NYT obtains lobbying emails Cuomo fought to keep secret

NYT obtains lobbying emails Cuomo fought to keep secret
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Newly released emails obtained by The New York Times reveal close ties between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) administration officials and a former aide-turned-lobbyist who later pleaded guilty to eight felonies.

The emails show that Todd Howe, a key witness in federal corruption cases that brought down two former top Cuomo aides in February, was weighing in on matters pertaining to Cuomo in the lead-up to the 2016 investigation, according to the Times.

The governor's legal team fought hard to prevent the newspaper from obtaining the emails via a Freedom of Information Act request, spending $200,000 on outside counsel after the Times took the issue to court.

Cuomo, who is seeking reelection this year and faces a challenge from Cynthia Nixon, has previously downplayed his connections to Howe.

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Among the 350 pages of emails is one from 2014 sent by Howe to Jim Malatras, who was then the director of state operations, asking him to look into payments owed to two development companies that later proved key to the federal corruption cases.

Howe asked Malatras and his deputy to show a "sign of good faith" that the companies would be paid.

“Both need some payment as a sign of good faith before the close of business tomorrow,” Howe wrote.

Shortly after that email, Cuomo's economic development agency Empire State Development confirmed one of the companies would receive payment, according to the Times. 

On another occasion, in 2016, Howe was copied on an email to several top Cuomo administration officials. The officials, responding to associate vice president at the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute, were discussing the governor's decision to not mention two projects by business executives in his State of the State speech.

Christopher Walsh, associate vice president at SUNY Poly, wrote, "We need to assure these guys their deals are solid. We cannot string these guys along any longer. Please."

Howe responded with advice.

"Could we get the two C.E.O.s invited to the mansion?” Howe wrote in an email to Malatras. “Given we asked them to travel in to attend.” 

"O.K.," Malatras replied.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said in a statement to The Hill that Howe "was hired by SUNY Poly and others to represent them and that is what is reflected in this correspondence." 

"However, what wasn’t known then that is known now is that he is a criminal,‎ an admitted liar and a conman who by his own admission made up stories involving the Governor and his father — including doctoring emails to his friends and clients — to make himself appear relevant," Azzopardi said. "Any claims he has made publicly and privately are simply not credible.”

The emails illustrate how Howe leveraged access to Cuomo's administration to benefit his clients, according to the Times. Howe has admitted he raised "a considerable amount" of money for Cuomo in 2010, and volunteered for the campaign in 2014, while he worked to get New York state to act in favor of his clients.