An event in Albany was overshadowed by Governor Andrew Cuomo facing a new round of questions over a federal probe into his signature economic development program for upstate New York. Zack Fink field the following report.
Wednesday's official event may have been about wine and beer, but Governor Andrew Cuomo was rocked with questions from the Albany press corps about a federal inquiry into the awarding of contracts for a program known as "The Buffalo Billion."
"I have no reason to believe that - you're talking about the SUNY contracts? - Yeah, I have no reason not - I have no reason to question them," Cuomo said.
Roughly $750 million of state money is going toward the building of a solar panel factory in Buffalo. Contracts were awarded by the State University Polytechnic Institute, which has been subpoenaed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Cuomo was asked if he, too, has been subpoenaed.
Cuomo: You should ask the federal authorities that question.
Q: Can't you say if you've been questioned yourself?
Cuomo: I don't want to comment on what the U.S. attorney is doing.
Q: Well, will you come out on whether you've been subpoenaed -
Cuomo: Well, you said "and staff." I have not.
The contract to build the solar panel facility went to Lou Ciminelli, who has given Cuomo more than $120,000 in campaign donations.
Cuomo would not answer whether members of his staff have been questioned by authorities.
"He asked me if I received a subpoena. The answer is no," Cuomo said. "But I don't want to comment on what the U.S. attorney is doing. You should ask the U.S. attorney."
Cuomo's spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, later issued a clarifying statement, which read, "To be clear, neither the Governor, nor his staff has been questioned or subpoenaed on the Buffalo Billion project."
Bharara began looking into Albany corruption cases last year, when Cuomo prematurely shut down his anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Since then, the leaders in both houses, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, have been indicted on corruption charges. Both of their respective trials are scheduled to begin next month.