Senior New York state officials regularly corresponded with, and acted on behalf of, a lobbyist and former aide to governor Andrew Cuomo in the months and years leading up to his indictment on federal corruption charges.
While the Cuomo administration has downplayed lobbyist Todd Howe’s access to senior officials, emails obtained by the New York Times after a protracted legal battle with the administration demonstrate Howe’s continuing influence.
In one particularly revealing email sent to Jim Malatras, then the director of state operations, Howe urgently requests payment for his clients, two developers contracted by the state for a public-private infrastructure project.
“Both need some payment as a sign of good faith before the close of business tomorrow,” Howe wrote to Malatras and his deputy, Andrew Kennedy, in December 2014 .
“So they should have a check no later than tomorrow,” responded an official with Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency, less than an hour later. “But could be before.”
The firms in question, COR Development and LPCiminelli, were found to have been the beneficiaries of a bid-rigging scheme perpetrated by then-Cuomo administration officials. Executives from both firms donated substantially to Cuomo’s reelection campaign and were subsequently rewarded with contracts to build a $750 million solar-panel factory in Buffalo, N.Y., a federal jury found earlier this year.
Howe pleaded guilty to eight felonies related to his role in securing the contracts and is currently out on bail while awaiting sentencing.
In another striking display of the influence he enjoyed before his corruption charges became public, Howe secured an audience with the governor for two business executives contracted in a separate public-private partnership with the state. Anticipating that the executives would be disappointed because Cuomo had decided not to publicly announce the project as previously planned, Howe asked Malatras if they could meet Cuomo during a reception at the governor’s mansion.
“Could we get the two C.E.O.s invited to the mansion? Given we asked them to travel in to attend,” Howe wrote to Malatras, referencing Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State address, in which he was expected to announce the project.
“O.K.” Malatras responded just two minutes later, ordering his subordinate to schedule the audience.
The Cuomo administration has repeatedly denied that Howe exercised any influence on its workings, calling him “a felon, liar and discredited manipulator.”
“Todd Howe was hired by SUNY Poly and others to represent them, and that is what is reflected in this correspondence,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, referring to Howe’s work for Alain Kaloyeros, the former SUNY Polytechnic president convicted last month for his role in the Buffalo bid-rigging scheme. “However, what wasn’t known then that is known now is that he is a criminal, an admitted liar and a con man who by his own admission made up stories involving the governor and his father — including doctoring emails to his friends and clients — to make himself appear relevant.”