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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Cuomo wants to use corruption scandals to force change

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other New York

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other New York officials are calling for reforms in the wake of the corruption scandal that erupted on April 2, 2013. (March 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Mike Groll

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he will push for a broad array of electoral reforms in the wake of last week’s corruption scandals, but offered few specifics.

The Democrat also said he’s not getting involved in who should lead the state Assembly, despite a published report.

Cuomo said a scandal alleging a state senator tried to bribe political leaders to get a spot on the New York City mayoral ballot and another involving an assemblyman selling legislation to protect business associates has created a political opportunity to change the state’s weak election laws.

Cuomo said he wants to look at tightening campaign-finance laws, strengthening the ability of election boards and prosecutors to go after wrongdoing and eliminate the practice of allowing a political party to give its ballot line to someone from another party.

The governor didn’t spell out exactly the changes he wants, but said all the issues were "linked." And he said the “crisis” shouldn’t be wasted.

“This has garnered the people’s attention, but just for the moment,” Cuomo said on a public-radio political show. “There’s a brief window when people focus then they get back to leading there lives .?.?. I think we should now take this time and pull back the lens and broaden our reform mandate that we consider in this session.”

Last week, federal prosecutors charged Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), a Republican New York City councilman, two Republican county leaders and two others in an alleged bribery scheme to get Smith a spot in the GOP mayoral primary this fall.

Two days later, they charged Assemb. Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx) with taking bribes and offering to write legislation to protect certain owners of adult day-care homes from competition. In that case, Assemb. Nelson Castro (D-Bronx) gathered information for prosecutors and resigned his office to settle unrelated charges.

 After presenting both cases, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said political corruption was “pervasive” in the state and added that the “show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well.”

Cuomo repeatedly tried to cast the cases as New York City-based, not Albany.
“You could also argue these cases are more about New York City than anything else,” the governor said.

A New York Post story Monday said Cuomo was looking to use the scandals as a way to oust Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who has led the Democrat-dominated chamber for 20 years. While not addressing Silver directly, the governor said he wasn’t going to get involved in leadership decisions.

“It is wholly up to legislative bodies to select a leader,” he said. “I would never, even for a moment, try to influence that decision."

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