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Cuomo’s latest abuse

Albany Times Union

The issue:

Staffers for Gov. Andrew Cuomo worked on a private poll conducted for a super PAC.

The stakes:

No public official, no matter how powerful, should use public resources for personal or political gain.

Staffers in the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo worked on a private poll while on the taxpayer dime.

So reports Times Union investigative reporter Chris Bragg, who obtained emails showing that Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to the governor, and others in his office helped with explicitly political polling being conducted on behalf of Jobs of New York, a super PAC funded by billionaire New York City landlords.

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo notes there’s nothing wrong with the governor’s office seeking to gauge public opinion, which is true as far as it goes. But state law prohibits the use of public resources for an elected official’s personal benefit, including to help political campaigns.

And it’s hard to give Mr. Cuomo the benefit of the doubt when the revelation is only the latest in a long train of ethical abuses.

New Yorkers recently learned, for example, that taxpayer-funded employees in the governor’s office were tasked with helping to produce and publicize a book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” for which Mr. Cuomo was handsomely paid.

New Yorkers also recently learned that public resources and officials from the state Department of Health were used to provide prioritized coronavirus testing for Mr. Cuomo’s family members and associates. While less-influential New Yorkers often waited weeks for tests and results, if not longer, Mr. Cuomo’s preferred group got their results within hours.

Those and other many examples show that in Mr. Cuomo’s universe, the political, personal and governmental are thoroughly and inappropriately blended. The good-government guardrails are down, and the long list of his abuses of the public trust keeps growing.

An investigation into how public resources are being used to benefit Mr. Cuomo would be a fine way for the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics to prove its worth and independence, especially since having employees work on his book violated an agreement the governor had made with JCOPE. But time and again, the commission has shown it’s an inadequate ethics watchdog, more loyal to Mr. Cuomo than taxpayers.

Such an investigation could also be taken up by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who has rarely focused his spotlight on dark corners within the governor’s office. Mr. DiNapoli wouldn’t need to look far for a model: In 2019, then-Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners released an audit showing widespread payroll abuses in county government, including the use of public resources in the reelection efforts of County Executive Dan McCoy.

But absent action by JCOPE or Mr. DiNapoli, the task may fall to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which has a long list of controversies to investigate as it weighs whether Mr. Cuomo should be impeached. One could almost wonder if the governor keeps generating new scandals to keep the investigation from ending.

The more likely explanation is a simpler one: Mr. Cuomo doesn’t believe ethics rules apply to him.

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