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A Potential Ethics Problem For Cuomo

by on November 23, 2009

Lately, it seems as though most are taking it for granted that Andrew Cuomo will run for governor, and win. The polls all point to Cuomo easily defeating any challenger. But, Bloomberg News reports that there may be some issues in Cuomo’s closet.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s campaign fund took tens of thousands of dollars from law firms representing clients his office investigated or accused of wrongdoing, state records show.

Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, a New York law firm led by David Boies, gave Cuomo $35,000 this year, records show. The firm represents former American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Maurice “Hank” Greenberg in a civil fraud case the attorney general is pursuing. Lawyers defending Dell Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and a former state political party chief in Cuomo cases also contributed to him, records show.

Cuomo’s donation forms ask contributors to sign a statement saying they have no “matter” pending with him. That rule “does not extend to attorneys representing persons or entities with matters before the NYS Attorney General’s office,” the form states, mirroring his predecessors’ policies. The exception creates the appearance of impropriety, ethics experts said.

So there you have it, Cuomo can simply state he is not in violation of any rules, and he would be technically correct. But, ethically is there a problem here? I would say so… It certainly doesn’t look good to outsiders.

Will Democrat voters give a damn? Probably not. They don’t have a great record of caring about corruption in their own party.

But, it is probably up to Governor Paterson to make this story last longer than a day. This could be his golden opportunity to keep Cuomo out of the race – or damage him if he does. But, if I had to guess, Cuomo isn’t sweating much about this story. He’s so far ahead in the polls that he probably feels very confident he can survive a bad story or two.

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