Is Adam Skelos All that Different from Andrew Cuomo?

As a New Yorker, I have been watching as legislator upon legislator upon legislator ends up on trial for corruption. With Assemblyman Sheldon Silver done, now there is the trial involving State Senator Dean Skelos and his son, Adam. The elder Skelos is accused of using his office to get jobs and money for his son.

Of course, it is a very, very common practice for companies to hire the relatives of prominent politicians. In particular, it strikes me that it seems similar to what happened to Andrew Cuomo when his father was in Albany. While Mario Cuomo was lieutenant governor, his friend and counsel Jerry Weiss left the administration to found a lawfirm that would become known as Blutrich, Falcone & Miller. Then-lieutenant governor Cuomo actually encouraged and helped Weiss because, as Mario wrote in his diaries, he could work there should his political career fall through.

Although it turned out Mario would not need to worry, nevertheless Andrew Cuomo joined the firm and became a partner before he even turned 30. Other partners included Lucille Falcone, a Cuomo family friend and fundraiser for Mario’s 1986 campaign; and Avery Seavey, whose father Robert was head of the state’s Battery Park City Authority, and later joined the firm himself.

The firm represented a dairy lobby group and some major real estate developers that had matters before the state, including Donald Trump (whom I have managed to work into yet another column). Another developer, William B. Zeckendorf, said he retained the firm because “’we thought they could help us politically” based on the advice of “somebody who knew their way around the Democratic side of state politics.”

At the time, Andrew did acknowledge the appearance of impropriety, saying in 1986 that it was “not possible” because the firm had a policy not to represent anyone with matters before a state agency whose head was appointed by his father, unless the client had retained the firm prior to Andrew joining. He said he also refused to include “Cuomo” in the firm’s name, so that people would not associate it with the governor. Although the question dogged him enough that by 1988 he told New York Magazine, “There’s no one line that gets me crazier. That’s the cheapest shot you can take at me…There’s no way for me to help them, ‘cause I won’t take matters that involve the state.”

The New York Times editorial board said at the time, “It looks terrible.”

Though there appears to be one major difference between Andrew Cuomo and Adam Skelos: the former has demonstrated that he is competent, even if he had his father’s help. The younger Skelos, on the other hand, apparently wasn’t even showing up to his job at a medical malpractice insurer.

So I don’t anticipate a Governor Adam Skelos.