Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Quid Pro Cuomo's Fundraising Track Record: Collect Cash, Dish Out Favors, Contracts And Legislation

Bill Mahoney at Politico NY anticipates Governor Cuomo's release of his last six months of fundraising with an analysis of last year's haul:

POLITICO New York examined each of the 454 checks Cuomo collected in last year’s July filing period. More than 90 percent of his money, or $4.5 million of the $5 million he raised, came from advocates for legislation or donors with business directly before the state.
This includes $268,250 from registered lobbyists and the firms for which they work. Clients for these lobbyists accounted for an additional $2 million, and companies that were identified as recipients of executive branch contracts by the comptroller’s Open Book New York site gave $393,500. The rest of the money primarily came from appointees to various state posts, companies that received contracts from authorities or individuals who were the principal funders of lobbying campaigns.

Mahoney shows how Cuomo collected the money at roughly the same time he was doling out favors, contracts or legislation in return.

For example:

The Cleveland-based NRP group was one of two companies involved in an affordable housing development in Corning. On May 12, the governor announced a $4.7 million state grant for the development. On May 13, the developer gave $25,000 to the governor. (In Cuomo’s first term, that company loaned the governor a private jet for campaign purposes and it received $3.3 million to construct housing in Ballston). 

Or this:

New York State Homes and Community Renewal joined MacQuestern Development to break ground on a Mount Vernon project on March 27; the company and its executives gave Cuomo $30,000 over the succeeding five days and an additional $30,000 in July.

Or this:

An executive at Triangle Equities, to whom the Cuomo administration proposed giving $16.5 million in subsidies for work in Staten Island, gave $25,000. And as the Times Union previously reported, Steven Aaron — whose LLCs gave the governor $25,000 during this six-month stretch and much more in prior years — received millions from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal for work in Schoharie after Cuomo-appointed commissioner Darryl Towns “bypassed competing projects that had higher recommendations from his staff.” 

There's a lot more - read the whole piece.

Some of the contributions Mahoney details are ones we've heard about before - like the $250K Cuomo took from multiple LLC's linked to a Kiryas Joel developer at the same time he was vetoing legislation the developer wanted vetoed or the education reformer/hedge fundie money he was taking at the same time he was pushing through "reforms" to the system.

The governor says he is not swayed by any of these donations in the least.

But the message here is pretty clear here.

If you want the governor to do something for you, pay him. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Congress Probes Cuomo Adminstration's Handling Of Hoosick Falls Water Crisis

This is very, very good news:

ALBANY — A congressional oversight committee has requested documents from the Cuomo administration and the federal Environmental Protection Agency related to toxic chemical pollution in Hoosick Falls.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeking all of the administration’s documents and communications related to Hoosick Falls and PFOA.
In the letter, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who chairs the oversight committee, and Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Interior, questioned why state and county officials improperly assured local residents that their water was safe, when federal regulators warned of the health risks.
“It raises serious questions that the county and state would continue to assure residents the water was safe to drink even though the federal government had already warned residents to the contrary,” he wrote. “The Committee is seeking information as to why the state and county delayed in acknowledging the health risks of PFOA exposure in Hoosick Falls and continued to provide the public with false and confusing information.”

Cuomo has done his best to stonewall questions into his administration's handling of this health crisis by having his cronies in both the state Assembly and state Senate put the kibbosh on public hearings into the mess.

That stonewall began to crumble when Senators Schumer and Gillibrand both called for hearings (and Gillibrand is holding a forum in Hoosick Falls tomorrow), then crumble further when Assembly Dems put hearings on the schedule for September.

With Congress now probing Cuomo's handling of the matter, there is a high likelihood we will get some light shed on this crisis, who knew what when, who took action to help with the contamination and who took action to keep the lid on it.

That is a good thing.

As Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin put it today:

The probe does not say there will be hearings, but bet that if the Cuomo administration's handling of this crisis turns out to be as egregious as it appears from the outside, there will be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

John Flanagan Rakes In $150K In Outside Income Despite Claims To The Contrary

Go get him, Preet:

ALBANY — Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan earned up to $150,000 last year from a Long Island law firm despite claims that he was giving up his outside legal work, according to documents made public Tuesday.

Flanagan's 2015 financial disclosure statement showed that he earned between $100,000 and $150,000 from Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana in Uniondale — the same amount he reported earning in 2014.

After he became majority leader in May of 2015, Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) told reporters that he’d stopped working for the firm to fully concentrate on his legislative job.

Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif insisted that Flanagan has not done any “active legal work” since becoming majority leader.

Must be nice to do "no active work" and still make an extra $150K a year.

According to the DN, Flanagan's disclosure claimed:

that he did not provide “direct services” to clients in 2015. Instead he provided “indirect services to the law firm in the areas of corporate trusts, tax certiorari, wills and estate, land use and planning.”

I bet if somebody with subpoena power were so inclined, he/she could look to see just how much "indirect service" Flanagan provided for the $150K.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cuomo Closely Tied To Politico Indicted For Bribery/Extortion

Fred Dicker reported Governor Cuomo's close ties to indicted Western New York power broker Steven Pigeon in yesterday's New York Post, noting that Pigeon was so tied to Cuomo last election cycle that the governor had him attending both election strategy and policy meetings:

Cuomo was so close to Pigeon — charged last week with nine felonies in connection with the alleged bribing of a state Supreme Court justice — that he gave him a key role in his 2014 re-election campaign despite objections from more important political aides like Joseph Percoco and Larry Schwartz, who considered him “untrustworthy and a little sleazy,’’ a source close to the campaign told The Post.

Cuomo directed Percoco, the focus of an ongoing probe by corruption-fighting US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Schwartz, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, and a handful of other trusted aides to allow Pigeon to attend key strategy meetings at the campaign headquarters from which virtually all other political operatives were excluded, said the campaign source.
“They objected, but the governor forced Pigeon on them,’’ according to the source. “At first Pigeon started to just show up at campaign strategy meetings, even though no one knew who had invited him to come.
“But it turned out that it was the governor who invited him to be there because the governor had come to believe that Pigeon was some kind of a political genius,’’ said the source.

Cuomo sought re-election obsessed with racking up a big vote in Buffalo and Erie County, Pigeon’s bailiwick, which he had lost four years earlier to Republican Carl Paladino, the source said.
Pigeon, the longtime Erie County Democratic chairman, “was the guy who Andrew was taking counsel from as to how to win in Buffalo this time around, but he was also taking his counsel on broader statewide issues,’’ the source said.

A second source said Cuomo was so close to Pigeon that in 2010, Gov. David Paterson refused to allow then-Attorney General Cuomo to name a special prosecutor to investigate election-related corruption charges being made against Pigeon — because he felt Cuomo “couldn’t be trusted to authorize a fair probe.’’

“Everyone knew at that time how close Cuomo was to Pigeon,’’ said the source.

Dicker writes that Cuomo was partly behind the 2009 Senate coup by turncoat Dems that Pigeon helped engineer, with Cuomo and Pigeon in close communication as the coup unfolded and control of the state Senate went to Republicans after turncoat Dems like Pedro Espada and Hiram Montserrate threw their lots in with Republicans (both men ended up in prison for corruption charges unrelated to the state Senate coup.)

Just as Cuomo has tried to distance himself from his former aide and lobbyist pal, Todd Howe (now squarely in the sights of federal prosecutors for corruption), Cuomo wants to distance himself from the now-indicted Steve Pigeon and make believe like he barely knows him.

But the record, when fully examined, shows Cuomo was as close as could be with both Pigeon and Howe (see here how Howe kept showing up at Cuomo functions and/or raising money for the governor simultaneous to the time Cuomo claims not to know what Howe was doing.)

Same goes for Pigeon - see the Buffalo News piece on Pigeon from 2013 as well as yesterday's Dicker piece.

You can bet if investigators look real close at the Cuomo relationships with his corrupt associates - Pigeon, Howe, former aide Joe Percoco, SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros - they will find some interesting things, some of which may turn out to be criminal.

Whether they go that far, well, that's hard to say.

But Preet Bharara has warned executive branches in the state that malfeasance in the executive will be rooted out.

So Cuomo shouldn't get to comfortable thinking all he's got to do to keep himself from scrutiny is just keep repeated "I don't know these people, I don't know these people..."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Cuomo Crony Scene Right Out Of Goodfellas

The NY Post says this scene is right out of The Sopranos, but I see Goodfellas as the better comparison:

ALBANY — Like a scene from “The Sopranos,” a political operative busted by the state Attorney General’s Office held secret meetings at his elderly mother’s house and had a campaign worker paid with grocery bags stuffed with cash, a former upstate prosecutor told The Post.

Steve Pigeon — a Buffalo-area Democrat — had a waterfront condo but the neighborhood was also home to a number of judges, so he conducted his shady business at his mom’s, according to former Erie County prosecutor Mark Sacha.

“It was like ‘The Sopranos.’ They wanted to hire this phone-bank guy to make calls for a candidate,” Sacha recalled.

“So, they go to his elderly mother’s house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in the middle of the night. This is where they agree to hire the phone-bank guy for $20,000, but the campaign account is drained so they arrange to deliver cash in grocery bags,” said Sacha, a former assistant DA who investigated Pigeon three years ago and who is now running for district attorney.


Twice, the operative was paid $10,000 stuffed in Tops Supermarket grocery bags, Sacha said.
“I’ll never forget this phone-bank guy telling me about meeting the donor [a Pigeon crony] having this ‘hoochie coochie’ girl with him,” Sacha said.

“I see no difference between these guys and organized crime, except these guys are corrupting elections,” Sacha said. 

Sources say Pigeon helped Cuomo navigate politics in Western New York and backed the governor’s unsuccessful first bid for the seat he now holds.
Through a spokesman, Cuomo denied Pigeon is a close ally.

Reminds me a little of this scene in Goodfellas where the boys make a late night trip to Tommy's mother's house (sans the not-quite dead Billy Bats, of course):

Friday, July 1, 2016

Buffalo Schools General Counsel Linked To Pigeon Bribery/Extortion Case

New details on the Steven Pigeon/John Michalek corruption case, with an education angle:

A new element from Michalek and Pigeon’s relationship emerged in court over the last two days – an extortion charge against Pigeon.

One of the favors Pigeon allegedly asked from Michalek was for the judge to appoint a young local attorney as a receiver. Appointment of a receiver to temporarily manage a business, property or other entity involved in a foreclosure action or some other litigation can be lucrative for an attorney, according to legal experts.

“Depending on the length and complexity of the litigation, a receivership can earn an attorney anywhere from a few thousand dollars to six figures,” one knowledgeable Buffalo attorney told The Buffalo News.

Michalek admitted in court that, in 2012, Pigeon asked him to appoint a local lawyer as a receiver in a case Michalek was handling. The attorney was a recent law school graduate and had not yet been approved by the state courts as a qualified receiver. Nonetheless, Michalek gave him the assignment.
“We pushed it through anyway … have to give them a spec reason etc. … will figure it out … John,” Michalek emailed to Pigeon in May 2012.

Later, according to state prosecutors, Pigeon pressured this receiver to hire some of Pigeon’s “cronies” to do some work on a property the receiver was overseeing. The receiver refused to hire the “cronies,” and Pigeon retaliated by taking $5,000 from the receiver by “extortion,” according to court papers.

That receiver was Edward A. Betz, a former Pigeon associate who is now general counsel for the Buffalo Public Schools.

While declining to talk in any detail about the receivership or the alleged extortion, Betz told The News: “My only involvement in this matter is that I was asked to violate my ethical responsibilities as a receiver, and I steadfastly refused to do that.”

While Betz confirmed that he was the attorney appointed to the receivership, he declined to address any further questions about the Pigeon case. Sources said he has cooperated with the state attorney general’s investigation.

Here's a fun question to ask: How did Betz get the Buffalo schools gig?

Here's how:

It was several months in the making, but it’s official: Rashondra M. Martin is out as general counsel for Buffalo Public Schools.

Edward A. Betz is in.

After a closed-door session lasting about an hour and a half Wednesday evening, the Buffalo Board of Education took only a matter of minutes to fire Martin and appoint Betz, who was recommended by Superintendent Kriner Cash.

The two separate resolutions were supported by board majority members Jason McCarthy, Carl P. Paladino, Patricia Pierce, Larry Quinn and Board President James Sampson. The actions were opposed by the other board members who were present – Sharon Belton-Cottman, MaryRuth Kapsiak and Barbara Seals Nevergold. Theresa Harris-Tigg was absent.

In the end, Martin, who was hired by then-Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, was fired effective immediately and Cash was given the green light to negotiate a contract with Betz to take over the position at an annual salary of $160,000, which is $33,000 more than Martin was making.

Prior to voting, Belton-Cottman, Kapsiak and Seals Nevergold said the termination seemed like “punitive action” against Martin, who had filed a civil rights complaint against Paladino with the state Division of Human Rights. It was filed after a February 2015 board meeting in which Martin was asked to give advice on a key matter of parliamentary procedure. Her response frustrated members of the board majority, including Paladino, who asked Martin, “How can you be so ignorant?”

Terminating Martin was not an act of retaliation, argued some of the majority members of the board, but rather an issue of incompetence.

Paladino said Martin failed to disclose pertinent and time-sensitive information to the superintendent and the board, and she has failed to cooperate with Cash.

Members of the minority bloc said hiring Betz gave the perception of favoritism because Betz has no experience in school board law or as a district counsel, and he will be paid more than Martin was. They also pointed out that Betz was Quinn’s campaign manager when he won his School Board seat last year, and represented McCarthy in a matter that went before the state Education Department.
Members of the majority bloc and Cash countered that Betz is a former assistant corporation counsel for the City of Buffalo, a former general counsel for the Erie County Water Authority, has extensive knowledge of state Civil Service Law and the Taylor Law and experience in public employee relations matters. 

I'm sure Betz's "extensive knowledge of state Civil Service Law and the Taylor Law and experience in public employee relations matters" was why Betz got the general counsel gig.

I mean, three and a half years out of law school is a lot of time, you know?

Here's one commenter on the Betz hire:

There is no doubt that Martin was incompetent and needed to go. However, what happened to hiring QUALIFIED candidates? This is yet another disappointing hire by the superintendent. He continues to hire every political hack that Quinn and Paladino send his way. (For the record, I supported Quinn and Paladino until they continued the nepotism that they vowed to correct.)

I challenge the Buffalo News and the Board of Ed to pull the resumes of the attorneys who applied for this job and then tell me that Betz, a lawyer with NO education law experience, is the man for the job. Moreover, look into HIS resume and I think you will find that his qualifications, as noted in this article, are inaccurate. It is clear that qualifications didn't come into play, as it was common knowledge that Betz had the job before it was even posted. I did a little research and Betz isn't some prize lawyer, every job he has had was given to him as a favor. Take this one for example:

As for the salary, while Martin clearly ended up not being the person for the job, she was more qualified and paid much less. Explain how that works?
Follow the link above and you'll find this:

Edward A. Betz, an attorney who has been active in Democratic political campaigns, was promoted last month on a temporary basis to serve as associate attorney at a salary of $117,877. Betz previously worked in the Law Department at Buffalo City Hall and has managed local political campaigns.

Pigeon only extorted $5000 from Betz?

Hell, the number of sweetheart gigs Betz was getting from his connections, he could have hit him up for so much more.

What a sewer New York is.