New York governor Andrew Cuomo has had a bad couple weeks: First, a blockbuster front-page story by the New York Times revealed that his most senior aides stopped an anti-corruption board Cuomo set up from investigating corruption of organizations linked to him (media-buying companies that worked for him, for instance). This is a pretty serious charge, serious enough to earn a threat from the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Preet Bharara, that Cuomo’s administration could be guilty of witness tampering or obstruction of justice.
Cuomo discussed the scandal with reporters on Tuesday — sort of, he just said he didn’t want to comment on it while Bharara carries out his work. Cuomo’s administration has hired a lawyer to deal with the affair, explaining to reporters Tuesday that he’d retained an attorney because ”there’s a lot going back and forth and we needed one.”
Where the investigation will go, who knows exactly, but Cuomo’s administration has clearly been up to some dodgy practices. Just one little nugget: Investigative-journalism institute Pro Publica points out that, while the governor’s office has repeatedly maintained that it doesn’t use private e-mail accounts for official business, they definitely do so.
In their investigation of the corruption-commission matter (the “Moreland Commission”), the New York Times requested any e-mails sent over personal accounts by a few top Cuomo aides. Here was the gubernatorial response to that specific request:
Pro Publica found this out through a public-records request of their own, and it was an obvious enough bit of petty corruption: Cuomo officials had used private accounts to communicate with Pro Publica. They explain:
Using personal email accounts can help officials hide communications that are supposed to be available to the public. It also violates New York state’s technology policy unless it is explicitly authorized.
As we detailed in May, I was the recipient of an email regarding state business from the personal account of Cuomo aide Howard Glaser. Several people who communicate with the governor’s office on media or policy matters told me at the time they, too, had gotten emails from personal accounts of Cuomo aides. Others told me the same thing after the publication of our story. None wanted to be named.
A spokesman for the governor’s office declined to comment on the administration’s insistence that staffers don’t use personal emails to conduct public business – or on the evidence to the contrary.
Again, where this all goes is unclear, but New York voters ought to pay attention: Cuomo is up for reelection this fall, and the governor who’s overseen a remarkably sluggish economic recovery in New York State may have plenty more problems than that.