LOVETT: Corruption case against ex-Cuomo aide spurs GOP ad campaign attacking governor
ALBANY — The state Republican Party is readying a digital ad campaign and rapid-response team in anticipation of the start of the federal corruption trial Monday of Joseph Percoco, a former longtime aide and close friend of Gov. Cuomo.
Republicans hope the trial and accompanying campaign can help weaken the two-term Democrat in his re-election year.
The idea is to try and tie Cuomo, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, to the federal corruption charges against Percoco and other former aides and associates, said GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud.
“This trial is a window into the dark culture of corruption created by Andrew Cuomo,” Proud said. “His insatiable quest for power and control permeates his every decision, rule of law be damned.”
Proud added that “it’s important for us to tie Cuomo, despite his attempt to distance himself from it, to the pay-to-play culture he created. He allowed all of this to happen.”
The digital ads, which should begin running across the state later this week, will look to incorporate information that comes out of the Percoco trial. Proud wouldn’t say exactly how much the Republicans are spending, but she noted it would be “significant.”
In addition, the Republican Party will have a rapid-response team at the courthouse every day throughout the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.
Manhattan GOP Chairwoman Andrea Catsimatidis has said she will be there the first day.
State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, lawyers and other legal experts are also expected to spend time over the next few weeks watching the testimony and then making themselves available to the media afterward.
Percoco is accused of accepting bribes from a company looking to build a power plant in Orange County and from a Syracuse development firm. His is the first of two federal corruption trials slated for this year and linked to Cuomo’s upstate economic development projects involving former aides and associates to the governor.
Cuomo has said he did not know of the alleged crooked action. He has been interviewed by federal prosecutors but said he does not expect he’ll be asked to testify at Percoco’s trial.
“He has consistently abused the taxpayers of New work for his own gain and we are going to make sure voters understand why he is the one who is guilty,” Proud said.
A Democratic insider loyal to Cuomo said it’s the Republicans who “need to respond” to scandals of their own, including four upcoming corruption trials involving former GOP elected officials. The Dem mentioned the trials of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, former state Sen. George Maziarz, ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto. (The source even mentioned Cox’s late father-in-law, President Richard Nixon.)
The insider also said Republicans need to answer for “(President) Trump’s 25% tax hike on New Yorkers — and they have no response, rapid or in November.”
The GOP efforts will begin even as the party has yet to pick a candidate to challenge Cuomo, who has solid poll numbers and $30.4 million in his campaign account.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra have said they are seeking the Republican nomination. State Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco is also considering a run and said he will make his decision by the end of the month.
The Republicans are not the only ones looking to use the trial against Cuomo.
A coalition of progressive activists sent a letter calling on Cuomo to cancel all state permits for a planned power plant at the center of the Percoco trial.
“This is undoubtedly a painful moment in your governorship,” the letter states. “We urge you to take stock and take the actions needed to remedy the stain of corruption by undoing the fruits of corrupt deals.”
The groups called on Cuomo “to send a clear message to all New Yorkers: Any entity that tries to bribe state government will never profit from corrupt deals.”
Among the organizations signing the letter are Citizen Action of New York, Food & Water Watch and NYS Tenants & Neighbors.
Administration officials said a May 2016 order directing all state agencies to cease all communications and regulatory actions surrounding the project remains in effect.
One person who may actually help Cuomo during the trials is President Trump.
Republicans and Democrats say Trump has overshadowed all things politics since taking office.
“Donald Trump has redefined our news and whatever he does — if he puts out a tweet — the world turns over immediately,” Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
State Senate Deputy Minority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who has had a tense relationship with Cuomo, hired a communication director who most recently worked for one of the governor’s chief Democratic foes.
Gianaris hired Alexander Marion, who was the spokesman for Stephanie Miner until she had to leave office because of term limits in January.
Gianaris said he didn’t hire Marion to take a shot at Cuomo. He said he hired him at the recommendation of Miner, who is considering running in a Democratic primary against Cuomo.
Gianaris noted he and Miner have known each other for decades, since they both worked for Cuomo’s late three-term father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.