On March 20th, as then-New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was battling Gov. Cuomo to further defang the ethically challenged governor's proposed ethics reforms, a report appeared about Cuomo's teen daughter Michaela Kennedy Cuomo being hospitalized. Kennedy Cuomo, the governor's daughter with ex-wife Kerry Kennedy, was found unconscious at her Westchester home, checked out, and released without incident. However, the article mentioned an open letter she had sent in 2014 to former state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, asking her to support the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. The letter was a sore subject with Skelos and his son Adam, according to recent court filings by federal prosecutors preparing to try the Skeloses on extortion, wire fraud and bribery charges.
The morning of the report about Cuomo's daughter, with the April 1st budget deadline looming, Adam Skelos called his father. The feds were listening in, and say the conversation went like this:
Adam: [The governor's] daughter could lobby [Tkaczyk] on some farm bill? I mean, how is that—how can she get away with that?"
Dean: She's not getting paid to do it...So we've killed that bill.
Adam: All right. I can't stand this family. I really can't stand this family.
A year prior, when Kennedy Cuomo first published her letter, prosecutors say the younger Skelos emailed his dad a link to a story about it, writing, "So because she's a Kennedy she's allowed to lobby? Didn't show [a former Senate Majority Leader's]'s son the same leniency with the law." (N.B.: It's unclear who prosecutors are referring to in the bracketed portion of the quote, but given the context it could be former Senate Deputy Leader Thomas Libous, whose son was convicted of tax fraud.)
"Always a double standard when it comes to the Kennedys," Dean Skelos purportedly replied.
Adam Skelos again: "Well there should be an investigation to see if her or her mother is getting paid."
Dean Skelos: "Will check."
The cynicism on display here is thick indeed, particularly if you believe the charges that got the Skeloses arrested in May. Prosecutors claim the Skeloses together scored Adam a no-show job at environmental technology company AbTech Industries, then Dean Skelos advocated for projects and laws that would make the company money without disclosing his connection, including fracking regulations, and a stormwater system for Nassau County, and shook down AbTech for a raise in the last stages of the stormwater contract's approval.
Adam Skelos's boss recounted feeling held hostage by the Skeloses, and when he objected to the Skelos not coming to the office, prosecutors say the son threatened to "bash in" his head. Oh, and let's not forget the $130,000 a-year no-show job the elder Skelos has allegedly held at a law firm for two decades, where his only work purportedly consists of steering clients in the door, some of whom have business with the state. In opposing Cuomo's proposed rules about disclosure of lawmakers' outside income, Skelos, like indicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose trial began jury selection this week, said that the measures threatened "client confidentiality."
There's more sausage-making in the government's recent motions, including a late February exchange where Dean Skelos acknowledges Republicans harping on forcing disclosure of Cuomo's girlfriend Sandra Lee's income to pressure Cuomo to further water down the ethics package.
Adam: It's a real cat fight, huh?
Dean: Yeah, but see, by them saying that, they just highlighted, they just highlighted [Lee]...[Cuomo's] people said if we don't introduce [his amendments], he's going to say we're going to have a late budget because of ethics. We said say it again. Who the fuck cares? You keep saying it every day anyway.
The senator supposedly said he was going to keep pushing to force disclosure of Lee's income (because they aren't married, the celebrity chef's endorsement deals with companies that do business with the state aren't public record), and that he had lawyers and politicians "giving [Cuomo] shit."
"I'm going to go after [Cuomo] and I want him to disclose, you know [Lee], and all this other stuff."
The conversations are among wiretaps and intercepted emails the Skeloses' lawyers are trying to keep out of the trial, which is set to start on November 16th. Others include phone calls where Adam Skelos refers a CEO looking to deal with a cellphone-driving ticket to the law firm of Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein. When Klein tried to pass the referral off to a law firm partner, Skelos told Klein the company is "starting to do some work here in New York, so it could—you never know, it could lead to other stuff." Klein's spokeswoman told Politico New York that was the first and last he heard of the CEO.
In another, the young Skelos goes apeshit on the head of a Greek diner business group who wouldn't buy energy services from him, telling the man he is "like every other Greek business person...you don't do a fucking thing." "Lose my number," he says later.
The government argues that these and other conversations show that father and son worked together to abuse the majority leader's position, knew that what they were doing was against the law, and that Adam Skelos wasn't, as they expect the defense to claim at trial, exaggerating his dad's willingness to use his influence to corrupt ends. Lawyers for the Skeloses wrote that the diner conversation and a talk about trying to get Adam's wife appointed to the Nassau County zoning board (for health insurance among, other perks) are "irrelevant" and seek to confuse jurors and "demonize Adam Skelos and prejudice Dean Skelos in order to improperly strengthen" the feds' case.