When Letitia James won a four-way contest to get the Democratic nomination as attorney general earlier this month, a spot on the ballot that virtually guarantees that she will get the job in the November general election, she put the victory in a national perspective.
“This campaign was never really about me or any of the candidates who ran. It was about the people, but mostly it was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights.”
True. But there is another man in government supplied housing who also needs more scrutiny, the man who endorsed her and helped get out the vote for her. If she really was doing this for the people, then it is the people of New York state who need her to show that she has their interests at heart and place them above any national concerns.
The long-evident need for an official and legal focus on the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, became even more clear, more urgent, with the sentencing of a man who he once said was “my father’s third son, who I sometimes think he loved the most.”
That former top aide to the younger Gov. Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, will be spending six years in prison after being convicted of collecting more than $300,000 in bribes from those in charge of companies that he used his clout to help. The Percoco crimes hit home in the Hudson Valley because one of the projects he and his wife, who earned a generous salary for a low-show job, were connected to is the controversial CPV power plant near Middletown.
Would the plant have received the favorable treatment that allowed it to get built without his help? That was not part of the court case. But those in the region are convinced that Percoco cleared the way for this as he did for so many others who paid him illegally and that taint still surrounds the governor.
The judge imposing the sentence looked beyond the case in front of her. “I hope that this sentence will be heard in Albany,” Judge Valerie E. Caproni said at the Federal District Court in Manhattan. “Frankly, it’s not surprising that the citizenry of this state have absolutely lost faith in their government.”
It is often and correctly said that New York is run by three men in a room, the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the leader of the Senate majority. Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, have twice been convicted on corruption charges. Now, we have the governor trying as hard as he can to distance himself from another fallen colleague.
The Republican candidate for governor, Marcus Molinaro of Poughkeepsie, is keeping the Cuomo corruption in front of the public. But the public, according to polls and primary election results, does not seem to care.
What we need is an attorney general more interested in cleaning up Albany than in serving her most powerful political patron. Letitia James can be that person, but so far she has not shown much interest.