.@NYGovCuomo is either a clueless idiot or complicit. It's one or the other. #BuffaloBillion #Buffaloboondoggle— Steve McLaughlin (@SteveMcNY) September 22, 2016
That's Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin reacting to the various criminal charges levied against nine individuals with connections to Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, including Cuomo's former top aide and all-around fixer, Joseph Percoco.
When you look closely at the criminal complaint unsealed yesterday, you notice that McLaughlin has an excellent point.
Percoco started soliciting bribes and favors even before his boss, Andrew, was elected governor and Cuomo himself was never far from the action, as this NY Times account makes clear:
Though rarely mentioned in the federal complaint, Mr. Cuomo hovers in the background of the narrative of his former aides’ misdeeds — and some of the more embarrassing revelations. Proximity to the governor and the executive chamber were the currency in which both Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco traded, often by invoking Mr. Cuomo’s name or exploiting his presence.In October 2010, for example, as Mr. Cuomo was running for governor, Peter Galbraith Kelly, Jr., chief lobbyist for a power company that was seeking state assistance for its plant in the Hudson Valley, arranged for the company to donate a private jet to fly Mr. Cuomo and his staff to campaign events, the complaint says. It was all part of Mr. Kelly’s bid to ingratiate himself with Mr. Percoco, according to the complaint, as it became increasingly apparent that Mr. Cuomo would be elected.At various points, the complaint says, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco referred to generous donors and clients of Mr. Howe’s as “friends,” short for “friends of the governor” — people who, it seemed, could expect special treatment from the governor’s inner circle. In March 2015, according to the complaint, Mr. Howe and Mr. Percoco set up a meeting for Mr. Kelly with the governor’s secretary, a central figure in the executive chamber.“As Joe told you, Braith is ‘family,’” Mr. Howe wrote to the secretary, referring to Mr. Kelly’s nickname, the complaint says.In early 2014, Steven Aiello, president of the Syracuse-area developer COR Development Company, another “friend” and major donor to Mr. Cuomo, was scheduled to meet with Mr. Percoco at the governor’s office in Midtown Manhattan, according to the complaint. Mr. Howe emailed Mr. Percoco, employing an affectionate nickname the two men often used for each other, “Herb,” and dropping in a “Sopranos” reference to ziti as a slang for money: “Lay it on thick, govs loves you … Lay it on heAvy Herbie! Zitti herb! Zitti!!”Thus prompted, the complaint continues, Mr. Percoco replied that he might have Mr. Cuomo drop by the meeting to say hello. Mr. Howe told investigators that Mr. Percoco did this so he could pressure Mr. Aiello later for more bribes.The governor’s name came up again in September 2015, according to the complaint, when Mr. Aiello complained to Mr. Howe that he had not been invited to attend Mr. Cuomo’s events during a planned trip to Syracuse. After Mr. Percoco intervened, Mr. Aiello was asked to give the governor a tour of a new hotel he was building in the city.The coziness depicted in the complaint makes it difficult for some to believe that Mr. Cuomo did not know something was amiss.“It’s unrealistic with an adviser that was this close to the governor, that the governor doesn’t know what was going on,” said Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for Reclaim New York, a good-government group. Or, if Mr. Cuomo truly did not know, Mr. Kellogg added, “It’s a sign that he’s not minding the store.”
The line out today from Cuomo shills is that Cuomo was clean while he was betrayed by his friends, associates and donors in these matters, but he will now use these betrayals as impetus to push for a cleaner Albany.
But that line is horseshit.
Either Cuomo knew part or all of what was going on under his nose and chose to look the other way (how about those "free" private jet flights back in October 2010, Andy?) or he didn't know and was a) a terrible judge of the character of the people around him and b) incompetent in his stewardship of his administration and its signature economic initiatives (which appear to have been run more to line the pockets of his friends, associates and donors than actually provide any economic development.)
Given Cuomo's reputation as a micromanager with his fingers on everything going on around him, it's difficult to believe Cuomo didn't have some inkling of the games Percoco, Howe, Kaloyeros, et al. were playing and the money and favors that were rolling their way.
Yesterday U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was asked if the governor was in any trouble for any of this and he replied with a statement that basically said "No - not yet, at any rate":
“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”
That's not exactly a clean bill of health for the governor from the U.S. attorney and while multiple outlets have run stories today with the headline that Cuomo's skating on criminal charges while many around him are not, there remains the possibility that one or more of those guys arrested yesterday decides to tell tales on the governor and give a blueprint for where all the bodies are buried in the Cuomo administration.
Even if that doesn't happen, Cuomo ought to be finished politically, as it's quite clear that his "effective" and "ethical" stewardship of the state government is neither of those things.
But as is always the case with Cuomo, he's searching for ways to survive and thrive - thus an appearance in Buffalo today and the line out of his shills about how Cuomo will use these arrests as motivation to clean up state government.
He cannot be allowed to get away with that nonsense.
Andrew Cuomo was either complicit in the corruption in his administration or he was ignorant of it, in which case he is an incompetent fool.
The only way the cesspool that is Albany gets even a bit cleaner from all the corruption is when Andrew Cuomo is finally shown the door and kicked out of office and power.