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The Aqueduct racino deal: AEG deal seen as unethical but not illegal; Sampson-Andrews leak provokes more controversy; bonus: AY/AEG parallels

I wrote in March how there was more outrage over the state's selection (since rescinded) of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) questionable procedure for disposing of the Vanderbilt Yard--even though the latter was more of an outlier.

Well, the video casino (aka racino) is still making news.

The Daily News reported Saturday:

A source with knowledge of the investigation told The News Friday that it's unlikely the inspector general will be able to recommend charges of bid rigging or collusion.

"It would be difficult, if not impossible" to bring charges, a source familiar with the matter said. "Ethically it stinks and is unseemly, but it just may not be illegal."

The Sampson-Andrews leak

There's new controversy over the decision by Senate Democratic leader John Sampson to leak (or, to him, give) to AEG lobbyist (and former Senator from an adjacent Brooklyn district) Carl Andrews an internal Senate assessment of the various bids.

The Post broke the story, and followed up yesterday:
State Senate Democratic leader John Sampson yesterday insisted he did nothing wrong... "The documentation that was given to Mr. [Carl] Andrews was documentation that was not private, not confidential," Sampson said.

...The Senate analysis contained what would appear to be sensitive information. It noted, for example, that the Lottery Division concluded that four of the bidders at the time... cleared background checks and could obtain a gaming license.

The Sept. 30 memo also noted that the Lottery Division had determined that two of AEG's key backers were "not licensable."

The Times, in an article yesterday headlined Insider Leaks Tarnish Aqueduct Casino Plans, reported:
"It’s mind-boggling,” said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It just shows how ridiculous the process was, that anyone could think it was O.K. to offer up internal documents to the lobbyist of one of the bidders.”

...Legal experts said it could be difficult to make a case against Mr. Sampson because no formal procurement process was set up by the governor’s office last year, which critics said led to much of the chaos that followed.

Almost as mind-boggling as anointing Forest City Ratner the owner of rights to the Vanderbilt Yard before issuing an RFP 18 months later?

The AY/Ratner connections

There are several curious connections and parallels between the AEG deal and the Atlantic Yards/Forest City Ratner deal.

Andrews famously asked a Forest City Ratner representative, "What are you going to do for my support?" a question a former staffer apparently interpreted as a request without civic betterment at its heart.

A fundraiser for Sampson was held last October at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech offices.

Rap entrepreneur Jay-Z, who has a small piece of the Nets, had a small piece of the AEG deal before he dropped out.

Shady minority contracting consultant Darryl Greene, source of much controversy in the AEG deal, exited that deal but has received little flak for his role in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

More questions about Sampson

Crain's New York Business reports today, in an article headlined FAMILY MATTER Conflict of interest?:
[Sampson] also defended himself against charges that he intervened to suppress negative testimony at a hearing on whether the state should grant a license to Shining Star Home Care, a home care agency co-owned by his sister.

Sources told Crain's the Brooklyn lawmaker made at least one call to a nonprofit group, pressing it not to speak against the application, which is slated for a vote by state health officials this month.

...Mr. Sampson's involvement has stunned health care providers. “It was a member of his family, and it should have been disclosed. Mr. Sampson has power over the entire health department budget,” says a former department official. “It is incredibly inappropriate to talk to groups who oppose the application.”