Andrew Cuomo laughed yesterday when he started talking about Glenwood Management and its $1.2 million worth of donations to his campaign warchest.
“Yes, I received significant funds, donations from that company. And I was their opponent as a matter of policy,” Cuomo said during a WNYC radio interview with Brian Lehrer. “I was advocating for rent reforms.”
As NY1’s Josh Robin explained in a powerful report yesterday, Glenwood was at the center of the corruption trials of both Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, two men who at the start of 2015 were running the legislature and are now both busy trying to figure out how to make legal appeals that will keep them out of prison.
Trying to grease the wheels of government, Glenwood legally pumped out well more than $10 million in campaign contributions as it sought to win tax benefits and erode the city’s rent stabilization laws. In Skelos’ case, it also helped boost the income of the Senate leader’s son. For Silver, it threw some tax work to a law firm that then paid the Assembly Speaker some referral fees.
Not implicated in either case, Cuomo said he is immune to the arguments of his donors.
“If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars or a thousand dollars or 50 dollars, then I’m in the wrong place and I should resign immediately,” Cuomo told Lehrer.
“If you can be influenced by the money, then forget the denomination. You just have the wrong person in the office.”
But that argument essentially gives the green light to donations from anyone in any amount. Where does the governor draw the line? Apparently not with a company that’s run by an unindicted co-conspirator in the Skelos case.
Meanwhile, the governor created a potential ethical headache for himself when he announced the promotion of his communications director, Melissa DeRosa, to become his chief of staff.
According to Cuomo’s press release, DeRosa’s “portfolio will continue to include communications, and will add legislative affairs, politics, labor, and the administration's strategic approach to enacting policy.”
Not mentioned in the press release is the fact that DeRosa’s father, Giorgio, is the chief lobbyist for the firm of Bolton-St. John.
According to Bolton’s website: “As a lobbyist, Giorgio has worked on several successful procurement projects, including the New York State Prescription Drug Program, valued at $1 billion per year, and the New York State Mental Health Contract, valued at $120 million per year. He spearheaded efforts leading to the deregulation of the cellular telephone industry, and secured $20 million for a soccer stadium in Rochester, New York, and for a project with the New York Botanical Gardens.”
So where will Melissa DeRosa sit at meetings if any of these topics come up in policy discussions?
Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s spokesman, says: “Melissa has always been recused from anything involving Bolton St. Johns and will continue to do so.”
So we’re supposed to trust the governor to keep DeRosa out of certain negotiations and ignore that massive amount of money that Glenwood threw his way. But if Cuomo wants to repair the public trust that was so badly damaged by the leaders of the legislature, he could try to lead by example.