Gov. Cuomo’s Albany Con [OP-ED]

Posted on: September 12th, 2018 at 5:06 am by

Photo: Y.R. Minor

The following editorial was written by local activist Erin Harvey.

President Donald J. Trump’s disastrous policies, dog whistle politics, Supreme Court picks and overall debasement of the presidency are doing lasting damage to our democracy. This cannot be understated.

While we are consumed by the sleazy spray-tanned conman-baby occupying the White House and pinning our hopes on flipping the house in the midterms, we are ignoring what is happening under our noses.

The set-up: lip service to New York voters and apparent kickbacks to the corporate winners.

The code of the political con in a deep blue state such as New York is to dangle a commitment to women’s, workers’, civil, housing and environmental rights just low enough to grab blue-hearted voters, all while quietly shoring up commitments to the corporate backers who stuff the campaign war chest. In other words, calling yourself a progressive while making backroom deals as a pro-business, pro-real estate, pro-bank, pro-polluter centrist.

No one encapsulates this more than wannabe three-term Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. He is a pure walking embodiment of everything that is rotten about our politics — an entrenched incumbent swimming in corporate money and advancing the agenda of powerful real-estate developers, Wall Street banks, private prisons, healthcare executives, big pharma, the food, beverage, and hospitality industries, and fossil-fuel billionaires. Many of his donors have business dealings before the state.

Cuomo — with his vast array of wealthy moguls (from Trump to Harvey Weinstein) lobbying shops, and corporations such as AMI Media (of David Pecker and Stormy Daniels fame) and the Koch Brothers funneling money into his campaign for years — portrays himself as a progressive stalwart, which rings hollow to many voters.

At his core, Cuomo is a pro-business and pro-bank centrist in the mold of the 1990s-era Dems. He will never come close to filling the shoes of his late, great father, the three-term New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a true and “determined champion of progressive values.”

Cuomo has spent his two terms bullying progressive community groups, suppressing dissent, exacting revenge on members of the legislature who are not in lockstep with him, and championing the big-money establishment. For seven years, he enabled a small turncoat group of Democratic lawmakers known as the IDC to prop up the Republicans handing them the majority in the Senate. This unholy alliance has had an enormous impact on policy and has blocked progressive legislation — rent regulation, single-payer healthcare, criminal justice reform, women’s reproductive health and campaign ethics reform — from making its way to the Senate floor for a vote.

If progressive activists had not mounted a campaign to unseat the IDC, Cuomo would have continued supporting this bizarre coalition, which split the legislature and served as a foil for him when progressive policies failed passage in the Senate. This relationship has allowed Cuomo, a self-described control freak, to wield unprecedented control over both houses of the legislature and benefit from the limited liability company loophole. This loophole treats LLCs as individuals in which obscene amounts of dark money campaign contributions flowed freely, allowing wealthy donors hiding behind LLCs to bolster outsized influence, drowning out the voices of average voters. Any efforts at real campaign finance reform and closing the LLC loophole were DOA by the Republican-IDC led Senate whose union Cuomo blessed.

Notably, Cuomo vowed to be the governor who would finally clean up the state capital, yet his administration has been a cauldron of corruption. He was under investigation for interfering in the supposedly independent Moreland Commission that he himself created when he took office, but abruptly disbanded when investigations got too close to his front door.

His top aide Joseph Percoco was found guilty this year for accepting $300,000 in bribes from two companies with business before the state. Donors and close associates are heading to prison for greasing palms and engaging in a bid-rigging scheme from the Buffalo Billion project, Cuomo’s signature upstate investment development plan. Cuomo famously (and unapologetically) shared power for years engaging in backroom deals with the two most powerful legislators in the state who were found guilty — not once, but twice— of federal corruption charges: Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the State Assembly, and Dean Skelos, the former majority leader of the State Senate.

Empowered by a rigged system that seems to favor lobbyist and business interests, and emboldened to make critical decisions behind closed doors, lawmakers in Cuomo’s Albany are essentially encouraged to bend rules.

Lest we forget, Trump was born into the corrupt, transactional world of New York real estate and politics.

While New York ranks fourth for registered voters, it has one the worst turnouts in the nation— 41st out of 50 states in the most recent presidential election. The local elections and primaries are even more disappointing, with 12 to 14 percent of the electorate voting statewide.

This is the time for New Yorkers to turn out, have their vote counted, and cast a ballot for the true reformers who will fight for progressive economics and equal opportunity for all.

It is time New York becomes the true, progressive beacon for the rest of the nation.

Hint: On September 13, we should vote for the candidates that are not funded by LLCs, corporations, and special interest.

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