to the pre-decided negative ratings.

But the truth is, this same kind of thing is happening across the city to other teachers, based perhaps not on blatant racism, but on other criteria that have nothing to do with teaching effectiveness.

Sometimes it's based on more subtle racism, sometimes it's based on ageism, sometimes it's based on cronyism, sometimes it's based on "Well, we have to throw somebody under the bus because that's what the DOE wants - who should that be this time?"

The UFT has done nothing to protect its members against the egregious assaults being waged by the de Blasio/Farina DOE because they've been brought in by the mayor to co-manage the system.

Despite the silence of the UFT in these matters, a terrible war against teachers goes on in schools, with the Danielson drive-bys as the weapon of choice for knocking people off.

I once hoped that things would get better in NYC schools once Bloomberg was gone, tried to take Carmen Farina at her word when she said she wanted to bring joy back to school.

But quite frankly, things are worse now than under Bloomberg because the UFT leadership is completely complicit in the insanity being waged out of Tweed, turning their eyes from the increased "developing" and "ineffective" ratings and ignoring the stories from rank and file about how bad it has gotten in individual schools.

The New York City school system is rife with FEAR these days, and while the Pan American International High School case occurred during the Bloomberg Years, much the same is happening now in the de Blasio Years, perhaps not as blatantly racist, but no less as discriminatory or retaliatory.

Any system that runs with a quota for how many negative ratings must be given is discriminatory and retaliatory - and that's exactly what we have under de Blasio and Farina.

Preet Bharara should dig deeper into the way the NYCDOE operates and he'll find patterns of discrimination and retaliation throughout the school system.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Is De Blasio Next?

The NY Times:

Of all the charges and the allegations in a 17-page criminal complaint accusing a powerful New York City union leader of corruption, perhaps the most far-reaching development was woven into the legal boilerplate, essentially hiding in plain sight.

A person, referred to as “CW-1,” for Cooperating Witness 1, had agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The cooperator’s name was not mentioned in the complaint unsealed on Wednesday, but several people with knowledge of the matter said it was Jona S. Rechnitz, a central figure in one of the half-dozen continuing federal corruption investigations focused on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fund-raising.

Mr. Rechnitz, who has generously supported several of Mr. de Blasio’s interests and served on the mayor’s inaugural committee, has pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges in connection with the corruption case against Norman Seabrook, the influential leader of the union that represents the city’s correction officers, and another defendant, according to the complaint.

But the significance of his decision to join the roster of government witnesses could go far beyond the case against the union leader, and have wide-ranging consequences for Mr. de Blasio.

The complaint in the corruption case, along with statements by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York (whose office brought it), and interviews with people with knowledge of the fund-raising inquiries, strongly suggest that Mr. Rechnitz could serve as an important witness in at least one of the fund-raising matters.

At a news conference on Wednesday announcing the charges against Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Bharara declined to answer questions about the identity of CW-1 and the degree to which the witness could be helpful in other cases.

But he noted that “the complaint does say that he is assisting other investigations as well; that’s all I’ll say.”


While Mr. Bharara also declined to answer questions about the fund-raising inquiries during the news conference, he left little doubt that there were more public corruption cases on the horizon.

“As those of you who come here often appreciate, it is seldom the case that the bringing of a particular charge at a particular date is the end of the matter,” he said. “We’re still investigating lots of different things, and you should expect to see me again.”

Ominous words for Bill de Blasio, that's for sure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

De Blasio Crony Arrested On Fraud Charges

And so it begins:

The powerful leader of the union that represents New York City correction officers, whose alliances with mayors and governors have afforded him broad influence, was arrested on federal fraud charges on Wednesday, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The charges against the union leader, Norman Seabrook, and a second defendant, Murray Huberfeld, a hedge-fund financier, stem from the first major criminal case linked to one of several corruption investigations focused on the campaign fund-raising of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.
The relationship between the mayor and Mr. Seabrook has been close in the past. At a 2014 fund-raiser for a union charity; Mr. de Blasio referred to Mr. Seabrook as a “friend” and a “great leader.”

Mr. Seabrook, the longtime president of the 9,000-member Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, was taken into custody at his Bronx home around 6 a.m. by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the people with knowledge of the matter said. Mr. Huberfeld, the founder or Centurion Credit Management, which was later subsumed by the top-performing Platinum Partners, was taken into custody at his home at about the same time.

The charges, brought by prosecutors in the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, involve Mr. Seabrook’s investment of roughly $10 million from his union’s pension fund in Platinum Partners through Mr. Huberfeld, and Mr. Huberfeld’s payment of a kickback to the union leader, the people said.

Mr. Bharara and Diego Rodriguez, the assistant F.B.I. director who heads the bureau’s New York office, were expected to announce the charges at a news conference early Wednesday afternoon.

This fraud charge is not specifically linked to de Blasio, but Seabrook, as the Times article points out, is very close to de Blasio.

This is probably the first of the arrests you can expect Preet to make around the city corruption cases.

There'll be more and while I wouldn't bet the mortgage that de Blasio will be one of those arrests, I wouldn't bet the mortgage that he won't be either.

How Many Will Get Sick In Hoosick Falls Because Andrew Cuomo Tried To Cover Up The Contaminated Water Crisis?

Scott Waldman at Politico NY:

HOOSICK FALLS — Rob Allen rushed home from his teaching job on Tuesday to find his wife at home weeping and curled in a fetal position.

She has been upset since four separate envelopes arrived from the state Department of Health the other day. Each was addressed to one of her children, and the letters said the children have dangerous levels of a toxic chemical in their bloodstream. Their youngest daughter, who is still breastfeeding, had the highest level of the toxin, known as PFOA, coming in at 112 parts per billion. The median number for 2,000 town residents who were tested was 23 parts per billion.
For almost the baby’s entire life, state and village officials had assured the family that their water was safe, Allen said. The children’s numbers are higher than their parents', and Allen's wife is concerned that PFOA passed through her and into the bodies of her children.
"My daughter was five months old when the village and state knew [about the contamination], and my daughter is 18 months old when the village and state finally said don’t drink your water,” he said.

People in Hoosick falls have 50 to 100 times the level of toxins in the blood compared to national levels.

The state knew that the water was contaminated for a year but refused to say anything publicly.

That is not sitting well with the people of Hoosick Falls as the blood test results are coming back and showing the alarmingly high levels of toxins in the blood of the people of the town:

Allen said, among the dozens of people with whom he has spoken in town, young children seem to be displaying far higher numbers than their parents.

Allen said he feels betrayed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration and by elected officials who waited more than a year to warn village residents away from drinking their water, which was tainted with PFOA by nearby facilities that made teflon products.

Other young families, where mothers are breastfeeding their children, have been crushed by the news, particularly those with children who were young enough that they could have avoided the water altogether if state and local officials had alerted the public.

“There is this whole contingent who are devastated, utterly devastated, that that utterly perfect time of nursing a child has been corrupted,” he said. “Now, they’re wondering if they’ve done the right thing. There is so much guilt out there that is [affecting] mothers.”

The Cuomo administration refused to alert the people of Hoosick Falls about this problem despite warnings from the EPA that the state needed to do something about it.

For one year, the Cuomo administration sat on the news and did nothing.

Now the administration is in damage mode and, with the helping of the hacks in the legislature, continue to play cover up - they've made sure no hearings on this matter will occur and are doing all they can to minimize the political damage to Cuomo even as they do nothing to minimize the environmental and biological damage to Hoosick Falls:

Cuomo has repeatedly characterized his administration’s handling of the Hoosick Falls crisis as aggressive. He recently dismissed POLITICO New York’s reporting of his administration’s pushback against federal regulators who raised concerns about Hoosick Falls as a “political he-said, she-said.”

That news about the blood tests arrived just before close of business on a Friday, when governments tend to release bad news, and is the closest the Cuomo administration has come to acknowledging a misstep in its handling of Hoosick Falls. Just a few weeks before, the administration used the same time slot to put out a statement on the pending federal investigation of Cuomo’s upstate economic development plan.

The administration’s handling of the crisis in Hoosick Falls may raise significant medical questions, experts say. The administration has not released the full range of results, simply telling reporters that the results range from "non-detect" to 200 parts per billion, which is far below some of the high numbers residents are saying they received. By refusing to publicly release the full scope of test results, without names attached, the administration has also made it hard to draw conclusions from those results, experts say.

And so, this is what the people of Hoosick Falls are left with:

The dire news emerging from Hoosick Falls in the last few days confirms what many had feared. Hundreds of people, from babies to the elderly, have a dangerous level of toxic chemical in their blood stream. PFOA has a half-life of about three years and there is no known way to expel it from the body earlier. The chemical has been linked to cancer, thyroid problems and high cholesterol, among other issues.

This is what Andrew Cuomo has wrought in Hoosick Falls.

The next time you hear him lecture about breast cancer and his consort, Sandra Lee, pointing out the importance of early detection, remember Hoosick Falls and how he and his cronies at the DOH sat on information about contaminated water in the town that will ultimately lead to some people getting cancer at some point down the road - especially the little children.

Iphone Of Cuomo Crony Kaloyeros Scrutinized

Just in case you think SUNY Polytechnic head Alain Kaloyeros, the man Andrew Cuomo tasked with so many economic development projects across upstate, isn't in trouble with the law, there's this news:

ALBANY — Investigators from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office are examining an iPhone belonging to Alain Kaloyeros, the president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, according to people familiar with an ongoing investigation of the school’s contracting practices.

The phone is coming to Schneiderman after state investigators searched an office at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus that was used by Todd Howe and other employees of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, the law firm that had employed him.

The surprise search occurred on May 26, and investigators downloaded files from a computer and listened to Howe’s voicemail. Kaloyeros’ phone was surrendered subsequently, the people said.

An official told POLITICO New York that Howe was the “de facto chief of staff” to Kaloyeros. David Doyle, a spokesman for SUNY Poly, previously said that Howe “provides services in assisting in establishing contacts and partnerships in the private sector and between the private and public sector.”

Schneiderman’s investigation is centered on a dormitory that SUNY Poly was planning to build adjacent to its flagship campus in western Albany. The developer, Columbia Development, began purchasing land several months before the school formally asked for construction proposals. Columbia has said it did “nothing improper.”

Cuomo has said he stands by Kaloyeros and SUNY Poly’s efforts, which have been the cornerstone of the governor’s efforts to revitalize the upstate economy.

Only a matter of time for Howe, Kaloyeros and Percoco.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Cuomo Blames Regents For Problems He Caused

Cuomo's just throwing everybody under the bus these days - this time it's the Board of Regents (following on his former aides, Percoco and Howe, and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros, all of whom are under federal investigation for corruption):

HIGHLAND - Gov. Andrew Cuomo had harsh words Monday for the Board of Regents as the state science tests wrapped up.
Many parents across the state are continuing to refuse to let their children take the Common Core-based tests.
"The problem is the state Education Department, which is the the Board of Regents," said Cuomo, who was in the mid-Hudson for an event at the Walkway Over the Hudson.
"It did a terrible job in implementing Common Core," Cuomo said. "Now, state Education Department people say, 'Well, that's you, governor, you're the state.' Actually, no. I have no role in selecting the Board of Regents," he added, noting that the Regents are elected by the state Assembly. 
Cuomo said the 17-member Board of Regents must "change their perspective and their level of competence." 
"They lost the faith and trust of the parents of this state, and they're going to have to remedy that," said Cuomo. 
"It's not that the parents are irrational. The parents are rational. The system was implemented poorly and it did a lot of harm," he added.

A big part of the reason parents have lost "faith and trust" in the system is because of the education policies Cuomo has pushed - including the draconian education law that made test scores 50% of a teacher's evaluation.

Cuomo likes to make as if he has no power over education, but he's used his budgetary powers numerous times as governor to impose his own desires on the education system, whether it be tying teachers to 50% of their students' test scores or forcing New York City to pick up the tab for charter school rents.

This is just another example of Cuomo causing problems, then trying to pass the blame off elsewhere.

Are the Board of Regents to blame for some of this mess?

Absolutely - the Merryl Tisch Board of Regents certainly was to blame.

Same goes for the David Steiner and John King NYSED.

But Cuomo's got lots of blame for this mess too - and parents around this state know this.

Just witness his polling on education - it's in the toilet, along with the rest of his administration.

Preet Bharara can't cart this criminal out fast enough.

Come on, Preet - when's Preetmas?

Cuomo Administration, Reeling From Federal Probe, Touts "List Of Successes"

Ken Lovett in the Daily News:

Trying to divert attention from a federal probe into his administration, Cuomo's state agencies have been asked to put together lists of their successes that can be touted publicly, sources said.

On top of that, state Operations Director James Malatras has twice convened staff in recent weeks to urge them to keep focus on their work, the insiders said.

"He said that the best way to get out from the cloud over us is to just work hard," said one source. 
"You don't know what's going to happen here and you just can't wait. The tendency when things are going like this is to withdraw. He said you have to do the job and have to work harder now."

A Cuomo aide called it "routine" for agencies to highlight the work they've done and for the director of state operations to meet with staff.

The diversionary tactics may work with the public (as a recent Siena poll suggests), but they will not work with the feds investigating Cuomo's administration.

So, good luck with that list, Jim.

Some of the Cuomo boys can take it with them when they go to prison.

Preet Bharara Aware Of How Close Todd Howe Was To Andrew Cuomo

These past few weeks Governor Andrew Cuomo has been playing the "Corrupt lobbyist under federal investigation who kept showing up at my functions and raising money for me?  I have no idea who that guy is!" game.

According to Fred Dicker of the NY Post, it's not working:

Gov. Cuomo’s renewed effort to distance himself from lobbyist and longtime associate Todd Howe flies in the face of Howe’s continuous role as a member of Cuomo’s “inner circle,” a source close to US Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption probe told The Post.

“From the start, when Cuomo took office, Todd was part of the inner circle of decision makers. He was basically part of the Cuomo administration,” said the source, who has first-hand knowledge of Bharara’s investigation.

“Todd was a coequal to Joe Percoco and Howard Glaser and absolutely seen as the governor’s guy, even though he wasn’t on the state payroll and officially part of the government.

“For Cuomo to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”

Percoco, Cuomo’s once-powerful deputy secretary and one of his closest friends, is being investigated by Bharara over money he received from state contractors while running the governor’s re-election campaign in 2014. Glaser is Cuomo’s former state operations director.

The source said Glaser’s successor, James Malatras, regularly deferred to Howe when it came to decision-making, acting as if Howe “was his superior.”

“Howe has been regularly dispatched by the governor as a handler on many issues over many years,’’ the source said.

I dunno how close this "source close to US Attorney Preet Bharara's corruption probe" really is, but I'm not at all surprised that the feds investigating Howe are aware of the proximity Howe had to the governor and the power he held in the administration.

As we learned last week, Cuomo's current Director of State Operations, Jim Malatras, considered Howe part of the "Cuomo Team," saying so in an email in which Howe and he discussed how to get SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros to act according to Cuomo's wishes.

Howe, though not paid by the state or SUNY, simultaneously had offices in Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign apparatus and at SUNY Polytechnic (was raided two weeks ago as part of the probe.)

The raid of Howe's office was just one part of a much wider investigation into Cuomo's administration.

The public may not be paying much attention to any of this and may think Cuomo is an ethical prince, but you can bet Preet has been paying attention and will not be similarly fooled by any of the governor's jive.

As Fred LeBrun wrote in Yesterday's Times Union:

The governor is dancing as fast as he can to deflect attention from himself over the broadening scandal engulfing his administration, eventually reality will catch up. He can pretend the federal investigation is really only focused on "a couple of people" who were once very close to him but now he barely knows, and everything else is fine. But in all likelihood that is not the way it's going to play out.

No state administration in living memory has been embroiled more deeply in a federal investigation of how it does business than Andrew Cuomo's. That, in spite of the fact that Cuomo is a lawyer, and there appear to be far more lawyers per capita in the political state workforce now than ever before.

Let's repeat: No state administration in living memory has been embroiled more deeply in a federal investigation of how it does business than Andrew Cuomo's.

Again, nothing Cuomo says to the cameras will make that reality go way and eventually, when the indictments come down (and they will - Cuomo's men Todd Howe, Joe Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros are as good as done), the public that thinks he's an ethical prince now (see link above) will learn the truth of Andrew Cuomo and how he operates.