Better Than Porn? NY Gov Candidate Floats Cuomo Conspiracy

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino knows how to grab headlines, intentionally or not. Today he's in the news because of his habit of sending graphic porn and racist jokes out via mass email. Last week, he aimed and fired at his chief rival for the governor's seat, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, accusing Cuomo of being the "initiator" of the financial crisis through his role as HUD Secretary under President Bill Clinton.

At HUD, Paladino charged, Cuomo pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "to lower their standards so every American can enjoy having a house."
"He did a terrible injustice to those poor Americans, telling them that they could have a house that they couldn't afford," Paladino told the Associated Press. "He did a more egregious injustice to the taxpayers and the people who had homes as he created the subprime meltdown."

Now, Paladino may be offensive and profane, but he's not pulling this charge out of thin air. It comes straight from the pages of The Village Voice, where in 2008 ace investigative reporter Wayne Barrett published an epic article detailing how then-HUD Secretary Cuomo worked hand in hand with Wall Street lobbyists to force Fannie and Freddie to devote more than half their business to buying home loans from low-income borrowers. Fannie and Freddie had already succeeded in meeting more modest targets, but their private competition sought to saddle them with requirements so tough they'd be forced to become a niche institution, ceding much of their mortgage securities business to private bankers. Cuomo, and Congress, obliged. Fannie and Freddie ended up meeting their absurd obligations first by buying Wall Street's toxic mortgage securities, and then getting into the subprime game themselves. We know how that ended.

But Paladino, a real estate developer, should have thought twice before appropriating Wayne Barrett as his opposition researcher. (Then again, the emails suggest this is a guy who doesn't even think once.) Paladino is a major landholder in Buffalo, a prolific political donor, and the beneficiary of big-ticket government support.

Here are some leads Barrett is no doubt pursuing as we speak, courtesy of The Buffalo News:

Paladino collects millions in rent checks from state agencies that rent space in his buildings. The state Department of Transportation alone pays him $94,000 a month for its Buffalo office space. He denies any favoritism. So what's the explanation?

As a developer of new luxury condos called Waterfront Place in a so-called Empire Zone, Paladino and his condo buyers got big tax breaks meant to help revive economically depressed areas. The Buffalo Common Council reportedly moved the borders of the zone so they included Paladino's property. "This is found money," Paladino told the News.

Paladino also sued to stop New York State from requiring Empire Zone developers to pay prevailing wages to construction and maintenance crews. Yet, he is being cited by New York State for failing to deliver promised new jobs in his Empire Zone projects, which was a condition of getting the tax breaks. He could be forced to pay New York State back.

Buffalonians: Do you have a favorite Carl Paladino real estate story? We'd love to hear it.

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