By Michael Goodwin December 12, 2015 | 10:31pm
Nearly a year ago, crusading federal prosecutor Preet Bharara mocked Albany’s culture of corruption, heaping extra scorn on the deals hatched in secrecy by three men in a room. Now two of them are on their way to prison and the third, Gov. Cuomo, reportedly remains a potential target of a separate probe.
The convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos mark a historic development in Bharara’s years-long campaign to drain the swamp. Silver, a Democrat, was the boss of the Assembly, while Skelos, a Republican, ruled the Senate.
The verdicts were slam-dunks. The two men were charged with a combined 15 felonies, and juries declared them guilty on all 15 counts. So much for defense claims that they were only practicing politics as usual.
Yet their fall is not producing celebrations or any sense that Albany has been cleansed. Part of the reason is human nature — power corrupts, and the pols who replaced Silver and Skelos are not known to be born-again reformers.
But most important to the feeling of unfinished business is the cloud that hangs over the third man in the room.
Cuomo, to put it kindly, has been erratic on fighting corruption. As attorney general, he campaigned in 2010 on a vow to end the sleaze, saying Albany was so crooked, it “would make Boss Tweed blush.” He warned that unless the Legislature made real changes in ethics laws, he would use the subpoena powers of the Moreland Act to expose the dirt.
Less than a year later, he was singing a different tune. After he got an on-time budget with changes he wanted, Cuomo declared that New York has “the best legislative body in the nation.” Another time, he insisted that “99.9 percent of the legislators are great people.”
So it went, time and again. He alternately threatened to invoke Moreland, then switched to praise when he, Silver and Skelos emerged from their hidey-holes to declare agreements. He embraced the unflattering description that they were “the three amigos.”
As he geared up for re-election, Cuomo put his crime-fighter hat back on and finally convened a Moreland panel in 2013. He recruited an impressive array of law-enforcement officials, gave them a wide berth and promised they would be independent.
“It’s going to be a real follow-the-money investigation,” Cuomo told me then. “We want to see who gives you money, the legislation you introduce.”
When I expressed skepticism about his commitment, given his repeated retreats, he insisted this time was different, saying he was as “serious as a heart attack.”
But he wasn’t. As soon as the Legislature gave him modest ethics changes, he pulled the plug on Moreland.
That could be his undoing. The gumshoes he appointed with such flair had taken their assignment seriously and were aggressive, apparently too much so for the governor’s taste. Numerous accounts surfaced that his office intervened when probers focused on his donors and allies.
In response, Cuomo offered a series of defenses that grew increasingly bizarre. He started with denials and ended up insisting that the panel was never independent.
“It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me,” he told Crain’s magazine.
Fortunately, Bharara had a decidedly different view. He called the decision to prematurely disband the panel “difficult to understand” and told Moreland members in writing that it looked as if “investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away” in a deal among Cuomo, Silver and Skelos.
He seized Moreland’s investigative files in what amounted to a raid on its offices. When reports suggested that Cuomo aides solicited statements from panel leaders defending the governor, Bharara warned that such solicitations might “constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses.”
That, publicly at least, is where the investigation stands. Cuomo is using campaign funds to pay a criminal defense lawyer representing his office, and several of his aides hired their own counsel.
It is possible, of course, that the Silver and Skelos verdicts will be the end of Bharara’s campaign. It is also possible that they were the warm-up and the final act is about to unfold.
Report: Money Cuomo Diverted From Hurricane Relief To Advertise Business In NY Produced ‘No Tangible Results’
As much as $211 million dollars in ad revenue, of which $40 million was diverted from a federal aid package intended to help New Yorkers recover from Hurricane Sandy, designed to sell the concept of ‘business in NY,’ has produced “no tangible results” according to an audit by state Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.
New York spent $211 million on an advertising contract to promote economic development and tourism in New York, including the Start-Up NY program, but produced “no tangible results,” a state audit today said.
The Empire State Development Corporation spent the money on an advertising firm from December 2011 to November 2014, but the agency was not “able to effectively quantify and assess tangible outcomes from the initiatives,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in the audit.
“When government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to send a message that New York is a place to visit and open for business, it should have clear objectives and show the public actual results,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “ESDC’s attempts to measure the results of this advertising campaign were weak at best, leaving real questions about whether the results justify the cost.”
Cuomo claimed the feds were actually behind the blatant political ads which were designed to spur tourism after the storm struck, but amounted to little more than free publicity for Cuomo’s business economic plan. This, as we have proven, was a flat-out lie from the start.
As for the ads specifically mentioning Cuomo’s failed Start-Up NY program, $53 million was spent to produce – count ’em – 76 jobs.
A New York Times article in 2013 indicates that the man behind the ad campaign, Harvey Cohen, was the ad man for the Governor’s father, Mario Cuomo. The report also indicated that “the state expanded the ‘Open for Business’ campaign, using $40 million from the federal aid package intended to help New Yorkers recover from Hurricane Sandy.”
The federal government provided the money, but it was the state’s decision to allocate $40 million of the Sandy aid to promote Governor Cuomo’s business plan. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), led by Cohen, may have sought federal approval to use the money on the ad campaign, but they were ultimately responsible for making that call.
Using money allocated for victims of Hurricane Sandy was abhorrent to begin with – using it to create 76 jobs and “no tangible results” is simply incompetence.
Read the full blistering report below …
Rusty, May 14, 2015 Upstate conservative Senator John DeFrancisco has confirmed that Governor Cuomo “made calls” and pressured Republicans to elect his preferred choice, John Flanagan, for Senate Majority …
Rusty — May 11, 2015 John Flanagan, the Long Island liberal Republican who is being openly forced on the GOP as a replacement for the recently arrested Dean Skelos (R), and who is being supported behind the scenes by Governor Cuomo himself, apparently shares another similarity with the pair – a penchant for developing public policy that is favorable to companies that pay him.
Flanagan now has SAFE Act, Common Core, and pay to play support to add to his resume for corrupt lawmaker. And if that’s the criteria, then I suppose he’d be a logical choice for Skelos’ successor.
Via the Daily News: A veteran Long Island state senator voted on a host of bills that benefited clients of a law firm for which he works, the Daily News has learned.
In addition to being a longtime state lawmaker who chairs the Senate Education Committee, John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) is “of counsel” at Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana in Uniondale, where he reported making between $100,000 and $150,000 in 2013.
A number of the clients listed on the law firm’s website have business before the state, including Cablevision, Chase Bank, and Citibank.
The firm also lists as clients different colleges, governments and other groups with matters before the state.
Government reform advocates have said Flanagan’s actions appear to be a conflict of interest.
Numerous times, Flanagan voted in favor of bills that benefited clients at the law firm in which he was serving “of counsel.” Skelos is currently under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for his actions while serving “of counsel” for a law firm – something that netted him as much as a quarter of a million dollars.
Recently, the Mental Recession exclusively reported on Senate insiders who claim “Cuomo is pushing behind the scenes for Flanagan.” The Daily News reports that Skelos is threatening his Republican colleagues to force their hand on Flanagan, saying he’ll resign outright (and eliminate the fragile Republican majority) unless Flanagan is selected.
Cooperation between downstate Republicans and the Governor has been prevalent in the past, as noted with the SAFE Act legislation. Additionally, this past election, reports surfaced that Skelos and other Long Island Republicans cut a deal with Cuomo, providing their support for the governor’s re-election bid in exchange for him staying out of races on Long Island.
John DeFrancisco, an upstate conservative, has already thrown his hat in the ring for the Senate leadership position, saying he would vie for the role of Majority Leader “if and when there is a vacancy.” DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, is considered a strong social and fiscal conservative.
Flanagan meanwhile, is what New York Post’s Fred Dicker describes as “a leader of the socially liberal and often-pro-big-spending Long Island delegation,” and much like the current Leader, hails as a pro-SAFE Act, pro-Common Core candidate.
Now he’s added pay to play to his liberal bonafides.
(Oh the irony, that Skelos led the effort) Report: Republicans Cut Secret Deal To Support Cuomo’s Re-Election
This is one of those reports that doesn’t really make you blink when you think about how corrupt politicians in New York state are, but …