With new secretary pick in William Mulrow, Gov. Cuomo deepens ties to Wall Street, PFNYC

By LOUIS FLORES

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) announced on Sunday several appointments to his administration, as he begins his second term as the state's top executive.

A few existing administration officials were shuffled around, and one, who had been rumoured to be resigning, was induced into staying onboard.  The complete changes can be read on Governor Cuomo's press release.  The most notable appointment was the selection of New York investment banker William Mulrow to succeed Lawrence Schwartz at the governor's top advisor, a post titled secretary to the governor.

A 2007 copy of Mr. Mulrow's resume showed his past employment with Rothschild, Inc., with a unit of Citibank, N.A., and with a brokerage firm that was later acquired by investment banking giant Credit Suisse.  At the time of his resume, Mr. Mulrow was a Managing Director at Paladin Capital Partners, an investment firm that owned a stake in a technology company that was later acquired by Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC.  SAIC would later become implicated in an over-billing scandal tied to New York City's troubled payroll system, known as CityTime.  The alleged fraud by contractors working on the CityTime project reportedly cost New York City taxpayers approximately $600 million, according to a 2011 WCBS Channel 2 News report. 

Deepening ties to Wall Street

Mr. Mulrow was most recently a Senior Managing Director at The Blackstone Group, L.P., the private equity behemoth that was once a huge investor in a hedge fund managed by Steven A. Cohen, the embattled Wall Street titan, who has for years been in the crosshairs of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.   

Citibank and Credit Suisse would also later become embroiled in separate federal investigations led by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Given Mr. Mulrow's range of expertise, and his high-ranking positions at some of Wall Street's most powerful financial institutions, it's unclear how Governor Cuomo lured him to accept a government post up in Albany, except that some government reform activists believe that with Mr. Mulrow's appointment, Governor hopes to tap into Mr. Mulrow's rich connections for financial support, as Governor Cuomo explores a possible 2016 presidential campaign, as has been reported by James Warren in The New York Daily News

Separately, as Eric Orden reported in The Wall Street Journal, Governor Cuomo is expected to travel to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of influential Wall Street tycoons and other big business executives, further fueling speculation that Governor Cuomo aims to network with the rich and powerful in anticipation of a yet-unknown, calculative political move.

Mr. Mulrow had previously served as a vice chair of the New York State Democratic Party, and he had been a senior campaign advisor to the 1990 reëlection campaign of Governor Cuomo's father, as well as a deputy campaign manager for Barney Frank's first run for Congress in 1980.

The press office for Governor Cuomo refused to answer requests about Mr. Mulrow's compensation package or about concerns that Mr. Mulrow's past ties to firms presently or once under federal investigation may further complicate Governor Cuomo's complex relationship with U.S. Attorney Bharara, given the separate but highly-publicised federal investigation into the Cuomo administration's alleged obstruction of justice in the work by the corruption-fighting panel, the Moreland Commission.  

Some government reform activists have long speculated that Mr. Schwartz may be a potential target for criminal prosecution in relation to the Moreland Commission investigation.  It was Mr. Schwartz, who uttered the infamous order, "Pull it back," intimidating Moreland Commission members into withdrawing a subpoena issued to a media firm that had done campaign work for Governor Cuomo, according to a bombshell report published by The New York Times.

Prior to Mr. Schwartz's actions in respect of the Moreland Commission, he was a central figure in the bid-rigging scandal tied to a racino contract at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, as previously reported about by Progress Queens.

Given these and other thorny issues, government reform activists have noted the relative difficulty that Governor Cuomo is having to form a second-term administration.

Renewal of rent and other housing laws

In 1987, Mr. Mulrow served as chairman of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.  This background in rent regulation may serve useful to Governor Cuomo, as his administration considers renewing rent regulation after current laws expire later this year.  However, both Governor Cuomo and Mr. Mulrow have ties to real estate and big business executives, who have been the sources of large campaign contributions to Governor Cuomo.  These executives would like to see rent regulations weakened or eliminated.

For years, critics of Governor Cuomo have expressed concerns that the realities of his political policies have undermined the financial security of middle class and low-income families.  As Governor Cuomo's political machinations align him closer and closer to Wall Street and major campaign contributors, government reform activists worry that he has firmly turned his back on the political legacy of his late father, former Governor Mario Cuomo (D-New York), who was once but briefly seen as a champion of the poor and the disenfranchised.

The Cuomo administration has been largely silent about the influences in and the motivations of its second-term agenda ; however, some critics of Governor Cuomo say that the second-term agenda can be decoded by way of the individuals, who will shape that agenda.  Big business interests, represented by The Real Estate Board of New York and The Partnership for New York City, stand to gain by Mr. Mulrow's new position at Governor Cuomo's side.  

The state budget has a present surplus of several billion dollars as a result of large settlements with Wall Street firms.  In spite of having that extra money and and even before Mr. Mulrow's appointment, Governor Cuomo had already announced his intention to break the "monopoly" of public education in a move designed to appease his campaign contributors, who favour the proliferation of the privately-owned charter school industry.  Governor Cuomo's decision to forego investing the budget surplus in public education worries advocates for working families, who fret over what little is known of the remainder of Governor Cuomo's neoliberal, second term agenda.