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SONY emails: A window into Cuomo donations, plane-ride ask, tax-credit push

Cuomo's chum Andrew Farkas described a private plane

Cuomo's chum Andrew Farkas described a private plane ride with the governor to SONY's CEO as a "golden opportunity." Credit: Ed Betz

WikiLeaks last week released emails that show Sony executives pushing colleagues to donate to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s re-election after the Democrat backed tax credits for the movie industry. They also show a close friend of Cuomo’s, Andrew Farkas, trying to arrange private jet travel for the governor after industry executives threw him a Hollywood fundraiser.

 WikiLeaks issued a press release saying the email demonstrates ties between “Sony Pictures Entertainment and the U.S. Democratic Party.”

A number of the emails focus on Cuomo and Sony’s effort to not only raise money for his campaign but also receive New York tax breaks as illustrated here.

A sampling:

 -  “He would very much appreciate hitching a ride. 4-5 hours of exclusive time with the gov of ny is a premium oppty,” Andrew Farkas, CEO of Island Capital Group, Cuomo’s confidant and former employer, wrote to Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment in January 2014 as shown here.

- Another email (linked here) shows a Sony official suggesting co-workers contributing $5,000 apiece so the company can deliver $50,000 to the Democrat because “Cuomo has been a strong protector of the film (tax) incentive.” It goes on to note that “NBCU, Fox, Paramount, and CBS are all on board … Disney and WB are pending.”

-  Yet another email shows a Sony official asked an employee at Empire State Economic Development Corp., New York’s economic development agency, about the status of the company’s expected tax credits, noting the company is anxious to receive them in the current tax reporting period. A follow-up email indicates that Sony, after a phone to the state, expedited its tax-claim submissions and expected to receive $26 million in tax credits.

“While this a timing issue, our effectiveness will mean realizing a significant cash benefit in 2014 versus the next likely opportunity in 2017,” Sony executive Keith Weaver wrote.




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