Leaked emails show Hollywood arranging Cuomo fundraiser, jet travel – Buffalo News


ALBANY – A close friend of Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to arrange private jet travel for Gov. Andrew Cuomo after movie industry moguls threw him a $25,000-per-person fundraiser last year in Hollywood, according to emails WikiLeaks released Thursday.

The emails also show top Sony executives working behind the scenes to shake the money tree for Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign.

The governor has been the loudest voice in Albany pressing for more than $400 million in state tax breaks for the film industry as part of a program that Cuomo and his industry allies say has created jobs and spurred economic development.

The emails released by WikiLeaks depict executives at Sony working to bundle together $50,000 in donations from individuals to Cuomo’s campaign. State law forbids corporate donations higher than $5,000, but it has a far larger individual donation limit.

Bundling, in which donations from a like cause are group together, is legal and is a common way in Albany for donors to impress politicians with large contributions.

In an email from one Sony executive to another, a July 20014 email states: “Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we have a great production incentive environment in NY and a strong piracy advocate that’s actually done more than talk about our problems.”

In early January last year, Sony executives were busy planning for a Hollywood fundraiser that Sony CEO Michael Lynton helped to organize for Cuomo at the home of Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos.

In a Jan. 7, 2014 email, Sony executive Keith Weaver wrote to Lynton that the Cuomo “people would like us to support in the following ways.” The requests included Lynton lending his name to the invite host committee and a commitment to raise $50,000 by the end of July. On board with the idea, the email states, were NBCUniversal, Fox, Paramount and CBS.

“Disney and WB are pending,” the email states.

“$50K is a heavy lift since most of it needs to come from individual contributors … but I recommend we do it. Cuomo has been a strong protector of the film incentive – even amidst recent criticisms of the program,’’ Weaver wrote to Lynton.

The large tax breaks given to film and television companies have been the subject of criticism by groups that say the industry does not need the incentives and that the dollar amounts have grown too massive.

In another email before the January Hollywood fundraiser, Jonathan Glickman, Motion Picture Group President at MGM, urges friends to donate to Cuomo’s campaign because he has been “an aggressive advocate of the entertainment industry,’’ and added how Cuomo had extended “the country’s richest film incentive through 2019.”

In emails with the subject line “Gov in Cali,” close Cuomo friend Andrew Farkas, a New York businessman, exchanges comments over the Hollywood fundraiser on Jan. 23, 2014. After leaving his federal housing secretary post, Cuomo worked for Farkas’ company and became a millionaire.

Farkas, in an email to Sony’s Lynton, writes that Cuomo “asked if anyone attending the (Hollywood) event might be flying back to ny Friday morning. He would very much appreciate hitching a ride. 405 hours of exclusive time with the gov of ny is a premium oppty.”

Lynton wrote back that he would be at the fundraiser and will “canvas (quietly) the room to see if anyone headed that way.” He added, “NY state needs a state plane.’’

Farkas responded, “That will never happen. Especially with (New York City Mayor) Mr. de Blasio in office.’’

The state, actually, does provide plane and helicopter services to Cuomo for going to official state business events.

Cuomo many times takes “in-kind” donations to fundraisers, as the state election board calls the non-cash contributions, from companies and individuals who provide him with private jet service.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com