Cuomo’s dis­mal record on clean­ing up Al­bany

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Alan Char­tock Capi­tol Con­nec­tion

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

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