Veil of Secrecy

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Cuomo is dedicated to anything but transparency By Alan S. Chartock You cannot have democracy without good information. How are any of us expected to vote intelligently if we don't know what is going on? Andrew Cuomo campaigned for office on a platform of transparency in government. As attorney general, he employed Blair Horner to create something called "Project Sunlight." For 25 years, Horner was (and still is) one of the most respected men in Albany. He was a good government lobbyist who kept legislators' feet to the fire. He was always Mr. Integrity, so when Cuomo hired him, those of us with some lingering doubts took notice. Horner was responsible for setting up a database that was supposed to tell all. However, after a relatively brief amount of time, Horner resigned from the Cuomo administration, suggesting that he had accomplished what he set out to do. A man of conviction, he now works for the American Cancer Society and appears weekly on public radio. I did my best to get Horner to tell me why he left so early in the Cuomo timeline, but he stuck to his story. I like a man of character. Now we are starting to see some other troubling signs from the man who was going to lead the most transparent gubernatorial administration in history. It turns out that Cuomo is committed to secrecy. Several news items have appeared in the New York Times and the Albany Times Union suggesting that Cuomo is dedicated to anything but transparency. We all know that it's easier to operate in secrecy than to show your cards to your opponents in the political game. The problem is that politics can be brutal. If your opponents sense your vulnerabilities, you can be sure they will use them against you. The current assumption is that Cuomo the Younger wants to do what Papa couldn't: run for president. Let's face it, if you had his office, you might do the same thing he's doing. When he was attorney general, Cuomo did a lot. At the conclusion of their terms, attorneys general customarily do what Cuomo's predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, did: send thousands of pages of documents to the state archives. Cuomo didn't. When two ace investigative reporters from the Albany Times Union went to the archives to look around, they found a memo having to do with something called "Trooper Gate." It turns out that soon after they got hold of that memo, the files of the state archivist were combed by the Cuomo people and lots of material, including the "Trooper Gate" memo, disappeared. Now people are calling that disappearance "File Gate." The Cuomo people say they have the right to remove such documents-and it turns out they do. At least one top source says the original memo was removed because of a single sentence suggesting that the Cuomo investigation was less than stellar. Cuomo worked hard to create the aura of a strong attorney general. He said that he would let the facts lead him. However, this case hints that there may have been some political motives to his investigation. In the old days, Cuomo had a reputation as a political enforcer for his father. At one point, he accused me through an operative in the strongest possible language of having written an anonymous New York Times op-ed about his father. I had not, and the father sort of apologized. When he ran for governor, we were told that it was the new Andrew Cuomo. Now we hear that communications between top Cuomo people are not done by email but on devices that don't create replicable records. None of this passes the stink test. Right now, Cuomo is very, very popular. People think he is efficient. Try looking through history and notice who else was characterized as efficient in the beginning. Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.

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