While sitting in the safe confines of a barroom, those who work in state government can describe to you in detail how Joe Percoco has the kindness of a neighborhood bully. So it’s difficult to imagine that it was a day of mourning in most parts of the State Capitol when the governor’s former top enforcer was convicted on corruption charges. The Germans invented the word schadenfreude for days like yesterday.
But it’s a different matter on the Capitol’s second floor, the former workplace of Percoco and the current place of employment for Percoco’s former friend and employer, Andrew Cuomo. A governor known for not letting others sweat the details, Cuomo now has to deal with the fact that his right-hand man had his left hand in the till. And while he begins to mount his re-election campaign, Cuomo also has to live with the fact that his former campaign manager is facing serious prison time.
We have heard and will continue to hear calls for reform – including eliminating a mile-wide loophole that allows Limited Liability Companies to basically write an unending stream of checks to state candidates. It was a loophole that Percoco encouraged donors to use to give to Cuomo. And they did. But the absence of these laws isn’t at the crux of Percoco’s conviction. If we had posted speed-limit signs, he likely would have just hit cruise control before shaking down a company for less.
Andrew Cuomo is hardly the first politician to be betrayed by a cabinet member or a close aide. Somewhere in Upper Manhattan, Ulysses Grant would probably be shaking his head if he could. But if you read Percoco’s indictment, the case raises serious questions about how business is done in the governor’s office. Can policy be set just by picking up the phone for a friend?
Meanwhile, Cynthia Nixon – an actress with no political experience – is seriously contemplating giving the governor a run for his money. A day like yesterday might push her off her fence. These are strange times.