Time to go after corruption

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. That’s the verdict of 12 New York jurors on multiple charges against four defendants who conspired to rig bids for $850 million in state contracts for projects in Syracuse and Buffalo. The jury did not buy defense arguments that it’s unsavory, but not illegal, to do business this way.

It is both unsavory and illegal, as anyone with an ounce of sense could tell you.

Verdicts in the federal court trial of a former state official and two Syracuse-area business executives.

The defendants — former nanotech czar Alain Kaloyeros, Syracuse developers Steve Aiello and Joseph Girardi, and Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli — own the illegal part.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo owns the unsavory part.

Now what are you going to do about it, Governor?

Cuomo denies any responsibility for the rot at the center of his signature economic development programs, the Buffalo Billion and SUNY Polytechnic’s nanotech center. It’s all SUNY’s fault, the governor said. People will do bad things.

Astonishingly, even after the second set of verdicts proving corruption in his own programs, Cuomo’s public statements betray no self-awareness or contrition. If this were President Donald Trump, he would attack with all his might. Yet, the governor is politically astute enough to know bad optics when he sees them; Cuomo canceled a Skaneateles political fundraiser to be held a day after Thursday’s verdict at a developer’s home.

Make no mistake, Cuomo owns this.

Who’s responsible for placing enormous trust and loads of taxpayer money in the hands of Kaloyeros? Cuomo, who called Kaloyeros “New York’s secret weapon” in the effort to bring jobs and economic activity to lagging Upstate New York. Kaloyeros knew how to get things done, all right. He brooked no interference or oversight and attacked his critics ferociously. The result: underperforming projects like the film hub and LED lighting factory in DeWitt, and solar panel factory in Buffalo.

Watchdog groups renew call for ethics reforms after corruption conviction of architect of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development plan.

Who watched approvingly as Kaloyeros ran his economic development projects through nonprofit corporations, Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road management corporations? Cuomo. The corporate entities were designed to cut through government red tape. Instead, they were breeding grounds for corruption and pay-to-play deals, thanks to lax contracting rules and a lack of transparency. Developers who made campaign contributions to Cuomo had the inside track on government contracts. After Kaloyeros was arrested, Empire State Development instituted new governance and transparency measures. State government, including SUNY, should quit using private, nonprofit affiliates to achieve public aims, period.

Who gave out “a key to the governor’s office”? The trial showed how developers bought access to decision-makers in the Executive Chamber through disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe, who also was being paid by Kaloyeros. In an earlier trial, Cuomo’s former right-hand man Joe Percoco provided the key. Personal connections matter. Money talks. Taxpayers get cheated.

The governor is running for a third term on his record of promoting people-first, progressive causes: gay marriage, a $15 minimum wage, abortion rights. He should attack corruption with the same zeal.

Cuomo had the chance this past legislative session. The state Senate passed a slate of reform bills that included a “database of deals” to bring transparency to state economic development spending; more oversight of state contracts; an independent state budget office and an independent ethics watchdog. The Assembly passed a bill closing the “LLC loophole” allowing individuals to skirt campaign contribution limits. Cuomo and lawmakers did not get together on any of it.

Do it now, Gov. Cuomo. Own the problem. Call a special session of the Legislature to demand action on reform. Lead, or get out of the way.

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