When Andrew Cuomo announced he was running for governor in May, he vowed to take on the “powerful special interests.”
What he didn’t say was that he had pocketed millions from lobbyists, unions, hedge funds, health care providers and real estate firms.
A prime example is Cuomo’s Downstate Business Advisory Council, a group of business leaders picked to advise him on how to create jobs and make New York more affordable for business.
Twenty-one of the board’s 38 members have sent Cuomo a total of $1.1 million in campaign money, a Daily News analysis found.
The question is: What will the powerbrokers who bankrolled his campaign want in return – and will Cuomo give it to them?
“It’s not that hard to do the right thing and just say no to a friend,” said former Mayor Ed Koch. “I believe Andrew will do exactly that.”
Cuomo donors include billionaires, bankers, brokers, insurers, contractors and trial lawyers – many regulated by Albany, all affected by state tax policies. Most have an army of lobbyists pushing their legislative agendas.
“When someone who’s just given you $55,000 wants something, it can be awfully hard to … say, ‘Sorry, no, it’s not in the best interests of the state,’” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said not a dime of the $32 million Cuomo raised will sway him from doing what’s right:
“If Andrew Cuomo’s record could be summed up in one word, it would be independence. No contribution of any sort will impact the manner in which he governs or the decisions he makes.”
Longtime Cuomo ally Meyer (Sandy) Frucher, who ran the Battery Park City Authority under Gov. Mario Cuomo, said donors shouldn’t expect favors.
“Andrew has made it very clear that the connection between contributions and state actions is zero,” said Frucher, who, with his wife, gave Cuomo $33,200.
He said Cuomo ordered up a memo on the topic the day his father became governor in 1983. The message: All state agency heads must immediately report any calls from favor-seekers.
Most business execs refused to answer questions about donations and expectations.
One exception was Delaware North, a Buffalo-based firm that runs concessions at New York State Thruway rest stops, and racinos and race tracks upstate. The company wants to expand its New York operations.
A month after Cuomo vowed to combat special interests, Jeremy Jacobs, Delaware North’s CEO, and his wife, Margaret, gave $100,000 – $24,000 over the limit. The excess was returned.
The donations came as Thruway officials moved to close some rest stops and weigh allowing more gaming. Both could alter Delaware North’s bottom line.
The Public Service Commission regulates Cablevision, settling billing and service disputes, including whether the cable giant must compensate viewers who lose some networks in rate fights. The governor appoints the members; three of the five members’ terms expire in 2012.
“It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that we participate actively in the political process, as virtually all major companies do,” spokeswoman Kimberly Kerns said.
– Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. The beverage behemoth and its PAC forked over $71,500. Some of the checks came this year as Pepsi fought successfully to kill Gov. Paterson’s proposed soda tax. Cuomo opposed the tax.
– Hedge fund managers Jeffrey Leeds; Jonathan Sandelman, and Marc Lasry and his wife gave Cuomo more than $207,000. They were among dozens of hedge funders who contributed.
Last year, Albany backed off a hedge fund tax after Connecticut tried to lure some funds. Cuomo has ruled out special taxes on the loosely regulated industry.
(Source: NY Daily News)