Cuomo’s dismal record on cleaning up Albany
It is interesting that one of the two conspirators has admitted guilt and is dragging the others under.
I love to try to play a game where I put myself in someone else’s place. First of all, I inevitably feel better than I did before the game and second, it helps me figure out where the game lies.
Take the case of Andrew Cuomo and the massive scandal that now surrounds his administration. It turns out that two of Andrew’s closest friends are in deep, deep trouble. They are accused of being out-and-out crooks, having invented new ways do what is called in Albany, “Pay to Play.”
It is particularly interesting that one of the two Cuomo buddy conspirators has admitted his guilt and is dragging the other conspirators under. Fighting U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has certainly gone out of his way to make it plain that no one is guilty until a jury says so. Nevertheless, things do not look good for Joe Percoco, who was once described by Cuomo as Papa Mario’s preferred third son. The second Cuomo pal, the one who has already pled guilty, is Todd Howe, a well-connected lobbyist. It turns out that Percoco and Howe, who has had legal troubles in the past, were in constant touch as they allegedly gamed the system using all kinds of code words to describe things, including Godfather-type words like “ziti,” meaning corrupt profits and “fat boy” for one of the principal conspirators otherwise known as the “soakee.”
Now everyone has gone out of their way to say that Andrew has not been named in the indictment and Andrew says that he is very disappointed by the whole situation. He should say that because from the time he ran for governor, he said he would clean up Albany. Even before this rotten scandal, his record on that has been dismal. It seems that each year he has come up with really lackluster ethics reform legislation. By now, everyone accepts the fact that he has not done the reform job that he swore to do. So his current position on the indictment of his former best friends rings rather hollow.
Andrew is keeping shut. If you think about it, that’s probably his best move. It’s worked for him in the past. The voters have terrible memories. The more defense that Andrew mounts, the more likely it is that something smelly will come back his way. He is a past expert at living unscathed through personal and professional scandals. The Cuomo patrimony is incredibly helpful. Most people don’t know beans about politics but they do know the Cuomo name. Unless the trial of Joe Percoco and another indicted player, Alain Kaloyeros, brings Cuomo back into the headlines, it would seem that Cuomo is off scot-free.
No one likes to think that they might go to jail for many, many years so out of self-preservation, it is always possible that some self-serving player will drag Cuomo into the fray. Cuomo would be a major prize for the U.S. attorney who has already indicted and convicted two of the other “three men in the room” — players who stood at the top of the Albany power pyramid, namely former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Many people believe that Cuomo is a master political player who would never put himself in a position in which he could be proven doing anything wrong or criminal. Nevertheless, the circle is tightening.
In public administration, the person who is responsible for an organization usually has to account for the actions of his subordinates. After all, he chose them and they were the closest to him. If he didn’t know what they were doing people might say, “Shame on him.” Those accused were not way down the food chain. These were his top operatives. I know Andrew well enough to know how sharp he is but my bet is that there is more to come.
Sunday Freeman columnist Alan Chartock is a professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.