When it’s quiet at the state Capi­tol, watch out

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

Char­tock: The ten­sion in Al­bany has law­mak­ers shiv­er­ing and scared and wait­ing for the next shoe to drop.

Things are very quiet in Al­bany. The ten­sion in the air has law­mak­ers and ex­ec­u­tives shiv­er­ing and scared and wait­ing for the next shoe to drop.

The United States At­tor­neys have been very busy. On one side of the Hud­son, there is the Ge­orge Washington “Bridge­gate” scan­dal. On the other side, the se­ri­ous charges that have been brought against Gover­nor An­drew Cuomo’s clos­est as­so­ciates for some das­tardly skull­dug­gery.

Cuomo has stead­fastly main­tained that he knew noth­ing about what his friends were al­leged to have done and he may well be telling the truth. If it’s true that he had no clue about some ba­sic char­ac­ter flaws in his buddies, you had bet­ter be­lieve that he is very un­happy and even sick­ened about his be­trayal. A close friend of his tells me that is ex­actly the case. Cuomo’s ap­proval rat­ing is still above 50 per­cent, though down from a much higher num­ber, so a lot of peo­ple seem ready to ac­cept his ex­pla­na­tion that he knew noth­ing.

When you are the head guy who has promised to clean up Al­bany, it has to be a heart­breaker when the peo­ple you trusted the most let you down in a big way. After all, you set the ta­ble and they knew it. Many, many bosses have seen this hap­pen and Cuomo is hardly unique. When it does hap­pen, you lose a lot of sleep and be­cause it is such a uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non, peo­ple are in­clined to give you a break. On the other hand, we are go­ing to have some lol­la­palooza tri­als com­ing up and one never knows what one’s ac­cused pals will say to save their own skins. Todd Howe has al­ready pleaded guilty and is ob­vi­ously singing like the prover­bial canary.

The other big fish is Joe Per­coco, who has been as close to Cuomo and his fa­ther, Mario, as a brother. Per­coco is mar­ried and his wife has been im­pli­cated in the evolv­ing mess. So ask your­self this ques­tion — who comes first, your wife or your clos­est friend and men­tor? As I said, there is ab­so­lutely no rea­son to be­lieve An­drew Cuomo is ly­ing about what he knew about his friends’ al­leged schemes to en­rich them­selves. All we know is that a fairly short time be­fore Bharara an­nounced his new charges, a lot of Cuomo’s peo­ple jumped ship. Maybe they were pushed, maybe not. Some of his clos­est aides had what is a called a “soft landing” in some very com­fort­able jobs on the “out­side.” This is quite the spi­der’s web and it may or may not un­tan­gle as peo­ple are brought to the stand, un­der oath and asked ques­tions un­der penalty of per­jury. Bridge­gate on the New Jersey side of­fers some in­struc­tion about what may hap­pen at a trial. As it un­folds, each of the ac­cused has been of­fer­ing per­sonal ra­tio­nales and hearsay about what Gover­nor Chris Christie may have known and when he knew it. Christie, like Cuomo, de­nies having any knowl­edge of what his un­der­lings were do­ing to close down crit­i­cal lanes on the New Jersey side of the bridge. Those who were im­pli­cated were do­ing it to fur­ther Christie’s ca­reer. There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween what the Christie peo­ple were do­ing to fur­ther their gover­nor’s ca­reer and what the Cuomo peo­ple were al­legedly do­ing to en­rich them­selves.

There is no guess­ing what the al­legedly un­scrupu­lous Cuomo aides will say or do to save their own skins. In the Bridge­gate trial, al­le­ga­tions were made that Cuomo and Christie had spo­ken about tak­ing the heat off Christie be­fore Christie’s elec­tion by ton­ing down the Bridge­gate story and ask­ing the New York Port Author­ity peo­ple to quiet down. Cuomo ve­he­mently de­nies that ever hap­pened. One won­ders why any politi­cian would ever say any­thing into a tele­phone or com­mit any­thing to e-mail. So far, it looks to me like Cuomo is un­happy but off the hook. On the other hand, as Preet Bharara of­ten says, “Stay tuned.”

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 alan@ wamc.org.

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