It was an unflattering portrait of Albany, with state officials and lobbyists trading in clubby lunches and dinners, fishing trips and sophomoric nicknames.
There were bribes, the star prosecution witness, Todd R. Howe, testified on Monday, but even those came with inside jokes: He and others called them “ziti,” a reference to money they picked up from “The Sopranos.”
But most of all, Mr. Howe began to deliver an unsparing look at how he said Joseph Percoco, once one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s closest aides, sought to actively sell his influence in Albany in what prosecutors have called two separate bribery schemes involving companies seeking state contracts.
Mr. Percoco is one of four men on trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan on corruption charges; Mr. Howe, an inside-the-Beltway veteran who also once ran an Albany lobbying firm, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government.
Prosecutors asked Mr. Howe about why he had helped Mr. Percoco, who he said was “the closest thing to a brother that I ever had.”
“I wanted to be helpful because I wanted him to continue to help my clients as he had been in the past,” Mr. Howe said.
In 2012, Mr. Howe said that he had received a call from Mr. Percoco, who indicated that he was facing financial strains, and his wife, Lisa, a former schoolteacher, was unemployed.
“He asked if there were any clients of mine that could possibly hire her to be a consultant or to teach in some capacity, if I had a client that might be willing to hire her,” Mr. Howe said.
And Mr. Howe’s client, Competitive Power Ventures, seemed well aware of Mr. Percoco’s potential influence. “My understanding was he wanted Joe to be an advocate and his eyes and ears in the governor’s office,” Mr. Howe said of Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., then an executive with Competitive Power Ventures who is one of the four defendants on trial.
Mr. Percoco’s wife was later hired as an educational consultant by Mr. Kelly’s company, drawing about $285,000 in salary over roughly three years for what prosecutors called a “low-show job.”
In another instance, a Syracuse-area developer, COR Development, was also seeking help from Mr. Percoco, who served as Mr. Cuomo’s executive deputy secretary. “They wanted that labor peace agreement to go away,” Mr. Howe recalled, “and realized that Joe was in a position” to make that happen.
Mr. Percoco’s intervention helped that labor issue disappear as well, according to prosecutors.
In all, prosecutors say, Mr. Percoco received at least $315,000 in bribes, paid to Mr. Percoco’s wife through a third party and through a company operated by Mr. Howe.
The testimony from Mr. Howe, whose questioning by prosecutors is to continue on Tuesday, offered a vivid and sometimes shadowy look at the inner workings of the State Capitol, where Mr. Percoco, as the close friend and political enforcer of Mr. Cuomo, was for years an imposing presence.
Mr. Percoco’s influence was well-known, Mr. Howe testified. “He had the ability to pick up the phone and get things done,” Mr. Howe said, likening it to the old commercial for E. F. Hutton (“When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”).
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat facing re-election in the fall, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the governor’s proximity to Mr. Percoco — whom Mr. Cuomo once referred to as family, but who is now facing felony charges that include conspiracy, extortion and solicitation of bribes — has already cast questions on his choice of friends and personnel.
Not all of Mr. Howe’s testimony directly related to illegal actions, but it still underscored how money led to access, and a direct pipeline to request favors. He testified that he had persuaded Competitive Power Ventures to contribute to Mr. Cuomo’s election campaign in 2010, during his first successful run for governor.
Mr. Howe said he set up a breakfast with Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Kelly and other officials with Competitive Power Ventures in New York City. Some $25,000 was raised at that event. Later, other executives from the company also contributed to the campaign. Prosecutors have said that the contributions were not illegal, a point reiterated to the jury by Judge Valerie E. Caproni, who is overseeing the trial.
The candidate also used a plane paid for by Competitive Power Ventures for a day near the close of the campaign, Mr. Howe said. “The governor did fly on it,” he said.
Shortly after Mr. Cuomo was elected, Mr. Howe, Mr. Percoco and Mr. Kelly had lunch at Smith & Wollensky, the famed steakhouse, Mr. Howe testified. He said they discussed a power plant that Mr. Kelly’s company was seeking to build in the Hudson Valley and an agreement the firm wanted that the state would buy the power it produced.
Mr. Howe painted a jokey, and sometimes insulting, culture of cooperation between himself and Mr. Percoco, who called each other “Herb” and secretly called Mr. Kelly “fat man.” (After a 2010 fishing trip, in which Mr. Percoco caught a tuna, Mr. Kelly earned another moniker: Skipper.)
Mr. Howe also testified to the damage the scandal had done to him personally, noting that he had “made a huge mistake that has wrecked my career and my family’s life.” The charges which he pleaded guilty to as part of his cooperation deal — including extortion, fraud and conspiracies to commit honest services fraud and bribery — were a result of his living beyond his means, he said, despite earning more than $750,000 a year.
Once a denizen of the halls of power in Washington and Albany, Mr. Howe said he was forced to move from the East Coast. His government affairs career was over, he said.
Mr. Howe said he now lives in Idaho, where he works as a groundskeeper at a golf course.
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