The FBI is investigating the Cuomo administration’s practice of hiring people to work in executive chamber jobs but paying them through other state agencies’ budget lines, a source familiar with the probe confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Bragg of the Times Union, who first wrote about this phenomenon back in May.

The investigation is coming out of the office of the U.S. attorney of the Eastern District, according to this source, and started after the governor hired a number of former Obama administration staffers who were out of jobs after their ex-boss left the White House.

The practice of putting executive chamber staffers on different agency lines to keep costs down and enable the governor to hire more people than his official budget technically allows is a long standing one. Many governors, going back at least to Cuomo’s father, the late Mario Cuomo, and perhaps even beyond, used this method.

Based on that fact, the source familiar with the FBI probe called it “absurd,” adding:

“This is a practice that has been going on for 50 years…It’s fully public what lines people are working on – available for anyone to see. And it’s not like we’re talking about no-show jobs here; these people are actually doing the work.”

A former official in the administration of ex-Republican Gov. George Pataki confirmed the fact that many governors have engaged in this practice, saying: “Planting staff in agency land been going on for decades.”

Cuomo in recent months has stepped up his efforts to boost his profile to a national level, speaking out frequently against the Trump administration – particularly, of late, regarding the federal tax reform bills currently making their way through Washington. He is widely believed to be considering a potential run for the White House in 2020, and has said he plans to seek a third term next fall.

This is not the first time a U.S. attorney has launched an investigation into the Cuomo administration.

Preet Bharara, formerly of the Southern District until he was fired by President Donald Trump, looked into the governor’s early shutdown of the corruption-busting Moreland Commission, but ultimately brought no charges.

Bharara, once a vocal critic of the governor’s, also probed Cuomo’s signature upstate economic development project, the Buffalo Billion, an effort that did eventually result in charges – including against a former top aide to the governor, Joe Percoco, as well as ex-SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros.

The Buffalo Billion-related trials are slated to start next year, with the first beginning in January.

Updated: Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a statement noted the practice is a longstanding one for governors, dating back half a century.

“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything, but the fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from Agencies to work in the Executive Chamber dates back over 50 years to at least the Rockefeller administration and extends to the White House and the federal Department of Justice,” he said.

“Given that the Federal Department of Justice and the White House have a long history of utilizing this practice, perhaps the FBI can investigate them when this is charade is over.”

Azzopardi similarly dismissed the questions surrounding the practice “absurd.”

“‎The agencies are all part of the same executive branch, and this administration follows the exact same lawful hiring process we inherited from previous administrations stretching back decades,” he said. “If there are questions about it, call George Pataki.”

UPDATE2: Azzopardi is now confirming that the administration received a subpoena for documents several months ago, saying: “We have cooperated, providing necessary documents and personnel files.”