The odd couple and the defunct commission: A NY moment

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Spin Cycle

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Hours after Republican Rob Astorino and Democrat Zephyr Teachout took shots at the Cuomo administration as aiding corruption, The New York Times published a big front-page story detailing how, amid internal friction, his defunct Moreland Commission followed a specific governor-driven agenda and crushed a subpoena against a company hired by the governor (link below). The headline was that Cuomo "hobbled state ethics inquiries." The momentary impact, merits and fallout will continue to be debated and dissected, no doubt.

But the unusual moment in front of the long-symbolic Tweed Courthouse in lower Manhattan is worth noting before it passes, providing a snapshot of what has been an asymmetrical governor's battle so far.

The only thing odder than the coupling at this event was its timing. Here were both Cuomo's  foes of the season — one in the primary, the other in the general election.

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The two freely admitted they'd just met and agree on few issues. But they teamed up this once to call an unusual 20-minute news conference.

All the while, just around the corner, people were gawking from afar at a much more glaring spectacle — police atop the Manhattan-side tower of the Brooklyn Bridge removing a white flag that someone, at some point, managed to hoist in place of Old Glory.

Tempting as it may be to take this as an ill omen for these frenemies, neither Teachout nor Astorino came close to waving white flags of their own as they stood in the sun on Chambers Street.

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"Albany is working for big money instead of the people of the state," Teachout said, adding that Cuomo went back on his anti-corruption promises about redistricting, transparency and campaign finance reform, and shut down the Moreland commission he created.

"This governor is absolutely ethics-challenged," Astorino said, citing a U.S. attorney's review of the Moreland panel's actions.

Democrat Cuomo has said the commission's purposes were properly accomplished in new legislation the state enacted.

Between them, Astorino and Teachout have tangled with Camp Cuomo on many fronts — from taxes to ethics to how Sandy aid was spent.

As the heavily favored Cuomo set out on his first re-election effort as governor, the tone grew acidic early.

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Cuomo's September and November contests seem asymmetrical — given his edge in funding, polling and electoral clout. Still, the governor's camp razzes and bashes his rivals in frequent barrages.

At the edge of the sidewalk news conference Tuesday, amid sirens screaming en route to the bridge, a few young adults heckled a bit and lofted signs with messages like "Teachout, Move Out — to Vermont," from where she hails, and "Come Clean Astorino," purportedly on how much time he spends in his day job as Westchester executive.

Two GOP figures, cordial with Cuomo, also took shots at Astorino Tuesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said regarding the New York race, "We don't invest in lost causes." At Tweed, Astorino responded that downgrading him isn't part of Christie's RGA role — and mentioned "Bridgegate" scandal during his remarks, wondering aloud which governor knew what about it.

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a Cuomo supporter, lectured Astorino in a statement that he "isn't in the position to be picking fights and doing gimmicky press conferences."

Teachout also faced intraparty static from another long shot Democrat, Randy Credico, who's expected to make the primary ballot — and who showed up and complained about being excluded from the event.

Dissidence, like governance, has its challenges. Right now, ambitious governance may be the harder of the two.

Here's that piece on the commission.

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