Monday, April 27, 2009

Comptroller Scandal: Crony Was Paid For Cohen’s Seat: AG Cuomo by Brian M. Rafferty - Queens Tribune

Read original...

Current Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi gained his seat only after an illegal payout to a political crony set in motion Assemblyman Mike Cohen’s move to a health industry job and pressure from then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi pushed for a quick special election, according to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Raymond Harding, the former head of the New York State Liberal Party, was charged Wednesday with obtaining $800,000 in illegal fees from state pension fund in exchange for decades of political favors, one of which was facilitating Cohen’s departure from the Assembly.

“Harding helped [Michael Cohen] get a six-figure job at an insurance company to generate a vacancy in the Assembly seat,” according to Cuomo. An unnamed official in the Comptroller’s office, alleged to be un-indicted co-conspirator Jack Chartier, “helped arrange for the Queens Democratic Party to endorse Andrew Hevesi for the open seat. [Chartier] then met with an aide to [then-Gov. George Pataki] and requested that the Governor certify a special election for the vacant Assembly seat as quickly as possible, which would discourage competition for the seat. Andrew Hevesi was elected to the open Assembly seat in May of 2005.”

Cuomo was clear to point out that Andrew Hevesi was not aware of the deal that was cut to arrange for his seat. The criminal complaint also fails to clearly connect the dots between Harding receiving the money and his interceding to arrange the meeting between Cohen and HIP, which ended up giving Cohen a $150,000-a-year position in the insurer’s marketing department.

Andrew Hevesi had no comment on the indictment, but a spokesman was clear to point out Cuomo’s absolution of any knowledge the younger Hevesi may have had about the scheme. A Cohen spokesman said that the former Assemblyman would continue in his bid to replace Melinda Katz in the City Council.

The charges against Harding are the latest to come from Cuomo’s investigation into wrongdoing in Alan Hevesi’s office. A few weeks ago Cuomo secured indictments against Hevesi campaign consultant Hank Morris and the Comptroller’s Chief Investment Officer David Loglisci on 123 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering, falsifying business records and grand larceny.

Alan Hevesi remains un-indicted, though in several sections of criminal complaints against all three, it appears that Chartier was acting under the direct orders of Alan Hevesi.

Hevesi was re-elected Comptroller in 2006, but quickly stepped down amid a scandal involving his un-reimbursed use of a state vehicle and chauffer to take his wife around town.

In the current investigation, in addition to his alleged influence in the Assembly seat, Harding is said to have been paid off for decades of political support on behalf of the Liberal Party, including for Alan Hevesi’s campaigns for Assembly from 1971-1993, Mayor in 2001 and State Comptroller in 2002.

According to Cuomo, Harding participated in a corrupt scheme devised by Hank Morris and David Loglisci to skew the process of selecting investments at the State pension fund to favor political allies, friends and family. “Morris and Loglisci allegedly made Harding a sham placement agent for three investments in order to repay him for past political favors to Hevesi,” Cuomo said. “Through investment deals with Paladin and Pequot, two private equity firms, Harding is charged with securing over $800,000 in sham placement fees.”

In May 2004 the state invested $20 million into Paladin Homeland Security, for which Harding received $300,000 in bogus placement fees, Cuomo said. In October 2005 and June 2006 the state pension fund invested $100 million into Pequot Diversified Offshore Fund, netting Harding $500,000 in bogus fees.