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."
Hard to overestimate this story in NY politics: Joe Percoco, Cuomo's longtime top aide, will face bribery charges: https://t.co/P2NC4MA7j8— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) September 22, 2016
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.