Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, October 10, 2016

Odds On De Blasio's Re-Election

Telling statement from Hakeem Jeffries, charter school shill and oft-rumored Cuomo fave for running against de Blasio in a Democratic primary for mayor, in this Wall Street Journal piece on de Blasio's chances for re-election:

“Short of the investigations showing anything happening to Bill de Blasio, it’s not clear to me that he has anything to be concerned about with respect to his re-election,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat who represents portions of Brooklyn and Queens. “It’s always difficult to unseat an incumbent when the economy and public safety numbers are not subject to heavy criticism.”

Sounds like Jeffries is going to stay in Congress, doesn't it?

Unless those investigations into de Blasio turn up something, of course - but no one seems to know what's going on with any of this:

Here's how the WSJ reports on potential challengers to de Blasio:

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat, has privately told consultants and others that whether anyone is indicted has significant sway over whether he runs, people familiar with those discussions said. Mr. Stringer has said he wants to be ready to announce by the end of the year, but isn’t committed and is less likely to run if no one is charged, they said.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., another Democrat, also has expressed an interest in running but remains unsure if Mr. de Blasio is beatable, a person familiar with the matter said, and believes his chance at being competitive hinges in part on the investigations.

Mr. Jeffries said he is unlikely to run but would make a decision after November. Real-estate executive Paul Massey has said he would seek the Republican mayoral nomination, but it is unclear how formidable a GOP contender would be next year.

Diaz Jr has been investigated in the past by the feds and comes from a family with a history of corruption, so I remain skeptical that's the guy who gets to run successfully against de Blasio on the morals/ethics issue.

As for Massey, a real estate exec running for mayor of NYC? 

Good luck with that.

My thinking on that is, you want to be from a different industry with real estate money backing you to win (you know, like de Blasio...) 

If Jeffries doesn't run (and it sure sounds like he isn't), then only with Stringer do you have a realistic challenger to de Blasio, but until/unless we get more on the investigations in the next few months, Stringer's going to have to sit on his ambition and wait.

Post Cuomo administration indictments, I'm not convinced indictments of de Blasio staff and/or donors will be a fatal shiv for his re-election.

An indictment of the mayor himself would be.

Like everyone else, we'll just have to wait and see.

As a little tea leaf reading, a couple of weeks ago Preet made a de Blasio joke at a public function:

It seems that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s recent slapping of federal charges on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s closest associates in an alleged bid-rigging scheme has emboldened him to take jabs at just about everyone—right up to Mayor Bill de Blasio and his infamous affinity for traveling all the way to his old neighborhood of Park Slope to exercise at the YMCA during working hours.

Bharara was honored as “Newsmaker of the Decade” by City & State and served as keynote speaker at its 10th anniversary gala tonight at Vermilion Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.

The federal prosecutor didn’t reference the case against Cuomo’s top lieutenants, but instead poked fun at another target of his recent investigations: de Blasio, who faces federal probes into his police department and defunct political nonprofits.

Bharara tweaked the mayor’s fondness for traveling 12 miles from his Gracie Mansion home to the Park Slope YMCA—a subject he hates to talk about—and his preference for eating pizza with utensils—known jokingly as “Forkgate.” He praised City & State for choosing Vermilion Restaurant as a venue, saying that he understood it to be “Indian fusion” which resonated well with him because “I’m kind of Indian fusion myself”—but he said de Blasio would prefer the gym if it were an event for him.

“If it had been Mayor de Blasio, we’d all be eating at the Park Slope YMCA,” Bharara said, as attendees shouted “Ooh!” and laughed raucously, “and we’d eat pizza with a knife and fork. It’s just jokes.”

Would Bharara be making Park Slope and pizza jokes about de Blasio if he were going to arrest him on corruption charges in the near future?

Seems weird, but maybe I'm overthinking it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cuomo Helped Christie Cover Up Bridgegate By Conspiring To Issue A "False Report" For The Bridge Closures (UPDATED)

Bombshell testimony from government witness and former Christie ally David Wildstein today in the Bridgegate trial:

David Wildstein, a former top Port Authority official turned star witness in the Bridgegate trial, suggested in Tuesday testimony that Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issuing false report on the nightmarish lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013, according to reports.

Multiple outlets reported that Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the lane closures, heard there were conversations between the two governors within a month after the incident and they agreed that Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye would approve a false report that blamed the closures on a communication breakdown and push blame onto the New Jersey side of the bi-state agency.

Such a report never was issued, though it was reported Tuesday that it was used for testimony before a legislative committee by former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately comment.

More details from the Daily News:

Gov. Cuomo directed the head of the Port Authority to "lay off" of an inquiry into the Bridgegate scandal until after the 2013 election following conversations with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, a former PA official testified Tuesday.

David Wildstein, who has already pleaded guilty for his role in the September 2013 gridlock, said he had heard there had been "conversations" between the two governors after the Port Authority's executive director, Pat Foye, vowed to get to the bottom of the lane closures from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge.

Cuomo and Christie had agreed in October 2013 that Foye would sign off on a bogus report on the closures in which the Port Authority would admit a communication breakdown resulted in Fort Lee being caught by surprise by an agency traffic study, Wildstein said.
Wildstein recalled saying it would be a "heavy lift" to get Foye to approve the report, but that he believed it could be done thanks to Cuomo.

"My understanding was Gov. Christie and Gov. Cuomo had discussed this, if the New Jersey side (of the PA) accepted responsibility, Foye would sign off on this and that would put an end to this issue," Wildstein said.

 This report would be issued, there would be an explanation to the public, the Port Authority would take responsibility for the failure in communication ... and the question of lane closures would go away."

Under cross examination by Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley, Wildstein agreed that Cuomo's order that Foye "stand down" and "lay off" was only in effect to Election Day in November 2013.

The day after the election, Wildstein said he was contacted by a reporter who identified him as the architect of the Bridgegate plan.

Wildstein told the court today that he believed Foye was behind that leak to the reporter.

Cuomo so far has not commented on this allegation, but if it's true, then Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, helped Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, to cover up the closure of the George Washington Bridge by knowingly sanctioning a false report about the reason for the closures.

Why would Cuomo do this?

Well, he was running for re-election next year, Christie was head of the Republican Governors Association, so by helping Christie out when he was running for re-election, Cuomo could expect to get help back from Christie in return when he was running the next year.

And that's exactly what happened - Christie mocked the Republican candidate for governor (Rob Astorino), withheld money and resources from the campaign and basically did all he could to help Cuomo win re-election.

At the time, many of us suspected that Cuomo and Christie had a non-aggression pact despite being in different parties.

We now have what appears to be definitive proof of that.

So, would be great to hear what Cuomo's excuse for helping Christie cover up Bridgegate would be, but the governor is whereabouts unknown and apparently his flying attack monkeys haven't come up with a good excuse yet to go public with.

We'll see how long we have to wait until they finally conjure up some bullshit excuse for Cuomo's helping Christie cover up Bridgegate.

UPDATE 2:15 PM: Didn't have to wait long:

Same old song - Deny, Deny, Deny.

Cuomo's on the witness list for the trial, so there's an outside chance he could be called to testify and put under oath where this kind of denial becomes perjury if proven false.

But best bet here is, he won't be called to testify, the NY legislature will do nothing about these allegations, Democratic and Republican politicians around the state will continue to defend/enable him  and he'll get away with his crimes, as he has since 2010.

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.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cuomo Approaches Teacher Evaluations With Same Illiteracy He Uses For His Economic Development Programs

It's been quite the couple of weeks for Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo, who likes to spend his days finding new ways to torture Bill de Blasio, found himself on the end of some of his own torture in the form of state and federal audits of some of his signature economic development programs as well as a legislative hearing that laid bare the failures of another one of his signature economic development programs.

First came state audits conducted by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli which were critical of Cuomo's economic development program compliance and accountability mechanisms:

The governor escalated yet another feud with yet another fellow Democrat after an unrelated press conference in the Bronx this afternoon. Responding to a series of unflattering summertime analyses of his signature programs, Cuomo bashed DiNapoli’s two-decade tenure representing parts of Nassau County in the Assembly and argued that history discredited the comptroller’s assessments.

The governor did not specifically attack any particular proposals the comptroller voted on in Albany but insisted the Assembly had been “part of the problem” and had “basically abandoned upstate New York.”

Cuomo’s slap at DiNapoli was a reaction to the comptroller’s findings earlier this month that the New York Power Authority, which was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates under the governor’s Recharge NY program, had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility. This meant noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public-private venture, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli found that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

Cuomo claimed DiNapoli's audits were not quantifiable but were instead "opinions":

“What you’re getting in an audit is that person’s opinion, right?” the governor said. “Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree, because it is only an opinion.”

Except that the state audits weren't "opinions":

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were, in fact, based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established. A DiNapoli spokeswoman refused to respond to the governor’s personal attacks.

“The reports completed by our professional auditors speak loudly for themselves,” said Jennifer Freedman, communications director for the comptroller.

Nice work by the governor there to take an audit based on numbers and hard data from Cuomo-controlled entities like NYPA and ESDC and turn them into "opinions", eh?

Later on, Cuomo tried a diversionary tactic to defend against the state audit findings:

Facing numerous analyses showing his signature jobs programs misallocated resources and put few New Yorkers to work, Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued today that any such assessments are only a matter of political point of view.

Speaking after an unrelated event in the Bronx, the governor defended his attacks last week on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who released unflattering audits of two Cuomo programs this summer. The governor again insisted that those findings were just DiNapoli’s opinions, opinions which are open to debate given the comptroller’s history as an assemblyman from Long Island.
“I said these are matters where people give their opinion. I have certain opinions that are my opinions. I believe in marriage equality, right? I believe in $15 as a minimum wage. You could not believe—there are assemblymen who don’t agree with me, there are senators who don’t agree with me on the minimum wage. And if they write a report, they’re going to say my minimum wage idea was a bad idea, because they disagree with it. And that’s fine—that’s democracy. And assemblymen take positions during the course of their tenure. And some people support minimum wage, some people don’t support minimum wage. Some people don’t support economic development. There are people in the Assembly who say there is no economic development possible, leave it to the private sector. So you get opinions,” the governor said. “It’s a matter of opinion on many of these issues, and there’s no right or wrong. That’s why we have elections; that’s why we have debates. Donald Trump thinks one thing. Hillary Clinton thinks another thing.”

How any of this commentary was relevant to the Observer’s specific question about DiNapoli, a well-known liberal Democrat, is unclear. The audits the comptroller’s office produced had nothing to do with gay marriage or with the state’s new pay floors, but with Cuomo’s Recharge NY and Excelsior programs.

Of course none of that nonsense Cuomo spewed about the minimum wage or gay marriage had anything to do with the questions about the state audits and Cuomo's lame defense that they were "opinions."

Rather this nonsense was pure diversionary tactic - "Hey, look over there!  Gay marriage! Minimum wage hike!  Whee!  Yayy Cuomo!" - not a reasoned defense of his economic development programs to the scathing audit findings.

And again, as Will Bredderman at the Observer shows, DiNapoli's audits were anything but opinion:

Recharge NY, run through the Cuomo-controlled New York Power Authority, was supposed to dispense power to struggling nonprofits and entrepreneurs at discounted rates. But DiNapoli’s auditors found NYPA had made numerous errors when assessing applicants’ eligibility—meaning noncompliant entities got cheap electricity from the state anyway, while groups that qualified for the program were barred from participating.

The governor appoints the power authority’s entire board.

That audit followed the comptroller’s July takedown of the Excelsior jobs program, run through the Empire State Development Corporation, another Cuomo-controlled public private entity, and its Excelsior jobs program. DiNapoli discovered that the development corporation had repeatedly handed out large tax breaks to companies without obtaining the necessary documentation to corroborate their eligibility or productivity.

The comptroller’s audits of Recharge NY and the Excelsior program were based on numbers and hard data his office obtained from the NYPA and ESDC, from the businesses they worked with, and on eligibility requirements Cuomo’s own initiatives established.

But hey, what's some hard data and numbers taken from Cuomo's own entities when you can be diverting with some nonsense about gay marriage?

Cuomo tried a similar nonsensical defense with a federal audit this week that found New York State wasted $22 million dollars in Sandy funds:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development today for alleging New York mishandled $22.4 million in hurricane relief funds from Washington—insisting that his administration understands federal law better than Obama’s.

Cuomo, a Democrat who headed HUD during the Clinton administration, lashed out at an audit by Obama’s inspector general for the agency while addressing the press after an unrelated event in the Bronx this morning. IG David Montoya’s office found that Cuomo’s  Office of Tourism and Marketing did a poor job meeting the requirements of the block grant money it received in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

But the governor argued that Montoya and his staff don’t understand HUD rules.

“Some federal person, entity, did an audit. We believe they misread the law, and misread the regulations, about how the funding should be spent, and so we’re contesting their opinion,” he said, boasting of his administration’s response to the disaster. “During Hurricane Sandy, we expended billions and billions of dollars, literally. In the handling of the emergency and the construction and the aftermath, trying to get people to come back to the effected communities. So I’m very proud of what the state did.”

So what did the federal audit find?

In particular, Montoya’s auditors discovered that the state handed millions for marketing and promotions to the Empire State Development Corporation—a Cuomo-run public-private organization—and the city of Long Beach on Long Island without first obtaining an independent analysis of the costs of their respective programs. It also determined the state did not get sufficiently detailed budgets from either ESDS or Long Beach on how the federal dollars would get spent.
“State officials did not always establish and maintain financial and administrative controls to ensure efficient and effective program administration,” the audit report reads. “We attribute these conditions to State officials not placing sufficient emphasis on ensuring compliance with all procurement requirements.”

Montoya’s office brushed off Cuomo’s criticism.

“We believe that the audit speaks for itself, period,” said spokesman Darryl J. Madden. “Throughout the audit process the state was given ample opportunity to comment on our findings and results.”

Another scathing audit, this time federal, but same lame defense tactic from Cuomo - the audit's bullshit, it wasn't done right, we did everything we were supposed to do, etc.

But notice, Cuomo never uses any facts, figures or hard data in his defense against these audits - all we get are personal attacks and diversionary tactics.

The audits came on the heels of a legislative hearing that took another signature Cuomo economic development program to task - the infamous START-UP NY program:

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top economic-development official on Wednesday bemoaned a wave of skepticism surrounding Start-Up NY, a state program that created just 408 new jobs in its first two years despite a $53 million advertising campaign.

Over more than two hours of questioning, a bipartisan group of state Assembly members grilled Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky about the much-debated jobs program at a hearing Wednesday on the state's efforts to boost its economy.

Zemsky was defiant as lawmakers repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the Start-Up program, which allows qualifying businesses to operate free of state and local taxes for a decade if they set up shop in pre-determined zones, mostly at State University of New York campuses.

He repeatedly characterized Start-Up as a single "tool" in the state's economic-development "toolbox" and suggested criticism of the program is outsized and unfounded.

Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the Start-Up program in 2013, and the state spent $53 million promoting it with television advertisements in and out of state in 2014 and early 2015. The governor referred to the program as a potential "game-changer" and "catalyst for economic development" in upstate New York.

Empire State Development, which oversees the program, faced significant criticism after it was three months late in releasing a required annual report on Start-Up's progress.

That report, which was ultimately released on the Friday evening ahead of the July 4 weekend, showed the program created 332 new jobs in 2015, on top of 76 in its first year. The legally required information on Start-Up was confined to a few pages and a footnote within a broader report on the state's economic development program.

$53 million dollars, 408 jobs - but the Cuomo administration defends the program, calling criticism of the program outsized and unfounded.

Let's see, $53 million divided by 408 is $129,901 a job - yeah, that's quite an achievement in economic development.

How anybody defends that kind of program with a straight face is beyond me, but that's what you have to do if you're a member of the Cuomo administration and you've got all these failures on your hands and independent officials and/or entities scrutinizing them (as opposed to the Cuomo shills Cuomo is used to having prop up his record for him.)

In addition to all of this, the criminal investigation into another Cuomo economic development program, the Buffalo Billion Project, continues apace, with one former Cuomo crony, Todd Howe, reported to have dropped a dime on other Cuomo cronies, including former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros.

When the indictments in that case come down, Cuomo will be the subject of another scathing expose into his economic development program expertise, this one at the hands of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, but I'm sure we'll get defense tactics out of Cuomo similar to the one's detailed above here.

Which brings me, finally, to my point about teacher evaluations here in New York State under Governor Cuomo.

Not so long ago, Cuomo claimed the old teacher evaluation system in New York State was too easy for teachers, not enough teachers were being declared ineffective and the whole thing needed an overhaul.

So, overhaul it got, though no one is quite sure what the overhaul has in it - Cuomo used the same numerical illiteracy he uses in his economic development programs for this new "scientific" teacher evaluation system.

And the best catch is, budget funds for schools are tied to the whole mess: 

School districts are still on the hook to evaluate every teacher, the results can still be used to make decisions about educators’ futures, and a 2015 law is about to require a host of new rules. And with just days left in this year’s legislative session, it’s becoming clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has little desire to see that change.

“This is a major issue that is right now going ignored,” State Senator Todd Kaminsky said. “People are saying it’s a time-out and it’s not.”

The strange situation came about because legislators passed a law overhauling the state’s teacher evaluation system last year to put more emphasis on state tests — and then education policymakers walked it back, banning state test results from being used altogether.

Lawmakers were responding to Cuomo’s view that too many teachers were earning top ratings. The state education department was listening to a growing movement of educators and parents upset about the growing influence of state tests.

In the end, the state education department decided teachers would get two evaluations. Next year, one will include state test scores but have no consequences. The real evaluations will use different metrics and can affect teacher tenure and firing.

Within those frameworks, districts and their teachers unions will have to agree on key details and those negotiations are ongoing.

“We are working with districts across the state to support their efforts as they complete their contract negotiations and to provide them as much flexibility as possible within the law,” State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

But many had hoped that lawmakers would agree to scrap the universally unpopular 2015 law by now, making it unnecessary for districts to negotiate the details of the two new plans at all. So far, that hasn’t happened — and since there are just three days left in the legislative session, few think change is on the way.

“The big hangup is obviously the governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Edward Ra, who supports repealing last year’s law. “It really creates a little bit of a mess for everybody.” (Officials from Cuomo’s office did not say whether the governor would support changes to teacher evaluations.)
Now, it’s up to school districts like New York City to work out the details of new evaluation plans with their teachers unions. Barring a big change in the next few days, they are facing a tight timeline: They need an agreement by Sept. 1 or they risk losing state funds.
What a mess - a Cuomo-created mess - and yet, somehow this child-man remains in power, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, issuing idiotic attacks and lame defenses when those expenditures are scrutinized, and continuing on to do more an more damage to the state.

One thing is pretty certain from all of this:

We have yet to get an independent audit of Cuomo's education policies that he's imposed on the state via the budget process (including teacher evaluations), but you can bet that if/when we get one, it will be as scathing as the ones we got on his economic development programs.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cuomo Looks To Take Out De Blasio In Election But Ought To Be Looking Over His Own Shoulder

This showed up in the NY Times today:

Maybe it was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rough week at the Democratic National Convention, when he was relegated to a daytime speaking slot and upstaged by his archrival, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Maybe it was the drumbeat of bad news related to the multiple federal and state investigations swirling around City Hall. Or maybe it was a recent poll suggesting that half of New York City voters believe Mr. de Blasio does not deserve to be re-elected to a second term.

Whatever the reason, members of New York’s political class have turned their attention to the 2017 mayoral race, or more precisely, to the question of whether Mr. de Blasio will even face a serious challenge when he seeks re-election.

While the recent poll, released this month by Quinnipiac University, found that a majority of respondents disapprove of Mr. de Blasio’s performance as mayor, none of his obvious potential opponents fared well against him in hypothetical matchups.

The poll’s findings, however, suggested that there may be an opportunity for a Democrat running as an independent against Mr. de Blasio in the general election, perhaps after a strong but losing run in the Democratic primary or after skipping the primary altogether.

The piece goes on to suggest that one third party option against de Blasio in the general could be - wait for it - Cuomo's fake women's party:

The poll results showed that Mr. de Blasio would handily beat two prospective challengers — Christine C. Quinn, the former City Council speaker who ran against him in 2013, and the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer — in a primary. But it also showed a closer race if either Ms. Quinn or Mr. Stringer ran as an independent in the general election, although the survey’s questions did not reflect the presence of a Republican candidate, which may have affected some voters’ responses.

“I am certain somebody somewhere is going to challenge the mayor,” said Rachel Demarest Gold, acting state chairwoman of the Women’s Equality Party, a third party closely aligned with Mr. Cuomo. “He is a lightning-rod mayor and he has whipped up extreme feelings on both ends of the spectrum and people are going to respond to that.”

The Women's Equality Party (WEP) is not just a third party aligned with Cuomo - it's a third party created by Cuomo as retaliation against the Working Families Party (WFP) for humiliating him back in 2014 and forcing him to grovel for the WFP endorsement.

The idea was, WEP would end up on the ballot near WFP and confuse just enough voters to drive down WFP support and, maybe, drive down enough support to force WFP from the ballot next time around.

That didn't happen, but now we see WEP, Cuomo's fake women's party, being floated as the possible vehicle for a de Blasio challenger - clearly a gambit by Cuomo to convince somebody to run third party against de Blasio since, at least so far, de Blasio appears fairly strong against direct party challengers within the Democratic Party.

Cuomo is spending an awful lot of time trying to take out de Blasio, as was reported by Fred Dicker in the NY Post a while back, and this WEP gambit appears to be just one more attempt at that.

But even as Cuomo plays games with de Blasio, he has his own potential challenger on the horizon for 2018 - Tom DiNapoli, the New York Comptroller.

DiNapoli has released multiple audits this year questioning the effectiveness of Cuomo's economic development programs and the veracity of the PR Cuomo uses to sell them - something that apparently irks King Cuomo and came to a head this week:

In Buffalo on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized state lawmakers and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for expressing skepticism over the effectiveness of his economic development spending upstate.

Cuomo, who has long had a truculent relationship with DiNapoli, a fellow Democrat, said the comptroller was “dead wrong” on the issue of tax breaks for jobs and “should educate himself in the area.”

“You will not attract jobs, you will not keep jobs unless you are willing to work with the private sector and incentivize them,” Cuomo said. “This is not a highly competitive arena. If we are not as competitive, we will lose to the other states.”

DiNapoli’s office has issued a series of critical audits and reports questioning Cuomo’s handling of the START-UP NY program, which provides a decade of tax-free operations in New York for companies that move to the state and create jobs.

The program has come under scrutiny after a report found only 400 or so jobs have been created so far despite the heavy spending for the effort.

But Cuomo insisted the tax breaks were necessary in order to compete with other states who have similar programs in place.

“The incentives are working and the incentives are working by definition by what it requires to win,” he said.

DiNapoli, in a statement, responded to Cuomo’s criticisms.

“There is no debate on the need to create jobs in New York,” he said. “Our audits have thoughtful, constructive recommendations for how New York’s economic development programs can be more effective.”

Perhaps further irking Cuomo, DiNapoli has been making the rounds on the radio and appearing with hosts that, well, let's just say might be DiNapoli's way of sending a message to Cuomo:

There was talk during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that Bernie Sanders supporters are looking for a challenger to take out Cuomo in the 2018 primary.

DiNapoli is starting to look like he could be that challenger.

How delicious the irony, even as Cuomo desperately works to find a challenger to take on de Blasio in 2017, he appears to be getting his own challenger in 2018.

Now here's the thing about all of this.

Until we know how the various federal investigations into de Blasio turn out, we're not going to see any prominent Dem (e.g., Stringer, Diaz Jr.) make any public moves to primary de Blasio - the Q poll shows the potential futility of taking on de Blasio directly in the primary, at least for now.

But if indictments come to de Blasio's inner circle, that will change but quick and if de Blasio is indicted himself, well, put the fork in him.

The machinations against de Blasio here, from Cuomo behind the scenes, from Bloomberg crony Bradley Tusk publicly, make for a good summer story in the NY Times, but I'm not sure how meaningful any of it is until we get some resolution from US Attorney Preet Bharara on de Blasio.

The same can be said for Cuomo.

Bharara is investigating many of those Cuomo economic development programs the governor loves to tout and news came early this week that one of his cronies, lobbyist Todd Howe, has made a deal with the feds in return for leniency.  Howe has been close to Cuomo since the HUD days and, while the governor has said he isn't really that close with Howe anymore, news reports (and photographs) suggest otherwise.

If/when indictments come to Cuomo's inner circle, the prognosis for Cuomo's 2018 re-election gets a little murkier, especially if the US attorney takes apart Cuomo's economic development programs as little but a cash register for Cuomo cronies like Todd Howe and former aide Joe Percoco.

There also remains the possibility that Cuomo himself is the ultimate target of these investigations, since many of Cuomo's donors have been subpoenaed and the pattern - "donate to Cuomo = get state contract/tax break/favors in return" remains in play in many of these instances.

In the end, I think we'll know fairly soon what's going to happen with de Blasio and Cuomo regarding the Bharara investigations. 

There was a report in Dicker's column in the Post that the public would get some inkling of what's going on in the Cuomo investigations by the end of the summer. With the election coming soon, the likelihood is we'll get some inkling on de Blasio too.

But until Bharara makes his moves, all of the 2017 and 2018 jockeying is little more than noise.

You know, the kind of shit Cuomo is best at.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cuomo Associate Has Cooperation Deal With Preet Bharara

Have been waiting post-conventions for some Preet news.

Here is an interesting bit of it:

The corruption probe of Gov. Cuomo’s two longtime associates has taken a critical turn with Todd Howe, onetime lobbyist and longtime Cuomo family confidant, signing a “cooperation agreement’’ with US Attorney Preet Bharara, a source close to the investigation told The Post.

The agreement promises Howe, whose ties to Cuomo go back three decades, “favorable treatment’’ and “leniency’’ in the event that he’s criminally charged, in exchange for full details of his lobbying activities on behalf of several major state contractors with senior Cuomo administration officials.
Those officials include Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s closest friend and top aide who is currently senior vice president at Madison Square Garden, the source said.

Howe has been interviewed by federal prosecutors “about six times,’’ most recently about two weeks ago, when he “traded something that has to do with Percoco’’ and provided information on the influential, Albany-based, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna law firm, with which he had been affiliated, the source said. 
Howe, who worked for Cuomo when the current governor was federal housing secretary under President Bill Clinton, was described by the source as isolated from friends and family and disconsolate as Bharara’s investigation continues to unfold.
“He doesn’t have a job and no one from Andrew Cuomo’s entourage will even deal with him,’’ said the source.

Cuomo claimed that he didn't have much to do with Howe in the recent past, but Tim Knauss discovered that he was showing up at Cuomo functions like this one:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A smiling Todd Howe was photographed, standing in the background, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo enthusiastically shook hands with the president of COR Development Co. during an October 2012 visit to Syracuse.

Four years later, Howe is no longer in the background. The Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist is front and center in a federal investigation of Cuomo's Upstate economic development projects, according to published reports.

Another person named in the federal probe is Joseph Percoco, Cuomo's former executive deputy secretary, who appears with Howe in the background of the 2012 photo from Syracuse.

The photo was taken during sunnier times for Cuomo's Upstate economic initiatives, years before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation raised a cloud of suspicion.

The picture captures the role that Howe has apparently been playing for years in Syracuse economic development projects. Since the federal probe became publicly known, Howe's image has emerged as an affable guy to see for help in getting state funding or access to Albany power.

In the foreground of the 2012 photo, Cuomo shakes hands with Steven Aiello, president of COR, a Fayetteville company. COR is one of more than 20 companies about which Bharara has subpoenaed information from the Cuomo administration, according to reports.

Howe was also used as the "hand model" for Mario Cuomo's portrait in Albany:

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo claims he barely knows a fired lobbyist under federal investigation — yet he was close enough to the family to be the secret hand model behind Mario Cuomo’s official portrait, The Post has learned.

The liberal legend Mario had scoffed for years at having his likeness hung among the Empire State’s other leaders, so Andrew went behind his back to have the work secretly created from a 1989 photograph.

But the artist demanded it include Mario’s hands clasped on his knee, even though the photo didn’t clearly show his mitts.

“The artist insisted that he needed to see the Governors [sic] hands to paint them,” Howard Glaser, Andrew’s former director of state operations and Mario’s senior advisor, wrote in a private Facebook post obtained by The Post.

Enter Todd Howe, who is being probed by the feds for lobbying work he did for three firms that are part of the Cuomo administration’s economic-development program, the Buffalo Billion.
He raced down to the painter’s Maryland studio and literally lent a hand.

“The artist painted Todd’s hands into the painting to complete the work. So, yeah, it’s actually Todd Howes hands you see painted in the final portrait!!!!! Classic!” Glaser wrote.

Peter Cutler, a former Cuomo spokesman who is also named in a federal subpoena, replied, “Todd told me, saying it was pretty nerve-wracking — as I’m sure we can all understand,” he wrote.

“Thank God GAMC [Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo] pushed to get the portrait done & installed.”

The artist, Simmie Knox — who also did official portraits for then-President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary — recalled Howe giving guidance on how they wanted the painting done, but clammed up when he found out that the lobbyist was under a federal probe.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented the painting to his dad as a birthday gift at a 2012 ceremony.

Cuomo distanced himself from Howe in May and in June, claiming he and Howe were not "close."

The record appears to contradict that Cuomo assertion.

Whether Howe is telling tales on Cuomo or just providing evidence against Percoco and the entities involved in state contracting, well, that's hard to say.

Fred Dicker's piece says Howe is promised "'favorable treatment' and 'leniency' in the event that he’s criminally charged, in exchange for full details of his lobbying activities on behalf of several major state contractors with senior Cuomo administration officials."

The phrase leaves "senior Cuomo administration officials" is the interesting thing there.

That may mean people around Cuomo, or previously around Cuomo (like Percoco.)

But, since Cuomo has been known to leak anonymously to the press under the moniker "a senior Cuomo administration official," it also could mean Cuomo himself.

Time will tell whether Cuomo is actually the target of all of this or if Bharara gets to his inner circle without touching Cuomo himself.

So far, we have no direct indication that Cuomo is in any legal jeopardy.

But you can bet that if the Cuomo people didn't already know that Bharara has Howe wrapped up with a cooperation agreement, they're not happy now that the news is in Dicker's column in the NY Post.

Because who knows what Howe is telling Bharara now that he's cooperating.

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.