Sep 27th - 3:03 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to be a “guest of honor” at a fundraiser for the Queens Democratic committee on Oct. 27 billed as “pre-election cocktail party.”
Tickets to the event, to be held at Antun’s in Queens Village, cost $350, according to an email released on Tuesday and obtained by Capital Tonight.
The event is being announced days after a former top aide to Cuomo, Joe Percoco, was charged with bribery and fraud in connection to a wide-ranging bid-rigging corruption case being brought by federal prosecutors.
Cuomo in April distanced himself from Percoco after his administration received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office as part of its investigation. Acknowledging the investigation, Cuomo hired an investigator to review contracting in the economic development programs that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors.
One observer notes that Cuomo’s appearance at the fundraiser suggests he’s not altering his political activities ahead of the November general election because of the corruption case.
Sep 27th - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced Hillary Clinton at a post-debate rally near Hofstra University on Monday night, declaring her the winner of the first televised debate against Donald Trump.
Cuomo pointed to Clinton’s time as a U.S. senator from New York, a post she held from 2000 through 2009, as helping her prepare for her second bid for the presidency.
“We have a little pride that we were a big stop along her road,” Cuomo said, “that we were part of her getting ready for this journey, that we were part of her debate preparation.”
He added the preparation by Clinton ahead of the debate showed “because she won hands down.”
To chants of “Hillary!” Cuomo called on supporters to give the former secretary of state a “big, big New York welcome.”
Clinton moved to the state in 1999 ahead of plans to run for the Senate seat vacated by Pat Moynihan. Settling in Westchester County, Clinton batted back charges she was a carpetbagger, first defeating Republican Rep. Rick Lazio (avoiding a more contentious race with Rudy Giuliani) and later defeating ex-Yonkers Mayor John Spencer in 2006 for a second term.
She left the Senate seat in 2009 as President Obama appointed his one-time primary rival secretary of state.
Sep 26th - 2:11 pm
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner on Monday shrugged off the news of her losing a leadership position at the Democratic National Committee.
The Daily News reported on Monday that Miner, who has had a testy and tenuous relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was striped of the post at the state Democratic Committee over the weekend.
“I don’t really think much about it,” Miner told reporters in Syracuse earlier on Monday. “I’m pleased to have been a DNC member for a while and I’ve made great relationships and great friends. These things happen and people make decisions.”
The state party is under the defacto control of Cuomo, who has the power to fill party leadership slots.
Miner is a former state Democratic Committee co-chair, having been appointed to that position by Cuomo. But she became critical of the governor’s proposals for pension smoothing and later for what she saw as inadequate spending on upstate infrastructure.
Miner, who attended the party’s national convention in Philadelphia as a delegate for Hillary Clinton, left the state committee post in 2014.
Sep 23rd - 6:21 pm
The Commission on Legislative, Judicial, & Executive Compensation’s Thursday meeting was supposed to be the last one before the panel’s November recommendation about whether to give state legislators a raise. After coming away still divided on the issue, the commission decided to schedule one more hearing.
In Buffalo Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, said he believes its very clear why they haven’t reached a consensus yet.
“They had been asking the legislature to come forward and make the case for a pay raise. Very few legislators came forward to make an affirmative case for the pay raise. At the same time a number of legislators publicly have been saying there shouldn’t be a pay raise and a number have said, ‘If there is a pay raise, we’re not going to accept it.”
The commission also has to make a recommendation on whether the Governor’s top cabinet members should get a raise. Cuomo has publicly endorsed that idea, but every time he’s been asked about legislative raises, including Friday, he’s punted.
“I want the commission to respond first before I give my opinion, because the commission was impaneled for just that reason,” he said.
Right now legislators, make $79,000 a year, before bonuses. One proposal being considered would give them a 47 percent raise
“The bottom line, and I don’t think they said it this bluntly, but I think the commission concluded, we’re not, at this point, they’re not going to recommend any pay raise for the legislature,” Cuomo said.
Legislators haven’t got a raise in 17 years, but the Governor said that fact alone, doesn’t justify one this year.
Sep 23rd - 4:41 pm
On paper, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, was in Buffalo Friday, to help announce the Albright Knox Art Gallery had raised enough money for its expansion plans, but it was clear the Governor had another message to get across. During the art gallery event, Cuomo read a prepared speech addressing bid-rigging accusations and his Buffalo Billion initiative.
He said the initiative was never about buildings, but rather a whole-scale shift in how people saw the area.
“The Buffalo Billion, I was saying, is not about projects in the ground and nine individuals who are alleged to have done bad acts,”Cuomo said.
The Governor not only defended the projects that have already been completed or are in the works, he reasserted the state’s commitment to the area. Cuomo announced Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky, now in an expanded role, has three months to draft “phase 2” of Buffalo’s revitalization plan.
The Governor plans to include that plan in his State Of The State Address in January. As for whether that means another billion dollars, he didn’t attach a dollar value to it.
“Start with a plan and what you want to accomplish,” Cuomo said. “Don’t get a number. Don’t get him coming up with a number. Come up with a plan first and then we’ll see.”
Cuomo did reject one reporter’s assertion that on the most important metric, job growth, Buffalo still lags behind.
“The situation is better on every index,” he said.
Sep 23rd - 3:45 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, making his first public comments since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s bombshell yesterday charging nine men with ties to the governor with corruption in connection to upstate economic development projects, insisted he had “no idea” about anything untoward taking place in his administration.
“I had no idea about anything that was contained in that complaint,” the governor insisted to reporters. “…These were secondary and tertiary level situations. I was not aware of who some of these people were representing, and who were their business consultants. And to the extent the situations that are laid out in the complaint were breathtaking to me when I read them.”
Cuomo seemed to be of two minds about Alain Kaloyeros, who is facing both state and federal charges alleging that he engaged in bid rigging on contracts worth millions of dollars of taxpayer money and has been suspended without pay from his post as president of SUNY Poly.
Cuomo noted that Kaloyeros had worked for five different governors since starting with SUNY in the 1980s, directing the investment of “billions” of dollars in state money into nanotech, and turning around Albany in the process.
” Mr. Kaloyeros has had a 20 year long career in state government.” the governor said. “He also has done a lot of good for New York State.”
As for Joe Percoco, whom Cuomo called a “a long-time friend of mine, a long-time friend of my family,” the governor reiterated: “I know him about 25 years; my father knows him since he was 19 years old. I said my father would be heartbroken if he read that complaint.”
Cuomo seemed to try to distance himself from this mess by saying that it was SUNY, not his administration, that was responsible for letting the contracts in question using its own procurement process, which is different from the process the rest of state government uses. He announced that the responsibility for letting future contracts would be given to the Empire State Development Corp., run by Buffalo resident Howard Zemsky, which will develop its own procurement process.
The governor also rejected the idea that the RiverBend project – the keystone of the Buffalo Billion – has been “tainted” by this scandal.
“It’s tainted quote unquote; I don’t know what that means in this context,” the governor said, clearly annoyed by the question. “The building is going up. The company is moving in. The jobs are being produced. There’s an allegation that the company may have done something wrong that developed it. Fine. It will go to the courts, there will be a process, there will be a trial and if they did something wrong they will be punished.”
Cuomo also said that these allegedly rigged contracts were “the exception to the rule,” noting the state lets hundreds – if not thousands – of contracts every year without incident or illegal behavior.
“We’re talking about nine charges, which is serious, but they are nine charges; so let’s keep it in focus,” the governor said.
Sep 22nd - 1:46 pm
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara this afternoon outlined what he called a “network” of wrongdoers – both inside and out of state government – involved in two complex public corruption schemes that involved individuals close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including his former top aide, Joe Percoco.
Unlike in past press conferences, Bharara was careful not to go overboard in his excoriation of Albany. (He has been admonished by a judge in the past for saying too much, too soon).
He repeatedly stressed that the charges in the complaint unsealed this morning are “allegations,” though he also said that he hopes the eight remaining defendants – Todd Howe has already pleaded guilty, and is cooperating with investigators – end up going to trial, so New Yorkers “can see in gory detail what their state government has been up to.”
Bharara said the complaint outlines what he believes is a “systemic problem” in Albany – and he was also quick to note that when he uses the term “Albany,” he means the state government that is located there, and not the city itself, which he called a “wonderful town,” as Mayor Kathy Sheehan has told him “multiple times.”
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.
The U.S. attorney was also asked if he believes that the corruption problem in Albany is getting better as a result of all the cases he has brought in recent years – including the successful prosecution of two men who were once among the state’s most powerful political players, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
“I presume some people have gotten the message and abstained from engaging in criminal activity,” Bharara said. “But we’re as busy as we ever were, in some ways busier…if that’s the metric you use then the assessment is not a positive one.”
Sep 22nd - 1:14 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo just released a statement in response to the public corruption charges brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara against a number of individuals with close ties to his administration, including his former top aide, Joe Percoco, whom he once described as like a third son to his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
In the statement, Cuomo does not mention Percoco by name. He severed ties with Percoco, known alternately as the governor’s muscle and right-hand man – perhaps closer to him than anyone else, and someone who followed him from job to job – when allegations of wrongdoing first became public this spring.
Cuomo does not mention anything about Todd Howe, the former lobbyist who is accused by Bharara of being involved in two complex bribing and bid-rigging schemes with Percoco and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros, also known as New York’s nano czar, who has long been one of the state’s top paid public employees.
Howe also has longstanding ties to Cuomo that date back to his father’s tenure in Albany.
According to the governor, SUNY has “relieved” Kaloyeros of his duties and suspended him without pay. According to Bharara’s complaint, Kaloyeros was earning in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.
Here’s the governor’s full statement:
“I learned this morning of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office that include a former member of my administration. If the allegations are true, I am saddened and profoundly disappointed. I hold my administration to the highest level of integrity.”
“I have zero tolerance for abuse of the public trust from anyone. If anything, a friend should be held to an even higher standard. Like my father before me, I believe public integrity is paramount. This sort of breach, if true, should be and will be punished.”
“SUNY has rightly relieved Alain Kaloyeros from his duties and has suspended him without pay, effective immediately.”
“This matter is now in the hands of the court, which is exactly where it belongs. My administration will continue to be fully cooperative in the matter as we have been since it began.”
Asked after his press conference whether Cuomo is in any way implicated in this case, Bharara said:
“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.”
Asked if it was “realistic” to believe that Cuomo, who is known as a very hands-on manager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara replied:
“It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”
According to the U.S. attorney, this investigation is ongoing.
Sep 21st - 12:54 pm
New York State is doling out $80 million dollars for major renovations at two Upstate airports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, visited Elmira and Rochester Wednesday to make the announcements.
Cuomo said there were 16 total applicants for the state funding as part of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition, held in May.
“Airports today are different than they were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. They’re destinations in and of themselves. The economy is a global economy and the airports in a global economy serve a different purpose,” Cuomo told reporters in Rochester
The Rochester International Airport will receive $40 million from the state and fund $23 million in renovations locally. Its plans include a wide-scale redesign of the terminal, incorporating sustainable elements like solar panels, and new retail dining options.
“The plans were very good from the beginning. Of course we worked with the community over the course of a couple months on some of the nuances of the plans but frankly their plan really jumped out at us,” NYS Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll said.
Elmira, meanwhile, will fund another $18 million dollars locally. Its plans, while similar to Rochester’s, include increasing capacity to handle larger aircrafts, adding a second baggage claim and additional parking spaces.
“This is about business, economic development, and having that front door that welcomes business and says this is a region that is growing,” Cuomo said.
Sep 21st - 12:32 pm
With the commission charged with considering a potential raise for state lawmakers and Cuomo administration officials poised to holds its final public meeting tomorrow before rendering a recommendation on the issue in November, the governor today declined to take a position on whether he believes a pay hike is warranted.
“I don’t want to get ahead of the commission,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said following an event at which he announced a $63 million transformation plan ($40 million of which will come from the state) for the Greater Rochester International Airport.
“We put together a commission to explore just that question; and we want the opinion of the public,” the governor continued. “I do believe that the commission’s point is right, they need to hear from everyone – including the legislators – as to what their position is and do they believe they deserve a raise and why.”
“And that’s what the commission is going through. Once the commission finishes, they will submit their findings, their opinion, their record. And then I’ll have an opinion that I’ll state. informed by the commission. But the purpose of the commission is to advise me on that question.”
When asked what he might do if a proposal for a 47 percent pay boost – which has been floated during the commission’s deliberations – reached his desk, raising the yearly compensation of New York lawmakers from $79,500 to $116,900 and making them the highest paid legislators in the nation, despite the public corruption scandals that have consumed Albany, Cuomo replied:
“That is an opinion that they’re considering. They’re considering options from zero – right – to forty seven. So there’s a big gap. I don’t want to do an if but let the commission do their work and then I will have a very clear opinion. But I want to be informed by them. They’ve done a lot of hard work. They’ve been all across the state. So let them finish their job. Let them do their report, and then we’ll take it from there.”
The panel was created without any fanfare during this year’s budget negotiations. Its recommendations are due by Nov. 15 and would automatically become law unless legislators vote to reject them. The raises would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Critics – and a number of lawmakers – have said that raises should not be awarded absent passage of reforms like banning outside income or at least significantly limiting it, which is something the governor, who received a hefty payment for authoring a poorly-selling book, has proposed.
Three panel members were appointed by the governor, one by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and one each by the Senate and Assembly.
The Legislature last received a raise in 1999, when lawmakers cut a deal with then-Gov. George Pataki that enabled creation of the state’s first charter schools and also required them to forgo their paychecks – temporarily – in the event of a late state budget, though that didn’t immediately end the state’s chronically delayed spending plans.
Lawmakers previously agreed to create a judicial compensation commission, decoupling their salaries from those of the state’s judges. That commission recommended a $29,100 pay raise for New York jurists.