Even with several of his top aides and donors facing charges of bid-rigging and bribery, Gov. Andrew Cuomo scoffed today at the Observer’s question about whether he might stop accepting or soliciting political contributions from entities doing business with the state.
Addressing the press after an unrelated event in Manhattan, Cuomo dismissed the idea that he shouldn’t keep raking in campaign dollars from entities applying for or receiving funds from Albany—entities like LP Ciminelli, Columbia Development, Competitive Power Ventures and COR Companies, four mega-donors named in U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s criminal complaints. The executives of the first companies stand accused of colluding with Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, of tailoring requests-for-proposals so only “friends of the administration” could qualify.
The latter two allegedly bribed Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former deputy executive secretary and close confidante, to push state agencies under the governor’s control to subsidize their projects.
“Why don’t you just don’t take any money? That’s the simplest way to do it. You couldn’t win office, but that’s what you could do,” he sneered at the Observer’s query.
The governor has in the past voiced support for public financing of elections, though he has never expended any political capital in advancing that proposal, despite strong support from members of his own party in both the Assembly and the State Senate. The Albany Times Union reported yesterday that he had decided to set aside the money he had received from the companies in the case from the bulk of his campaign funds, which he insisted today was a better idea than directly restoring the money to the donors.
“It makes no sense to me to give the money back to the people who have been charged. Why would you want to enrich them?” he asked. “We’ll wait till the disposition of the case, and if the U.S. Attorney wins the case and seeks forfeiture of funds—well, if that’s the case, I would hope he does, to repay the people of the state. We want to keep those contributions as a source of money to be part of the forfeiture account, okay? Because my main goal is making the people of New York whole.”
The governor himself does not face any accusations of wrongdoing at present. However, his intimate personal ties to Percoco, his tight control over the state university board, his past efforts to obstruct State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s oversight of SUNY contracting and the hundreds of thousands of dollars his campaign has reaped from the parties charged have raised countless questions about his awareness of the alleged illegal dealings. He has thus far denied having any such knowledge.
Percoco left the governor’s office at the end of last year to take a job with Madison Square Garden. Cuomo today said the state had dropped plans to obtain and demolish the stadium-owned MGM Theater as part of the larger plan to revamp Pennsylvania Station—directly contradicting his claims yesterday that the property swap was still under consideration.