FREEPORT, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Long Island on Wednesday to promise help for homeowners after Superstorm Sandy and ended up dealing with a tempest of a different kind: allegations that his office meddled with an anti-corruption commission.
The Democrat again defended his handling of the commission, pointing to a statement from one of the leaders that there was no interference. A top Cuomo aide pressured the commission not to investigate groups linked to Cuomo. The request was ultimately denied — which Cuomo says proves the commission was independent. He pointed to a recent statement from one of the commission's three co-chairs dismissing allegations of interference.
"He (the commission's co-chair) said he made all the decisions and they made them independently," Cuomo said. "Period. So that's that."
Cuomo and his staff appear eager to change the subject after a week of questions about the commission, which he created in 2013 and abruptly disbanded this spring. On Wednesday, the governor announced help for residents looking to elevate their homes after Sandy, said the state would fast-track its new medical marijuana program to help children with epilepsy and continued to dangle the possibility of a trip to Israel to show support during the conflict in Gaza.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday that he had been too busy to follow the commission story — yet he knew enough to criticize Cuomo's Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, for saying the allegations showed Cuomo was behaving like a mafia boss.
Astorino, meanwhile, continued to blast Cuomo.
"He certainly admitted to giving guidance to this commission," Astorino said at an appearance in Manhattan. "That's clearly overt threats to do what he wanted them to do, which was to make sure these investigations stayed away from him, his donors, his political pals."
Astorino spoke at two news conferences in which he reiterated his call for a special state prosecutor to review the allegations. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has collected the corruption commission's files and said federal prosecutors would continue its "important and unfinished" work.
Associated Press writers Rachelle Blidner and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report from New York City. Klepper reported from Albany.