ALBANY – It turns out Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came to Buffalo in late November not for one, but two hushed-hushed campaign fundraisers.
Though Cuomo’s campaign would not discuss the Nov. 30 fundraiser, The Buffalo News previously reported that the Democratic governor came to town for a $1,000-per-ticket affair at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
In fact, Cuomo slipped out of that event and headed to a more private gathering of deep-pocketed executives from affordable housing development companies, most of them from out-of-state. The 90-minute affair was held at the Buffalo luxury Avant apartment of Steve Weiss and his wife.
Weiss is a prominent lawyer who advises clients on affordable housing and historic preservation matters. He is also a former Cuomo appointee on two state agency panels, including the Housing Finance Agency, which provides financing to for-profit and not-for-profit developers in the affordable housing industry.
A guest at the second fundraiser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were 13 invited guests who mingled with Cuomo that Thursday evening. Several more donated but could not attend. Only two of the 13 were from the Buffalo. Most of the rest were executives from out-of-state development firms that do business in New York and who attended because they “appreciate the effort” by Cuomo on housing issues, the person said.
The person would not say the minimum donation amount that guests were charged to meet with Cuomo. That number won’t be revealed until mid-January when Cuomo next publicly reports on his campaign activities with the state elections board.
The night’s second, more intimate fundraiser was organized by Cuomo’s campaign and hosted by Weiss’ law firm.
The firm in December 2016 hosted a gathering of different housing developers who came to Buffalo to meet and give money to Cuomo. Guests at that 2016 event included executives with Cleveland-based NRP Group. That raised some eyebrows at the time because the firm had previously sued Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown over allegations that he engaged in a pay-to-play scheme involving a Buffalo housing project; Brown is also the chairman of Cuomo’s state Democratic Party.
As he prepares to unveil his 2018 State of the State and budget plans next month, Cuomo is having a busy December on the fundraising circuit. On Thursday, he'll raise hundreds of thousands of dollars at an annual fundraiser he holds on his birthday. Among the guests will be former President Bill Clinton and rocker Bon Jovi.