One of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers is reportedly working behind the scenes in an attempt to undermine his successor shortly after she assumed office, according to Politico.
A dozen reporters and political aides told Politico that during his last weeks as governor, Cuomo’s longtime adviser and spokesperson Rich Azzopardi had been working on ''an aggressive last-ditch attempt to salvage the governor’s political career,'' which included making calls posing as an ally of Gov. Kathy Hochul and implying that he was looking to recruit transition workers, which some observers took as a loyalty test. Hochul’s senior aides told Politico that they were unaware of this activity, which one described as ''nonsensical.''
Azzopardi has also reportedly cold-called reporters with negative stories about Cuomo’s opponents, privately messaging journalists on social media to push them to cast doubt on the sexual harassment allegations against the former governor and providing background quotes that call Hochul’s competence into question.
One unidentified reporter said: ''The fever [with] which they are doing this — to relitigate the past and undermine Hochul — is incredible. They don’t seem to see that they are out of power and no one cares.''
Azzopardi denied planting stories about Hochul, saying, ''I’ve been very clear about my thoughts, I wrote an Op-Ed, but I’ve never said anything about the governor or the new administration.''
He later added that he ''was trying to be helpful and aid in a transition and they seemed receptive. To spin this as somehow duplicitous is crazy. I wish them luck.''
However, Politico notes that many political aides and operatives with experience working for Cuomo expect him to use the remaining $18 million he has in his campaign war chest to pay his legal fees before he goes after his ''enemies,'' which they believe includes attacking the prominent Democrats who pushed him to resign.
''What is a man to do with $18 million, a lot of enemies and a desire for revenge?'' said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who has worked with Cuomo and for candidates running against him. ''This is not a guy who forgets. The only question is when he tries to get even, and whether it’s upfront or behind the scenes.''
''That money is politically radioactive,'' added Democrat strategist Phil Singer, who previously worked for Cuomo on his 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns. ''Any politician who wants to benefit from it would have to be publicly reluctant to do so — even if they are privately excited about the cash infusion that it would provide.''
Azzopardi said he didn’t know how to respond when asked if Cuomo would use his remaining campaign cash to retaliate against Democrats who opposed him.
''I have no earthly idea how to answer that question, come on,'' he told Politico.
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