Publisher’s Corner: ‘Transparency’ in state government is easier said than done

Legislative Gazette file photo

Let’s talk about Governor Kathy Hochul. Her career seems to be going great guns. Her success, I suspect, comes from the usual sources.

Her major asset is that she is NOT Andrew Cuomo. She has played that one correctly. We know they weren’t friends when they served together and that Cuomo tried to push her out of the way, a circumstance which was never forgotten. Interestingly, Cuomo has not said or even hinted, anything negative about Hochul, even though Hochul has not been particularly kind or partial to Cuomo. She is certainly enjoying a political honeymoon period.

It’s obvious that while other Democratic politicians have been known to drift into left wing territory, that is not the case with Hochul. If anything, the conservative element of the Democratic Party, as well as some opportunistic Republicans like Al D’Amato, are right there with her. If we are being honest, Hochul is playing it right down the middle and the establishment couldn’t be more pleased. They are coming up with vast amounts of money to ensure her continuance in office.

Contrasted with “Tough Guy Andrew,” Hochul is seemingly beloved by rich and upper middle-class folks who have always been the ruling class in American politics. No less august media outlets than the New York Times have been following the money. If it is doing its job, the media will certainly determine whether the stunning amounts of money that have been contributed to the Hochul campaign have reaped any benefits in the form of a helping hand from the governor. Unfortunately, while we have all been calling for transparency in government, it is not always so easy to follow who gets what and why. If you think it is, think again.

We will have to see whether even the most honorable people in government can avoid the path that has been laid out for successful politicians. Whether your name is Cuomo or Hochul, there are basic priorities, the most pronounced of which is “Get the money.” Money buys campaign ads and staff and begets more money since the word gets out and people, well, “invest” in candidates. Some do it for exemplary reasons while others do it to feather their personal nests.

Hochul seems to be a smart politician. While Cuomo was hard-driving, he made some terrible mistakes concerning some of the people he hired. Some were just plain crooks. Hochul, who was also chosen by Cuomo, should learn from her predecessor that you have to be VERY careful about who you rely on to get business done. That includes the people who are raising the money for you. Even Dwight Eisenhower learned the hard way that some of the perks of office can be very enticing and while Ike was never accused of wrongdoing, some on his staff weren’t quite as honest. To learn more about that, you might google “Vicuña Coat” and “Sherman Adams.”

So a word to the wise. There’s a big difference between being Lieutenant Governor and having the top job. Like Cuomo and Ike, Hochul needs to find the right people to run both the government and her political operation.

Hochul’s “investors,” including the lobbyists and their employers, will be playing the Albany game with a vengeance. They get paid for delivering the goods, right? Hochul talks transparency but that is easier said than done. A great politician has to have backbone of steel. People who give you things expect something (and it ain’t good government) back.

There will be those who think it isn’t right of me to issue this kind of warning. But I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go. If I were Hochul, you can bet I would find a tough private detective and CPA to constantly audit my government, because money and politics go together. I hope I won’t have to write another column saying, “I told you so.”