Hollow Attempts to Become ‘Mr. Me Too’ Fail in the Face of Multiple Incidents Ignoring Reports of Abuse
Burkan to Spearhead Fundraising Efforts for Congressional Assistance Initiative
New York–March 15th
March 13, 2018 — “Today the jury found Governor Andrew Cuomo’s closest aide, confidante and ‘enforcer’ guilty of multiple corruption charges; however, the information that came out throughout the trial revealed a widespread, corrosive culture of corruption driven by the Governor himself. We learned through evidence and testimony, the Governor, his then counsel and other senior aides apparently committed crimes in allowing Mr. Percoco to illegally utilize state resources for his bribery schemes and the Governor’s political purposes.
“Now that the verdict is in, we renew our call on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the state’s ethics commission to investigate Mr. Percoco’s violations of state laws with the apparent involvement of Governor Cuomo, his counsel and other senior aides. This is a sad day for our state, but today’s verdict must be just one chapter in an ongoing effort to clean up Cuomo’s rampant pay-to-play and corrupt operations. The billions wasted in these schemes is costing New Yorkers dearly.”
HOW MANY OF NEW YORK’S ELECTRIC CREWS ARE STILL IN
PUERTO RICO, GOVERNOR CUOMO?
Once Again Cuomo is Putting Presidential Ambitions Ahead of New Yorkers
Governor Cuomo Breaks Law to Raise More than $2 Million from Appointees, Family
NYGOP Announces Appointment of Elie Hirschfeld as NYGOP Finance Chair
Business Leader, Philanthropist with deep New York ties to Help Lead Fundraising Effort
President of Hirschfeld Properties, an owner and developer of real estate in New York City, Mr. Hirschfeld brings a strong business background, strategic vision, and analytical mind to the NYGOP fundraising effort. A Tony-award nominated producer, philanthropist, and art collector, Elie will bring his enormous talents to the mission of the NYGOP to elect Republican candidates.
“We are thrilled to welcome Elie Hirschfeld to the NYGOP team as our finance chair,” said State Chairman Ed Cox. “Elie’s impressive background and stature will be a tremendous asset to helping us grow the Republican Party here in New York. With many nationally important races ahead of us, we have an incredible opportunity to build on our successes. New Yorkers have seen the failed leadership of the New York State Democratic Party in politicians like Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand and Eric Schneiderman, and are ready for new leadership that will turn New York around. Elie brings a superb skill set and deep network that will help lead us to victories up and down the ballot.”
“I’m excited to be joining the NYGOP, especially in this important election cycle,” said newly-appointed Finance Chair Elie Hirschfeld. “The energy and desire for change around the state is palpable, and we have great momentum for success. I’m looking forward to helping protect our congressional delegation, keeping the State Senate Majority and restoring New York by electing a new Governor and slate of statewide officeholders who will provide the real leadership New York State so desperately needs. My efforts will help ensure that we can get our message of change out to every voter, and I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Elie Hirschfeld is a real estate developer, philanthropist, theatrical producer, and art collector. He is President of Hirschfeld Properties, an owner and developer of real estate properties in the New York City metropolitan area since 1950.
Projects include: 1) assembly of Riverside South, the largest land assembly in recent Manhattan NYC history; 2) Historic Hotel Pennsylvania (NYC’s 4th largest hotel); 3) U.S. DEA Headquarters (NYC’s 4th largest lease 2015); 4) Manhattan Mall Herald Square; 5) NYC’s largest private sport club building; 6) Union Square Towers (1,000,000 Sq. Ft.) and 6) luxury towers Park Avenue Court, Grand Sutton, Exchange Tower, Gotham and many more.
A philanthropist and a longtime supporter of education, medicine, healthcare and Jewish causes, Mr. Hirschfeld created the Elie Hirschfeld Family Foundation. Mr. Hirschfeld serves as trustee emeritus of Brown University and Long Island University and served as trustee of several New York City hospitals, including Beth Israel, St. Luke’s, NY Eye & Ear, Long Island College and Roosevelt Hospitals. Mr. Hirschfeld also serves or served on the Board of Directors or Steering Committees of other organizations, including the Central Park Conservancy, Lincoln Center President’s Council, New York University Real Estate Roundtable and The Rockefeller University Council. Mr. Hirschfeld was a U.S. envoy to the visit of Pope Francis to the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17, 2016. He is a Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Mr. Hirschfeld is an art collector of original art scenes of New York. The collection includes art by Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and more. Many pieces have been loaned to museums world-wide.
Mr. Hirschfeld has been a Tony Award voter of The Broadway League. He produced Broadway shows including Oleanna, The Fantasticks, Flashdance, Equus and Passing Strange, for which Mr. Hirschfeld received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical.
Mr. Hirschfeld is a competitive athlete completing over 100 triathlons, 11 marathons and 3 Ironman competitions.
Mr. Hirschfeld graduated New York University Law School and Brown University, phi beta kappa, magna cum laude and President of his senior class.
Governor is Pleading the Fifth by Refusing to Answer Basic Questions
Economic Development Schemes Were Ripe for Corruption
New York, NY–February 15th.
By knowing and allowing Joe Percoco to work inside the executive chamber, utilize state resources and work on official state business while he was being paid by a private entitity that had business before the state, Governor Cuomo is in violation of Public Officers Law Sections 73 and 74 and possibly Penal Law Section 195.20, today charged NYGOP Chairman Ed Cox.
Chairman Cox, standing on the steps of the courthouse outside the federal trial against Percoco, discussed the official complaint filed with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as well as a letter he submitted to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance calling for separate investigations. The complaints are attached here and here.
Records revealed during the trial that Percoco, who had left state service to work on the Governor’s political campaign, was still regularly working out of the Governor’s Executive Chamber Office while also being paid by Cor Development (a Cuomo mega-donor) who was given the no-bid state contract on a major Syracuse construction project. On December 4, 2014, at the urging of Cor Development associates, Percoco illegally made a call acting in an official capacity ordering the State Economic Development (ESD) agency to reverse its decision on a union labor requirement.
After examination of the Governor’s own official public schedule that day, he was not only in the office working just inches from Percoco while he committed that illegal act, but he also held two meetings with the key ESD officials involved with the Syracuse project during the exact same timeframe, begging the question if Percoco was in those meetings with Cuomo and if Cuomo directed his self-described “hammer” Percoco to tell ESD to accept a labor peace agreement for a top campaign contributor.
Cuomo has refused to answer any questions related to the trial.
“The information revealed in the corruption trial was that Cuomo’s closest confidante Joe Percoco was simultaneously acting as a lobbyist representing private clients with business before the state, serving as the Governor’s campaign manager and still acting as a public official on official state matters,” said Chairman Ed Cox. “He was doing all of this in the direct presence of the Governor and other government officials, creating a serious violation of the Public Officer’s Law.”
He continued, “Andrew Cuomo is essentially pleading the Fifth by refusing to answer any questions related to this trial because he is afraid of implicating himself further. What we know for certain is he created these elaborate economic development schemes to take in millions of pay-to-play campaign donations by creating a culture of corruption that allowed his closest aide to line to his own pockets the way the Governor was lining his campaign coffers. There is ample evidence that Cuomo violated the law and if our legal institutions are going to maintain any public trust or credibility, they must investigate without fear or favor.”
GOP NY Senate candidate rips Gillibrand: Her ‘greatest success is self-promotion’
BY JOHN BOWDEN
A GOP candidate running against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday sharply criticized the New York Democrat.
In an interview with John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York, Chele Farley attacked Gillibrand for her shifting on issues such as gun control, noting Gillibrand’s nickname during her House tenure, “Annie Oakley.”
“When she was in the House, she was known as ‘Annie Oakley,’ ” Farley said. “And now in the Senate people laugh and they call her ‘Jane Fonda.’ That’s quite a change to the left.”
“Kirsten Gillibrand’s greatest success is self-promotion, not accomplishments,” Farley continued, before pivoting to attack Gillibrand’s votes against Trump administration nominees. “She’s voted against more Trump nominees than any other senator and was the only one to vote against [Defense Secretary James] Mattis.”
Farley declared her candidacy in a video on Feb. 1, and accused Gillibrand of “grandstanding” but getting nothing done during her nine years in the Senate in a statement to the New York Daily News.
“We need to stop the grandstanding and work with both sides of the aisle to create jobs not soundbites,” Farley said. “Kirsten Gillibrand had nine years and failed.”
Farley is endorsed by the state’s former Gov. George Pataki (R), and cited the GOP tax plan’s problems for New Yorkers as one of the main reasons for her Senate run.
“The tax cuts, frankly, were a mixed bag for New Yorkers,” she said. “That’s another reason that I’m running is that … if we had a Republican senator, that there would’ve been someone there in the room who could’ve worked to change the tax plan so we didn’t lose the state and local tax deductions cold turkey.”
Gillibrand previously won reelection in 2012 with 72 percent of the vote, the highest margin for any statewide candidate that year. She has served in the Senate since her appointment to the seat in 2009 by former Gov. David Paterson (D).
Trial paints picture of iron fist at top of Cuomo administration
By Tom Precious
NEW YORK – It’s still an open question yet whether Joe Percoco engaged in a bribery scheme to steer money his way from executives who he helped with business pending before the Cuomo administration.
But as his corruption trial continues in a Manhattan courtroom, what has come into focus via emails, photographs and other evidence submitted by prosecutors, along with testimony from a string of well-placed witnesses, is a portrait of Percoco ruling with an iron fist and a sharp tongue from the highest perch of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Sometimes rude, seemingly unfazed by people who failed to adequately serve Cuomo, Percoco tapped into his personality and influence with a bottom line zeal: protect and promote Cuomo.
To Albany insiders, it’s not exactly a stunning revelation.
His case involves alleged bribes that the prosecution claims were steered to Percoco by executives with two companies – a downstate energy firm and a Syracuse real estate development company – allegedly in return for influence that Percoco wielded with government agencies in order to financially benefit the two firms.
Percoco’s official title had been executive deputy secretary to Cuomo. From the trial evidence and witness testimony so far, “Cuomo enforcer” might have been a more accurate job title.
A couple of years ago, a then-top state official told the Buffalo News about the story of a staff member who worked for Cuomo. The official, who told the story on the condition that his name and the staffer’s name was not used, described how the staffer was desperate to move on from the hectic world of the Capitol’s second floor where the mission is made clear to staffers: your life, day and night, is to serve Cuomo.
After a time, the staffer was offered a job – not in the lucrative private sector, but with another state government agency. The staffer got the nerve up to personally tell Cuomo of his plans. The source says Cuomo wished him well and thanked him for his service.
Five minutes later, Percoco called the staffer. “You (expletive) traitor. You’re not going anywhere,’’ Percoco snapped at him. The staffer remained on the job, at least for a time.
Similar stories have made the rounds at the Capitol for years. And it wasn’t just Percoco keeping people from leaving.
After two weeks of the Percoco trial, similar stories are coming out from people testifying under oath.
Last week, Andrew Kennedy offered his own tale for the court. A former deputy state operations director, Kennedy was asked about the time he considered leaving his job in June of 2014. He had been offered a job at the University at Albany, about a 10-minute drive from the Capitol. Cuomo’s re-election campaign at that point was in full swing and Percoco had left the payroll – to run Cuomo’s campaign – after telling people he would not be coming back to his job with the governor after the race was over.
Kennedy, long praised by people who do business in Albany as straight-shooting professional, wanted the new job. It didn’t happen. “Later that month, it was – I was encouraged to reconsider taking that position,’’ he told prosecutor Matthew Podolsky, an assistant United States Attorney.
Performing the role of encourager with Kennedy was Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s secretary, which is the highest staff level job in the office. In his testimony, Kennedy said Schwartz told him to stay because it was a busy time. If Kennedy didn’t agree to stay, Kennedy said Schwartz told him “the governor’s office would call the university and ask them to reconsider offering – providing me the job.’’ Such a call from an office ultimately responsible for how much state aid the SUNY campus received was no idle threat.
Percoco cleared people for getting jobs for the Second Floor, the spot in the Capitol building that houses the offices where dozens of Cuomo’s top staffers work. According to testimony, he took the responsibility of “retainer” with equal force.
Loyalty is key
Cuomo runs a busy office, where top aides are on call 24 hours a day. Loyalty to him is key. During a public meeting of his cabinet, Cuomo once joked – sort of – that he once didn’t bother staffers on major holidays like Christmas. Those days had ended, Cuomo said a couple of years ago during a public event.
When trusted aides left, it caused a problem for Cuomo. In turn, it caused a problem for Percoco, the point person assigned to keep a stable – if not always happy – staff environment.
“You got things done by having really good people working really hard on the projects that were on the governor’s agenda, right?’’ Barry Bohrer, Percoco’s lawyer, asked of Linda Lacewell, Cuomo’s chief of staff. She was the prosecution’s second witness in the trial.
“Yes,’’ she said.
“So from your standpoint, when people left state government, people with whom you worked for a long period of time and could count on and trust, that made life harder, didn’t it?” he asked her.
“And there was, shall we say, a gravitational pull; you wanted to keep people if you could in senior positions for as long as possible, right?” he asked her. “Yes,’’ she said.
Another witness, Seth Agata, a former Cuomo counsel who now heads a state ethics agency, was asked how Percoco could prevent someone from leaving their job with Cuomo. “Phone call either to the individual asking them to stay or, perhaps, to an employer asking to hold off taking the individual on,’’ he said.
Prosecutors have been laying out a case of enormous strength held by one individual – Percoco. Assistant United States Attorney Richard Boone called him “one of the most powerful men in New York State government.’’
“For years, he was a top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo. And he had a very long and a very fancy title: executive deputy secretary to the governor,” Boone said. “But he didn’t really need a title, because everyone in state government knew who Joseph Percoco was: He was the governor’s right-hand man. He influenced who met with the governor and who worked for the governor. And wherever the governor went, Percoco went. And you will learn that he decided to sell his power and betray the people of New York for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.”
Such “vast power,’’ as one prosecutor called it, enabled him to be position to help those who allegedly bribed him, according to prosecutors. That help included government advantages for a power company, relaxed labor union standards on a Syracuse parking garage project that saved the developers money in wages and, in a pay raise for one of the Syracuse developer’s sons who worked in Cuomo’s office, prosecutors allege.
“This is another stupid blunder. Another we had no idea. BS,’’ Percoco wrote in an email to a Cuomo personnel staffer about the failure to quickly get the son of Steven Aiello a pay hike. The increase then quickly went through.
Albany has a long tradition of immense power being given to the top aides for governors and legislative leaders. Some performed the nitty-gritty detail work of state government that governors neither had the time, or in some cases, ability to handle. In the Legislature, there have been aides to Senate majority leaders and Assembly speakers who could single-handedly kill a bill pushed by a rank-and-file lawmaker.
In Percoco’s case, his power came from the trust he earned with Cuomo and his family going back to the days of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration. Percoco – working influential labor forces, county party leaders and others – was among a select few in the inner circle who helped Cuomo restore his political fortunes in the Democratic Party after a disastrous first run for governor in 2002.
Just how trusted was Percoco? The trial early on revealed that Percoco’s laptop – seized by FBI investigators when his home was raided in 2016 – contained an array of personal family and financial details about Andrew Cuomo. And when Percoco traded up houses from a modest one on Staten Island to a large home in a tony enclave in Westchester County, it was Cuomo who would motorcycle over to see his longtime buddy.
There is perhaps no better example of Percoco’s access to Cuomo than the revelations about the use of his former government office. Percoco left the state payroll in April 2014 to go work as manager of Cuomo’s re-election campaign. He told people he wasn’t coming back to his state job after the campaign. But two things happened: His job was not filled and his Manhattan government office – steps from Cuomo’s – was kept vacant.
On the 39th floor of a midtown office building, Percoco, however, still kept showing up to his old government office. He used it dozens of times, prosecutors say. One government exhibit showed private citizen Percoco attending a gathering of top Cuomo officials, including the governor, military, law enforcement and transportation officials.
Percoco in December 2014 did return to Cuomo’s government payroll – in his old job and old office.
The governor’s public events, one witness testified, involves dozens of staff members to coordinate. In September 2015, a year after Percoco is accused of having taken bribe money from Cor Development executives in Syracuse, Cuomo was in Syracuse for a traveling “Capitol for a Day” series of events. There were photo ops, a meeting with his cabinet, and a tour of a historic hotel and a Budweiser brewery.
During the day, according to testimony, Kennedy got a call from Percoco. He was upset that Cuomo’s schedule that day did not include a stop at a project – funded partly with state money – run by Cor Development. He ordered Kennedy to make sure Cuomo didn’t leave Syracuse without making a stop by the site under construction at the time.
Kennedy and others scrambled to add the appearance, which can often take much planning to pull off a single stop by the governor and his entourage. Asked how long he had to pull the event together, Kennedy replied: “15 to 20 minutes.’’ Before the day ended, a government photographer snapped a shot of Cuomo with Cor’s Steven Aiello, one of four men on trial this week in the alleged Percoco bribe scheme.