Cuomo falling short on vows to ‘Clean Up Albany’
January 28, 2018 | 6:59pm
Gov. Cuomo campaigned for office in 2010 vowing to “Clean Up Albany” by cracking down on fat-cat campaign contributions and “pay-to-play” political corruption.
In a 115-page booklet of proposed ethics reforms, the state’s then-attorney general railed against business-as-usual policies that he said let the rich and powerful run roughshod over average citizens.
“Currently New York law amplifies the voice of wealthy individuals and special interests and entrenches incumbents at the public’s expense,” Cuomo wrote.
But in the eight years since he was first elected governor, only one of the Democrat’s ambitious reform plans has been signed into law — a pilot program intended to encourage small-money donations and a wider field of candidates in the 2014 race for state comptroller.
“And as Cuomo gears up to seek a third term in November — and possibly mount a 2020 bid for the White House — former top aide and confidante Joseph Percoco is on trial for allegedly pocketing more than $300,000 in “pay-to-play” bribes.”
Government watchdog groups now say Cuomo has failed to deliver on his high-minded agenda.
“Promises made and not yet kept. Lots of rhetoric, not much action,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Alex Camarda, policy director of Reinvent Albany said, “It’s very fashionable for candidates to run on cleaning up Albany.”
“Once they’re elected it becomes less of a priority. That’s true of the governor and the legislators across the board.”
Cuomo’s office defended his record.
“Gov. Cuomo has successfully passed five separate ethics packages, and every year continues to fight for these reforms, which the legislature has blocked repeatedly,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
Azzopardi also slammed some watchdog groups for hypocrisy, saying they have resisted disclosing their own donors.
The Republican-led state Senate, in particular, has blocked Cuomo’s campaign reform proposals, arguing that limiting donations will tilt the playing field to Democrats. They also are philosophically opposed to having taxpayers finance campaigns.
Cuomo did win approval of other reforms to enforce the current campaign laws and require public officials to disclose more information on their side business dealings That includes the creation of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, and independent counsel at the state Board of Elections.
He also succeeded in getting lawmakers and voters to approve a constitutional amendment that forfeits the pensions of public officials convicted of public corruption.