ALBANY - Some nasty mudslinging broke out Thursday in the race for governor - over ethics.
Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Cuomo's slick new campaign ad calling for ethics reform in Albany was immediately countered by Republican candidate Rick Lazio with an ambush video showing Cuomo using a back door at a fundraiser for Rep. Charles Rangel, who's facing House ethics charges.
State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, responding for Cuomo, shot back: "Republicans should check their facts before they throw mud." Jacobs said Lazio, when he was a Wall Street lobbyist before he started his campaign a year ago, directed his employer, JPMorgan, to contribute $20,000 to Rangel.
"Runaway" is a slightly out-of-focus video distributed over the Internet by Lazio, whose campaign has collected a small fraction of the campaign donations of Cuomo's campaign.
Lazio's staff apparently staked out a back door where Cuomo, the state attorney general, arrived with a staff member and then departed from the campaign fundraiser for Rangel on Wednesday night in Manhattan.
"The day before Andrew Cuomo released his two-faced ad he toasted the disgraced Charlie Rangel at a special-interest-funded dinner," Lazio said Thursday. "If New Yorkers are to believe Andrew Cuomo is going to fix Albany, then he should begin by refunding the over $9 million in special interest money in his campaign war chest as his own ad suggests and investigate suspected lawbreakers, not toast them." Hundreds of supporters, including several Democratic leaders, attended the Rangel event at The Plaza hotel. Cuomo's campaign said several used the back door.
A House ethics panel has accused Rangel, the former Ways and Means Committee chairman, of using official stationery to raise money for a college center bearing his name; delaying tax payments on income on a rental unit in the Dominican Republic; failing to file his financial disclosure statements on time; and operating four rent-stabilized apartments in New York, including one he used as a campaign office.
Rangel has denied the accusations and has said they contain factual errors.
Lazio's video came as Cuomo released his ad statewide. Cuomo's ad calls ethical behavior in Albany disgraceful and the government dysfunctional.
The ad seeks support for his proposed 20-point plan to improve ethics in state government. He wants a ban on pay-to-play practices involving lobbyists, who are among the biggest campaign contributors.
Cuomo said Thursday that the ad, which doesn't mention he's running for governor, is aimed at mobilizing a disgusted public around a plan to improve Albany.