On a day when headlines around the state screamed new developments in the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging trial, Marc Molinaro made it clear he will highlight “an ongoing culture of corruption” as much any federal prosecutor would.
The Republican candidate for governor convened reporters along Main Street on Wednesday to pound away at an emerging theme — that Democratic incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo “sells government and access to it in exchange for political donations.”
Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, said Cuomo’s “grand commitment” to root out government corruption has failed.
“The truth is that for seven years this governor has emboldened a culture of corruption and allowed a pay-to-play scheme to corrode all aspects of state government, infecting even his own office,” he said. “It’s ethically wrong, it’s morally wrong, and it’s obviously wrong.”
Just days after his formal nomination by the Republican State Convention, Molinaro appears to be jumping all over ethical questions hanging above the Cuomo administration. He cited the March conviction of Cuomo aide and confidant Joseph Percoco, the Buffalo Billion trial slated for this summer with prosecutors alleging bid rigging at the new Tesla solar panel plant, and the Crystal Run controversy in which the Hudson Valley health care company received millions in state economic development incentives at a time when it made significant donations to the Cuomo campaign.
Molinaro said that if elected governor, he will ban individuals seeking public contracts from contributing to candidates for public office and adopt a “universal code of ethics,” prompting hypocrisy charges from the Cuomo camp.
“Trump mini-me Marc Molinaro – who has an ‘A’ rating from the NRA and is the N.Y. GOP’s handpicked anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ candidate – is desperately trying to deflect from the sad state of his campaign," a spokeswoman said. "In fact, Molinaro is a hypocrite who has himself taken contributions from businesses with contracts before Dutchess County."
Still, as the Buffalo Billion trial is slated to soon begin in Manhattan and another corruption trial featuring former Cuomo ally G. Steven Pigeon starts in Buffalo in October, Molinaro seems intent on hooking onto the bad publicity already heading the governor’s way.
“At its core, it's robbing the taxpayers and stealing from our children,” Molinaro later told The Buffalo News. “It is what’s wrong with this administration and what’s wrong with Albany. And this administration has made it so much worse.”
He said the Buffalo Billion trial — which claims top executives of the LPCiminelli company colluded with officials to craft bid requirements specific to their firm — stems from questionable state programs that direct “public money to private interests with no accountability.”
“Even absent federal prosecution the practice is wrong,” he said. “You should not have the ability to direct millions of dollars to private interests while they contribute to your political benefit."
“I think people are paying attention,” he added.
Molinaro now faces the Herculean task of raising enough money to publicize his message. Cuomo, who will be challenged in the Democratic primary for governor by actress-activist Cynthia Nixon, has reported at least $30 million in his campaign treasury and will be able to far outspend his Republican opponent in the general election. His Democrats also enjoy a significant statewide voter registration edge.
Molinaro remains unconcerned about raising enough money to be competitive.
“I have always raised enough money and made enough noise to win an election,” he said.