OPINION: Cuomo, chutzpah and chronic corruption

By By Harry Siegel, New York Daily News

Way back when “President Trump” sounded like a weird punchline, a man on a mission gave a speech about corruption in New York.

I flashed back to it Thursday, when Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced Joe Percoco, the aide Gov. Cuomo once called his “father’s third son,” to six years in prison for bribery. Percoco, she said, “spoke for the governor, whether Andrew Cuomo knew what he was doing at any given point in time or not.”

The former top aide was convicted on the testimony of another aide-turned-felon, Todd Howe, who also testified in the trial this year in which the architect of the governor’s so-called Buffalo Billion plan was convicted of bid-rigging. The best people!

“I hope this sentence will be heard in Albany,” Caproni said Thursday, and it was, though not the way she’d hoped.

That same day, the Cuomo campaign — fresh off of steamrolling Cynthia Nixon, with no apparent punishment from voters for the disgusting mailer smearing her that had been discussed by members of his inner circle before it was sent to Jewish voters by the state Democratic Party he controls days before the primary — spent six figures on a new ad targeting his Republican general election opponent, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who’s in the midst of a “Cuomo Corruption Tour.”

“You can’t clean up government with dirty hands,” Cuomo’s ad declares, No-Puppet style, after putting a few facts about Molinaro and his wife in a particularly sinister light.

“If I’m you, and I’m smart,” Cuomo told reporter Chris Smith just after Percoco’s conviction, “I say, Preet Bharara doesn’t go after Percoco to go after Percoco. He’s going after Percoco to get the governor. That means they had to go through every piece of paper and every email for two years. And that they couldn’t find any connection whatsoever, in many ways it’s the most credible exoneration in history, because Preet was a scalp hunter and that’s all he was.”

That’s nuts! And that’s what politicians think, and sometimes even say out loud, when they don’t face political consequences for their actions, or the actions of the people who work for them.

It was then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who gave that 2013 speech I mentioned up top, which was titled “Public Corruption In New York: More Than A Prosecutor’s Problem.” Bharara delivered it as he worked on bringing the cases that finally took down Cuomo’s corrupt cronies, and the two men — Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, and state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos — who’d shared Albany’s legendary smoke-filled room with the governor.

New York’s incumbents, Bharara lamented, were more likely to be convicted than defeated.

And, the corruption-hunter said, “we cannot just prosecute our way to cleaner government.”

We saw that this month in East Elmhurst, Queens, as Democrats returned woman-beater and convicted crook Hiram Monserrate — whose name had been in the litany of public servants turned felons that Bharara ticked off in that speech — to public office as their district leader.

But many of the same voters also ousted state Sen. Jose Peralta, one of an unprecedented seven Democrats in the body who lost primary challenges (including six of Cuomo’s allies from the former Independent Democratic Conference). We’ll see how their replacements fare in Albany, but whatever puts the fear of voters back in our politicians is a good start.

Finally, “the solution lies with the public,” Bharara said then. “If there were ever a time for New Yorkers to show their trademark impatience with the status quo and to show it loudly, it is now.”

Five years later, our impatience is getting louder.

This article provided by NewsEdge.