Joe Percoco, Gov. Cuomo’s alter ego for much of their adult lives, stands convicted of taking bribes to steer work on some of the governor’s pet economic-development projects to major Cuomo donors — and Cuomo says it has nothing to do with him?
The idea that Percoco’s conviction is a blow to Cuomo’s future hopes is “garbage” and part of the “political silly season,” the gov told reporters Wednesday. And that was the least of his denials.
Percoco was Cuomo’s right-hand man when he left government in 2014 . . . to run the governor’s re-election campaign. He returned to the state payroll after the election — and that’s when he committed the crime of honest-services fraud.
The gov claims he had rules in place to prevent that: “We had rules and the rules were broken.” Yes — broken by Cuomo himself. Or are we to believe that anyone else would have the authority?
Nor did the governor have any problem with Percoco working out of his government office while with the campaign — something Cuomo writes off on the pretense that Percoco was doing “transition” work.
Perhaps most laughable is the gov’s claim that “there was no suggestion that I had anything to do with anything.”
No, nothing indicates Cuomo had explicit knowledge that Percoco was taking “ziti” to steer contracts. But he was doing so in a system the governor had set up — one with no public transparency or independent controls — for doling out lucrative contracts.
This is pay-to-play Albany — where donors jump to the head of the line for such work, and where politicians regularly get caught crossing the line by lining their own pockets (rather than their campaigns’) in exchange for official favors.
Even the Cuomo lines that could have rung true — about his “shock” and “sadness” over the actions of his longtime intimate — rang false, since they plainly came from prepared cheat-sheets.
Will he play just as innocent after the next corruption trial — the one centered on his signature Buffalo Billions program?
Back in 2014, left-wing no-name Zephyr Teachout pulled 33 percent against Cuomo in the Democratic primary in what was largely a protest vote over corruption — after Cuomo had won in 2010 while vowing to clean up Albany, only to abort his own anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
It’ll be interesting to see if actress Cynthia Nixon can better Teachout this year — now that the voters have seen clear evidence that Cuomo can’t see corruption even when it’s happening before his very eyes.