De­spite crim­i­nal cases of aides, donors, Cuomo main­tains high ap­proval rat­ing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By Kyle Hughes NYSNYS News

The felony in­dict­ments of Gov. An­drew Cuomo’s for­mer aides and cam­paign donors is a stun­ning new chap­ter in the an­nals of Al­bany cor­rup­tion, but how the story will end for the gov­er­nor re­mains a mys­tery.

Cuomo has not been charged with a crime, nor has he been blamed by vot­ers for the worst cor­rup­tion scan­dal in re­cent his­tory. A poll this month showed him with a 65 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing among New York City vot­ers as he gears up to run for a third term, por­tray­ing him­self as an in­no­cent vic­tim rather than an en­abler of cor­rup­tion.

“As I said two months ago when the U.S. at­tor­ney first made this case pub­lic, this is a pro­foundly sad sit­u­a­tion for me per­son­ally,” Cuomo said in a state­ment re­leased af­ter the in­dict­ments came down two days be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. “Now the jus­tice sys­tem must take its course, and any of those found guilty of abus­ing the pub­lic’s trust should and will be pun­ished.”

That as­sess­ment wasn’t shared by New York state Repub­li­can Chair­man Ed Cox, the son-in-law of the late Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon and Cuomo’s most fer­vent critic.

“Joe Per­coco — who Gov­er­nor Cuomo has de­scribed as a ‘brother’ — was long known as the gov­er­nor’s en­forcer, and un­der his di­rec­tion and bless­ing, brazenly wielded power to mete out pun­ish­ments to en­e­mies and re­ward friends and donors,” Cox said. “Cuomo’s call for ethics re­form is noth­ing more than lip­stick on a pig timed to feign vir­tu­ous­ness. New York­ers will see through this cha­rade for what it re­ally is and hold the Gov­er­nor ac­count­able for his cor­rupt ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Those in­dicted in­cluded Per­coco, Cuomo’s right­hand man, gate­keeper and re-elec­tion cam­paign man­ager. He has worked for the Cuomo fam­ily in one ca­pac­ity or an­other since he was a teenager. Also in­dicted was SUNY Poly’s now ex-pres­i­dent, Alain Kaloyeros, a Cuomo chum and $1 mil­lion a year state worker who was his top op­er­a­tive for up­state eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing the $750 mil­lion tax­payer-built Buf­falo Bil­lion So­larCity plant.

The oth­ers in­dicted in­clude ex­ec­u­tives of LPCiminelli, Buf­falo’s big­gest con­struc­tion com­pany; COR De­vel­op­ment, a large Cen­tral New York firm; and Com­pet­i­tive Power Ven­tures, a util­ity com­pany build­ing a huge power plant in the Hudson Val­ley. Both COR and Ciminelli are ma­jor Cuomo cam­paign donors.

All the de­fen­dants could face long fed­eral prison terms if con­victed. They are ex­pected to en­ter pleas next week in a case that U.S. At­tor­ney Preet Bharara says ex­posed “per­va­sive cor­rup­tion and fraud” in state eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­grams run by the Cuomo ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The bribery and fraud in­dict­ment says COR and LPCiminelli got state con­tracts worth $15 mil­lion, $90 mil­lion and $750 mil­lion af­ter brib­ing lob­by­ist and SUNY Poly em­ployee Todd Howe and mak­ing cam­paign do­na­tions to Cuomo. Kaloyeros is ac­cused of se­cretly fix­ing the

con­tracts.

The in­dict­ment also refers to “The Per­coco Bribery Scheme” and says COR paid $35,000 and CPV paid $287,000 in bribes to Per­coco. Per­coco’s wife, who has not been charged with any crime, also got a $7,500 a month “low-show” job with CPV, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege.

As de­scribed in court pa­pers, the case has the trap­pings of a Mafia movie, with Per­coco and Howe re­fer­ring to bribe money as “ziti,” and tak­ing on nick­names. Per­coco was also known as “Herb,” ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, while Kaloyeros was “Dr. K.”

The in­dict­ments fol­lowed a Septem­ber guilty plea by lob­by­ist Todd Howe, an­other long­time aide-de-camp to the Cuomo fam­ily, work­ing for both Mario Cuomo in Al­bany and for An­drew Cuomo dur­ing his time as HUD sec­re­tary. Howe, who first hired Per­coco to work for the Cuo­mos, is now co­op­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors in the case against Cuomo’s in­ner cir­cle.

The in­dict­ments fol­lowed the sep­a­rate ar­rests and con­vic­tions of Cuomo’s for­mer part­ners in state govern­ment, Assem­bly Speaker Shel­don Sil­ver, D-Man­hat­tan, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Dead Ske­los, a Long Is­land Repub­li­can, who are both fac­ing long prison terms for bribery, fraud and other crimes.

Cuomo also drew con­dem­na­tions for shut­ting down the More­land in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Al­bany cor­rup­tion in 2014. That move led Bharara to take over the probe that claimed the leg­isla­tive lead­ers and re­mains

on­go­ing.

Through all this in­dis­putably bad news, “Cuomo is top of the heap” in New York pol­i­tics, as Quin­nip­iac poll­ster Mickey Car­roll put it this month. His sky-high ap­proval rat­ing in New York City falls sharply in other parts of the state, but it does at this point make him a fa­vorite to win a third term in 2018.

A SIena Poll in June put his ap­proval rat­ing statewide at 56 per­cent. His high point is a 77 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing recorded right af­ter he took of­fice in 2011.

This month, Cuomo re­leased the lat­est in a long line of ethics pro­pos­als he has made as gov­er­nor. “Changes need to be made to re­store faith at ev­ery level of govern­ment,” Cuomo said in his state­ment about Per­coco’s in­dict­ment. “My ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken a num­ber of steps in the past sev­eral months to re­form the pro­cure­ment process, and has pro­posed ad­di­tional mea­sures for the Leg­is­la­ture to take up when they re­turn.”

His lat­est plan, put out in the form of a press re­lease, called for a re­view of man­age­ment prac­tices at SUNY and CUNY, the ap­point­ment of a “chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer” in the Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice, and a six­month wait­ing pe­riod on cam­paign do­na­tions from com­pa­nies seek­ing state con­tracts.

He re­it­er­ated his sup­port for an out­side in­come cap of 15 per­cent of a leg­isla­tive salary, and said all state and lo­cal of­fi­cials should have to dis­close any out­side in­come for them­selves and their spouses. He also again called for tighter reg­u­la­tion of ad­vo­cacy groups try­ing to in­flu­ence pub­lic pol­icy and de­ci­sion mak­ing.

NYSNYS PHOTO

An­drew Cuomo, top right, and Joseph Per­coco, top cen­ter, greet vot­ers dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Green­wich, N.Y., in 2010.

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