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Revealing Recorded Conversations Form Part Of Prosecution's Case In Skelos Trial

Former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos
Karen DeWitt

  Audio recordings released by the U.S. Attorney’s office at the corruption trial of Senator Dean Skelos aim to show that the Senate Leader and his son colluded to use Skelo’s official position to help his son get employment, in what turned out to be a succession of no show jobs. But the recordings paint a revealing picture about how Albany really works behind the scenes.

The recordings, done by a federal wiretap, show Skelos, 67, tried to get employment and potential contacts for his son, Adam, 33. In this recorded conversation, Skelos tells his son that he’s meeting with some “billionaires” including some associated with a pro-charter school group, and former CNN reporter turned advocate Campbell Brown.

“Dad, you’ve got to take these names down for me,” Adam Skelos tells his father.

“I got ‘em all,” Skelos assures his son.

Skelos and his son were also recorded discussing their disappointment last December, when Governor Cuomo decided to ban hydrofracking in New York. Federal prosecutors allege that Senator Skelos tried to pressure Governor Cuomo’s health department to skew proposed regulations on hydrofracking to a company that Adam worked for. Adam obtained the job with the environmental company Abtech, because it was affiliated with a real estate company, Glenwood Management. Glenwood was lobbying Senator Skelos on laws concerning taxes and other issues. In documents released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, emails showed that Senator Skelos in turn lobbied an official at Glenwood Management company, Charles Dorego, to hire his son. In the recorded phone call, the Skelos express their dismay over Cuomo’s decision not to frack.

“I just heard, I tried to get you,” the elder Skelos says.

“Aaaaugh! This state sucks,” Adam exclaims.

“It does. It does,” Dean Skelos answers.

Skelos assures his son that they will focus on “that other thing now.” And Senator Skelos, growing angrier, vows to retaliate.

“I’m going to run against him,” Skelos declares.

Any possible campaign that Skelos might have planned to run for governor has now been put on hold by the corruption trial.

Son Adam at times appears to serve as his father’s informal political advisor, as in this conversation, also recorded in late 2014, where the two discuss the continued alliance between the Republicans, who had just won a slim majority of the seats in the chamber, and a small group of  independent Democrats led by Senator Jeff Klein.

“Why would you do that?” Adam Skelos asks his father.

“Because, Adam I have to think about the next election,” Senator Skelos answers.

“And in the next election, he’s going to say ‘go f yourself’,” Adam Skelos says.

Adam goes on to chide his father for giving the independent democrats a title in the ruling coalition. His father answers that he, as Senate Leader, will be “controlling everything,” and that elevating Senator Klein over the rest of the Senate Democrats, who form their own faction, furthers the GOP’s goals to keep power.

“You’ve got to keep them separated,” Skelos said. “Fighting and hating each other. And that’s what’s worked for us for the last six years. Is keeping them at each other’s throats.” 

A spokeswoman for the Independent Democrats says, in a statement, “We cannot speculate on the motives of Senator Skelos.” and points out that the two groups passed gun control legislation, gay marriage and expansion of pre-kindergarten when they co led the Senate.

The defense has not yet presented its case, and Skelos lawyers’ say they will show that the Senator did nothing illegal. Skelos himself, one day after he was indicted last spring, said at the Capitol that he hasn’t done anything wrong.

“If you’re innocent, there’s nothing you have to run away from or hide from, Skelos said on May 3rd. “Our conference believes that I’m innocent. I know that I’m innocent.”

Skelos did step down from his post as majority leader, but he remains a State Senator.  His trial continues Monday. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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