Ain’t Albany grand?

It is a generally accepted proposition that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has no use for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman or for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. There are a thousand explanations that are out there on the rumor mills for why this is. There are some wags who think that Andrew, who was once attorney general, which was his launching pad for governor, is looking over his shoulder at Schneiderman who might want to follow in his footsteps. Or, it might be that Schneiderman is one Democrat too many and Andrew believes that he’d actually be better off if a Republican who was beholden to him was in the AG office. That’s exactly the way it’s worked with the State Senate controlled by the Republicans because Cuomo clearly wants it that way.

We saw Cuomo and Schneiderman contest over who got what after the state won a major award from JP Morgan Chase. Both men wanted to have the money under their control. The Cuomo name is still huge in New York and no matter what the insiders think about Cuomo, the people have a different view. That gives Cuomo a huge advantage as he pushes his considerable political weight around. A recent published report suggests that a Cuomo fundraiser has been hired to find contributions for Schneiderman’s announced Republican opponent, John Cahill. For his part Cuomo has formally endorsed Schneiderman.

Along the same lines, Cuomo has had his problems with Mayor Bill de Blasio. They fought epic battles over charter schools and pre-K funding and taxation of the rich. In each case Cuomo won. So it was interesting to see de Blasio placing Cuomo’s name in nomination at the Democratic political convention last week. It may well be that de Blasio has recognized that Cuomo doesn’t take any prisoners and is now, in dog language, showing his neck as a sign of Cuomo superiority. In any case it looks like the New York City mayor recognizes that “Andrew tough-guy” is no one to mess with.

Then there is Cuomo’s animosity, certainly demonstrable, towards the excellent state Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli. The comptroller is getting extremely high marks from a lot of people. As a result of the stock market resurgence there’s lots of money coming into the state’s pension funds and it looks like some of the economic load will be taken off the backs of the localities to the point that their contributions to the fund will be reduced.

DiNapoli has proven that he is running the cleanest Comptroller’s Office in history. Cuomo, in an attempt to prove to people that he really was for campaign finance reform (he will run with about $50 million dollars in his account) set DiNapoli up as a one-year experiment while the governor and his other statewide compatriots would not be forced to take the same deal.

At the urging of the good government (goo-goo) groups DiNapoli said that he would not opt into the scheme and the general consensus is that he was right to do that. DiNapoli, by showing some real backbone against Cuomo has never been more popular. The last time DiNapoli ran, Cuomo did not even endorse his fellow Democrat. This time he will, perhaps having learned an important lesson. In fact, the governor’s critics have been upset with him for keeping the Republicans in power in the state Senate, and his failure to play well with DiNapoli and Schneiderman has not helped him with the Democrats in state government.

Cuomo’s top financial man, Ben Lawsky has been seen as trying to undermine DiNapoli by trying to figure out a way to get the billions of dollars in pension fund money away from DiNapoli’s control and into the hands of the governor. The DiNapoli people have resisted like crazy and it will be very hard for the Cuomo-Lawsky team to make this happen because they will have to go through the powerful Democratic Speaker, Sheldon Silver, a long-time friend of DiNapoli.

Ain’t Albany grand?

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 5/27/2014

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