It’s hard to separate yourself from official corruption after your best friend and a couple of your top aides have been convicted of crimes, but if you’re clever — and Gov. Cuomo is that — then you might claim that the investigation into your henchmen proves your innocence.
His former right-hand man and best friend, Joseph Percoco, has been convicted in a bid-rigging scheme that grew out of Cuomo’s pet project, the Buffalo Billion.
His former aide, Todd Howe, pleaded guilty to eight felonies linked to official corruption.
Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute and a man whose work Cuomo used to brag about, has been convicted of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy for rigging contracts to make sure they went to developers with links to Cuomo.
Most people would say the conviction of his close associates throws the shadow of corruption over the governor himself.
But Cuomo’s novel interpretation of the evidence is that, because his associates were investigated and he wasn’t charged, he has been proved innocent.
He has been proved lucky, we would say.
Or perhaps it’s not luck. Gov. Cuomo is a savvy political operator, and he may have managed to tiptoe through all the deal-making — legal and illegal — that has surrounded his development efforts without stepping into provably criminal territory.
The assertion that he’s as blameless as Snow White, however — dreaming of a booming economy while his closest associates took bribes behind his back — is amusing.
Everyone knows Cuomo keeps a personal throttle-like control over the flow of information into and out of state government. So the latest story broken by The New York Times, that Howe continued a close relationship with top state officials for years after he left the government to become a lobbyist, is more evidence he was operating with Cuomo’s blessing.
The Times based its story on a cache of 350 pages of emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The Cuomo administration spent more than $200,000 on outside lawyers fighting to keep that public information secret. That in itself is shameful.
The story also revealed that Cuomo administration officials communicated with Howe through private email accounts, which public officials are not supposed to do.
So, to review: A former top Cuomo aide (Todd Howe) became a lobbyist, secretly communicated with state officials for years and facilitated corrupt deals for state contracts, some of them involving other close associates of the governor’s.
Now Cuomo claims the investigation into this stew of criminality shows that he himself is clean. We suspect the opposite is true.
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