Today’s news:

Harding admits $800K kickback

Raymond Harding, the former chairman of the state Liberal Party, admitted he received more than $800,000 in exchange for doing political favors, including opening up a Queens state Assembly seat for former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s son, Andrew, the state attorney general said last week.

But Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) was not aware of the maneuvers made on his behalf. A spokesman for Andrew Hevesi said he had no comment on the matter.

Harding pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to one count of felony securities fraud for his involvement in pay-to-play kickback schemes at the state Office of the Comptroller and the state Common Retirement Fund, Cuomo said. He faces up to four years in prison.

The plea “vividly depicts the depth and breadth of corruption involving the New York State pension fund,” Cuomo said.

Harding has agreed to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation. The attorney general’s office has been looking into corruption involving the state comptroller’s office and the state pension fund for the past two years.

Harding said in New York County Supreme Court last week that he participated in a scheme devised by Hank Morris, a top political adviser to Alan Hevesi, and David Loglisci, the former station pension fund chief investment officer, to corrupt the process of selecting investments at the state pension fund to favor political allies, friends and family, Cuomo said.

In addition, Harding, a longtime ally of Alan Hevesi and Rudy Giuliani, said he helped Andrew Hevesi’s predecessor, Michael Cohen, land a six-figure job at a health insurance company in early 2005, paving the way for the Assembly seat to be vacant for Andrew Hevesi, according to Cuomo.

As a reward for the political favors, Morris and Loglisci helped Harding secure more than $800,000 in fees relating to the pension fund’s investments, Cuomo said.

Attorneys for Harding and Alan Hevesi did not return phone calls for comment.

Morris and Loglisci have been charged in a separate 123-count indictment with, among other counts, enterprise corruption, securities fraud, grand larceny, bribery and money laundering, Cuomo said. Morris and Loglisci have pleaded not guilty.

Cohen, who has said he knew nothing about what Harding pleaded guilty to, has not been named by Cuomo in the investigation. Cohen left the state Assembly in 2005 and took a $150,000-per-year job at the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, where he is no longer employed.

Cohen had told TimesLedger Newspapers when he stepped down that he was doing so in order to care for his ill wife.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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