A new poll finds that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is still feeling the fallout from the demise of his Moreland Commission, a panel that was investigating corruption in the legislature. Cuomo disbanded the commission as part of the state budget deal.
The Siena poll released Monday finds Cuomo’s decision to end the Moreland Commission in the midst of a corruption probe doesn’t sit well with voters. Since the budget was settled, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said he’ll continue with the investigations, and has asked for and received all of the paperwork on the probes.
The majority of those who took the survey, 61 percent, sided with the federal prosecutor and said the investigations should continue, compared to just 23 percent who thought Cuomo was right to end the probes, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.
“Overwhelmingly, nearly three to one, voters say they side with the U.S. prosecutor,” Greenberg said. “The Moreland Commission should have been allowed to continue its investigation.”
Government reform groups seized on the issue. Citizen Action, in a statement, says the governor’s “failure to address corruption” is only adding “fuel” to the desire to run a progressive leaning candidate as an alternative to Cuomo.
The state’s Working Families Party, which endorsed Cuomo in 2010, has threatened to run its own nominee.
The poll asked voters about the possibility of a third, left-leading candidate in the race, and found that could significantly cut into Cuomo’s present runaway lead. He’s ahead of the Republican candidate, Rob Astorino, by 30 points. But if there were a third, progressive candidate, then the governor would lead by just 15 points, with the two others each receiving one-quarter of the vote, says Greenberg.
“There is clearly some disaffection with Andrew Cuomo among the liberal members of his party,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg cautions though that no third party candidate has received more than 20 percent of the vote since conservative candidate Herb London ran for governor in 1990 against a weak Republican candidate, and the present governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, who successfully won re-election to a third term.
Astorino criticized the governor for ending the Moreland Commission. The Westchester County Executive spoke in a recent online recording.
“The Moreland Commission was doomed from the start because it was built on a foundation of quicksand,” Astorino charges.
But Astorino so far lacks money and name recognition to get widespread attention on the issue. The poll found two-thirds of voters don’t know enough about the GOP candidate to even form an opinion of him. Greenberg says the poll finds most voters, while highly concerned about corruption, have not been following the details of the Moreland Commission all that closely.
“It makes it a tough issue for him to gain traction on,” says Greenberg, who says voters are more “geared up” about topics like education, taxes, and the economy.
Cuomo, who has taken few questions from the media on the Moreland Commission or most other topics since the budget was passed, defended his decision recently during an appearance in Rochester. The governor says he always intended for the commission to end once he achieved an agreement on an ethics package.
“It was a temporary commission,” Cuomo said. “I was not creating a perpetual bureaucracy.”
And the governor says he’s pleased by what he received from the legislature in exchange for ending the corruption probe. He says lawmakers agreed to beef up the state Board of Elections and hire an inspector to probe campaign donation violations. He says he also got new anti-bribery laws.