April 15, 2013We all know that Andrew Cuomo is a strategic genius. Figuring out what he is going to do next can be a real brain-teaser. The book on Cuomo is that he is what might be called a reactor. When the horrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut took place, Cuomo had one of the strongest gun laws in the country passed in record time. He did so using the infamous "message of necessity," making some of the gun crowd furious. Funny, I don't remember them yelling about any of the other laws that were passed that way. Some said that Cuomo was trying to get his bill done before Obama but I don't care. He did the right thing, whatever the reason.
Now, the always competitive Cuomo is in danger of being shown up by Preet Bharara the U.S. Attorney (Chief Prosecutor) for the Southern District. Bharara has been successfully collaring miscreant New York politicians and may, indeed, be running for something himself. So much for the success record of Andrew Cuomo, Sheriff of Albany. Cuomo, you will remember, promised to clean up Albany. He passed an ethics bill right out of the box that put everyone under the same ethics commission rather than allowing the legislature to police itself as had been done in the past. Unfortunately so far, both the old way and the new way seem to be the same: "All talk and little do."
Not to be outdone, Cuomo comes charging out of the west like Lochinvar with a whole new group of tough (but not tough enough) rules. One of his rules is really interesting: pay the legislators a few more bucks to make them "full time" and prohibit them from outside business interests, which, of course, is how some of them are legally paid off. Of course, if you say to the would-be legal bribers that they can't give the money to the legislators themselves, does anyone really think they won't give it to the husbands or wives or children or friends of the legislators? It's unfortunate, but the only thing that will clear this mess up will be a term limit of eight years. It's not really a perfect way to go in a democracy but it will keep things moving and limit the acquisition of power. I'm for it but most of my fellow political scientists are not. Cuomo also wants to see a campaign system in which the voters fund elections. I'm definitely for that.
When Cuomo first came into office, he promised to put an end to the onerous "member items" that have been at the bottom of so much Albany skullduggery. Jeff Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference, otherwise known as the Democratic Traitors who split off to help the Republicans stay in office, tried to slip a member item by Cuomo. Klein insisted it was an old member item (allowed) but Cuomo determined that it was a new one. So Cuomo said "no" and yanked it out of the budget, turning a lot of heads.
Since Klein and his group are essential to the Republicans staying in office, and since Cuomo needs him to do this, we have an interesting development. I have long thought that when Cuomo shows up at a Democratic National Convention, he is going to have to explain why he was keeping the Republicans in power in New York. Sooner or later, he'll have to reinstall the Democrats as the majority party that they really are in New York. When that happens, Klein may be treated as the turncoat that he is by the regular Democrats. This move in rejecting Klein's budget proposal just may be a signal of things to come.
In any case, Albany is a place where you really have to look carefully at the spoor on the trails to know what's going on. This could be interesting.