Joseph Percoco was the right-hand man of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and was convicted of two counts of wire fraud and one count of soliciting bribes. Percoco’s trial blew the doors off of a culture of corruption and backroom deals deeply ingrained in New York politics.
“We strive for total integrity and this is a total aberration from the people who work in the administration,” Cuomo told reporters.
Gov. Cuomo said Percoco’s corruption “violates everything my administration is about.” But is that really true? Or is corruption just how the game is played in the Empire State?
After all, the New York Post reported Sunday about Harendra Singh, a restaurateur and fundraiser loved by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Singh alleged that he used a practice of “straw donors,” who would donate money to de Blasio and be paid back under the table to allow high-dollar donors to pull an end-run around campaign finance law.
Though he could not be reached for comment at the time of this publication, de Blasio has said of Singh’s claims, “This guy, to save his own skin, struck a plea deal with the federal prosecutors… He agreed to certain charges for his own self-preservation.”
Singh faces prison for his illegal activities at the alleged behest of the Mayor of New York, but the Mayor, himself, does not. The reason for that, the Post argued, was a Supreme Court case called McDonnell v. United States, which set a high bar for what constitutes a bribe.
If Mayor de Blasio’s use of “straw donors” left him too hard to prosecute because of McDonnell, the fact that Percoco was convicted shows the gravity of the corruption involved.
But the picture is wider than Percoco and de Blasio.
Later this year ex–Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and ex–Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, will both face trial for their own corruption charges.
Singh, who helped de Blasio with “straw donors,” was allegedly instructed to help other Democrats in power in New York as well, many of whom were members of the state senate.
These bad actors in the body politic seem to thrive in New York despite the state’s Public Integrity Bureau, whose website claims that restoring trust in government is a top priority for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The new Nassau County Executive Laura Curran took to the Long Island Press to spell out the steps she had to take to even begin rebuilding trust in government, admitting, “It’s no secret that ‘trust-worthy government’ is too often dismissed as a chortle-worthy oxymoron.”
With an epidemic of corruption in the halls of Albany and New York City, this was the perfect time for Cuomo to show that these cases are indeed “aberrations” and dedicate resources to combating corruption.
“In the corruption Olympics that is Albany, I think Andrew Cuomo is winning himself some gold medals,” said Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger and “unqualified lesbian” Cynthia Nixon. “Andrew Cuomo is not anyone I’d describe as a centrist. I’d describe him as an opportunist.”
Nixon is running as a progressive challenger to Cuomo, arguing that not only is she more ideologically in-step with New Yorkers, but that Cuomo is inexorably tied to the culture of corruption that grows around him.
“Andrew Cuomo has a $31 million war chest,” Nixon said, “but it’s overwhelmingly from millionaires, billionaires and corporations [and] a lot of that is people looking for influence in Albany who want to do business in the state, who want political appointments.”
Cuomo, like de Blasio, could not be reached for comment at the time of this publication.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.