By Michael Benjamin
A funny thing happened on the way to a landslide re-election. Politics got the best of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Landslide” Cuomo won City & State’s “Loser of the Week” poll on Aug. 2. His winning percentage and margin of victory broke a previous City & State Winners & Losers record. It’s not exactly what a $35 million campaign war chest is intended to win for you.
For three years, Gov. Cuomo enjoyed unprecedented public support despite his battles with public employee unions, support for charter schools and embrace of tax cuts to the chagrin of progressives.
But it is Cuomo’s creation of the Moreland Commission as a lever with which to bludgeon a recalcitrant State Legislature that refused to cede to his demands on campaign finance and ethics reform that has backfired. Despite a mandate to examine corrupt practices in campaign funding, the commission was reportedly discouraged from pursuing entities allied with the governor’s agenda.
Apparently, some commissioners took offense to their independence being a mere fig leaf.
It was Cuomo’s desperation for an election year “victory” on his pledge to clean up Albany that set in motion events that would damage his brand. Upon achieving his coveted campaign finance reforms, Cuomo attempted to turn his Moreland Commission weapon into plowshares.
Unfortunately for him, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara had other ideas. Bharara has been making a major name for himself going after and successfully prosecuting corrupt state legislators (except for the hapless William Boyland, who managed to win an acquittal but walk into an FBI sting almost immediately) and Wall Street cheats.
Cuomo is proving as hapless as “Baby” Boyland. His ham-fisted attempts to dispel media reports of his interference with the Moreland Commission resulted in a stern letter from the U.S. Attorney instructing him to cease and desist or face charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Meanwhile, the lifeless Republican State Committee is unable to take advantage of the Democrats’ latest circular firing squad.
Just when Cuomo is weakened and holed up on the Second Floor trying to ward off Bharara’s malocchio, the State GOP goes and picks a fight with Chris Christie.
Hey, Ed, the fight is with the guy in Albany, not Trenton.
I was trained by my political mentors to look outside the box in times of trouble. To ask, who benefits?
It occurs to me that in politics there is always an invisible (or not too visible) hand stirring the pot.
On Twitter I asked, “Has anyone asked U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer his thoughts on the Bharara-Cuomo showdown?” And did “anyone think Andy called Chuck about calling his boy off?”
While I was being facetious, I really did wonder what role, if any, Sen. Schumer or future presidential politics played in these recent events. Some people believe that there is a formidable Clinton mafia poised to outfit Hillary’s challengers with pairs of cement shoes.
One insider with a long memory reminded me of the last time a Clinton and a Cuomo butted heads. “Bill Clinton referred to Mario Cuomo as a dangerous guy people had to be afraid of.” So, the feeling is that Andrew Cuomo is being taken out of the presidential sweepstakes.
Whether or not Schumer, the Clintons or Vladimir Putin are orchestrating Cuomo’s public defenestration, our Governor only has himself to blame.
He joins Rep. Michael Grimm and State Senators Malcolm Smith, Tom Libous and John Sampson as elected officials under the cloud of federal investigations.
Certainly, this is not the state of affairs “Landslide” Cuomo envisioned back in June.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.