As the curtain rose in Manhattan federal court on the latest New York corruption trial, both the prosecution and defense seemed to agree on one thing: The Buffalo Billion bid-rigging case runs straight through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
Alain Kaloyeros — the longtime SUNY Polytechnic Institute president designated by Cuomo as the point man for $1 billion in economic-development projects — “needed support from the governor and the governor’s office to get a promotion,” prosecutor David Zhao told the jury.
That, said Zhao, is why Kaloyeros hired lobbyist Todd Howe, a Cuomo crony for decades, to help rig lucrative contracts for two companies that were also major Cuomo donors.
Howe, said Zhao, “was the key to the governor’s office” and provided “access to important people” in CuomoLand.
Lawyers for Kaloyeros and the other defendants, meanwhile, pointed the full finger of blame at Howe — while carefully noting his “extraordinary relationships with the governor.”
So it’s hard to see how Cuomo escapes from this politically unscathed, even though he stands charged with no wrongdoing.
Especially when this trial comes on the heels of the conviction in March of Joe Percoco — Cuomo’s longtime political enforcer — on multiple corruption counts.
And when new disclosures are surfacing about an FBI investigation into an upstate health care outfit that won $25 million in state grants after its officials donated $400,000 to Cuomo’s campaign.
The gov denies any hint of wrongdoing in all these cases, but at some point all the corruption surrounding him tells a story of its own. As Reinvent Albany’s John Kaehny notes, Cuomo is a notorious micromanager: How did he miss all the sleaze dripping around him? Whether the gov turned a blind eye, or somehow just failed, or something worse, “it’s not pretty.”
Meanwhile, his signature Buffalo Billion program has turned out to be a disaster that’s produced more scandals than jobs, while costing taxpayers a fortune.
Andrew Cuomo took office vowing he’d be the one to finally clean up state government. Instead, corruption took over his pet program. That’s the definition of failure.
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