Gov. Andrew Cuomo has responded with silence to political foes clamoring for prompt criminal investigation of his administration following a press report that it interfered with a special corruption commission.
Political observers see that as a calculated reply, intended to let the criticism pass by as he comfortably leads Republican challenger Rob Astorino in polls this election year. The incumbent Democrat also has an enormous financial advantage, recently reporting $35 million in his campaign chest, compared with $2.4 million for his opponent, currently the Westchester County executive.
Still unclear is how much New Yorkers have been paying attention and how much Cuomo will be dogged by ongoing questions about his influence over the commission he appointed to investigate Albany’s pay-for-play culture, and whether he kept it on a short leash and away from his own supporters.
Administration officials have simply pointed to their 13-page answer to The New York Times report, published online by the newspaper along with the story. They told the Times it was reporting nothing new, it had “a fundamental misunderstanding” of a commission that wasn’t independent and couldn’t investigate the governor who appointed it. While acknowledging they “counseled” the commission about subpoenas, counseled that they needed “some rational basis,” the governor’s office said the newspaper’s premise of “improper influence” was false.
Astorino’s campaign said Friday that Cuomo has since “gone missing.” He released a video of a man searching in parks and under cars, asking passersby, “where’s Andrew?”
“What it seems like Cuomo has done is decided this is going to be a one- or two-day story that assumes there are no follow-up stories,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll. “And rely on the fact that no one can really go … with a big ad campaign to poke a hole in his re-election bid.”
Marist will be polling New Yorkers again soon on the governor’s approval ratings, including whether they believe he’s changed Albany for the better, something he’s previously done well with, Miringoff said. “It’ll be interesting to see.”
Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said it’s too early now to determine the effect of this week’s events. “The question really is: Will this story have legs? Will this story take over public consciousness where most corruption stories out of Albany don’t seem to?”