Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, September 23, 2016

Andrew Cuomo Is Either Corrupt Or Incompetent

That's Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin reacting to the various criminal charges levied against nine individuals with connections to Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, including Cuomo's former top aide and all-around fixer, Joseph Percoco.

When you look closely at the criminal complaint unsealed yesterday, you notice that McLaughlin has an excellent point.

Percoco started soliciting bribes and favors even before his boss, Andrew, was elected governor and Cuomo himself was never far from the action, as this NY Times account makes clear:

Though rarely mentioned in the federal complaint, Mr. Cuomo hovers in the background of the narrative of his former aides’ misdeeds — and some of the more embarrassing revelations. Proximity to the governor and the executive chamber were the currency in which both Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco traded, often by invoking Mr. Cuomo’s name or exploiting his presence.

In October 2010, for example, as Mr. Cuomo was running for governor, Peter Galbraith Kelly, Jr., chief lobbyist for a power company that was seeking state assistance for its plant in the Hudson Valley, arranged for the company to donate a private jet to fly Mr. Cuomo and his staff to campaign events, the complaint says. It was all part of Mr. Kelly’s bid to ingratiate himself with Mr. Percoco, according to the complaint, as it became increasingly apparent that Mr. Cuomo would be elected.

At various points, the complaint says, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco referred to generous donors and clients of Mr. Howe’s as “friends,” short for “friends of the governor” — people who, it seemed, could expect special treatment from the governor’s inner circle. In March 2015, according to the complaint, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco set up a meeting for Mr. Kelly with the governor’s secretary, a central figure in the executive chamber.

“As Joe told you, Braith is ‘family,’” Mr. Howe wrote to the secretary, referring to Mr. Kelly’s nickname, the complaint says.

In early 2014, Steven Aiello, president of the Syracuse-area developer COR Development Company, another “friend” and major donor to Mr. Cuomo, was scheduled to meet with Mr. Percoco at the governor’s office in Midtown Manhattan, according to the complaint. Mr. Howe emailed Mr. Percoco, employing an affectionate nickname the two men often used for each other, “Herb,” and dropping in a “Sopranos” reference to ziti as a slang for money: “Lay it on thick, govs loves you … Lay it on heAvy Herbie! Zitti herb! Zitti!!”

Thus prompted, the complaint continues, Mr. Percoco replied that he might have Mr. Cuomo drop by the meeting to say hello. Mr. Howe told investigators that Mr. Percoco did this so he could pressure Mr. Aiello later for more bribes.

The governor’s name came up again in September 2015, according to the complaint, when Mr. Aiello complained to Mr. Howe that he had not been invited to attend Mr. Cuomo’s events during a planned trip to Syracuse. After Mr. Percoco intervened, Mr. Aiello was asked to give the governor a tour of a new hotel he was building in the city.

The coziness depicted in the complaint makes it difficult for some to believe that Mr. Cuomo did not know something was amiss.

“It’s unrealistic with an adviser that was this close to the governor, that the governor doesn’t know what was going on,” said Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for Reclaim New York, a good-government group. Or, if Mr. Cuomo truly did not know, Mr. Kellogg added, “It’s a sign that he’s not minding the store.”

The line out today from Cuomo shills is that Cuomo was clean while he was betrayed by his friends, associates and donors in these matters, but he will now use these betrayals as impetus to push for a cleaner Albany.

But that line is horseshit.

Either Cuomo knew part or all of what was going on under his nose and chose to look the other way (how about those "free" private jet flights back in October 2010, Andy?) or he didn't know and was a) a terrible judge of the character of the people around him and b) incompetent in his stewardship of his administration and its signature economic initiatives (which appear to have been run more to line the pockets of his friends, associates and donors than actually provide any economic development.)

Given Cuomo's reputation as a micromanager with his fingers on everything going on around him, it's difficult to believe Cuomo didn't have some inkling of the games Percoco, Howe, Kaloyeros, et al. were playing and the money and favors that were rolling their way.

Yesterday U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was asked if the governor was in any trouble for any of this and he replied with a statement that basically said "No - not yet, at any rate":

“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”

That's not exactly a clean bill of health for the governor from the U.S. attorney and while multiple outlets have run stories today with the headline that Cuomo's skating on criminal charges while many around him are not, there remains the possibility that one or more of those guys arrested yesterday decides to tell tales on the governor and give a blueprint for where all the bodies are buried in the Cuomo administration.

Even if that doesn't happen, Cuomo ought to be finished politically, as it's quite clear that his "effective" and "ethical" stewardship of the state government is neither of those things.

But as is always the case with Cuomo, he's searching for ways to survive and thrive - thus an appearance in Buffalo today and the line out of his shills about how Cuomo will use these arrests as motivation to clean up state government.

He cannot be allowed to get away with that nonsense.

Andrew Cuomo was either complicit in the corruption in his administration or he was ignorant of it, in which case he is an incompetent fool.

The only way the cesspool that is Albany gets even a bit cleaner from all the corruption is when Andrew Cuomo is finally shown the door and kicked out of office and power.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Preetmas Eve

Various outlets on the Cuomo corruption story today - first the NY Times:

Federal corruption charges were announced on Thursday against two former close aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a senior state official and six other people, in a devastating blow to the governor’s innermost circle and a repudiation of how his prized upstate economic development programs were managed.

The charges against the former aides, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, and the state official, Alain Kaloyeros, were the culmination of a long-running federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s attempts to lure jobs and businesses to upstate New York’s limping economy by furnishing billions of dollars in state funds to developers from Buffalo to Albany. Mr. Howe is cooperating with the investigation, according to a 79-page criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday.

The charges stemmed from “two overlapping criminal schemes involving bribery, corruption and fraud in the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts and other official state benefits,” federal prosecutors said in the complaint.

Politico NY:

ALBANY— Alain Kaloyeros, the now former CEO of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, has been charged with three felony counts in connection to an alleged bid-rigging scheme, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday.

The complaint against Kaloyeros, 60, alleges he steered, or agreed to steer, the awarding of contracts to favorable companies, including Columbia Development, a real estate firm with extensive ties to the Capital Region.
The complaint alleges Kaloyeros improperly used the Request for Proposal process to direct contracts to certain firms for the construction of facilities for SUNY Poly. 
“A year-long investigation by my office found that Alain Kaloyeros allegedly used his perch atop SUNY Polytechnic [and] engaged in brazen bid-rigging, using taxpayer dollars and abusing his power to enrich himself and his cronies,” Schneiderman said at a press conference in Manhattan. “According to our criminal complaint, Kaloyeros gave insider information to friends and fixed the bidding process to ensure his cronies lucrative contracts, funded in part by the state of New York.
Kaloyeros, who is expected to be arraigned in Albany City Court on Friday, has been charged with three felony counts of Combination in Restraint of Trade and Competition. Joseph Nicolla, the head of Columbia Development, has been charged with one felony count of of Combination in Restraint of Trade and Competition and is expected to be arraigned on Monday.

Bharara was asked if Cuomo himself has any involvement in the case by a reporter who noted that he had once issued a statement absolving the governor of wrongdoing in connection with the early demise of the corruption-busting Moreland Commission. His reply:
“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”
When pressed on whether it’s “realistic” to believe that the governor, who has a reputation of being something of a micromanager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara said simply: “It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”

Bharara also said that this investigation, “as a general matter,” remains open.

Politically there's going to be some serious fallout for Cuomo and he's never going to want Sandra Lee to make "ziti" every again, but he appears to be skating on criminal charges, at least for now.

Whether that changes as a result of any of the fellows charged today dishing dirt on him, we'll just have to wait and see.

In any case Happy Preetmas Eve everybody.

Next up in the NY Corruption Season - Bill de Blasio and those donors.

Former Cuomo Aide Joe Percoco, Others To Face Corruption Charges Related To Andrew Cuomo's Economic Development Projects


Federal authorities plan to unseal charges against a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as early as Thursday in connection with an alleged bribery and kickback scheme involving the governor’s signature economic-development program, according to people familiar with the matter.
In addition to the former aide, Joseph Percoco, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan intends to bring public-corruption charges against a number of other individuals in connection with the wide-ranging investigation, these people said.

The precise nature of the charges against Mr. Percoco, who for decades was one of Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides and closest friends, wasn’t immediately clear.

For months, Mr. Percoco has been at the center of a probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office concerning allegations of bribery and kickbacks in connection with an economic-development program known as the Buffalo Billion, which Mr. Cuomo has lauded as having revived the sleepy upstate economy.

Since the investigation became public in April, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has distanced himself from Mr. Percoco and ordered an internal review of the Buffalo Billion program. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

And the fallout for Cuomo:

The probe and expected charges represent the most significant political crisis Mr. Cuomo has faced since he took office in 2011, in part because they are linked to some of his signature programs and major donors, but also because of the alleged involvement of Mr. Percoco in particular.

For years, Mr. Percoco has been one of the governor’s most trusted allies, an individual so tight with the Cuomo family that the governor once described him as “my father’s third son, who sometimes I think he loved the most.”

If anybody knows where some of the Andrew Cuomo administration bodies are buried, it would be Joe Percoco, Mario's "third son."

Some reaction:

Who else will be indicted?

Perhaps Percoco's wife, who also was being investigated for funky payments from one of the companies involved.

SUNY Poly's Alain Kaloyeros was getting looked at as well as part of the investigation, but whether he's part of today's show is uncertain.

I suspect if Kaloyeros were going to go down today, he'd have been part of the leak.

Definitely Todd Howe, who has been cooperating with the feds in the matter, to be charged - the NY Times reports half a dozen people are going to be charged today in all.

As for Andrew Cuomo, the damage to his administration will be big, though probably not fatal.

This is Cuomo's signature economic development program that Percoco and Company were using as their personal cash box and Cuomo, Mr. Accountability himself, had no idea (or so he says) this was going on.

At the very least, the political damage is that Cuomo was not paying attention as those closest to him (Percoco and former Cuomo aide/now cooperating with the feds lobbyist Todd Howe) were engaging in bribery/kickback schemes and other shenanigans.

The NY Times described the fallout for Cuomo as

a devastating blow to the governor’s innermost circle and a repudiation of how his prized upstate economic development programs were managed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

There remains the possibility that Percoco can be squeezed for what he knows about Cuomo and all those donors (the pattern has been: Donate to Cuomo, Get Contract/Favor in return), though I suspect if that were going to happen, there might already be indication of that in a leak.

In any case, going to be a fun day if you've been waiting for the Cuomo economic development project bribery/kickback/corruption investigation season to finally kick off.

One final point: with Bharara finally making a move on Percoco, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get some action on one or more of the various de Blasio corruption probes in the very near future.