Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters yesterday that he knew that his top advisor and close friend might be taking money from private interests, but believed that he was doing so not as a state employee, but merely as a member of his reelection campaign, and thus not technically on the state payroll.
"I knew he might be accepting consulting arrangements with other companies but beyond that no,” Cuomo said of Joe Percoco, who is being investigated by federal prosecutors. "When you leave state government you can work in the private sector and represent private sector companies. Yes, that's totally allowable."
In Percoco’s case, “leaving state government” meant working as an offensive lineman for Cuomo’s reelection campaign from April 2014 through early December 2014. Percoco earned between $100,000 and $150,000 from Cuomo’s campaign, and was also given a $120,000 bonus.
In 2014 filings with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Percoco stated that he earned between $50,000 and $70,000 from COR development, a developer involved in projects in Buffalo and Syracuse, and between $20,000 and $50,000 from CHA Consulting, Inc.
A Wall Street Journal report notes that those two companies significantly increased their donations to Cuomo’s campaign in 2014:
Between 2013 and 2014, Clough, Harbour & Associates donated $160,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign, according to filings with the state Board of Elections. Before that, the one reported contribution from the firm to Mr. Cuomo was $1,000 in 2010. The company gave another $35,000 to the governor’s campaign in 2015.
In 2013, COR executives and LLCs affiliated with the company contributed $187,500 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign, up from $60,000 in 2012 and $15,000 in 2011. Before January 2011, the only contribution from those parties was a $5,000 donation from COR President Steven F. Aiello, in 2010.
The JCOPE filings also show Percoco’s wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco, taking between $75,000 and $100,000 from Chris Pitts LLC.
According to the Times, that entity is connected to Competitive Power Ventures, the company that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Cuomo's administration to build their natural gas-fired power plant in Orange County, and also donated $80,000 to Cuomo's campaign.
Percoco left the governor's side early this year to become an executive at Madison Square Garden, which also recently had business before the state.
"I'm saying I know Joe Percoco for many years and he is a good man and I would be shocked if he did anything wrong,” Cuomo said, according to the Daily News, adding that Percoco is “distraught and his family’s distraught. It’s painful. It is a very painful thing….But let's get the facts and then we can make our own decisions.”
A close confidante to the governor and his father, "willing to do things on behalf of the Cuomos…that the Cuomos themselves preferred not to do," under a federal investigation for taking cash from private interests with business before the state that also donated heavily to Cuomo's reelection campaign, and yet here are today's tabloid cover stories:
— Azi (@Azi) May 3, 2016
The Times' story was on page A19.