|Andrew Cuomo and G. Steven Pigeon|
Monday, July 4, 2016
Pals Governor Andrew Cuomo and G. Steven Pigeon Are In For a Rough Summer
Cuomo closely tied to operative indicted for bribery: report
, July 4, 2016 | 3:07am
Gov. Cuomo has been far closer for far longer to now-indicted Buffalo-area Democratic power broker Steve Pigeon than the governor himself admits — or that many in his administration realize — sources tell The Post.
Cuomo was so close to Pigeon — charged last week with nine felonies in connection with the alleged bribing of a state Supreme Court justice — that he gave him a key role in his 2014 re-election campaign despite objections from more important political aides like Joseph Percoco and Larry Schwartz, who considered him “untrustworthy and a little sleazy,’’ a source close to the campaign told The Post.
Cuomo directed Percoco, the focus of an ongoing probe by corruption-fighting US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Schwartz, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, and a handful of other trusted aides to allow Pigeon to attend key strategy meetings at the campaign headquarters from which virtually all other political operatives were excluded, said the campaign source.
“They objected, but the governor forced Pigeon on them,’’ according to the source. “At first Pigeon started to just show up at campaign strategy meetings, even though no one knew who had invited him to come.
“But it turned out that it was the governor who invited him to be there because the governor had come to believe that Pigeon was some kind of a political genius,’’ said the source.
“No one even knew when the governor was talking to Pigeon or how often but once in a while the governor himself would just pop out with a conversation he had had with Pigeon, saying how he felt Pigeon had it right on some campaign issue, letting others know that he felt Pigeon was smarter than they were,’’ the source said.
Cuomo sought re-election obsessed with racking up a big vote in Buffalo and Erie County, Pigeon’s bailiwick, which he had lost four years earlier to Republican Carl Paladino, the source said.
Pigeon, the longtime Erie County Democratic chairman, “was the guy who Andrew was taking counsel from as to how to win in Buffalo this time around, but he was also taking his counsel on broader statewide issues,’’ the source said.
A second source said Cuomo was so close to Pigeon that in 2010, Gov. David Paterson refused to allow then-Attorney General Cuomo to name a special prosecutor to investigate election-related corruption charges being made against Pigeon — because he felt Cuomo “couldn’t be trusted to authorize a fair probe.’’
“Everyone knew at that time how close Cuomo was to Pigeon,’’ said the source.
A further claim of Cuomo/Pigeon closeness during Paterson’s tenure came from a senior staff member at the Legislature during the “coup’’ in which Pigeon played a key role in helping temporarily switch Senate control from the Democrats to the Republicans.
“Pigeon was the key contact at the time between Cuomo and [coup leader state Sen.] Pedro Espada, with Cuomo, through Pigeon, seeming to encourage what was going on,’’ said the former legislative staffer.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi insisted it was “a lie’’ to call Pigeon “an important policy adviser or a close ally.”
“The governor hasn’t spoken to him in years and he was last relevant 15 years ago,’’ when Pigeon backed Cuomo for governor, Azzopardi said.
He also said Cuomo, whose office has been served with a subpoena by Bharara as part of the corruption probe of Percoco, one of the governor’s oldest and closest friends, and lobbyist/Cuomo-associate Todd Howe, “has repeatedly said we have zero tolerance for corruption and if someone did something wrong they deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.’’