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Commentary By Seth Barron

Percoco Represents What Cuomo’s Albany Is All About

Cities New York City

The conviction of Joseph Percoco on bribery and corruption charges should seriously impede — if not spike entirely — Gov. Cuomo’s further political ambitions, statewide and nationally. Percoco has been Cuomo’s closest aide, friend, and political cat’s paw for decades, and was described at Mario Cuomo’s funeral as a member of the family.

The jury’s guilty verdict on multiple counts of personal enrichment for Percoco — who notoriously called bribes “ziti” in conversations with bagman Todd Howe — belies Cuomo’s claims to running an ethical administration. In his 2014 State of the State address, the governor made inspiring promises about getting corruption out of state government, saying “we understand your concern that there seems to be a pattern of these repeated instances of bad acts. That’s what ethics reform is. That’s why I was arguing for ethics reform last year, and that’s why I’m arguing for ethics reform this year. I propose new anti-bribery and corruption laws . . .”

Three months after uttering these lofty words, Cuomo shut down his own Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The commission was set up to wade deep into the Albany swamp and expose it to the disinfectant of public scrutiny. “The people of this state should sleep better tonight knowing that there is a mechanism in place to make sure their government is not only competent, but is also meeting the highest ethical and legal standards,” the governor told the people of New York when he announced the formation of his blue-ribbon anti-corruption panel.

But that was before the Moreland Commission subpoenaed a shady vendor who also worked for Cuomo’s campaign. Once word reached the governor’s office that he might fall under its spotlight, the commission’s work was suspended and its members dismissed. The governor explained his actions in absolutist rhetoric that would have made Louis XIV blush: “It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. . . . It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”

The Percoco verdicts have confirmed what everybody paying attention has known for years. “Economic development” under Andrew Cuomo is just code for “slush.” Billions of dollars have been funneled into programs and projects that have created no jobs and developed no new industries. Even on the face of them, these initiatives sounded ridiculous: what better place to start a solar power company than Buffalo, and why hadn’t anyone tried to bring “Hollywood to Onondaga” before Andrew Cuomo invested millions in a Syracuse film hub?

Percoco will go to jail for years, but he is just a symptom of the problem. New York state government rests on a frame of rotting timbers. And like with any great mess, the first thing we have to do is admit that we can’t stand living in it anymore.

This piece originally appeared at the New York Post


Seth Barron is associate edtior of City Journal and project director of the Manhattan Institute’s NYC Initiative. Follow him on Twitter.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post