Is a Function
Albany corruption seemed to be one of the most urgent messages
of the election, but Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is sending
signals that it is no longer a top pritority.
are singing a similar tunea Nov. 15 Siena poll found
that only 22 percent of New Yorkers polled think ethics
reform is a top priority.
between Election Day and the gubernatorial inauguration is
a time for the incoming governor to send messages about what
his priorities will be. If a recent press conference between
Cuomo and Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman is any
indication, fighting corruption in Albany is not at the top
of his list. The two met officially for the first time after
winning their new positions and, when asked whether he would
be willing to sign an executive order allowing Schneiderman
to investigate public corruption, Cuomo said it is something
he would be talking about as we go forward. He
did not allow Schniederman to follow up. Cuomo told gathered
press representatives that he wants to see what happens
with ethics reform with the Legislature, but there are a number
of options that can be pursued.
has already faced charges that he selectively went after instances
of corruption involving his Democratic colleagues. But what
is so disappointing about Cuomos lack of urgency is
that we have been waiting for the Legislature to deliver meaningful
ethics reform for quite some time.
years scandals, the Legislature passed a modest bill
but didnt go as far as Gov. David Paterson wanted, and
he vetoed it. The Legislature will not likely be in any hurry
to hand over investigatory powers to an outside body.
even if the Legislature is suddenly in the mood for reform
this year, they wont be getting to anything very quickly;
recounts and court battles in three Senate races will leave
control of that body in doubt, possibly for months; the margin
of control for either party will likely be narrow; and getting
consensus on legislation wont be easy. And before ethics
issues are brought to the table, theyll need to tackle
the budget and the $9 billion deficit facing the state.
it exactly that Cuomo could do? The Democratic candidates
in the AG primary talked a lot about having the governor sign
an executive order giving the AG the power to go after public
corruption. Eric Dinallo, who ran in the primary and is credited
for helping then-AG Eliot Spitzer use the once-obscure Martin
Act to go after Wall Street, called on Paterson to sign such
an executive order to allow the AG to investigate the legislature
and the governor.
told City Hall that he would still like to see Paterson sign
such an order. He has little faith the Legislature will take
action. Call me crazy, he told City Hall, but
I think its unlikely that the Albany Legislature is
going to pass laws for their own investigation and prosecution.
messages has Cuomo sent regarding ethics reform? He has stocked
his transition team with some interesting characters. Sure,
most of the appointments are symbolic and most of the administrations
ideas will come from his closest advisors, but announcing
the transition team is a good way to send a message. He has
picked a number of prominent Republicans and Democrats; former
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York City Police
Commissioner Ray Kelly have been tapped to help Cuomo find
staffers for public-safety jobs. Cuomos rival during
his first and failed bid for governor, former Comptroller
Carl McCall, is on board, as are a slew of legislators and
the most interesting addition to Cuomos team isnt
one of his rivals but someone elses.
former head of the New York Stock Exchange and co-founder
of Home Depot, who is known for being Spitzers arch
nemesis, is part of Cuomos financial team. His appointment
is surely a message to Wall Street that the Cuomo administration
is sympathetic to their plight. But more than
that, it is a clear signal that Cuomo is not Eliot Spitzer.
a message that a number of legislators and Wall Street executives
surely welcome, but it should be concerning to those who appreciated
Spitzers dogged pursuit of corruption. Saying that Langone
was Spitzers arch nemesis might not quite convey the
level of hatred between the two. The recently released film
Client 9 chronicles Spitzers rise and falland
the seething animosity Langone showed toward Spitzer. The
film flirts with the idea that Spitzers predilection
for prostitutes may have been unearthed with the help of Republican
operatives like Roger Stone and backed by the extremely powerful
enemies he made during his time as AG.
was interviewed by CNBC shortly after the Spitzer scandal
broke. Would you say you were surprised by this news?
asked the correspondent. Not at all, Langone replied.
I had no doubt about his lack of character and integrity.
It would only be a matter of time. I didnt think he
would do it this soon or the way he did it. But I know for
sure he went himself to a post office and bought $2,800 worth
of mail orders to send to the hooker.
asked how Langone knew about Spitzers trip to the post
office and the exact amount of money he spent.
know it, Langone replied. I know somebody who
was standing in back of him in line. . . . We all have our
own private hells. I hope his private hell is hotter than
is certainly an easy target after his scandal and the perception
that he failed as governor, but there isnt much question
that as AG he was effective and ahead of the curve. To forget
that is dangerous.
does seem to have taken certain lessons from Spitzer; in a
late October interview with The New York Times, Cuomo laid
out how he planned to run a permanent campaign against unions
so as to protect himself from push-back against planned budget
cuts. But at the same time, the Times said he planned to lavish
attention on individual legislators, who he says are sick
of being demonized and eager for accomplishment after years
of gridlock and enmity. Cuomo was quoted as saying,
They really dont want to be reviled, referring
to legislators. They really dont. First of all,
nobody doesespecially a politician!
is not naïve; he knows how the game is played. Legislators
dont mind being reviled as long as they keep their seats.
They will have no problem standing in the way of ethics legislation
if there is a chance such legislation could lead to their
downfall. Cuomo can lavish attention on them all he wants,
but it wont accomplish anything as long as there are
members of the Legislature who are afraid of what tough ethics
legislation would mean to their careers. We hope that when
he takes office, Cuomo will find the nerve to send a stronger