Long-term impact of Moreland Commission controversy unknown

Gov. Cuomo/via Flickr
July 28, 2014

Governor Cuomo has not held any public appearances since a potentially damaging New York Times story that says his top aide interfered in a corruption probe when it focused on Cuomo donors. The governor began the week with rosy poll numbers, and he still has a large advantage over his nearest competitor. 

Cuomo’s political challengers leaped on the Times story, that alleges a top aide to Cuomo squelched subpoenas to the governor’s donors and associates.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino weighs in several times day.

“It’s galling that a man who rode in promising to be the white knight is actually knee deep in scandal right now,” said Astorino, who has also called for a special state prosecutor.

Astorino has taken to mocking Cuomo’s now five-day absence from any public events, sending out a tongue-in-cheek release asking whether an All Points Bulletin should be issued to find the governor.

And Cuomo’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Fordham Law school professor Zephyr Teachout, organized a small band to protest outside the governor’s mid town Manhattan office.

The story, on a slow summer news week, has been featured on Fox News and MSNBC, as well as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart compared Cuomo to “the boss who says ‘we’ll play hoops at lunch, you can go hard,' and then when Jimmy from accounting blocks his shot as he drives the lane he goes ‘hey, the other team’s not allowed to touch the ball because I started the game.'”

It’s difficult to determine how Governor Cuomo is reacting to the pile on, since the governor has not held a public appearance since the newspaper story broke. His aides have not replied to requests for a response.

At the beginning of the week, things looked very bright for the incumbent governor. A new poll found him 37 points ahead of Astorino. Cuomo had recently reported having $35 million in his campaign war chest, compared to Astorino’s comparatively tiny sum of $2.4 million.

Steve Greenberg, a spokesman for Siena College polling, speaking on July 21, said only something big could change the dynamics of the race.

“In order to shake this race up, we’re going to need to sees some outside, dramatic event take place,” Greenberg said two days before the Times story was published.

Whether the report on potential meddling with the anti-corruption commission is big enough to shift any significant support to the governor’s challengers remains to be seen.

So far, no one has been accused of committing a crime. And that same poll found that the issue of government corruption is not that big a deal to likely voters, just one percent listed corruption as a chief concern for them in the upcoming elections.

At this point, the next chapter in story is out of the hands of Cuomo and his aides, and up to US Attorney Preet Bharara, who is investigating the way Cuomo and his aides handled the Moreland Act anti-corruption commission.