Nov 28


Monday Morning Read

Putting in context the Buffalo Billion corruption case now in front of the Supreme Court

The felony convictions of Louis Ciminelli and Alain Kaloyeros will be reconsidered by the Supreme Court this week, as reported yesterday by Jerry Zremski of The Buffalo News. Their lawyers will argue that prosecutors went too far in their application of federal fraud and bribery statutes.  Regardless of the technical merits, this much is clear: Ciminelli’s company, in league with Kaloyeros, played dirty in the drafting of bid specifications to develop Tesla’s solar panel manufacturing plant in South Buffalo.

As I reported in 2014, the original bid documents required bidders to have been in the development business in Buffalo for at least 50 years. Only one company qualified under those terms: LPCiminelli. The specs were subsequently revised when I called Kaloyeros out on it, but Ciminelli nevertheless got the contract, worth some $20 million. The terms were generous — allowing, for example, LPCiminelli officials to get reimbursed for expenses, such as expensive meals, that state contractors typically have to pay for themselves.

Ciminelli and Kaloyeros served a portion of their prison terms before being released, pending the Supreme Court’s review of their case. Regardless of their appeal, both men have already paid a heavy price. Ciminelli lost his company — the biggest development firm in Western New York — and left Buffalo in shame. Kaloyeros was fired from his million-dollar-a-year job as head of the Albany-based Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and is likewise a pariah in a business where he was once held in high esteem.

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The New York Times has published an exceptional series into the insidious rise of legalized online gambling. One installment detailed, among other outrages, how New York State under Gov. Andrew Cuomo caved to the industry. Another documented how a major state university (not here) encouraged students to start gambling. The industry’s tentacles have spread far and wide: Pro athletes — even leagues — have signed on, something unthinkable even a decade ago. (I’m waiting for the first scandal; it’s only a matter of time.) News organizations have also gotten into the game. The Buffalo News, for example, publishes content that promotes online gambling that masquerades as legitimate news stories.

Yet another reason to dislike Jerry Jones — as if owning the Dallas Cowboys isn’t enough. Photographic evidence has surfaced that he was among a throng of white supremacists who tried to block the admission of Black students to a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. (This is the same guy who the Pegulas are doing business with as they plot to extract more money from Bills fans. Then again, Terry and Kim also do business with Carl Paladino.)

Ken Kruly provides a good wrap-up of the state’s election results in his Politics and other Stuff. Politico, meanwhile, writes about Kathy Hochul’s challenge to unify a divided state Democratic Party.

People concerned about our democracy take note: Ron DeSantis governs with a heavy hand and gun-toting right-wingers are trying to silence dissent.

The Washington Post lists the GOP presidential wannabes not named Trump. The Donald, meanwhile, had a white supremacist and Holocaust denier over for dinner the other day. Kanye, too.

On a less serious note: Why did Trevor Noah decide to leave The Daily Show at the top of his game?