January 21, 2015 was an exuberant day for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. At a press conference, he held up a picture of himself, Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate leader Dean Skelos, doctored to show them wearing sombreros, and referred to them as “The Three Amigos.” His characterization was no surprise, as the triumvirate wielded enormous influence in New York State government.
A day later, Sheldon Silver was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly taking of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. Pleading not guilty to all corruption charges, Silver stepped down from his position as Assembly speaker but retained his legislative seat. He was replaced as Assembly speaker by Representative Carl Heastie.
On May 4, 2015, Senate leader Dean Skelos was also arrested by federal authorities for using his vaunted position to enrich his son by extorting payments from a real estate development company and another business. Skelos stepped down from his position as Senate leader but retained his legislative seat. He was replaced as Senate leader by Senator John Flanagan.
Now there is one amigo left standing: Governor Cuomo. The Governor is in a tough position, considering the backstory.
According to federal prosecutors, millions of dollars funneled through limited liability companies (LLC) went to Silver and Skelos from New York City real estate developers. LLCs were used because they are treated as individuals and may donate as much as $150,000 without naming the true donor(s). Within this scheme, Silver and Skelos and Skelos’ son all allegedly received large amounts of money from Glenwood Management, a New York City real estate business led by Leonard Litwin. Leonard Litwin was allegedly Governor Cuomo’s highest donor during his last election. Finally, tax breaks worth approximately $1 billion to NYC’s residential developers and rent regulations are due for renewal in 2015.
Given the circumstances, it will be tough for Governor Cuomo to keep his own skirt pressed and starched. Meanwhile, New Yorkers are quite unhappy. The Administration that vowed to clean up the mess and corruption in Albany is apparently showing that corruption is business as usual.
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