|NYSNYS NEWS: As investigations swirl around him, Cuomo says he will 'throw the book' at aides who broke any laws. Citing his '100 percent integrity,' he portrays himself as victim of latest Albany mess.|
|CUOMO INVESTIGATION:A NY Times reporter was on hand Thursday when aides to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seized evidence at SUNY CNSE Poly in Albany. The reporter posted the photo on Twitter. At right, detail from a Syracuse University archival photo from 2012 unearthed by Syracuse.com showing Cuomo at SU with his associates Joseph Percoco, left, his former top aide, and Todd Howe, right, a lobbyist with long ties to Cuomo and his late father, Mario — NYSNYS News|
NYSNYS NEWS: As investigations swirl around him, Cuomo says he will 'throw the book' at aides who broke any laws. Citing his '100 percent integrity,' he portrays himself as victim of latest Albany mess.
By Kyle Hughes
ALBANY, N.Y. (May 27) -- As a web of investigations continues to spin around him, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised this week to "throw the book" at wrongdoers, portraying himself as an innocent victim of the latest mess to emerge from the state Capitol.
"I was the attorney general," Cuomo declared at a stop in Syracuse. "I put people in jail for misusing public money. I come from a tradition started by my father -- 100 percent integrity in public service."
Cuomo's reputation for honesty and integrity is being tested by investigations underway by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. They are focusing on some of Cuomo's closest allies and operatives in his long political career. No one has been charged or accused of wrongdoing, but the investigations have sent a tremor through NYS government, a target of federal and state prosecutors for a decade.
The week saw Schneiderman seize evidence at SUNY's showplace CNSE Polytechnic, a vote to approve $485 million in taxpayer funding on the SolarCity factory in Buffalo that Bharara is investigating, and Cuomo's promise to "throw the book" at anyone caught doing anything illegal.
Cuomo has ordered an internal investigation of possible wrongdoing by his former and current aides, but he said this week he didn't know how much it would cost, what its parameters would be, or even if any findings would ever be released publicly.
"I don't know, I don't know what the terms of it (are)," Cuomo said when when asked if the results of the investigation by outside counsel Bart Schwartz would be made public. He said it was not his decision to make.
"No, he is being hired as an independent to do an independent review," Cuomo said in the impromptu Q&A outside his office. "I don't know what his standard protocol is. I wouldn't have a problem with it, but I don't know how he operates."
Asked why the contract with Schwartz would not require release of findings, Cuomo said "the contract is about the dollars. I don't know how he operates. He is a credible, independent operator and I just don't know how he chooses to operate."
Cuomo's counsel Alphonso David jumped in to say it was "completely within (Schwartz's) discretion" as to whether a report would ever be released. "It's not our decision, it's his," David said.
"First and foremost it goes to the Southern District and then (Bharara) determines where it goes from there," Cuomo communications director Melissa DeRosa added, before cutting off further questions.
Cuomo's office has refused to provide details of the contract. On his Guidepost Solutions website, Schwartz, a New York City lawyer, says he was hired in April by Cuomo "to conduct a review of all grants and approvals in certain programs and operations in the Buffalo Billion/Nano Economic Development Program for improper conduct, lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest and to make recommendations for improvements in its operations."
Two other investigations of Cuomo's administration widened this week.
Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed evidence at SUNY CNSE Poly, the college headed by Cuomo associate Alain Kaloyeros located near the SUNY Albany campus. A New York Times reporter was tipped off in time to be there to take a photo of authorities gathered at the open back hatch of an SUV. The picture was posted to Twitter.
Investigators were looking at the office and computer used by Todd Howe, a longtime aide and friend to the Cuomo family who is under investigation by Bharara along with Cuomo's former top aide and family friend Joe Percoco. Howe was a longtime lobbyist until he was fired by Whiteman Osterman Hanna, the biggest law firm in Albany, after news of the investigation broke.
Details remain unclear, but Howe was also working as a paid advisor to Kalyoyeros, who has led Cuomo's economic development efforts upstate. The website Politico this week that Howe was the "de facto chief of staff" for Kaloyeros, despite the fact he is not a regular SUNY administrator. The website also reported that a broader subpoena has gone out to the state Public Service Commission seeking records of contacts between the regulatory agency and Cuomo's office.
Howe worked on several big energy projects. One project, a CVP Energy generating plant proposed for Orange County, is under the microscope because the developers hired Percoco's wife, a schoolteacher, as a consultant.
"If there's any wrongdoing whatsoever, I will be the first to throw the book at the person or people," Cuomo said in his Syracuse stop.
A company named COR is Cuomo's biggest campaign donor in central New York and has won huge state contracts in recent years. Asked if the contract awards were influenced by the money COR gave him, Cuomo said he had nothing to do with the awards.
"The way it worked, first of all, is the quote-unquote state didn't do any of the contracts, right," Cuomo said. "It's all done through SUNY, the State University system, and they are the ones that actually manage the contracting process. So any of the nano investments which have done extraordinarily well for this state -- Nano Albany has changed the entire Albany region. I didn't do that, that started under Gov. Pataki. That was about a $6 billion investment, but it has revolutionized Albany. And that was done through SUNY Albany. We started on the other end of the state with the Buffalo Billion which is basically adopting that model to Western NY. It's also run by SUNY. They are the ones who ran the contracts, who ran the competitions, made the selections and I had absolutely nothing to do with that, so there couldn't even be a possibility" of a pay-to-play arrangement involving his donors.
He said "a couple of actors" -- referring to Percoco and Howe -- may or may not have done something wrong in what was otherwise multi-billion dollar projects involving thousands of people. "Fine, you throw the book at them, you make an example. Zero tolerance."
Cuomo said the investigations should not derail the SolarCity plant or any other of the projects he has green lighted upstate.