Buffalo Billion emails highlight political giving

A list of hundreds of emails from a key figure in the Buffalo corruption case underscores the role of campaign contributions in the scandal.

Lobbyist Todd Howe repeatedly emailed his clients – including executives at LPCiminelli who are facing charges of bid-rigging – about giving money to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his then running mate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The index of emails, submitted into evidence by defense lawyers at the end of December but withdrawn just days later, includes only their subject lines, not the full text of the messages or the dates they were sent. Still, it offers a glimpse into Howe’s role in major economic development deals across upstate.

Howe, who has pled guilty to taking bribes and bid-rigging, worked both sides of many such deals. He was a highly-paid consultant for SUNY Poly, which oversaw many of the projects, even as he helped steer work to companies that paid him as their lobbyist. Many of his clients also became major contributors to the governor’s campaigns.

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“Fwd: How to write contribution checks” reads the subject line of one email Howe sent to an executive at LPCiminelli, one of three people from the company facing charges. Other messages to the same executive are titled “checks to Hochul 2014”, “hochul event”, and “FWD: Ciminelli contributions & refund.”

Hochul did receive money from several of Howe’s clients, including $7,000 from the family of Louis P. Ciminelli, LPCiminelli’s founder and CEO in early August, 2014, after the company had been given the RiverBend contract, worth more than $20 million.

Ciminelli and his family also gave at least $100,000 to Cuomo between the end of 2009 and January 2014, when the company was given the contract, and hosted a fund-raising dinner for the governor while the bidding process for RiverBend was underway, according to the federal criminal complaint.

The emails also show Howe was watching closely as Investigative Post Editor Jim Heaney broke the story that would lead federal prosecutors to start their investigation. Howe sent clients and colleagues emails with the subject lines “heaney”, “heaney story”, and “HEANEY STORY GOES STATEWIDE.”

As the Albany Times Union has reported, some of Howe’s correspondence with state officials were sent to their personal email addresses, even when the subject lines suggest the emails related to state business, an apparent violation of state policy.

The case against the LPCiminelli executives, as well as former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, goes to trial in May, with Howe expected to be a key witness for the government.