A look behind the book

Governor Andrew Cuomo has a new autobiography out and it is getting a fair amount of newspaper ink. One of the best stories in the book is about how Daily News columnist Ken Lovett called one of Cuomo’s guys on the phone. Cuomo aide Josh Vlasto took the call and thought he was forwarding it to voice mail. He wasn’t. This, of course, was a reporter’s dream. There sat Cuomo and his crew discussing intimate political matters and there was Lovett, listening in and taking notes. Then the columnist did the right thing — he called the Cuomo people to confirm the juicy stuff that he had heard, only to be met with a denial that there had even been such a meeting. Lovett was subjected to a series of what could only be called threatening phone calls from the “second floor,” telling him that he had broken the law by illegally eavesdropping. That was nonsense and since a good part of the autobiography maintains that Cuomo was reformed and is no longer the old arrogant Andrew (what the New York Times referred to as “the Prince of Darkness”), it wasn’t comforting to see the Cuomo guys going after Lovett.

The book does not deal with the Moreland Act scandal that has the Cuomo office under federal investigation for disbanding the corruption-fighting group he had appointed with instructions to ferret out corruption in the Capitol. He included himself among those who could be reviewed by the “independent” commission, but reporters began to find out that the investigating group was getting to0 close to some of Cuomo’s major donors. Cuomo announced that it was his own commission and he could disband it whenever he wanted to. Needless to say, this was not comforting to those of us who were looking for the proof that this was the new non-arrogant Andrew. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been investigating the Cuomo move. Obviously, this was not something the governor was going to talk about in his book. I am sure that the Cuomo camp felt the less said about the scandal, the better.

Perhaps the most interesting story behind the book involves a reporter/columnist for the New York Post (whose name I never utter). This guy was one of the reasons why Mario Cuomo lost his election against George Pataki, so virulent was his invective. But when Andrew was elected, he made a convenient alliance with the Post guy. He appeared with great frequency on the man’s radio show. Reporters had to listen, in case the Governor made news. It was great for both the governor and the reporter until the absolutely inevitable falling out came. That happened when Cuomo did the single most courageous thing of his governorship — his sponsorship of the New York SAFE Act that offered some semblance of sanity when it came to regulation of guns in the state. Apparently, the reporter didn’t like that at all and things became quite acrimonious. The reporter had an arrangement with a Murdoch owned publishing company for a book about the governor and the governor was cooperating. But now things had changed. Cuomo approached the same company and offered his own book to them. From that moment on, the reporter’s book was off the boards. It was one of the most Machiavellian, brilliant things I have ever seen a politician do. The poor reporter must not have known what hit him.

Look, every person who is considering a run for the presidency has to have a book. Thousands attended when Hillary Clinton gave her Barnes and Noble book signing speech. There were far, far fewer people there when Cuomo gave his. He has ticked off reporters who want to talk to him, saying that he won’t talk to them about anything BUT the book. Cuomo, who says he wants transparency, has a long way to go before he achieves that goal.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 10/20/14
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