Over the last decade, Robert Morgan, Frank Giacobbe and their businesses Morgan Management and Aurora Capital Advisors have made dozens of political contributions totaling more than $100,000.
“We see Democrats, Republicans. We see party committees. We see statewide elected officials, DAs, mayors and kind of a lot in between,” political analyst Jack O’Donnell said of the contributions.
They went to prominent politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the mayors of both Buffalo and Rochester, for instance. O’Donnell said those politicians need to decide whether to keep the money.
“That’s a decision that a lot of these folks will make individually,” he said. “We’ve seen over the last few years, I think, a rise in elected officials or politicians donating money to causes that had come from people who have been involved in the law. A lot of those folks like to wait to see for a conviction, rather than just an indictment.”
Another of the elected officials was Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, R, whose campaign received $5,000 from Morgan in 2015. She said she wasn’t aware of the contribution Wednesday but would look into it, the details of the indictment and the projects that were supported with public funds.
“This is certainly a complex developing situation and as we look at that complex developing situation, we’ll respond accordingly,” she said.
Generally, the contributions were made prior to initial reports of a federal investigation in late 2017. However, it appears Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren received at least two contributions from Morgan after the news broke.
One of them is not yet available to see on the state board election website but Morgan Management was listed as a sponsor on the invitation of the Mayor’s Ball this year. She was not available for an interview Wednesday but said in a statement the city was concerned about ongoing projects with the developer.
“Once that information is out there, I think elected officials should be held to a higher standard,” O’Donnell said. “They should know and be following this stuff at least as much as you and I are. So once these allegations are made, I think they should be extra careful about them.”
He said people who received money years ago will probably face less public scrutiny. However, the indictment does allege fraud going back to 2007, which means basically all the contributions could be called into question.
“If people are making money off of these illegal activities, these ill-gotten gains, should that money go to an elected official?” he said. “I think that’s hard for them to accept it.”
One interesting case, O’Donnell said, is former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who received thousands of dollars, mostly from Giacobbe. Schneiderman, who resigned in disgrace in 2018, still reported roughly $6.5 million in his campaign coffers this year.
“I’ve been involved in fundraising, both for this attorney general and for Eric Schneiderman, and was even involved in some of the fundraisers where some of those checks came in,” O’Donnell disclosed. “So I know at the time they were vetted and there was no sort of awareness of this activity but now it’s time to give it back.”
As for Gov. Cuomo, there were two $10,000 contributions, both made prior to reports of the investigation. Cuomo’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
O’Donnell said given the prominence of Morgan in particular, he actually would’ve expected even more contributions and wonders if there might be more masked through the LLC loophole.