After a year that saw his stunning downfall in disgrace, Andrew Cuomo is suddenly on a winning streak of sorts. District attorneys in two counties have announced they will not prosecute the former governor for sexual harassment and a third says he will not pursue charges over Cuomo’s withholding of the true number of nursing-home deaths.
The decisions by prosecutors in Westchester and Albany counties were not entirely surprising because sexual-harassment cases are difficult to prove and are generally settled by civil suits, as these no doubt will be.
The decision by the Manhattan DA not to prosecute on the nursing-home lies was also not surprising, but for a very different reason. The outgoing DA, Cyrus Vance, spent years and millions of dollars pursuing his white whale, Donald Trump, and was diligent in avoiding prosecutions of pretty much everybody else, especially fellow Democrats.
(His successor, Alvin Bragg, appears to be enlarging upon Vance’s see-no-evil approach to most crimes, with the exception of murder and a few others. Heaven help Manhattan).
Still, there is good news from Albany, and it comes from Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Hochul. Her answer to his gross abuse of power is a call for term limits for statewide elected officials.
“I want people to believe in their government again,” she said in a statement.
She would also ban outside income for those officials, except for teaching.
Hochul didn’t say much more, probably because she’s saving her argument for Wednesday’s State of the State speech. Nonetheless, it’s obvious that both elements in her push are a direct response to the Cuomo fiasco.
They’re also good politics in that the ideas help separate her from his shadow as she faces a primary in June and, if she wins, a general election in November.
Recall that the groping and other harassment allegations as well as Cuomo’s manipulation of nursing-home deaths all stemmed from events in his third term. It’s why I wrote that “power corrupts and third terms corrupt absolutely.”
Moreover, the sickening events that drove him from office were in themselves symbols of his abuse of power. During his nearly 11 years in Albany, Cuomo created an aura of fear in and out of government, to the point where some donors would privately admit they gave him money only to protect themselves and their businesses from his wrath. Even legislators and so-called good government groups were too often afraid to differ with him.
He was friendless, but survived for so long in part because his critics were terrified into silence, including some in the media.
The book deal that netted him at least $5.1 million involved the documented use of state employees and was directly tied to the undercounting of nursing-home deaths. Hochul’s call for a ban on such income would remove the potential for an obvious conflict of interest.
Indeed, an Assembly probe found that negotiations with the book’s publisher started on the same day that a report from Cuomo’s office intentionally undercounted nursing-home deaths. The timing suggests the chance of getting a windfall led him to withhold crucial public information.
Put it this way: If the truth about the lethal impact of his order forcing nursing homes to accept COVID patients had been known, no publisher would have gone near him.
The use of state employees on the project, which Cuomo promised not to do in a written agreement, recently led the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to demand that he hand over all his book profits to the state.
So far, the bid to claw back the blood money has hit a wall, with the Attorney General’s Office saying the ethics panel must follow certain “procedural steps” before it could pursue the funds.
3rd term no charm
Although there is some criticism that Hochul did not include lawmakers in her term-limits push, her decision to exclude them actually raises her chance of getting the plan passed. Lawmakers, especially those who felt trapped by Cuomo’s grip, are not about to term-limit themselves, but might be happy to put restrictions on the governor, the lieutenant governor, the AG and comptroller.
And don’t discount self-interest. Term limits in those offices would mean regular openings, which would give some lawmakers hopes that they could win election to those jobs.
The state constitution would also need to be amended before term limits could be adopted.
To be sure, they are not a prophylactic against boobs winning. One name makes the case: Bill de Blasio. The damage he did to the city in two terms was enormous.
On the other hand, it is frightening to think the Putz might have won four more years without the city’s two-term limit. Fortunately, we didn’t have to find out.
The same is true of Albany. Andrew Cuomo was the third consecutive governor to win a third term, with both his father, Mario, and Republican George Pataki each winning three times.
Apart from the tendency to corruption, third terms are often flops. Public fatigue, combined with official burnout, are not formulas for progress and the way New York lagged other states in good government and economic growth, especially Florida, is an argument by itself for new hands on the helm.
Besides, consider the revolting possibility that Andrew Cuomo would have won a fourth term. On top of other abuses, you can be certain he wouldn’t have been satisfied with slapping the family name on just a single bridge.
By the time he finished, he probably would have tried to change the name of the state to Cuomostan.
Spin docs, gimme a ‘break’!
Retired journalist Richard Reif has a bone to pick with Dr. Anthony Fauci, writing that the term “breakthrough infections” is being misused to describe cases where vaccinated people get COVID.
“A ‘breakthrough’ is normally a positive term to hail major advances in medicine and other fields,” Reif says. “The proper term for infections of vaccinated folks is ‘breakdown,’ which indicates a vaccine failure.”
He adds that, while he is vaccinated and boosted, “breakthrough is a euphemism devised by Fauci & other ‘experts’ to downplay vaccine failures.”
Same bad news for Team Biden
President Biden gave yet another speech Tuesday and the only memorable part was that he said 2020 would be a good year.
In other developments, a poll puts his disapproval rating on the economy at a new high of 60 % and another aide is quitting Vice President Kamala Harris’ office.
Last one out, turn off the lights.
Reader calls foul on Fauci
Reader Harold Theurer likes college football, but believes the long roster of holiday bowl games is missing one. He writes: “There should be a Fauci Bowl. It would be very interesting to watch since before each quarter the goalposts would be moved.”