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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble…

April 8, 2010

Now this is more like it. At last, the election season in New York has begun. This week, the gubernatorial candidates finally started to engage.

Some of it was nonsense. For example, Rick Lazio was peddling a 25-year-old photo of Steve Levy in a Halloween costume, and trying to make the claim that the picture somehow spoke to Levy’s character.

But other exchanges were substantive. Lazio and Levy traded barbs about each other’s record. And AG candidate Sean Coffey offered up a negative analysis of Levy’s immigration policy.  

The most intriguing comments, however, were from Carl Paladino, who launched a broadside attack on Andrew Cuomo. In a speech in Buffalo, Paladino accused Cuomo of allowing politics to influence his AG office investigations.

Think about this one: Cuomo can come on like gangbusters, like he did with the placement agent investigation. But he can also be very cautious. In this regard, at the beginning of his term, he launched a big investigation of legislative member items only to quietly drop the probe. (Do we really believe he found no wrongdoing at all?) Then there was the overblown Troopergate report in which he criticized Spitzer staff (but not Spitzer) and sanctioned Joe Bruno’s use of state aircraft for personal purposes. (The Feds later used the aircraft records at the center of the probe in making their case that Bruno misused his office.) Most recently, Cuomo abruptly passed off the probe of Governor Paterson after seeing that his own poll numbers were declining.

These examples don’t suggest that Cuomo or his people are crooked, but they do seem to show a tendency toward at least some level of political calculation in the handling of cases.

Paladino’s charge, if it was fleshed out, probably wouldn’t impact Cuomo in a huge way. Would people really be shocked to learn that politics were a factor in what a politician does?

Still, it’s this kind of probing and questioning that is essential. Every candidate who aspires to the state’s top job must be subjected to it. Cuomo cannot be an exception. He may have perfectly good explanations for all his actions. But he just needs to make them.

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