“Far Worse Than Bridgegate”: Astorino and Teachout Team Up To Slam Cuomo on Moreland Shutdown

“Far Worse Than Bridgegate”: Astorino and Teachout Team Up To Slam Cuomo on Moreland Shutdown

“Far Worse Than Bridgegate”: Astorino and Teachout Team Up To Slam Cuomo on Moreland Shutdown
July 22, 2014

Dramatizing the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” this morning Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino and Democratic candidate for governor Zephyr Teachout held a joint press conference slamming Gov. Andrew Cuomo for shutting down the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in March.

Standing in the shadow of Manhattan’s Tweed Courthouse, Astorino and Teachout compared Cuomo to William “Boss” Tweed, the infamous Tammany Hall leader after whom the building is named. “Last year Governor Andrew Cuomo set up a Moreland Commission to investigate corruption and then he shut it down after attempting to influence it and the focuses of its investigation,” said Teachout, a professor of law at Fordham University. “Shutting down an anti-corruption commission when it comes too close to power is something that would make Boss Tweed blush.”

Astorino, the Westchester county executive, acknowledged that it was unusual for him to be sharing the podium with a candidate with whom he differed so strongly from an ideological and policy standpoint, before saying, “Professor Teachout and I agree on one thing, which is perhaps the most important when you’re talking about democracy: you can’t have a strong democracy if it’s full of cracks because of corruption. We’ve seen what’s happened in history with very corrupt states, eventually they collapse.”

He added, “Only in New York can the anti-corruption commission be corrupted.”

 Though Astorino called Cuomo “corrupt” on several occasions during the press conference, both he and Teachout stopped short of accusing the governor or any member of his administration of any outright criminality in connection with the commission or its disbandment. Astorino did raise the possibility, however, that Cuomo could have obstructed justice by interfering with the commission or disbanding it.

“As my running mate Sheriff Chris Moss says, in law enforcement they call it ‘obstruction of justice.’ If [Cuomo] steered away investigations from supporters, his staff, or is hiding information, or destroyed information, then it certainly would be obstruction of justice, but that’s not my call, that’s for the U.S. Attorney to make,” Astorino said to City & State, referring to the investigation U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced in April his office would be conducting into the shuttering of the commission—a probe Bharara, who has been publicly critical of the governor’s decision to do so, would not rule out possibly touching upon the governor’s office.

While Astorino demanded that the governor make public “who on his staff has been subpoenaed under this Moreland Commission and under the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Teachout said the governor “should share all the emails of his staff” relating to the Commission.

“The people of New York deserve to know what happened there and why. I think what he did was wrong. We still don’t know whether what he did was illegal,” Teachout said to City & State.

In addition to attacking Cuomo’s involvement with the Moreland Commission, Astorino also raised the possibility that the governor could somehow be involved in the so-called Bridgegate scandal that has tarnished the Christie administration in New Jersey, since it involves the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state agency over which Cuomo and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey collectively wield great power.

Astorino even inferred that Christie, who is also the chair of the Republican Governors Association, might not be supporting his candidacy—Christie recently dismissed it as a “lost cause” and said that the RGA doesn’t “pay for landslides”—because of some entanglement between the two governors related to the scandal.

“I don’t know if there is a connection between [Christie] and Andrew Cuomo on Bridgegate, or Cuomo has something that he’s holding back, information that could be damaging to the governor,” Astorino said. “If Governor Christie is unable to help the Republican candidate for governor then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA.”

Contacted for comment about the press conference, the Cuomo campaign responded with a statement from former Gov. David Paterson, the chair of the New York State Democratic Committee.

“I read Rob Astorino’s quotes calling for Governor Christie to step down from the RGA, and alleging a cover-up on Bridgegate as a reason for Christie’s lack of support for Astorino,” Paterson wrote. “That is a reckless, irresponsible accusation to make with no basis whatsoever, and not fitting for a qualified gubernatorial candidate. Maybe that’s why his candidacy is not being taken seriously.”

A contingent of about a dozen young protesters holding up homemade signs, all written in the same handwriting—some referring to the outside income Astorino earned last year from a radio station owned by Clear Channel, others questioning the legitimacy of Teachout’s residency—tried to disrupt the press conference by angling their way behind the candidates to get in the view of the media’s cameras. Asked after the event whether they were affiliated with any group or campaign, one of the protesters said meekly, “I’m from New Jersey,” before being admonished by another protestor, “Don’t talk.”

On Monday two New York State residents, both of whom listed election attorney Martin Connor as their contact person, filed general objections to Teachout’s petitions. While the specific nature of these challenges do not have to be revealed until the state Board of Elections’ next filing deadline, which is Wednesday, Teachout told City & State, “I hear rumors that [Cuomo]’s intending to challenge both my petitions and my residency. I’ve lived here for more than five years. I love this state, and if he wants to bring a residency challenge, you know what we’re going to see? New Yorker after New Yorker standing up in court, telling stories about my involvement in the community, about my teaching, about my organizing, and about how I have been fighting against corruption in this state for over five years.”

 After the press conference, City & State asked Astorino how he would compare Bridgegate and Cuomo’s actions in regard to the Moreland Commission.

“It’s far worse than Bridgegate,” Astorino replied. “This is corruption at its core. This is something that affects everyone in this state.”


Additional reporting by Jon Lentz

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Morgan Pehme