Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crooked Cuomo

Before Andrew Cuomo met with members of the Democrats For Education Reform when he was running for governor, he had said little about his potential education plans if he was elected.

After he met with them and received campaign donations and promises of future donations, he issued an education plan that sounded as if it had been written by the Democrats For Education Reform - the plan was heavy on charter school expansion, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, expanded testing, etc.

At the time, I said this was a clear quid pro quo, that the DFER's had bought Cuomo off and Cuomo, ever the skillful politician, was able to play the entire transaction off as politics, not crime.

But make no mistake, it was crime.

Cuomo took money from some wealthy backers to subsequently push their policies.

That's why the story that broke last night about the Cuomo-supporting PAC taking $2 million in gambling money at the same time that Cuomo started to push legalized gambling in the state sounded eerily familiar to my ears.

Here's the story:

A lobbying group controlled by Genting Bhd. and other gambling interests donated $2 million to a powerful committee that backs New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at around the same time that the governor announced he would push to legalize casinos.

The New York Gaming Association made the donation in early December to the Committee to Save New York, a business and trade union group that has spent $12 million to support Mr. Cuomo's agenda—more than any other lobbying group in the state. Around the same time, the committee began backing a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling.

"It was my understanding that [the Committee to Save New York was] going to be somewhat supportive of the general concept of the expansion of gaming," said association president James Featherstonhaugh, a veteran state lobbyist. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have done it."

On Dec. 4, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, wrote in a newspaper opinion piece that new casinos would be part of his economic agenda. In January, he announced a partnership with Genting to develop a $4 billion convention center and casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens.

Throughout December, the Committee to Save New York ran television ads praising Mr. Cuomo.

News of the donation came as Mr. Cuomo announced Monday that casino developers would compete to build a gambling hall in or around New York City, now that the Genting deal for the Aqueduct project had collapsed.

A Cuomo administration official said there was no connection between the donation to the Committee to Save New York and the governor's support for casino gambling. The official said Mr. Cuomo hasn't adopted the gambling association's position that new casinos should be located at existing race tracks.

Mr. Cuomo had long said he was open to casino gambling in New York but didn't announce his full support until December.


Mr. Featherstonhaugh said he didn't discuss donations with the governor. He said he dealt with Michelle Adams, a managing director at Tishman Speyer and treasurer for Save New York.

"I don't think they thought much about the gaming issue until I reached out to them," said Mr. Featherstonhaugh.

Now that Cuomo has walked away from the quid pro quo deal with the gambling interests, they're fighting back by giving this story to the media.

But the fact that Cuomo ultimately didn't follow through on the deal doesn't lessen the crookedness of the deal itself or the way Cuomo and the Committee To Save New York (an Orwellian name for a PAC if ever there was one) went about pushing it back in December and January.

Just as Cuomo was bought off by the hedge fund managers who make up the Democrats For Education Reform to promote their education agenda, Cuomo was bought off by the gambling industry to promote their agenda.

How many other business interests have bought off the governor and his Committee To Save New York to promote their agendas?

For example, why do business interests charter planes for Cuomo to take to various government events in places like Puerto Rico, California, New York City and around the State of New York?

Are they doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, or do they expect something back in return?

This governor likes to make it seem like he's the only clean politician in a dirty, dirty state capital full of crooks and liars.

But it is clear from the both the DFER case and the gambling case that Andrew Cuomo is as crooked as any other politician in Albany, he's simply more skilled at hiding his criminality and getting his wealthy business interests to run ads and stories in the media that push him as some Elliot Ness character above the Albany cesspool.

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