Sunday, May 17, 2015

NY State's three most powerful men decided where billions of dollars would be spent. Now two of the 3 have been arrested for federal corruption and the third, Gov. Cuomo, has hired a criminal defense attorney-AP, NY Times, NY Daily News

Following federal corruption charges NY State Senate leader Skelos (R) and NY State Assembly Speaker Silver (D) remain in elected office. The third member of the trio, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, hasn't been charged but has hired a criminal defense attorney:

May 16, 2015, "Capitol Scandals Raise Tough Questions for New York Governor," AP, David Klepper, Albany

Now two face federal corruption charges, and the third — Gov. Andrew Cuomo — appears eager to focus on other issues even as he faces questions about his ties to a major real estate firm at the center of the newest scandal to rock the state Capitol....

"If the charges are correct, it's deeply disturbing," is what Cuomo said following the arrest of Senate Leader Dean Skelos on charges that he extorted payments for his son from the developer and another business. The Long Island Republican resigned his leadership post Monday.

Skelos' arrest comes after Manhattan Democrat Sheldon Silver stepped down as Assembly speaker in January after he was charged with taking nearly $4 million in payoffs. Both men say they are innocent and are keeping their legislative seats.

In the political language of Albany, the governor, the speaker and the Senate leader are known collectively as the "three men in a room," a nod to the longstanding practice of negotiating the budget and other key pieces of legislation behind closed doors. Silver's arrest came the day after Cuomo referred to Skelos, Silver and himself as the "three amigos" during his budget presentation, which contained a depiction of the three men wearing sombreros.

Glenwood has been identified as the New York City company that gave large campaign donations to Skelos using LLCs, allegedly in return for helping continue tax breaks now worth about $1 billion annually to the city's residential developers. Those tax breaks, along with New York City's rent regulations, are up for renewal this year. The complaint against Skelos alleges that he used his influence to pressure a Glenwood executive to arrange payments for his son.

Cuomo received $1 million from limited liability companies tied to Glenwood. Cuomo said recently that he never discussed rent laws with the company. Administration records show he met with Glenwood executives three times to discuss rent regulations in 2011, the last year they were up for renewal.

Cuomo's spokesman said later that the governor simply forgot the meetings. "I don't believe anyone said Glenwood has done anything wrong," Cuomo said about his connections to the company.

The developer's generous contributions were scrutinized by the anti-corruption commission appointed by Cuomo in 2013 and disbanded a year later. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, who is prosecuting Skelos and Silver, took them over.

Glenwood did not return a message seeking comment. Meanwhile, new efforts to address corruption in state government are stalling.

The governor met with the new leaders of the Assembly and Senate on Wednesday, their first gathering since Sen. John Flanagan was picked to replace Skelos. Flanagan said the meeting focused on the priorities for the rest of the legislative session.

Ethics reform "wasn't one of the topics of discussion," said Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who replaced Silver.

Polls suggest voters aren't pleased. A Marist College poll released Tuesday found that three-quarters of respondents think corruption has gotten worse in New York in recent years. Cuomo's job performance rating has dropped to 37 percent while ratings for the Assembly and Senate are in the low 20s. Marist pollster Lee Miringoff said voters are looking to Cuomo to address corruption.

"One of the pillars of his campaign was the notion that he would get Albany working again and clean up the mess," Miringoff said....

Following Silver's arrest, new rules were passed requiring lawmakers to identify the source of any outside income and, if they are attorneys, disclose the identities of clients. Good-government groups say exceptions in the rules make them only a modest improvement.

Legislation that would close a campaign finance loophole at the center of many corruption scandals appears unlikely to pass. The measure would treat limited liability companies like other companies when it comes to campaign finance. Now they are treated like individuals, allowing LLCs to donate up to $150,000 without identifying actual donors.

The Assembly passed the measure Tuesday, and Cuomo supports it. But the legislation is presumed dead in the Senate, where a committee chairman last week refused to consider it because of an improperly made motion. The chairman, Republican Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, told The Associated Press that he hadn't read the three-paragraph bill.

"We have very, very many important bills," Ranzenhofer said. "I'm just not an expert in all of them.""


In March 2014 NY Gov. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the Moreland commission he set up to root out corruption in NY State politics once and for all. The hobbling of the commission's efforts and its abrupt end led to Cuomo hiring a criminal defense lawyer: 

7/23/2014,"Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission," NY Times,

With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer (2013) to root out corruption in state politics....

But a three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life....
Before its demise, Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission, many of whose members and staff thought they had been given a once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany. As a result, the panel’s brief existence — and the writing and editing of its sole creation, a report of its preliminary findings — was marred by infighting, arguments and accusations. Things got so bad that investigators believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge. Resignations further crippled the commission. In the end, the governor got the Legislature to agree to a package of ethics reforms far less ambitious than those the commission had recommended — a result Mr. Cuomo hailed as proof of the panel’s success.
While some reports of tension between the governor’s office and the commission surfaced in the news media at the time, the examination by The Times provides the first full accounting of how extensively the governor’s aides involved themselves in the commission’s work and the level of disruption that this caused."...


Aug. 2014, NY Gov. Cuomo hires criminal defense lawyer:

8/1/2014, "Andrew Cuomo hires criminal lawyer to represent governor's office as scandal over Moreland anti-corruption commission grows: sources," NY Daily News, Kenneth Lovett

"EXCLUSIVE: Cuomo hired prominent white collar criminal defense lawyer Elkan Abramowitz in May to represent the governor’s office, sources told The News. Cuomo’s top aides, Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz and counsel Mylan Denerstein, have also hired their own personal attorneys, the sources said."

"Gov. Cuomo has lawyered up in response to the growing scandal over the way he handled his anti-corruption commission, the Daily News has learned."...


3/31/2014, "Capitol Corruption Panel’s Demise Angers Watchdogs," NY Times,

"Cuomo’s Push to End Moreland Commission Draws Backlash"

"It was a quiet and sudden end to what had started as a high-profile battle against Statehouse corruption."...


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