ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent about $230,000 on legal bills over the last six months through his campaign account for a previous federal investigation into his administration, campaign-finance records showed.
The bills covered some of the costs associated with the probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into whether Cuomo's office meddled with a corruption-busting panel he established in 2013 and abruptly shut down a year later.
The money was the final tab for private attorneys used in Bharara's probe into the Moreland Commission, said Cuomo's campaign spokesman Austin Shafran.
Bharara indicated in January he shut down his investigation into Moreland Commission, saying there was “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime.”
The federal prosecutor has instead shifted gears into whether Cuomo's office engaged in bid rigging associated with economic-development initiatives across upstate New York.
Cuomo's office is doing its own review of state contracts. On Friday, Cuomo's office said it is paying up to $450,000 in public money for the review to the Manhattan firm run by Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor.
Overall, the two-term Democratic governor raised $4 million between January and mid-July, giving him $19 million in the bank for a potential run for a third term in 2018. Cuomo has indicated he will seek a third term.
Cuomo's campaign spent nearly $1 million during the six-month stretch, his filings showed.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who ran against Cuomo in 2010, had nearly $1.7 million in his warchest as he gears up for re-election in 2017 and another potential gubernatorial run in 2018.
Spending campaign cash on lawyers has been commonplace for New York politicians facing legal scrutiny.
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, spent about $650,000 over the past six months on legal bills, his filing showed. He was convicted last year on corruption charges and was forced to resign from office.
Cuomo's campaign spent $150,000 in mid-March on his law firm, Elkan Abramowitz, who represented his office in the Moreland Commission probe.
Another $80,000 in campaign cash went to the Manhattan firm Schulte, Roth & Zabel in March to cover legal bills for Cuomo's former aide Joseph Percoco during the Moreland probe, Shafran said.
Percoco is also now at the center of Bharara's probe into outside payments Percoco received from private companies who had business before the state while he worked as Cuomo's campaign manager in 2014.