It’s time to check in once again with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, a person who has recently been mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate for the Democrats. A quick Google search will turn up all manner of interesting stories about the Governor, many of which might lead one to wonder why the Democrats considered running him for his current office to say nothing of a national post. The latest entry in this soap opera involves a healthcare operation which found itself in line for some very generous grants last year (courtesy of the state’s taxpayers) as they prepared to break ground on two new medical facilities. There’s one significant catch to the story however. Well before the grants had even been announced, the company seemed to be rather fat in the wallet and was already moving ahead with the aforementioned plans. (Albany Times Union)
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $1.5 billion in grants last March to fund health care capital and infrastructure improvement projects, only eight of the 162 grants went to private businesses.
By far the biggest winner of the private firms was Crystal Run Healthcare LLP, a rapidly expanding company based in the Hudson Valley that seemed flush with cash even before $25.4 million in state subsidies arrived.
An April 2015 article based on an interview with the company’s CEO Hal Teitelbaum — published a month before applications for the $1.5 billion were first due — stated that Crystal Run was planning on imminently breaking ground on two 70,000-square-foot facilities.
As the local coverage indicates, recent shareholder reports showed that Crystal Run Healthcare had recorded significant profits and was sitting on a considerable pile of cash. In fact, they broke ground on one of the two facilities under discussion six months before the grants were even announced. There seems to be little or no question that they were moving ahead with these projects. With all of that information being publicly available, how is it that the company was handed a check for more than $25 million courtesy of the taxpayers?
One clue might be found yet again in a brief look at the history of Andrew Cuomo’s fundraising activities. The executives at Crystal Run, along with the CEO and his wife, had donated in excess of $400,000 to the governor’s various campaign funds over the past four years. In cases such as this it is frequently difficult if not impossible to establish a definitive quid pro quo, but… come on, man.
For the record, the Governor’s office issued a statement in response. “No donation of any size impacts a government action… and it is irresponsible to imply otherwise.” So I suppose that settles that.
But what else are we to assume in a situation such as this? As the report indicates, out of more than 150 grants awarded by the state less than a dozen were given to private corporations. Was Crystal run so confident that they would be getting one of them that they were willing to dump millions of dollars of investment capital into projects which they could not afford on their own? Far more likely is the idea that the company was going to proceed with these projects in any event but decided to see if they could recoup some of their investment by way of the taxpayers since they were in good with Andrew Cuomo. If so it turned out to be a good bet.
This is only one of what are now at least a half-dozen campaign-finance ethics issues which are either being actively investigated by law enforcement or stirring the pot in state media to the point where yet another investigation may be coming soon. The governor’s mansion is probably seeing more foot traffic from attorneys defending Cuomo and his staff these days than tourists interested in a visit. If this is the guy the Democrats are seriously considering running against Donald Trump in 2020, I for one say bring it on.