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NY Fracking Scandal: Seven Groups Demand Conflict of Interest Investigation of Cuomo Administration

Cuomo's chief-of-staff actually has a direct financial interest in fracking going forward in New York state.

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The latter meeting was held between two Williams' lobbyists - Tonio Burgos and John Charlson - and upper level Cuomo aides.

Charlson is a former public information officer for the New York State Division of Lottery who was fired in Jan. 2009 for not getting along with fellow employees. In retaliation for his firing, he illegally "eavesdropped on a confidential lottery conference call" and "trespassed via computer to get 16 lottery e-mails,"  the Post Star explained, summarizing a  New York Inspector General report.

Charlson's next job was serving as a corporate lobbyist with  Tonio Burgos and Associates, New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics database reveals.

One of Charlson's 14 current clients at the Burgos firm is  United Water, Inc., "the second-largest private operator of municipal water systems in the United States,"  according to a 2010 Food and Water Watch report. United Water is a subsidiary of global water privatizing giant  Suez Environnement, the second largest water service corporation in the world.

Food and Water Watch explained in a March 2012 report that  fracking on a global scale will almost certainly serve as a progenitor of a global water crisis. Another December 2011 FWW report revealed that water privatization corporations - which stand to gain economically if and when water ends up becoming a scarce global commodity -  are hedging their bets on shale gas production.     

Burgos, the principal of  Tonio Burgos and Associates and former aide to Andrew Cuomo's father, Gov. Mario Cuomo (described by the  Chicago Tribune in 1993 as his " patronage chief"), was identified in Jan. 2012 by  The Wall Street Journal as " one of Mr. Cuomo's closest outside advisers and top fund-raisers." Like Charlson, Burgos also  lobbies on behalf of United Water, Inc.

Burgos has  already given $93,500 towards Cuomo's  2014 re-election campaign, according to the  National Institute on Money in State Politics' campaign finance database. Burgos' firm also doles out big money to the Democratic Governors' Association,  forking over $110,000 between 2006 and 2012.

The records also reveal that the Cuomo Administration held  several meetings with lobbyists working on behalf of ExxonMobil, another corporation in which Schwartz holds stock. 

NY Fracking Scandal: Conflict-of-Interest or Insider Trading?

The seven "fracktivist" groups signing onto the  letter requesting the investigation concluded that under New York state law, Schwartz - and by extension the Cuomo Administration - may have a conflict-of-interest in the looming fracking decision.

In so doing,  they cited N.Y. Pub. Off. § 74(3)(g), a law mandating that public officials must not make financial investments that would “create substantial conflict between his duty in the public interest and his private interest.” Cutting to the heart of the matter, the groups are seeking a thorough investigation as to whether the Cuomo Administration is breaking this law.

An issue that goes unraised in this letter: whether Schwartz is defying the spirit of the federal law that bans insider trading - the STOCK (Stop on Congressional Knowledge) Act - passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in April 2012.

“The powerful shouldn’t get to create one set of rules for themselves and one set of rules for everyone else,"  Obama said while signing the bill.

In New York, though, that appears to be the case, with  2016 Democratic Party presidential hopeful Andrew Cuomo and his administration playing by a different set of rules that may threaten the health and water supplies of New York citizens. 

This dreary picture has prompted the launch of a new website dedicated to chronicling the ongoing and growing scandal:  NYFrackingScandal.com.

 
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