Captain Renault and the Committee to Save New York

As  Captain Renault famously said in Casablanca. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”

Much, perhaps even too much has already been written about Governor Cuomo and the Committee to Save NY (CSNY).  Like Captain Renault feigning outrage, the breathless criticism and scathing editorials are all in my estimation much ado about nothing.

However, even at the formation of CSNY I expressed reservations about the approach, some of which I standby others that I was dead wrong about.

First, and foremost this episode is hardly a surprise.

When CSNY was formed it was obvious that at some point – this point – would come about.

It was inevitable that critics, opponents, reporters and so-called good government groups would try to connect the dots between contributions, the committee and the Governor’s policies.

The thing about dots though is they are not connected.

Casino gaming just happens to be a much more acceptable boogie man than say, same-sex marriage advocates who make no qualms about vocally articulating that contributions reward policy positions. (I’m betting we won’t see that splashed on the Times Editorial pages any time soon)

Second, at the time I believed that Governor Cuomo should just avoid the inevitable controversy. He, like past Governors, should just take his lumps as he went along, deal with the lower poll numbers that accompanied tough decisions, confident that he would have the campaign resources and the improved economy to come out of it in time for his reelection.

Well, I was right in the first instance but definitely wrong in the second.

CSNY has done nothing wrong. They have complied with every law and conducted their advocacy efforts effectively. To be accurate they aren’t actually the committee to save New York – they are the committee to promote Andrew Cuomo – but to date the moniker and the goal have largely coincided.

Most importantly, save for some positional gymnastics, the Governor has done nothing wrong – he just didn’t stick the proverbial dismount.

The answer to the question — why does Genting or anyone for that matter donate?  It is because they believe in the Governor’s policies – not because “he” believes in “theirs”.

The answer to the question why does anyone give to CSNY is because they believe in the organizatIon’s goals.

There are no other answers and everyone can bay and cry as much as they like – but it is what it is.

The press and goo-goos will bemoan the fact that money has a pernicious effect on politics and to an extent they are right.  But experience tells us it is even more pernicious when one side is completely unarmed.

For years, New York’s special interests especially the unions and hospitals ruled the roost in Albany.  When they ran up against policies they didn’t like they simply dropped millions in negative ads on the Governor – eroding poll ratings and simultaneously emboldening legislative spending sprees.

I was wrong about Governor Cuomo taking his lumps. I for one am glad that the CSNY exists and wish something like it was around when Governor Pataki was in office.

Governor Cuomo’s high poll numbers coupled with by and large a solid performance (except that nasty tax hike) has kept order and the special interests in line.

There is a lot more to be done to get New York State moving again and the Governor has his work cut out for him. It’s a daunting task that requires a full commitment and an arsenal of resources, including CSNY.

At some point I expect the Committee to Save New York and actually saving New York might become mutually exclusive goals – but for right now everyone should stop acting like Captain Renault, take your winnings and move on.


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