September 25, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v4)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times
When we last checked in on doings in Albany, we were looking at the issue of a possible legislative pay raise, with something in the neighborhood of 47% on the table.

My earlier posts touched on the recent legislative session, the pros and cons of a big raise, and good people.

I had hoped, by now, that the transcript from the September 13th meeting would be available, so we could see how the Commission tackled the part-time vs. full time issue, which they touched on in the July meeting and were to address in more detail this month, Alas, nothing's been posted yet.

But that's OK, because there have been even bigger doings in Albany than something as inconsequential as a monster pay raise for the Leg, the Gov, and the various commissioners who do those things about which we often hear little and know even less.

Our old friend Preet Bharara, the US Attorney in Manhattan and the person most actively interested in getting rid of corruption in Albany, has struck again - in a big way.  He has indicted several people on bribery, bid-rigging and other charges. Here's who made the list this time:

  • Joseph Percoco and Todd Howe, both former aides of Andrew Cuomo and his father, late Governor Mario Cuomo. Percoco was referred to as "Mario Cuomo's third son" by the current governor - "and the one he loved the most." Percoco allegedly accepted bribes arranged by Howe from a couple of development companies.
  • Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, of Syracuse-based COR Development, who were alleged to have paid bribes for help in avoiding a labor agreement, getting paid by the state for work done, and obtaining a raise for Aiello's son, who worked for Percoco. The company was not charged.
  • Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr, the lobbying guy for Competitive Power Ventures; the company wanted help on a project in the Hudson Valley, and paid bribes to Percoco's wife. Again, the company itself was not charged.
  • Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laepple, and Kevin Schuler, of LPCiminelli. The goal of these bribes was to ensure that the company (itself not charged) was the sole eligible bidder on a project.
  • Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, head of SUNY Polytechnic, who was the mastermind behind high-tech economic development projects across the state.  NY Attorney General Eric Schneidermann also charged Kaloyeros last week for other corrupt actions

Naturally, everyone did nothing wrong, they will all be exonerated, this is a sham, Bharara has designs on something bigger, and on and on. I like to think he has designs on continuing to clean up Albany, something that the Governor and the Legislature are unable to do themselves. JCOPE is an example of that.

JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, is more of a reporting organization than anything else, and like other commissions, is lock stock and barrel comprised of representatives of the people it oversees.
The Commission consists of 14 members, three appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly and six appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. 
As with the Commission looking at the pay raise, none of the members are appointed by the people of the Empire State. None answer to the people of the Empire State. None are looking after the interests of the people of the Empire state. The fox is overseeing the hen house, with the full commitment of the hens.

This is ridiculous, but it's not as ridiculous as Cuomo's personal attempt at rooting out corruption.

I've done a number of posts on the reasonably well conceived but poorly executed and prematurely shut down Moreland Commission. This commission would have been a complete waste of time and money, except that it really put front and center our Sonofa Gov's lack of interest in getting ethics reform. He's been talking reform for a number of years, but the reality of what he's accomplished pales in comparison to his rhetoric.

Cuomo has always maintained that he's clean as a whistle, and so far, he's not been touched by Bharara's investigations, which also took down Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos. But now, the investigations have closed in on people who are extremely close to the Governor, who are huge donors, who are actively involved in the Buffalo Billion and in the other signature projects that came from the Gov's porkfest, the Regional Economic Development Councils.

I suspect Cuomo may be having a little more trouble sleeping at night.