Three of the nine people charged in a sweeping state corruption probe last month were back in court Monday, and some of those implicated in the complaint are big donors to Governor Andrew Cuomo with business before the state. Zack Fink filed the following report.
On Monday, three of the nine men charged in a wide-ranging corruption case were in federal court, including Buffalo real esate developer Lou Ciminelli, who is also a major donor to the governor. Ciminelli declined to comment but maintains his innocence.
According to records compiled for NY1 by Competitive Advantage Research, Ciminelli, his family members and his companies have given $163,000 to Cuomo's campaigns for office since 2008.
"The governor needs to correctly dispell the notion that this is how you get access to projects and public money in New York. And over many years in office, he has not done so," said Jon Reznick of Competitive Advantage Research.
But it's not just Ciminelli. Steven Aiello and his company, COR Development gave $340,500 to Cuomo going back to 2001. Aiello is charged in the complaint.
And Peter Galbraith Kelly, who is also facing criminal charges gave $94,000 to Cuomo since 2009 through his company Competitive Power Ventures and Limited Liability Companies.
In total, Kelly, Aiello, Ciminelli and their family members and companies gave Cuomo $597,866.
"So, it provides some background on the motivations on the part of the folks who are paying bribes, showing that they wanted to curry favor in a particular way," said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the southern district. "But at this moment here are no allegations of any wrongdoing or any misconduct by the governor."
At the center of the probe is longtime aide and close friend Joe Percoco, who received a $120,000 bonus in February 2015 after spending the year working for the 2014 Cuomo campaign in which the aovernor was sucessfully re-elected.
Just days earlier, Ciminelli was awarded the contract to begin work on a solar panel factory, the centerpiece of Cuomo's upstate Buffalo Billion program, which is where the trouble allegedly started.
"The timing is interesting because you've got Joe Percoco receiving a reward at virtually the same time for an outcome that he sought that favored LP Ciminelli.
Even though Comptroller Tom Di Napoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman returned donations from Ciminelli and others, Cuomo put them in an isolated account, claiming they will be subject to forfeiture should there be convictions in those cases.