Astorino says Cuomo administration once tried to put words in his mouth

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on Jan. 8, 2014 in Albany, and his Republican opponent Rob Astorino on March 7, 2014 in Albany. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

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ALBANY — Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino said Tuesday that the Cuomo administration once provided glowing quotes for Astorino, the Westchester County executive, to use as his own statements at a Cuomo press event.

“They did that with us a few years back on the Tappan Zee Bridge” replacement project, Astorino told WGDJ-AM in Albany. “They basically released the quotes and we said, ‘No, we’ll put our own words in.’ ”

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had no immediate comment. A spokesman for Cuomo told The New York Times that the practice is simply helping build their case with people who already support that case.

Astorino made the comments on the day The Times reported the Cuomo administration supplied quotes to other local officials for their approval, prompted comments from groups and supplied reporters’ email addresses to support one of his initiatives.

Astorino on Tuesday also tried to downplay criticism from a group of Westchester County Democrats called The Astorino Truth Squad that Astorino hired friends and relatives to the county payroll.

Astorino called the charge “ridiculous,” saying he had hired qualified people to vacant jobs.

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“There’s a difference between patronage, which is creating positions and filling them with unqualified people, versus positions that are vacant and you fill them with qualified people,” Astorino said. “Here is the charge: I hired people loyal to me ... I’m supposed to surround myself with Cuomo people or (former County Executive Andy) Spano people?”

The Astorino Truth Squad is tying to combat Astorino’s repeated criticism of Cuomo’s role in the Moreland Commission. The Democrat is accused of interfering with the Moreland Commission before he shut it down abruptly when he struck a deal with the Legislature for some ethics reforms.

“Rob Astorino’s ethics tour should really be called the Astorino rank hypocrisy tour,” said Mike Morey, spokesman for the Westchester Truth Squad. “If he wants to start implementing some ethics reform there is no place better to do it than White Plains, where his hiring of political cronies and rampant disregard for the ethics laws of the county have been synonymous with his time as county executive.”

Cuomo and one of three commission co-chairmen insist Cuomo’s top aide was simply providing advice, which could be taken or ignored.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the end of the Moreland Commission and its unfinished cases.

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Astorino said he will have his own TV ads up soon, but wouldn’t say when. His campaign has a fraction of the campaign funds amassed by Cuomo. Astorino has so far mostly relied on Internet ads and free media, such as radio interviews.

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