Cuomo is guilty at some level

The governor should stop deflecting and take decisive steps to clean up the mess he's been responsible for creating
Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

Andrew Cuomo is all worked up over the suggestion that the conviction of Joseph Percoco, his former right-hand man, reflects poorly on the governor and his administration.

Cuomo dismissed the linkage as “political garbage” and maintained “there was absolutely no suggestion ever made (during the trial) that I had anything to do with anything.’’ That’s a pretty amazing statement coming from someone with a reputation as a hands-on control freak.

Yes, the governor has been neither charged with nor convicted of any wrongdoing. But he is ultimately responsible for the scandals involving state economic development programs and the general sleaze engulfing Albany because he has enabled and protected it.

As I wrote last May: “The Cuomo crowd is obsessed with secrecy and operates with the mistaken notion that the rules don’t apply to them. The governor may or may not have knowledge of the supposed misdeeds of some of his associates, but he has most certainly created an environment that’s made state government susceptible to official misconduct.”

Percoco, once described by Cuomo as his “father’s third son,” served as campaign manager for Cuomo’s two successful gubernatorial runs. He also functioned as Cuomo’s enforcer and fixer as a top aide. He was was convicted Tuesday of pocketing more than $300,000 in bribes from executives seeking state contracts.

His corruption trial was the first of three scheduled for this year that involve former state officials and developers who just so happen to have been major contributors to the governor’s campaigns. Next up is the man Cuomo has termed a “near genius,” his former economic development czar, Alain Kaloyeros. After that, a trio of executives from Buffalo’s LPCiminelli, including owner Louis Ciminelli, face trial on charges related to shenanigans I first exposed in late 2014.

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Reaction to the Percoco verdict has been swift — and brutal.

The New York Post said Cuomo’s “I don’t know nothin’” defense was “disgraceful.”

The New York Daily News said the conviction “leaves a ghastly stain” on the governor as he prepares to run for a third term this fall.

The Albany Times Union noted that “testimony and evidence also revealed other legal lines that may have been skirted by the Cuomo administration but were not the subject of the prosecution.”

Yet there was Cuomo on Wednesday declaring the convictions were “a violation of everything my administration stands for” and insisting “we strive for total integrity.’’

The record shows otherwise.

I mean, this is the governor who disbanded the Moreland Commission, charged with investigating corruption in state government, when it started to paying attention to some of Cuomo’s supporters.

Who steadfastly opposed proposals in the state Legislature last year to reform state procurement policies and restore some of the oversight powers of the state comptroller that the governor successfully wrestled away after he took office.

Whose administration has a practice of using Blackberries and personal email accounts to avoid leaving behind a paper trail that could be documented through Freedom of Information requests.

Who ignored an executive order, initially issued by one of his predecessors, in order to solicit campaign contributions from his appointees.

And who made Sam Hoyt his top political operative in Western New York despite the former assemblyman’s creepy relationship with a former intern.

Then there is the governor’s for self-congratulatory proclamations that favor hype over fact – to put it kindly.

He promised a high tech hub in downtown Buffalo in announcing a $55 million state grant to lure IBM. In fact, the contract between the company and a state-affiliated development corporation included no such requirement and what we got instead was a dysfunctional call center with low-wage jobs.

He’s declared Buffalo “a national success story” while ignoring job growth that’s only half the national average and a poverty rate that ranks among the highest in the country.

And he’s repeatedly claimed credit for what he’s said is a resurgence of the upstate economy even though job growth north of New York City has been one-quarter the national average since he took office and most of the jobs created are of the low-wage variety. As Charlotte Keith and I reported last March: “If it were a state, upstate’s job growth would rank fourth-worst in the nation, below, among others, Mississippi.”

Then there are the flat out lies. The governor said his name was “never mentioned” during Percoco’s trial. In fact, his name was spoken 54 times in just the first four days.

Add it all up and I’d say the Percoco verdict is a fair reflection of the ethical character of the Cuomo administration. Cuomo should stop deflecting and start cleaning up the mess he’s created.

Yes, Albany was a cesspool before he arrived, but it’s gotten worse under his watch. That he claims the mantle of a reformer only adds insult to injury.