These days, saying that another corruption trial involving a senior New York Democrat is underway has become something of a dog-bites-man story. Still, it’s worth pausing to note that former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros was arraigned in federal court in Manhattan on Friday and his trial is getting underway. The charges against him involve rigging the government bidding system to steer contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the companies of a couple of major political donors who supported Governor Andrew Cuomo. Three executives from those companies benefitting from the government largess are also on trial. (Albany Democrat and Chronicle)
Kaloyeros, who built SUNY Poly from its humble beginnings as a small nanoscience college in Albany to overseer of major high-tech facilities in Albany, Utica, Buffalo, Rochester and beyond, is the top defendant.
The other defendants are Louis Ciminelli, the former president of LPCiminelli, a prominent Buffalo-based builder, and two executive with Syracuse-area’s COR Development: Steven Aiello and Joseph Girardi.
They all maintain their innocence.
Another former LPCiminelli executive, Kevin Schuler, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and is cooperating with prosecutors. Todd Howe, a disgraced former lobbyist, also pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme.
Kaloyeros was tapped by Governor Cuomo to oversee part of the so-called “Buffalo Billion” project which was supposedly intended to create jobs and grow a variety of industries in New York’s upstate region. What it actually turned out to be was something closer to an impressive magicians act where, instead of making a scantily clad lady disappear, huge piles of taxpayer money vanished instead. Kaloyeros has been in Cuomo’s inner circle for a long time.
The feds have some other executives from LPCiminelli and COR Development who were going to be charged in the scheme turning state’s evidence so they clearly think they’ve got the goods needed to bring home some convictions. If Kaloyeros goes down, he won’t be the first close Cuomo associate to be convicted of corruption. The feds already took down Joseph Percoco back in March. That’s a guy so close to the Governor that Cuomo used to refer to him as a sibling of his.
So does this spell trouble for Cuomo? At first glance, it would certainly seem so, right? I mean, are we being asked to accept the premise that somebody at Kaloyeros’ level would risk rigging a government bidding process and steering that much value in state contracts to a couple of companies at random? I suppose he simply pulled a couple of names out of a hat and said, oh, I think I’ll commit a felony to help these lovely chaps out. And then, in the most amazing coincidence in recent political history, they just happened to be people who dumped combined contributions into Cuomo’s campaigns in excess of $100K. What were the odds!?!
The folks at America Rising have been tracking the Cuomo corruption cases for a while now and seem to feel that this could spell trouble for the Governor’s upcoming election. But with all due respect to the good folks at AR, I have to ask one question. Have you spent much time around New York politics lately? People close to Cuomo have been dropping like flies (in legal, not literal terms) and he always seems to come out smelling like a rose. Once again, in the Kaloyeros trial, everyone’s being very careful to remind that public that Cuomo has been accused of no wrongdoing.
While not an exact parallel, this is remarkably similar to a previous case where a guy pleaded guilty and was sentenced for bribing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. But amazingly, de Blasio (the designated recipient of the bribe) was never charged with anything at all, including receiving a bribe. When you figure out how that one works, be sure to give me a call. The fact that the feds managed to take down Sheldon Silver was nearly miraculous and I don’t expect to see them beat the odds in that fashion again any time soon.
Voters have known about the corruption cases surrounding Cuomo for years now and he’s still slaughtering Cynthia Nixon in the polls. Nobody will hold him accountable either in court or at the ballot box. So as depressing as it may be to hear, I predict that the Governor has little or nothing to worry about.