Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/suny-polytechnic 2017-10-21T04:57:48+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com In Wake of Charges, Cuomo Promises Change, Offers Few Details 2016-09-28T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6553:in-wake-of-charges-cuomo-promises-change-offers-few-details Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/29878309492_c6ac23da80_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo gaggle teacher award night" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after United States Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled a myriad of corruption charges against two of his closest allies and some of his biggest donors related to their abuse of the state&rsquo;s economic development programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to announce he was expanding the program that sparked Bharara&rsquo;s investigation.</p> <p>Cuomo publicly acknowledged the &ldquo;truly disappointing&rdquo; allegations and told the gathered crowd that his administration plans to learn from revelations about bid-rigging and bribery schemes. He also promised not to &ldquo;miss a beat&rdquo; and pledged his administration will &ldquo;redouble our efforts&rdquo; on economic development projects in Buffalo and Western New York.</p> <p>What exactly Cuomo has learned and what he and his administration actually plan to do about the alleged corruption - which was uncovered by reporters and watchdogs over a year ago and outlined by Bharara last week - remains largely unclear. The lack of clarity is especially stark given the amount of time the administration has had to formulate a response to problems and change protocols.</p> <p>On Friday, Cuomo announced that the Empire State Development Corporation would take over a portfolio of projects previously overseen by SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who was suspended without pay after he was charged Thursday in two separate bid-rigging investigations (one by Bharara and one by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman).</p> <p>&ldquo;We are today going to take that portfolio of responsibility, those projects, transfer them all to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is run by a fellow named Howard Zemsky is his name, and he&rsquo;ll take over management of that immediately,&rdquo; Cuomo said on Friday.</p> <p>Asked if the governor&rsquo;s announcement would end the use of nonprofits under SUNY Poly to administer economic development projects, Cuomo spokesperson Dani Lever told Gotham Gazette that &ldquo;ESDC will oversee all economic development projects.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cuomo said this week that Zemsky will formulate new procedures and oversight mechanisms to be unveiled in January during the governor&rsquo;s State of the State Address. Cuomo is also expected to debut a new phase of the Buffalo Billion in the same speech.</p> <p>On Friday, Cuomo also cited a report from Bart Schwartz, a lawyer retained by the governor in April after it became public that Bharara had subpoenaed a number of Cuomo officials and allies as part of his Buffalo Billion probe.</p> <p>&ldquo;We engaged an organization headed by a former prosecutor to review our entire procurement system. We have that report. It recommends changes to the procurement system,&rdquo; Cuomo said on Friday of Schwartz&rsquo;s investigation. &ldquo;We accept all the changes to the procurement system and we are going to be instituting them immediately to make sure whatever can be done to protect the taxpayer dollars is going to be done.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the Cuomo administration has not made Schwartz&rsquo;s report public. Cuomo announced that the &ldquo;independent&rdquo; investigation came to a conclusion on the same day Bharara unveiled related charges, in an apparent attempt at moving the conversation from the charges toward reforms. The governor said earlier this year that he wouldn&rsquo;t have a problem releasing Schwartz&rsquo;s report, but that it may not be made public depending on whether Bharara&rsquo;s office approved its release.</p> <p>Bharara&rsquo;s office declined to comment on whether its representatives had spoken to Schwartz or the Cuomo administration about the report.</p> <p>Schwartz&rsquo;s office declined to comment on whether the report will be made public or how it will be implemented.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration failed to return requests for comment about whether the report will be made public and what kind of changes will be made to the state&rsquo;s economic development programs to reduce corruption risk. Representatives for Cuomo also failed to respond to a question about whether Schwartz looked into, or continues to investigate, malfeasance in the state&rsquo;s economic development programs.</p> <p>When Bharara announced the charges at a Thursday news conference, he said that his investigation is &ldquo;ongoing.&rdquo; Bharara said that Cuomo was not implicated in the criminal complaint, but would not comment about whether the governor is an ongoing target. On Wednesday, Cuomo told reporters that he was not interviewed by Bharara&rsquo;s office and that he did not expect to testify in Percoco&rsquo;s trial, if there is one.</p> <p>David Friedfel, director of state studies for the Citizens Budget Commission, said CBC welcomes the handover of state projects to Empire State Development Corp. &ldquo;We certainly think the move to the ESDC is a good idea. In general we take the view that if you can&rsquo;t do what you want to do with economic development through a government entity you should not be able to do it or be allowed to create a non-government entity to do it,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>While ESDC does appear to have stricter contracting rules in place than SUNY Poly and its nonprofits, in the end both are controlled by Cuomo.</p> <p>And ESDC didn&rsquo;t go untouched by the recently revealed criminal charges, which were brought against nine people and showed a system lacking oversight. One of the charges against Cuomo&rsquo;s close friend and former top aide Joseph Percoco is that he took a $35,000 bribe to get ESDC to select a company for a project it didn&rsquo;t technically qualify for.</p> <p>Watchdogs believe the state used SUNY Poly and the nonprofits it oversees, like Fort Schuyler Management, in an end-run around standard state contracting protocols and to reduce public scrutiny, in part to fast track expensive projects. On Wednesday, Cuomo repeatedly blamed the alleged corruption on that same system, which he has done nothing to reform. He told reporters on Wednesday that the system &ldquo;had worked fine for 15 years. In retrospect I did not revisit their procurement system because they&rsquo;re a separate branch, they&rsquo;re a separate agency,&rdquo; Cuomo said, appearing to reference SUNY Poly. &ldquo;We will do just that,&rdquo; he promised of such a reexamination.</p> <p>Cuomo said on Friday in Buffalo that Zemsky will &ldquo;learn from what happened and to see how we can improve the system to make sure that it never happens again.&rdquo;</p> <p>The idea that there isn&rsquo;t already a blueprint on the table on how to avoid the pitfalls connected to the administration&rsquo;s use of nonprofits to administer economic development programs is laughable to many groups that have been calling for drastic changes for years and warning of corruption.</p> <p>&ldquo;Right now all we have are vague, undefined reforms wrapped in secrecy,&rdquo; said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a group that has followed economic development projects closely. &ldquo;The questions we have about the administration&rsquo;s approach remain the same as the questions we had last year.&rdquo;</p> <p>While Cuomo plans to wait until January to unveil his changes to the state&rsquo;s economic development procurement system, a number of watchdog groups have been clear for over a year on what changes needed to occur to better prevent corruption. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has also complained that Cuomo and the Legislature stripped him of his ability to review contracts at SUNY, something watchdogs have echoed. State legislative leaders have said little about the issue.</p> <p>In a letter dated September 23, 2015, several groups, including CBC, Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union, Fiscal Policy Institute, and the New York Public Interest Research Group, called on Cuomo to increase accountability and transparency surrounding economic development projects. The groups asked Cuomo to consider &ldquo;making one state agency the sole negotiator and implementer of state subsidy deals with public review and input, and ending the use of state controlled non-profit groups and the state university system in the contract award process.&rdquo;</p> <p>In a letter dated December 23, 2015, some of the same groups called on the state to implement a &ldquo;database of deals&rdquo; to allow for greater transparency and give New Yorkers a better idea of whether businesses that receive subsidies, like SolarCity, are actually keeping their promises to the state on deliverables like jobs.</p> <p>Wall Street&rsquo;s faith in SolarCity has been shaken in recent months and the company has altered the timeline for what it will produce. Meanwhile, the state paused a payment to the company this week that would allow it to purchase factory equipment it needs for its Riverbend Plant. The state has repeatedly skipped scheduled payments to SolarCity this year, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/state-delays-payments-on-solarcity-factory-equipment-105776" target="_blank">as reported by Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Friedfel said that CBC would prefer to see the state stick to economic development programs where businesses are forced to deliver on their promises before they see payment from the state. &ldquo;Our view, taken apart from the criminal charges, is that economic development should be done with set metrics that are accomplished ahead of time the state makes any payments,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The state should only spend after promises are delivered on.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/29878309492_c6ac23da80_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo gaggle teacher award night" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after United States Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled a myriad of corruption charges against two of his closest allies and some of his biggest donors related to their abuse of the state&rsquo;s economic development programs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to announce he was expanding the program that sparked Bharara&rsquo;s investigation.</p> <p>Cuomo publicly acknowledged the &ldquo;truly disappointing&rdquo; allegations and told the gathered crowd that his administration plans to learn from revelations about bid-rigging and bribery schemes. He also promised not to &ldquo;miss a beat&rdquo; and pledged his administration will &ldquo;redouble our efforts&rdquo; on economic development projects in Buffalo and Western New York.</p> <p>What exactly Cuomo has learned and what he and his administration actually plan to do about the alleged corruption - which was uncovered by reporters and watchdogs over a year ago and outlined by Bharara last week - remains largely unclear. The lack of clarity is especially stark given the amount of time the administration has had to formulate a response to problems and change protocols.</p> <p>On Friday, Cuomo announced that the Empire State Development Corporation would take over a portfolio of projects previously overseen by SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who was suspended without pay after he was charged Thursday in two separate bid-rigging investigations (one by Bharara and one by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman).</p> <p>&ldquo;We are today going to take that portfolio of responsibility, those projects, transfer them all to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is run by a fellow named Howard Zemsky is his name, and he&rsquo;ll take over management of that immediately,&rdquo; Cuomo said on Friday.</p> <p>Asked if the governor&rsquo;s announcement would end the use of nonprofits under SUNY Poly to administer economic development projects, Cuomo spokesperson Dani Lever told Gotham Gazette that &ldquo;ESDC will oversee all economic development projects.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cuomo said this week that Zemsky will formulate new procedures and oversight mechanisms to be unveiled in January during the governor&rsquo;s State of the State Address. Cuomo is also expected to debut a new phase of the Buffalo Billion in the same speech.</p> <p>On Friday, Cuomo also cited a report from Bart Schwartz, a lawyer retained by the governor in April after it became public that Bharara had subpoenaed a number of Cuomo officials and allies as part of his Buffalo Billion probe.</p> <p>&ldquo;We engaged an organization headed by a former prosecutor to review our entire procurement system. We have that report. It recommends changes to the procurement system,&rdquo; Cuomo said on Friday of Schwartz&rsquo;s investigation. &ldquo;We accept all the changes to the procurement system and we are going to be instituting them immediately to make sure whatever can be done to protect the taxpayer dollars is going to be done.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the Cuomo administration has not made Schwartz&rsquo;s report public. Cuomo announced that the &ldquo;independent&rdquo; investigation came to a conclusion on the same day Bharara unveiled related charges, in an apparent attempt at moving the conversation from the charges toward reforms. The governor said earlier this year that he wouldn&rsquo;t have a problem releasing Schwartz&rsquo;s report, but that it may not be made public depending on whether Bharara&rsquo;s office approved its release.</p> <p>Bharara&rsquo;s office declined to comment on whether its representatives had spoken to Schwartz or the Cuomo administration about the report.</p> <p>Schwartz&rsquo;s office declined to comment on whether the report will be made public or how it will be implemented.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration failed to return requests for comment about whether the report will be made public and what kind of changes will be made to the state&rsquo;s economic development programs to reduce corruption risk. Representatives for Cuomo also failed to respond to a question about whether Schwartz looked into, or continues to investigate, malfeasance in the state&rsquo;s economic development programs.</p> <p>When Bharara announced the charges at a Thursday news conference, he said that his investigation is &ldquo;ongoing.&rdquo; Bharara said that Cuomo was not implicated in the criminal complaint, but would not comment about whether the governor is an ongoing target. On Wednesday, Cuomo told reporters that he was not interviewed by Bharara&rsquo;s office and that he did not expect to testify in Percoco&rsquo;s trial, if there is one.</p> <p>David Friedfel, director of state studies for the Citizens Budget Commission, said CBC welcomes the handover of state projects to Empire State Development Corp. &ldquo;We certainly think the move to the ESDC is a good idea. In general we take the view that if you can&rsquo;t do what you want to do with economic development through a government entity you should not be able to do it or be allowed to create a non-government entity to do it,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>While ESDC does appear to have stricter contracting rules in place than SUNY Poly and its nonprofits, in the end both are controlled by Cuomo.</p> <p>And ESDC didn&rsquo;t go untouched by the recently revealed criminal charges, which were brought against nine people and showed a system lacking oversight. One of the charges against Cuomo&rsquo;s close friend and former top aide Joseph Percoco is that he took a $35,000 bribe to get ESDC to select a company for a project it didn&rsquo;t technically qualify for.</p> <p>Watchdogs believe the state used SUNY Poly and the nonprofits it oversees, like Fort Schuyler Management, in an end-run around standard state contracting protocols and to reduce public scrutiny, in part to fast track expensive projects. On Wednesday, Cuomo repeatedly blamed the alleged corruption on that same system, which he has done nothing to reform. He told reporters on Wednesday that the system &ldquo;had worked fine for 15 years. In retrospect I did not revisit their procurement system because they&rsquo;re a separate branch, they&rsquo;re a separate agency,&rdquo; Cuomo said, appearing to reference SUNY Poly. &ldquo;We will do just that,&rdquo; he promised of such a reexamination.</p> <p>Cuomo said on Friday in Buffalo that Zemsky will &ldquo;learn from what happened and to see how we can improve the system to make sure that it never happens again.&rdquo;</p> <p>The idea that there isn&rsquo;t already a blueprint on the table on how to avoid the pitfalls connected to the administration&rsquo;s use of nonprofits to administer economic development programs is laughable to many groups that have been calling for drastic changes for years and warning of corruption.</p> <p>&ldquo;Right now all we have are vague, undefined reforms wrapped in secrecy,&rdquo; said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a group that has followed economic development projects closely. &ldquo;The questions we have about the administration&rsquo;s approach remain the same as the questions we had last year.&rdquo;</p> <p>While Cuomo plans to wait until January to unveil his changes to the state&rsquo;s economic development procurement system, a number of watchdog groups have been clear for over a year on what changes needed to occur to better prevent corruption. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has also complained that Cuomo and the Legislature stripped him of his ability to review contracts at SUNY, something watchdogs have echoed. State legislative leaders have said little about the issue.</p> <p>In a letter dated September 23, 2015, several groups, including CBC, Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union, Fiscal Policy Institute, and the New York Public Interest Research Group, called on Cuomo to increase accountability and transparency surrounding economic development projects. The groups asked Cuomo to consider &ldquo;making one state agency the sole negotiator and implementer of state subsidy deals with public review and input, and ending the use of state controlled non-profit groups and the state university system in the contract award process.&rdquo;</p> <p>In a letter dated December 23, 2015, some of the same groups called on the state to implement a &ldquo;database of deals&rdquo; to allow for greater transparency and give New Yorkers a better idea of whether businesses that receive subsidies, like SolarCity, are actually keeping their promises to the state on deliverables like jobs.</p> <p>Wall Street&rsquo;s faith in SolarCity has been shaken in recent months and the company has altered the timeline for what it will produce. Meanwhile, the state paused a payment to the company this week that would allow it to purchase factory equipment it needs for its Riverbend Plant. The state has repeatedly skipped scheduled payments to SolarCity this year, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/state-delays-payments-on-solarcity-factory-equipment-105776" target="_blank">as reported by Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Friedfel said that CBC would prefer to see the state stick to economic development programs where businesses are forced to deliver on their promises before they see payment from the state. &ldquo;Our view, taken apart from the criminal charges, is that economic development should be done with set metrics that are accomplished ahead of time the state makes any payments,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The state should only spend after promises are delivered on.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
IBM Hired Influential Lobbyist Months Before Securing Buffalo Billion Deal 2016-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6356:ibm-hired-influential-lobbyist-months-before-securing-buffalo-billion-deal Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5494013947_abe65ab8bd_z.jpg" width="600" height="401" alt="IBM sign" /></p> <p>IBM (photo: Patrick <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/-heinecke-/5494013947/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via Flickr</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>International Business Machines (IBM) has a long history in New York - its headquarters is located on the New York-Connecticut border in Armonk; it used to be one of the largest employers in the state; and it was part of a 2011 deal to bring $4.4 billion in investments to upstate New York through the creation of a high-tech computer chip manufacturing plant. The success of the company and the overall state economy have travelled similar paths, both flourishing at times, but when IBM laid off scores of employees, the state suffered.</p> <p>Given its massive business interests it isn’t surprising that the company contracts with a host of New York-based lobbying firms. But IBM’s choice of a new firm in 2013 is raising eyebrows.</p> <p>That year, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up his Buffalo Billion economic development program, IBM retained Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna LLP. A few months later, IBM was part of <a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/547d03b1e4b04c7d4872dd01/t/54943596e4b080c2424ee59d/1418999220483/IBM+Buffalo+ITI+Center+Agreement+executed+9-16-13.pdf" target="_blank">a September 2013 Buffalo Billion deal</a> that saw the state pledge $55 million to create information technology infrastructure in the beleaguered western New York city Cuomo had targeted for roughly a billion dollars of investment. In turn, IBM pledged to bring 500 information technology jobs to the area.</p> <p>Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna is one of Albany’s largest firms, with 75 attorneys, a wide variety of service offerings, and a location across the street from the state capitol. The firm has been influential in securing development deals with SUNY Polytechnic and its nonprofits that oversee the distribution of Buffalo Billion funds.</p> <p>The Washington, D.C. subsidiary of Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna, formerly run by lobbyist Todd Howe, is a target of the federal probe into the Buffalo Billion by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and the Cuomo administration has banned state employees from interacting with that subsidiary, WOH Government Solutions.</p> <p>Whiteman, Osterman &amp; Hanna is deeply involved in a web of relationships surrounding the Buffalo Billion program. Hiring the company is an apparent gateway to major business with state entities.</p> <p>IBM retained WOH for the first time in early 2013, according to filings with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), a state regulatory body that tracks lobbying. In September of that year SUNY Poly entered into a deal with IBM, which would see the state invest $55 million into the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub. The hub is being designed and built by the state and IBM, other information technologies firms will have access to its resources. Cuomo announced the project in February 2014.</p> <p>IBM promised in return to bring the 500 new information technology jobs to Buffalo by September of 2020. Company officials have stressed that not all of the jobs will be IBM employees - they expect some to be provided by firms that deliver services to the technology center.</p> <p>Essentially, the state funded the creation of a ready-to-use research center and has handed it over to IBM while expecting other businesses and state agencies to also utilize the infrastructure.</p> <p>“New York State will commit, through CNSE (College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering), $55 million, which includes $25 million to establish an open innovation facility and $30 million to purchase IT equipment and software to be used at the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub,” reads <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-creation-500-new-information-technology-jobs-buffalo" target="_blank">a February 2014 announcement</a> from the Cuomo administration. “The Hub will be owned by New York State with IBM as the first anchor tenant and made available to all IT units at all state agencies. The facility will open in early 2015 in downtown Buffalo.”</p> <p>Jerry Gretzinger, spokesperson for SUNY Polytechnic, said that funding for the project is going towards purchase of the building, infrastructure, equipment, and installation. “IBM has taken up residence in Buffalo with hundreds of employees working in Key Tower. The company is receiving no funding, which is consistent with the state's economic development model,” Gretzinger told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The federal probe into the Buffalo Billion <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/nyregion/us-investigating-contract-awards-in-buffalo-turnaround-project.html" target="_blank">appears to be examining</a> possible bid rigging around the construction contracts for both the SolarCity project and the information technology innovation center. There are concerns the requests for proposals (RFPs) for both projects were designed specifically for large Cuomo donors to win. McGuire development, winner of the information technology innovation center contract, donated $35,500 to Cuomo from December 27, 2013 to October 12, 2014. The project was announced in February 2014. The largest single donation from McGuire Development, $25,000, came in May of 2014.</p> <p>McGuire development wasn't the only major Cuomo donor to benefit from IBM's participation in the Buffalo Billion. The New York Times <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/nyregion/a-tangle-of-interests-behind-cuomos-1-billion-boon-for-buffalo.html?smid=tw-nytmetro&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">reported on Tuesday</a> that Ciminelli Real Estate lost a major tenant at its property, The Key Tower, in 2013 - IBM has since moved in to the tower as part of its deal with the state. Paul Ciminelli, head of Ciminelli Real Estate, has donated $9,000 to Cuomo. His brother Louis Ciminelli, head of LPCiminelli, donated $29,200 to Cuomo in January 2014, just before the firm was awarded a contract, now reported to be under federal investigation, to develop parts of the Buffalo Billion. <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/nyregion/a-tangle-of-interests-behind-cuomos-1-billion-boon-for-buffalo.html?smid=tw-nytmetro&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The Times found</a> that the Ciminellis and their associates have donated $150,000 to Cuomo's various campaigns.</p> <p>Recent subpoenas appear to target the relationship between former Cuomo aides Todd Howe, the aforementioned lobbyist, and Joe Percoco and work they did lobbying for clients to win Buffalo Billion contracts. No one, including IBM, has been charged with any wrongdoing.</p> <p>Three sources familiar with the workings of the Buffalo Billion program say that WOH and Howe’s D.C. subsidiary were seen as critical in getting the attention of the Cuomo administration on Buffalo Billion projects. IBM did not return requests for comment, neither did WOH. WOH’s website advertised Howe and the services he could provide for New York clients until the page was removed after news broke of Bharara’s probe into Howe’s relationships and dealings.</p> <p>JCOPE filings show IBM paid WOH a combined $240,000 in 2013 and 2014 and $120,000 in 2015. WOH was the only new New York-based lobbying firm IBM hired in 2013. The filings do not list any lobbying activity by WOH on behalf of IBM on any specific legislation or issue. However, the WOH employee listed on the disclosure, Richard Leckerling, a partner at WOH specializing in government contracts and government relations, <a href="http://www.woh.com/attorneys/richard-e-leckerling/" target="_blank">is listed</a> as managing the account. Another WOH lobbyist listed on the disclosure, William Crowell, <a href="http://www.woh.com/attorneys/william-y-crowell-iii/" target="_blank">is shown</a> to have the sole area of practice as government relations according to the firm’s site. Leckerling did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>Leckerling also serves on the board of the SUNY Poly’s children’s museum <a href="http://www.cmost.org/about_us/Board.php" target="_blank">along with</a> three members of SUNY Poly.</p> <p>The Investigative Post <a href="http://www.investigativepost.org/2016/05/05/more-dubious-buffalo-billion-dealings/" target="_blank">has detailed</a> Leckerling’s involvement with the two nonprofits that SUNY uses to funnel money to Buffalo Billion projects.</p> <p>Fuller Road Management Corporation, one of Suny Poly’s nonprofits, paid $330,000 in legal fees to WOH from 2012 to 2014, <a href="http://www.investigativepost.org/2016/05/05/more-dubious-buffalo-billion-dealings/" target="_blank">according to The Investigative Post</a>. Meanwhile, Leckerling has attended meetings of SUNY Poly’s other nonprofit, Fort Schuyler Management Corp.</p> <p>Robert Samson, former head of IBM’s global public sector, serves on the board of Fort Schuyler Management Corp. Samson has served as a technology advisor to Cuomo and has donated to Cuomo’s campaigns. He joined the Fort Schuyler board in 2014.</p> <p>The Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna website advertises its government affairs work and ability to help clients land government business. “Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna’s focus on matters at the intersection of the private and public sectors has led to the natural development of a vibrant practice of advising and assisting commercial enterprises and public entities through the state and municipal procurement processes. Based in Albany, New York, the Firm has represented commercial enterprises in a wide range of commodity and service procurements, including telecommunications, information technology, industrial supplies, food commodities, and environmental and financial services,” reads the firm’s site.</p> <p>State law bans lobbying on procurement after the state issues requests for proposals, but IBM’s residency in the technology center did not come about as the result of an RFP. Like a host of other subsidy projects aimed at large corporations, negotiations around IBM’s involvement in the Buffalo Billion appear not to have taken place in public or through a public process.</p> <p>SUNY Polytechnic reported doing business with WOH in 2015 for $2,056. The work is listed as lobbying related to “higher education” and involving the Assembly, Senate and executive branch. SUNY Poly’s founding president and chief operating officer, Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, is also a target of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation.</p> <p>As the Buffalo Billion probe has ramped up and become more public, Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lobbying-firm-axes-todd-howe-cuomo-power-broker-pal-fed-probe-article-1.2627654" target="_blank">fired Todd Howe</a>, a Cuomo family confidante who worked on at least one of Andrew Cuomo’s campaigns. Howe worked with SUNY Polytechnic as well as a number of firms with business before the state <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Three-more-Todd-Howe-clients-in-federal-probe-had-7468285.php" target="_blank">that won contracts</a> with the Buffalo Billion while he ran the WOH subsidiary in D.C.</p> <p>Howe worked for former Governor Mario Cuomo for a decade and is reported to have been a key member of the Cuomo clan. He worked for Andrew Cuomo during his time at HUD and on his reelection campaign and has done fundraising work for him. Howe landed major clients as a lobbyist because of his status as a Cuomo insider. At the same time, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/nyregion/cuomo-distances-himself-from-lobbyist-at-center-of-inquiry.html" target="_blank">a recent New York Times profile</a> painted a picture of someone struggling to hide a serious personal financial crisis while maintaining the image of a successful lobbyist. The Cuomo administration issued statements acknowledging there may have been improper lobbying involving Howe and Percoco, who was <a href="http://observer.com/2010/02/andrew-cuomos-maintenance-man/" target="_blank">a long-time aide</a> to Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Cuomo has sought to distance himself from Howe. “I wouldn’t call us close friends,” the governor told reporters earlier this month. “He worked for the state for a number of years, but I had no knowledge of his personal situation.”</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5494013947_abe65ab8bd_z.jpg" width="600" height="401" alt="IBM sign" /></p> <p>IBM (photo: Patrick <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/-heinecke-/5494013947/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via Flickr</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>International Business Machines (IBM) has a long history in New York - its headquarters is located on the New York-Connecticut border in Armonk; it used to be one of the largest employers in the state; and it was part of a 2011 deal to bring $4.4 billion in investments to upstate New York through the creation of a high-tech computer chip manufacturing plant. The success of the company and the overall state economy have travelled similar paths, both flourishing at times, but when IBM laid off scores of employees, the state suffered.</p> <p>Given its massive business interests it isn’t surprising that the company contracts with a host of New York-based lobbying firms. But IBM’s choice of a new firm in 2013 is raising eyebrows.</p> <p>That year, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up his Buffalo Billion economic development program, IBM retained Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna LLP. A few months later, IBM was part of <a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/547d03b1e4b04c7d4872dd01/t/54943596e4b080c2424ee59d/1418999220483/IBM+Buffalo+ITI+Center+Agreement+executed+9-16-13.pdf" target="_blank">a September 2013 Buffalo Billion deal</a> that saw the state pledge $55 million to create information technology infrastructure in the beleaguered western New York city Cuomo had targeted for roughly a billion dollars of investment. In turn, IBM pledged to bring 500 information technology jobs to the area.</p> <p>Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna is one of Albany’s largest firms, with 75 attorneys, a wide variety of service offerings, and a location across the street from the state capitol. The firm has been influential in securing development deals with SUNY Polytechnic and its nonprofits that oversee the distribution of Buffalo Billion funds.</p> <p>The Washington, D.C. subsidiary of Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna, formerly run by lobbyist Todd Howe, is a target of the federal probe into the Buffalo Billion by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and the Cuomo administration has banned state employees from interacting with that subsidiary, WOH Government Solutions.</p> <p>Whiteman, Osterman &amp; Hanna is deeply involved in a web of relationships surrounding the Buffalo Billion program. Hiring the company is an apparent gateway to major business with state entities.</p> <p>IBM retained WOH for the first time in early 2013, according to filings with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), a state regulatory body that tracks lobbying. In September of that year SUNY Poly entered into a deal with IBM, which would see the state invest $55 million into the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub. The hub is being designed and built by the state and IBM, other information technologies firms will have access to its resources. Cuomo announced the project in February 2014.</p> <p>IBM promised in return to bring the 500 new information technology jobs to Buffalo by September of 2020. Company officials have stressed that not all of the jobs will be IBM employees - they expect some to be provided by firms that deliver services to the technology center.</p> <p>Essentially, the state funded the creation of a ready-to-use research center and has handed it over to IBM while expecting other businesses and state agencies to also utilize the infrastructure.</p> <p>“New York State will commit, through CNSE (College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering), $55 million, which includes $25 million to establish an open innovation facility and $30 million to purchase IT equipment and software to be used at the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub,” reads <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-creation-500-new-information-technology-jobs-buffalo" target="_blank">a February 2014 announcement</a> from the Cuomo administration. “The Hub will be owned by New York State with IBM as the first anchor tenant and made available to all IT units at all state agencies. The facility will open in early 2015 in downtown Buffalo.”</p> <p>Jerry Gretzinger, spokesperson for SUNY Polytechnic, said that funding for the project is going towards purchase of the building, infrastructure, equipment, and installation. “IBM has taken up residence in Buffalo with hundreds of employees working in Key Tower. The company is receiving no funding, which is consistent with the state's economic development model,” Gretzinger told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The federal probe into the Buffalo Billion <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/nyregion/us-investigating-contract-awards-in-buffalo-turnaround-project.html" target="_blank">appears to be examining</a> possible bid rigging around the construction contracts for both the SolarCity project and the information technology innovation center. There are concerns the requests for proposals (RFPs) for both projects were designed specifically for large Cuomo donors to win. McGuire development, winner of the information technology innovation center contract, donated $35,500 to Cuomo from December 27, 2013 to October 12, 2014. The project was announced in February 2014. The largest single donation from McGuire Development, $25,000, came in May of 2014.</p> <p>McGuire development wasn't the only major Cuomo donor to benefit from IBM's participation in the Buffalo Billion. The New York Times <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/nyregion/a-tangle-of-interests-behind-cuomos-1-billion-boon-for-buffalo.html?smid=tw-nytmetro&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">reported on Tuesday</a> that Ciminelli Real Estate lost a major tenant at its property, The Key Tower, in 2013 - IBM has since moved in to the tower as part of its deal with the state. Paul Ciminelli, head of Ciminelli Real Estate, has donated $9,000 to Cuomo. His brother Louis Ciminelli, head of LPCiminelli, donated $29,200 to Cuomo in January 2014, just before the firm was awarded a contract, now reported to be under federal investigation, to develop parts of the Buffalo Billion. <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/nyregion/a-tangle-of-interests-behind-cuomos-1-billion-boon-for-buffalo.html?smid=tw-nytmetro&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The Times found</a> that the Ciminellis and their associates have donated $150,000 to Cuomo's various campaigns.</p> <p>Recent subpoenas appear to target the relationship between former Cuomo aides Todd Howe, the aforementioned lobbyist, and Joe Percoco and work they did lobbying for clients to win Buffalo Billion contracts. No one, including IBM, has been charged with any wrongdoing.</p> <p>Three sources familiar with the workings of the Buffalo Billion program say that WOH and Howe’s D.C. subsidiary were seen as critical in getting the attention of the Cuomo administration on Buffalo Billion projects. IBM did not return requests for comment, neither did WOH. WOH’s website advertised Howe and the services he could provide for New York clients until the page was removed after news broke of Bharara’s probe into Howe’s relationships and dealings.</p> <p>JCOPE filings show IBM paid WOH a combined $240,000 in 2013 and 2014 and $120,000 in 2015. WOH was the only new New York-based lobbying firm IBM hired in 2013. The filings do not list any lobbying activity by WOH on behalf of IBM on any specific legislation or issue. However, the WOH employee listed on the disclosure, Richard Leckerling, a partner at WOH specializing in government contracts and government relations, <a href="http://www.woh.com/attorneys/richard-e-leckerling/" target="_blank">is listed</a> as managing the account. Another WOH lobbyist listed on the disclosure, William Crowell, <a href="http://www.woh.com/attorneys/william-y-crowell-iii/" target="_blank">is shown</a> to have the sole area of practice as government relations according to the firm’s site. Leckerling did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>Leckerling also serves on the board of the SUNY Poly’s children’s museum <a href="http://www.cmost.org/about_us/Board.php" target="_blank">along with</a> three members of SUNY Poly.</p> <p>The Investigative Post <a href="http://www.investigativepost.org/2016/05/05/more-dubious-buffalo-billion-dealings/" target="_blank">has detailed</a> Leckerling’s involvement with the two nonprofits that SUNY uses to funnel money to Buffalo Billion projects.</p> <p>Fuller Road Management Corporation, one of Suny Poly’s nonprofits, paid $330,000 in legal fees to WOH from 2012 to 2014, <a href="http://www.investigativepost.org/2016/05/05/more-dubious-buffalo-billion-dealings/" target="_blank">according to The Investigative Post</a>. Meanwhile, Leckerling has attended meetings of SUNY Poly’s other nonprofit, Fort Schuyler Management Corp.</p> <p>Robert Samson, former head of IBM’s global public sector, serves on the board of Fort Schuyler Management Corp. Samson has served as a technology advisor to Cuomo and has donated to Cuomo’s campaigns. He joined the Fort Schuyler board in 2014.</p> <p>The Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna website advertises its government affairs work and ability to help clients land government business. “Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna’s focus on matters at the intersection of the private and public sectors has led to the natural development of a vibrant practice of advising and assisting commercial enterprises and public entities through the state and municipal procurement processes. Based in Albany, New York, the Firm has represented commercial enterprises in a wide range of commodity and service procurements, including telecommunications, information technology, industrial supplies, food commodities, and environmental and financial services,” reads the firm’s site.</p> <p>State law bans lobbying on procurement after the state issues requests for proposals, but IBM’s residency in the technology center did not come about as the result of an RFP. Like a host of other subsidy projects aimed at large corporations, negotiations around IBM’s involvement in the Buffalo Billion appear not to have taken place in public or through a public process.</p> <p>SUNY Polytechnic reported doing business with WOH in 2015 for $2,056. The work is listed as lobbying related to “higher education” and involving the Assembly, Senate and executive branch. SUNY Poly’s founding president and chief operating officer, Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, is also a target of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation.</p> <p>As the Buffalo Billion probe has ramped up and become more public, Whiteman Osterman &amp; Hanna <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lobbying-firm-axes-todd-howe-cuomo-power-broker-pal-fed-probe-article-1.2627654" target="_blank">fired Todd Howe</a>, a Cuomo family confidante who worked on at least one of Andrew Cuomo’s campaigns. Howe worked with SUNY Polytechnic as well as a number of firms with business before the state <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Three-more-Todd-Howe-clients-in-federal-probe-had-7468285.php" target="_blank">that won contracts</a> with the Buffalo Billion while he ran the WOH subsidiary in D.C.</p> <p>Howe worked for former Governor Mario Cuomo for a decade and is reported to have been a key member of the Cuomo clan. He worked for Andrew Cuomo during his time at HUD and on his reelection campaign and has done fundraising work for him. Howe landed major clients as a lobbyist because of his status as a Cuomo insider. At the same time, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/nyregion/cuomo-distances-himself-from-lobbyist-at-center-of-inquiry.html" target="_blank">a recent New York Times profile</a> painted a picture of someone struggling to hide a serious personal financial crisis while maintaining the image of a successful lobbyist. The Cuomo administration issued statements acknowledging there may have been improper lobbying involving Howe and Percoco, who was <a href="http://observer.com/2010/02/andrew-cuomos-maintenance-man/" target="_blank">a long-time aide</a> to Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Cuomo has sought to distance himself from Howe. “I wouldn’t call us close friends,” the governor told reporters earlier this month. “He worked for the state for a number of years, but I had no knowledge of his personal situation.”</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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