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..."