A case of political chutzpah

Gazette file photo
Gazette Publisher Alan Chartock calls State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, above, one of the state’s “finest public servants.”


Sometimes it just can’t be denied that Andrew Cuomo has some admirable qualities. Whatever his rationale, he chose to go to war with the legislature over ethics. That was good. He seems to be pouring on the coal but he has a problem. Based on his past forays into ethics land, there are many, many people who simply don’t believe that he means to make real change happen.

Just look at it this way: if he really wanted to, he could compel the group of Independent Democrats who long ago sold out to the Republicans to do what’s right. He could threaten them and say that he would go to their constituents and expose them as faux Democrats if they didn’t come back over to the regular Democrats in the Senate to make them a majority.

He could demand that they vote for ethics reform. He could single out the worst of these phonies, Simcha Felder, who tells his constituents that he’s a Democrat but always organizes with the Republicans in the Senate. In fact, in his recent battle with the legislature it was Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan who killed Cuomo’s efforts to put a limit on how much the legislators could make on the outside. If the Democrats were in the majority you had better believe that Flanagan would not be calling the shots. With Cuomo, you always have to say, “Look what he does, not what he says.”

Now Cuomo continues to pick fights with State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. This has to be one of the biggest cases of political chutzpah of the year. Now remember that two of Cuomo’s closest pals, Joe Percoco (his “third brother”) and Todd Howe, were accused by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of taking bribes. Howe has already pleaded guilty. I’ll say it again — these are two of the governor’s closest pals. He says he is deeply hurt and disappointed by their betrayal. Let’s just go with the Cuomo response that he knew nothing about what his closest associates were doing. It’s certainly possible that he’s telling the truth.

Now, in the latest battle of his inexplicable war with Tom DiNapoli, Cuomo is insisting that DiNapoli is not an effective comptroller. Why? Well, it turns out that a member of DiNapoli’s staff has been accused of taking bribes. Sound familiar? You’re disappointed when your close buddies betray you but when a lower level guy in DiNapoli’s shop is caught, DiNapoli should have known better and his powers should be reduced. I know DiNapoli well and know that he is busy making sure that his hiring practice in the Comptroller’s Office gets a total revision. He’s a thoroughly decent man and one of New York state’s finest public servants.

We have long known that Cuomo wants the power that the State Constitution gives to the comptroller for himself. In fact, another member of Cuomo’s inner circle, Alain Kaloyeros, has also been indicted on criminal charges after serving as a top member of SUNY Polytechnic Institute administration. Cuomo took away the power of the constitutional official (DiNapoli) to pre-audit contracts that SUNY undertook with some nonprofit corporations. There is a good chance that some of the Cuomo pals’ alleged crimes might never have happened had DiNapoli’s powers not been taken away from him.

Cuomo’s polling numbers are respectable. It doesn’t look like either Republicans or Democrats are lining up to run against the powerful Cuomo name. No matter what he does, it certainly doesn’t seem likely that he can revive the upstate economy. In his case, upstate is his big problem. Ever since he did the right thing by trying to put some restrictions on gun ownership, his name has been mud from Westchester on up. Put succinctly, I like being me and I’m glad I ain’t him.