Scandal exposes Cuomo as liar and phony
ALBANY — The devastating New York Times story on Gov. Cuomo’s political interference with his Moreland Commission panel’s investigation of public corruption pulled the veil from one of the biggest open secrets at the state Capitol: The governor is a liar and almost anything he promises will turn out to be false.
Cuomo’s betrayal of major pledges is well known: the promise to cut taxes in a meaningful way, encourage job creation without government handouts, reduce local mandates, conduct public work transparently and have science — not politics — determine if fracking can be done safely.
But it wasn’t until it Cuomo violated his No. 1 pledge to rid New York of the “culture of corruption’’ that has dominated Albany for decades that the full extent of his betrayal of the public became clear.
People who have known Cuomo for years, including some who go back to the days he served as the thuggish chief enforcer of his father, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, say they aren’t surprised Cuomo’s penchant for lying has finally exploded in full public view.
“What took so long?” quipped a Cuomo associate who has known the governor for more than 20 years.
These critics, who include several longtime Cuomo friends, described the governor as a master of what one called “making up narratives’’ — story lines that, whether true or not, become incorporated in a political or governmental strategy.
“Cuomo did this with Moreland as he’s done it with so many things: He creates a narrative, ‘crack down on corruption, we’ll get to the bottom of this,’ but it’s totally cynical, manufactured and never real or sincere from the start,’’ said a former public official who has counted the governor as a friend.
Cuomo once privately described himself as a “control freak’s control freak.’’ He selected the commission over a year ago in a move designed to deflect criticisms over his failure to get the Legislature, scarred with yet another round of scandal, to pass a package of ethics reforms.
He promised the commission would pursue all leads involving public corruption in the Legislature and, if necessary, in his own executive branch of government.
But earlier this year, with the heat largely off, Cuomo unceremoniously cut a deal with the Legislature and folded the commission, which had little more than a milquetoast report to show for its efforts.
This time he made a big mistake. While he thought the public would buy the “mission accomplished’’ narrative, Cuomo failed to consider that the handful of law-enforcement professionals employed by Moreland had reputations they’d seek to protect.
They started talking — to the media and to investigators for the Southern District US Attorney’s Office headed by Preet Bharara — about being muscled, about promises of independent investigations being violated, about being told to steer clear of investigating Cuomo’s friends and contributors, the Democratic Party and the law practices of state lawmakers.
The story has exploded and there may be more to come. Bharara has subpoenaed the Moreland Commission’s evidence and is believed to be investigating whether Cuomo and his aides — by their actions — committed any federal crimes.
Cuomo was elected attorney general and then governor pledging to end the corrupt culture that had come to define the Empire State.
Now he’s a symbol of it.