Part of the post-mortem on the 2016 election was not just that Democrats lost, but that they lost hope. Whereas in 2004, they already had Obama well on his way, today they have virtually no one. Harry Reid grimly predicted that their bench for 2020 resembled an "old folk's home." So there are a lot of eyes on New York's (relatively young) 59-year-old governor with a famous name: Andrew Cuomo.
He's probably hoping a lot of those eyes are only half-open, though.
The governor has to kiss babies, spend money on pet projects, pay-off cronies, and somehow still run a successful state. He might be doing a few of those things—he is definitely paying off cronies—and if New York Republicans stay silent on his failures and controversies – like his new energy tax that even the left opposes — Cuomo just might be able to claim success on the others.
A political scandal isn't a scandal until the scandal police catch you and the court of public opinion convicts you. Nixon maintained his innocence, but his legacy was forever tarnished. President Bill Clinton denied almost everything, but his indiscretions haunt him and his wife to today.
Closer to home for Cuomo, Anthony Weiner denied wrongdoing several times—just to eventually end up as exposed as, well, he was exposed. It's only under intense pressure that powerful figures are held accountable.
Cuomo has been caught with his hand in several scandals' cookie jars, although one scandal is more just like getting caught with a milk mustache. Cuomo's current "Milk-gate" scandal isn't life threatening, but it does help to demonstrate his indifference for businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, that aren't in his crony circle.
Case in point: There is a non-profit that's provided 25 cent glasses of milk for years at the New York State Fair. That price is artificially, unaffordably low, so they recently raised the price to 50 cents—still a great deal.
Well, Cuomo had an ice cream cone-level meltdown. That just wouldn't do in his state, not on his watch. The trains would run on time, the birds would sing, and attendees to the state fair would get their old-timey 25-cent milk.
To assure this, Cuomo promised the non-profit about $180,000 in funding. The funding would come from several different sources and in several different forms, but as a result Cuomo would have been able to say that he had abated the Great Milk-Cup Price-hike of 2017. But, the governor only came through on half of his funding promise.
So we have to ask: is the scandal here half-full or half-empty?
Well that depends on how things shake out. Cuomo would probably still see those milk cups as half-empty. This is also a largely unforced scandal, the difference between 25-cent milk and 50-cent milk isn't going to dramatically change anything for fair-goers washing down a $15 turkey leg. But Cuomo is scared that this tiny increase in milk prices could hurt his approval rating.
That makes Cuomo's other scandal—well, one of his other scandals—even more interesting. His nuclear-cronyism tax involves real money and will create real pressure on people's lives.
Beginning now, energy producers in New York are paying for a Zero Emission Credit. Developed last year by Cuomo's Public Service Commission, this "credit" is part of an energy plan to get New York to use 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
While the credit will largely fall directly on consumers, whom it will cost about $1 billion in the first two years, the money from the credit will go toward lining the pockets of Cuomo's wealthy nuclear power plant-owning friends. It is very interesting that this plan includes such support for non-renewable nuclear power, and most likely influenced by crony relationships.
That makes this ripe for a public investigation. State Senate Energy Chair Joe Griffo, a Republican, should already be holding hearings on this new tax that will hit New York, already the state with the absolute worst tax burden in the country. Griffo should be writing bills to reverse this wrong. He isn't alone in his inaction, though.
Long Island-area senators: Elaine Phillips, Kemp Hannon, John Flanagan and John LaValle, all Republicans, should all be sharpening their pitchforks over this issue. The question is, why are fiscally-conservative Republicans silent in the face of this $8 billion government bailout that's going to hit their constituents? Why are these fiscal conservatives laying down for Cuomo's big government bailout?
The questions that they can ask are easy. Why is money in a renewable energy plan subsidizing nuclear? How is a group of unelected officials legally empowered to raise energy prices? Cuomo's doesn't want those questions hanging over him in a presidential primary or a general election.
The outcome of the investigations might not be an embarrassing selfie, but it will likely expose Cuomo's cronyism just as much. Cuomo needs to be denied his underpriced milk as well as his plan for over-priced energy.
The lawsuits have started—it's the Republicans' turn to start the investigations. Let's give Cuomo some spilt milk to cry over.
Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer) is a contributer to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor and for an academic think tank.
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