Has a corruption commission launched by New York governor Andrew Cuomo backfired on his political ambitions? The New York Daily News reports that Cuomo received two donations totaling $100,000 from a developer who stands to reap millions from a tax break signed by Cuomo — two days before he signed the bill:
A top development company donated $100,000 to Gov. Cuomo just days before he signed a bill that quietly showered the firm with lucrative tax breaks.
Two corporations tied to Extell Development each contributed $50,000 to Cuomo’s campaign, which recorded the checks on Jan. 28 — the same day the Assembly passed a housing bill that contained tax breaks for five developers, including Extell, records show.
Cuomo signed the legislation two days later.
Well, maybe these were longtime supporters just making a regular contribution … or not:
The twin $50,000 donations were made by Elco Master LLC and 134 W 58 LLC. Each listed the same Louisville, Ky., address of Extell Financial Services, which is part of Extell Development. It was the first time either company contributed to Cuomo, state records show.
Less than three weeks later, the NYDN discovered, Extell CEO Gary Barnett donated another $100,000 to the state Democratic Party. This was also Barnett’s first time at the Democratic rodeo, at least going back to 1999, the oldest records the NYDN could access. Coincidentally, that’s precisely the time when Cuomo used party funds to run ads pushing his political agenda.
That’s not to say that Extell didn’t use good business sense in kicking into the kitty. The bill will cost New York City $35 million to service those tax breaks on Extell’s apartment building, ONE57. The return on investment, as well as the timing, give a strong suggestion of a quid pro quo at play.
When the NYDN first discovered this big tax break two months ago, the bill’s five legislative sponsors couldn’t even recall who picked the projects to receive benefits. A commission on political corruption may get to the bottom of that soon, as they have issued subpoenas to Extell and four other companies who ended up with lucrative tax breaks. Ironically, the commission was created by Cuomo himself to probe state government corruption after a series of scandals in New York.
Needless to say, this complicates Cuomo’s ambitions for his future political career, if not his current position in New York. Empire State voters should pay particular attention to the commission’s work in unraveling the mighty coincidental timing of tax breaks and big campaign contributions.