His name isn't listed on the door of the law firm of Blutrich, Falcone and Miller, but the fact that Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's 28-year-old son and campaign chairman, is a partner has not escaped the notice of New York's real estate and financial community.
The 5-year-old firm, begun by former Cuomo counsel Jerry Weiss, has five partners, including Lucille Falcone, Cuomo's chief fund-raiser and Andrew's longtime companion. Builders Donald J. Trump, William B. Zeckendorf and Jerry Speyer, as well as other firms who have extensive dealings with the state, have been clients of the firm.
The firm's business dealings suddenly have come into public focus, in part because of lengthy articles this week in The New York Times and the Village Voice.
Today, Cuomo's Republican challenger in the Nov. 4 election, Westchester County Executive Andrew O'Rourke, seized on the publicity to charge that there is "at least the patina of influence peddling" and called for "an open and complete discussion" of the subject.
Cuomo said he attributed the stories to "Republicans" and said the media were making "dark assumptions."
"Andrew is not a public official," Cuomo said. "He is my son . . . . There are no legal inhibitions against him practicing before state agencies. But voluntarily, the firm does not represent clients before state agencies."
State legislators are allowed to represent clients before state bodies, a practice Cuomo unsuccessfully tried to stop this year.
Andrew Cuomo graduated from Albany Law School and worked two years as an unpaid aide to Cuomo, and a year as an assistant district attorney before joining the firm as partner last year. He said in an interview that while the firm does not represent clients before state agencies, "the vast majority of corporations have some dealings with the state. If I did not represent those people at all, I could not practice law."
William Stern, former Cuomo-appointed head of the Urban Development Corp., said today that he had complained to the governor three times, starting in 1984, that the law firm's influence "was casting a bad light on the administration."
"It was the Cuomo family firm, so to speak," Stern said, and the perception among the New York business community was that the firm could provide "political influence."
Stern said that Andrew once had called to thank him for complimenting Falcone in a conversation with Trump, who was considering retaining the firm, and that Falcone had called him to press Zeckendorf's effort to be a developer in the Times Square project.
Zeckendorf told The New York Times that he retained the firm in 1984 to "help us politically," but had dropped it a year later when it declined to represent him before the state-chartered Battery City Authority. The wife and son of the authority's former chairman, Robert Seavy, are with the firm, and Seavy said he would join it this week.
Andrew Cuomo would not confirm or deny that the firm represents the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns, which is seeking to underwrite $123 million in state bonds. But he denied that Falcone represented the firm in project discussions, as the Village Voice alleged.