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Culture of Corruption Leaves N.Y.'s Cuomo Vulnerable

Culture of Corruption Leaves N.Y.'s Cuomo Vulnerable

(Seth Winig/AP)

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Monday, 31 October 2016 01:01 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Prior to Andrew Cuomo's election as governor in November 2010, I met with him on several occasions to discuss the challenges the Empire State’s next chief executive would face.

Our meetings were one-on-one and there were no holds barred.

As a conservative, I knew Cuomo and I would not see eye-to-eye on many issues, particularly social ones. But when it came to dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis, oppressive taxes, destructive regulations and Albany corruption, we found ourselves pretty much agreeing.

I was impressed with the “new” Andrew Cuomo.

Although I did not vote for him or his opponent, Republican Carl Paladino, (I wrote in the name of N.Y.'s greatest governor, Alfred E. Smith), I was pleased to be a member of his transition team and later to serve on the governor’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors.

During Cuomo’s first year as governor, he pursued a center-right budget policy. The battle he waged to eliminate a projected deficit for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2011 of $10 billion was a success.

By late 2011, however, I witnessed a change in the man.

He was back to his old habits of micromanaging, brow beating his staff, bullying anyone who got in his way and serving as his own enforcer.

He also raised taxes. Cuomo’s rationale for breaking his pledge to veto any tax increases was based on his national ambitions. He wanted to prove he could get a tax increase while Obama and Washington Democrats could not.

Cuomo also failed to create genuine independent monitoring and enforcement of ethics laws and campaign-finance reform.

His 2013 Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption was a farce.

His sudden disbanding of the Commission prompted an investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that led to the convictions of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Cuomo’s failure to deal with the State’s culture of corruption has now reached his inner sanctum. In September, federal prosecutors indicted nine people involved with the governor’s upstate billion dollar development plans including two former top aides that were very close to him and his father, Todd Howe and Joe Percoco.

The real shocker is the allegation that Percoco took $300,000 in bribes in a pay-to-play scheme. Percoco has been a close friend of the Cuomo’s for over 30 years.

At Mario Cuomo’s requiem mass in January 2015, Andrew referred to Percoco as Mario’s third son, “who sometimes I think he loved the most.”

Percoco entered the Cuomo inner circle as Mario’s scheduler and “body man” when he was 19. He followed Andrew to Washington to work for him at the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).

After his stint at HUD and before he joined Attorney General Cuomo’s staff in 2007, he worked as a managing attorney of operation services at KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory firm.

In Cuomo’s 2014 memoir, "All Things Possible," he described Percoco as “the total package: trained as a lawyer, he had the guts, brains and stick-to-itiveness necessary to attack any project hard.” In “the worst of times,” Cuomo wrote, “he could make us laugh.”

While I am certain that the governor had no idea how Percoco made his money in 2014, I’m also certain the allegations are crippling the Cuomo Administration.

Cuomo has few trusted advisors — they can fit in a coat closet.

Even in the best of times, Cuomo has had a hard time attracting talent to work for him because of his reputation as an unbearable micromanager.

As a result, positions in the executive office are unfilled and political wags are whispering that remaining loyalists have adopted a bunker mentality and are cutting themselves off from reality.

A bleeding administration also attracts political sharks smelling an opportunity to challenge Cuomo if he runs for a third term. (Remember in 2014, and unknown and under-financed Zephyr Teachout dared to challenge Cuomo and received an impressive 32 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.)

If Cuomo should come out of these corruption trials unscathed, in my judgment he will seek a third term. He’ll run to spite his detractors and if victorious, spend his final four years in office settling scores.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.

 

 

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A bleeding administration attracts political sharks smelling an opportunity to challenge Cuomo if he runs for a third term. If Cuomo should come out of these corruption trials unscathed, he’ll run to spite his detractors. If victorious, he'll spend his final four years in office settling scores.
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Monday, 31 October 2016 01:01 PM
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