Cuomo, Corruption and Voters

There's been some, not a lot, of national attention to a New York scandal that has kept the chattering and political classes agog and aghast. Long story short, Cuomo kept hammering the legislature as corrupt, evidenced by a series of thefts and misappropriations. He created an investigative commission that lurched into the world of petty thievery, and then lurched into the more interesting question of who was giving huge dollars to who, and for what. This is the murky world of legal corruption.

The Cuomo operation decided this was not where things should be heading. He's raised well over $30 million (more than all other governors combined, I'm told), largely from real estate, oil and gas, financial and marriage equality interests. There were memos from lobbyists saying they pay to play, subpoenas issued or planned, and a series of hypocritical and dishonest statements by Cuomo. The consequence was a New York Times article that laid out public and private evidence that as soon as the inquiry shifted to Cuomo, he shut it down hard and fast.

It's played intensely in the press. His Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, has been unable to make much of it, largely because he was unable to figure out how to talk about a real scandal, after honing his style on a series of fake ones (sounds like DC). His Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, is a smart academic with progressive credentials but she's been struggling to make the ballot and raise money.

Cuomo was hoping it would blow over. He laid low for a couple of weeks, and then, in an amazingly clumsy move, orchestrated a chorus of support from witnesses and participants. The US Attorney smacked him hard for possible witness tampering, so he finally shut up.

Sounds like the stuff of electoral upset.

Well, no, or not yet, if you believe the polls. A new poll by Siena College shows that voters 1) don't know a lot about the events, 2) believe he did interfere with the investigation and 3) don't care. Jobs, schools, health care and economic growth are what they want to hear about.

No surprise and probably not a bad thing. While comforting to Cuomo in the short run, the poll is really a blueprint for a real electoral attack that could work. What the goo-goos view as issue No. 1 is well behind voters concern for their well-being and the well-being of their communities.

However, there's on ongoing investigation by the US Attorney apparently looking at obstruction of justice charges. And there's a real opportunity for Teachout and Astorino to connect the big givers in real estate, fracking, charter schools etc with Cuomo's policies and proposals. Either could connect the dots and shift the landscape.

Cuomo developed a meme for a Democrat interested in national politics. He became a "progractionary" leftleftleft on social issues like gay marriage and guns, and rightrightright on economic issues where he cut taxes for business and the wealthy. Hillary aside, he may have stepped all over his own chances to sell that to Democratic voters nationally. Character and temperament matter even if corruption doesn't move the electorate. If nothing else it will be an interesting few months.