New York, New York! It’s really a time of judicial reckoning.
Former Speaker Shelly Silver, who I have interviewed many times, is off to the penitentiary for twelve years (maybe the rest of his life.) Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos also faces some serious jail time. Now, York City Mayor de Blasio’s team is being investigated by the feds for illegally funneling money into upstate Senate campaigns and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s team has been hit by a number of subpoenas relating to a growing stench around the “Buffalo Billion” program that Andrew has been touting as a fix to the problems of that troubled city.
On top of all of that, with one legislator after another being hauled away in handcuffs, the foolish people in the Legislature steadfastly refuse to pass hard-hitting ethics laws that might please the nearly unanimous public who believe that things couldn’t stink more.
Andrew Cuomo’s people are under investigation for ethical violations that could end up being the worst trouble for Andrew since he unconscionably killed his own Moreland Act Commission, which was formed to investigate corruption. He got the rapt attention of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who, like a bulldog, has his eyes set on Cuomo. The governor, you will remember, argued that he ended his Moreland Act Commission to get the Legislature to go along with some of his programs. Frankly, while many have accepted his story, there are others who believe that he killed his own Moreland panel because they were getting too close to his own fundraising operation.
Now in the Buffalo case we hear intriguing stories about lobbyists who are closely connected to Cuomo and of his closest friends, aide and so-called “brother,” Joseph Percoco. Allegedly Percoco and his wife got all kinds of “consulting” money from well-heeled upstate corporations with an interest in the Buffalo billion when he moved from the state payroll in the Governor’s Office to the role of Cuomo’s campaign manager. Perhaps it was legal, but the people who look at this kind of thing know full well that you come to the closest allies of the powerful understanding that two and two make four. Once again, Preet Bharara is on the case. Why is Bharara so far away from his Southern District of New York turf? This is really a good one — because the U.S. Attorney for Buffalo happens to be married to none other than Cuomo’s Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul. He had to recuse himself and maybe the worst news for Cuomo was that Bharara took charge. All of Albany is waiting for the next shoe to drop in this saga. Who will turn on whom? You’d better believe that nobody wants to go to jail if they can avoid it by throwing someone else under the bus.
The de Blasio case gets even more interesting because Risa Sugarman, an ex-Cuomo aide who is now working as the head of the state ethics group, referred the de Blasio case to the authorities. Considering Andrew’s apparent hatred for political competitor de Blasio, there are those who unkindly think that Cuomo may have been behind the new ethics related charges against the mayor. In other words, Andrew is thought by some to have “dropped the dime” on de Blasio. Nah, couldn’t be, could it?
Finally, the fools in the Legislature really have to do something to clean up their act. They just don’t want to put a crimp in their style of living by putting a limit on outside income and fixing the campaign laws. This really is a very good time for an ambitious legislator to emerge from the cowardly pack and put a group of legislators together to pass crucial ethics legislation. Obviously, the present leaders of the Senate and Assembly just don’t have the guts to do it. This really is a golden opportunity to get ahead. Just saying.