New York's political establishment was shamefully silent about the chronic corruption, misuse of state resources, and abusive behavior in Governor Andrew Cuomo's office for years until the state's attorney general on August 3 released a detailed report cataloging Cuomo's alleged harassment and fondling of multiple female state employees.
Now forced to condemn the governor's reprehensible treatment of women, his erstwhile allies are reluctantly headed toward impeachment proceedings, which could expose their backroom deals, payoffs, and indifference to Albany's rancid culture. Cuomo's removal from office could also result in a sudden shift of power toward the most radical elements in New York's Legislature, nearly all of whom represent New York City.
These developments are the direct result the dereliction of responsibility by Cuomo's enablers, both Democrats and Republicans, who coddled the governor, gave him tens of millions of dollars in donations, and ignored the damning evidence of the Moreland Commission, the Buffalo Billion, pay to play, convictions of high-level staff, StartUpNY, 15,000 unnecessary nursing home COVID deaths, and a $5.1-million book deal describing the supposedly great job he did with COVID. When Westchester County executive Rob Astorino challenged Cuomo in 2014, he called Cuomo's Albany a "cesspool of corruption." He was prescient.
The fact that New York's political class would ignore years of prosecutable corruption and suddenly be hyper-critically judgmental about eleven examples of alleged groping speaks to the hypocrisy of New York's politicians.
Some prime examples.
- Carl Heastie, Silver's successor as Assembly speaker, who will manage the impeachment process, also did a 180. In March, when the rumored accusations were first made public, he was silent. Today, he says Cuomo "can no longer remain in office."
- Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee and longtime Cuomo ally, was silent in March and now says Cuomo should step down.
- George Latimer, Democrat Westchester County executive, was supportive but now says he should resign. Ditto Nassau County executive Laura Curran.
Virtually overnight, political survival switched on devout loyalty to Cuomo to demanding his political excommunication. It's happened before, with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced Client No. #9 of an escort service, and former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, now in a federal medical prison facility.
None of this is surprising. New York's political establishment, like that in Washington, has long imposed standards of behavior and conduct on its citizens and businesses that the politicians brazenly flout. In a particularly delicious example of schadenfreude, at the same time that Cuomo was allegedly engaged in groping his female staff in 2019, he signed new workplace harassment legislation, making it easier for employees to file complaints, lowering the legal hurdles for harassment, and extending the statute of limitations from one to three years.
"There has been an ongoing, persistent culture of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination in the workplace, and now is the time to act," said Governor Cuomo in the 2019 press release.
"We must continue to change our culture and ensure that women are protected from sexual assault and harassment," stated Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who stands to succeed Governor Cuomo, in the same press release. She, too, was silent in March but tweeted recently that "no one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps."
The political pundits are focused on what Carl Heastie does with impeachment. But whether Cuomo resigns, gets impeached, or is primaried by the ambitious attorney general is not the point. The abrupt political upheaval in New York is due to the excesses of one-party rule and the inevitable corruption that results when there are no political braking mechanisms.
Americans around the country should have their eyes on New York, where the governor has fallen from being a potential presidential contender to alleged sex offender in a year. New York's voters will face a choice in November 2022 of allowing the state to move farther to the left, with higher taxes, more crime, and continued corruption, or electing a governor who is committed to and capable of cleaning out the cesspool. Voters can start earlier, in 2021's local and county executive elections, to clear out Cuomo's many enablers.
Linda R. Killian is a retired financial analyst and a current local New York Republican chairman.
Image: Zack Seward.
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