Only two for-profit companies have received NY State grants over the past several years. Evident Technologies Inc., received $500,000 (for operating assistance) and has ties to State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Plug Power has received $384,000 (“to install fuel cells at a few area farms and greenhouses”) and has ties to Gov. George Pataki.
Common Cause Executive Director Rachel Leon said the member items going to such companies as Evident and Plug Power “raises red flags.”
“It seems like a slippery slope for government to hand out member items to a for-profit,” she said. “Government is not-for-profit and most of the things supported with member items are not-for-profit. That’s why the sunshine around it is so important.”
Jared Abbruzzese and Wayne Barr of Evident Technologies have contributed to Bruno’s and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($42,500 and $14,200 respectively). Abbruzzese loaned Bruno his aircraft several times and is described as a “close friend”. Sherrie Abbruzzese (wife of Jared) participated in a real estate deal with a firm in which Bruno is part owner. Barr was appointed by Bruno to be on the NY Racing Association Board of Trustees. He left that position earlier this year. Bruno and Abbruzzese also have interests in the horse racing arena.
Barr said his and Abbruzzese’s friendship with Bruno had nothing to do with the member item. Evident, he said, made agreements with the state before the money would be released. He would not discuss his private investments.
Abbruzzese, a director of the Friends of New York Racing, is “a big racing fanatic and owner, and Sen. Bruno is a big racing supporter, and they talk,” Smith said in a deposition. He added that Abbruzzese helped the group get at least one meeting with the senator.
Barr said he traveled with Bruno to Kentucky last year for a tour of horse country. He said he resigned from the NYRA board a few months later to avoid the appearance of a conflict, since NYRA and Empire were competing for the racing franchise.
Click here for a graphic-type representation of the Bruno/Abbruzzese/Barr relationship and connection from Albany’s Times Union’s website.
Plug Power, the second for-profit company, “has employed officials who have worked for Gov. George Pataki”.
Kudos to the Times Union for their investigative work on this issue.