Latest Buffalo Billion scandal developments

Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

There were two noteworthy developments Friday involving the mushrooming Buffalo Billion scandal.

Gannett newspapers reported that Alphonso David, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal counsel, has issued an edict that requires the bureaucracy headed by Alain Kaloyeros to run all decisions regarding the Buffalo Billion and nanotechnology projects in Albany past Bart Schwartz, who is heading the governor’s review of numerous state economic development programs.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported that longtime Cuomo associate Todd Howe has been fired from the law firm that employed him to, among other things, represent politically connected upstate developers. Howe is a focus of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation into the Buffalo Billion and other state-funded economic development projects.

Michael Wooten of WGRZ did a story for Channel 2 and interviewed me to get my take on these developments. Below is the complete, unedited interview.

In a nutshell, what I told Mike is that Cuomo is belatedly imposing some adult supervision on the Buffalo Billion program. I say “belatedly” because the warning signs have been there for a year-and-a-half. We flashed another one Thursday in a report from Charlotte Keith.

The Todd Howe dismissal tells me Cuomo has moved into full “damage control” mode. You can consider Howe’s removal an act of accountability, or simply throwing his buddy lobbyist under the bus.

Either way, it suggests to me that Cuomo is scrambling to appear as though he is addressing possible corruption involving his associates and economic development programs. I highly doubt this will deter Bharara, but the governor might see it as potentially helpful for spin purposes.

As I wrote Monday, the unfolding scandal is a byproduct of Cuomo’s governing style, which is rooted in official secrecy and a mistaken belief that the rules don’t apply to him or his administration. He is learning a painful lesson to the contrary at the hands of the U.S. Attorney.