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Two Companies Under Scrutiny Increased Donations to Cuomo

A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who is a focus of a federal public-corruption probe reported at least $70,000 in income from two companies that had business before the state and had contributed to the governor’s re-election campaign.

The federal investigation is looking at payments that Joseph Percoco, Mr. Cuomo’s former aide and re-election campaign manager, reported he received from COR Development Co. LLC, a developer, and CHA, a civil-engineering firm previously known as Clough, Harbour & Associates LLC, and whether the firms received beneficial treatment from the state, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Percoco’s annual financial disclosure statements show he received payments from both companies in 2014. He received between $50,000 and $75,000 from COR and between $20,000 and $50,000 from CHA, according to the reports.

A lawyer for Mr. Percoco didn’t respond to a request for comment. On Friday, his lawyer described his client as a “dedicated and effective public servant.”

Michael McGovern, a lawyer representing CHA, said in a statement Monday that the firm was cooperating fully with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Based on those discussions, he said, “it is our understanding that we are not a target of the investigation.”

A spokeswoman for COR said the company didn’t “hire, retain or pay Joe Percoco in any capacity” and intended to cooperate with any investigation. She declined to comment on the company being listed on Mr. Percoco’s 2014 disclosure statements.
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On Monday, Mr. Cuomo said Mr. Percoco told him when he became his campaign manager that “he might be accepting consulting arrangements with other companies,” but said Mr. Percoco never told him if he did or from whom. Mr. Cuomo also said he never asked.

Both COR and CHA have been deeply involved in state-funded projects in upstate and central New York, in particular a number of redevelopment initiatives connected to the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute.

During the time Mr. Percoco reported receiving the payments from these companies, he spent a large portion of the year working as campaign manager for Mr. Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid, a period that coincided with a significant increase in donations to the governor’s campaign from CHA.

Between 2013 and 2014, Clough, Harbour & Associates donated $160,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign, according to filings with the state Board of Elections. Before that, the one reported contribution from the firm to Mr. Cuomo was $1,000 in 2010. The company gave another $35,000 to the governor’s campaign in 2015.
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In 2013, COR executives and LLCs affiliated with the company contributed $187,500 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign, up from $60,000 in 2012 and $15,000 in 2011.

Before January 2011, the only contribution from those parties was a $5,000 donation from COR President Steven F. Aiello, in 2010.

According to the state comptroller’s records, Steven F. Aiello’s son, Steven L. Aiello, works for the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs as a project assistant. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

He previously worked as director of operations on Mr. Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign, according to his LinkedIn page.

Investigators also are examining payments appearing to originate from Competitive Power Ventures Holdings LLC, people familiar with the matter said. In that case, it appears the payments were made to Mr. Percoco’s wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco, these people said.
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Mr. Percoco’s 2014 filing lists his wife as having received between $75,000 and $100,000 from an entity called Chris Pitts LLC. His 2012 filing showed her receiving between $5,000 and $20,000 from the same entity. His 2013 filing wasn’t available from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics; Mr. Percoco was working as an aide to the governor in 2012 and 2013.

Chris Pitts has worked as an outside consultant to CPV, an energy company, a person familiar with the matter said. Ms. Toscano-Percoco couldn’t be reached for comment.

In a statement Monday, a CPV spokesman said the company had been contacted by the U.S. attorney’s office “to provide information related to past engagements with a few consultants.” The company is cooperating with the investigation, the spokesman said.

CHA is the lead architect and engineer on the RiverBend project, a business and manufacturing hub in Buffalo that since 2013 has been a central piece of Mr. Cuomo’s redevelopment initiative known as Buffalo A Billion. The RiverBend project is managed by a nonprofit corporation connected to SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and the lead developer, LPCiminelli, is a major donor to the governor.

An attorney for LPCiminelli said Friday that the firm has cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so.
Earlier Coverage

Former Aide Pushed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Agenda Behind the Scenes (May 1)
Federal Prosecutors Investigate People Close to Governor Over Buffalo Project (April 29)
Former Cuomo Aide Draws Scrutiny as Ties to Governor Persist (April 21)

CPV is building a power plant in Wawayanda in Orange County, a project that began before Mr. Cuomo took office but that his administration has since supported. CPV gave $6,500 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign in November 2012.

COR, for its part, was in 2012 named the lead developer on a $342-million redevelopment of Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, a project the governor has promoted.

In 2013, COR was selected to build a nanotechnology center for the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, a project managed by the same SUNY nonprofit as RiverBend.

At the same site, COR is also building a lighting manufacturing center for the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which will be supported by $90 million in state funds, according to state records. A film-production hub at the site, also built by COR, will be affiliated with the SUNY nanoscale college.

Mr. Cuomo and SUNY Polytechnic’s president, Alain Kaloyeros, have touted the economic potential of such partnerships between private companies and the state, even as federal investigators appeared to scrutinize the contracting process behind them.

Last year, subpoenas were sent to a number of entities involved in the Riverbend project, including LPCiminelli, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the state’s economic development corporation.

On Friday, Mr. Cuomo’s office said the federal investigation had “raised questions of improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest” by people who may have deceived and defrauded the state in connection with the Buffalo Billion and nanotechnology hubs. Mr. Cuomo has ordered a full review of the program, the statement said.

SUNY Polytechnic has defended the integrity of its contracting process.