Poll: Moreland Scandal Non-Issue; Cuomo Well-Ahead of Astorino

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at MTA New York City Transit Headquarters on October 24, 2013. (MTA photo)

A majority of New Yorkers believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides acted unethically when they inserted themselves into the now-defunct Moreland Commission’s corruption probes, but the scandal has only put a slight dent in Cuomo’s massive lead in the polls.

A NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Tuesday found that Cuomo’s favorability rating is at the lowest since he’s taken office: 53 percent. Still, a majority of New Yorkers, 54 percent, support the governor over Republican gubernatorial challenger and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who came in at 24 percent.

Cuomo has been under a barrage of criticism from Astorino and Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger Zephyr Teachout since The New York Times reported that the governor’s aides meddled with the Moreland Commission whenever the investigatory panel set its sights on groups politically linked to Cuomo.

But, the scandal appears to be a non-issue for voters. Only 23 percent of voters said the controversy is a major factor in deciding their vote. Seventy-one percent described it as either a minor factor or not factor at all.

While 52 percent say Cuomo’s staff, which includes former Chief Deputy Suffolk County Executive Regina Calcaterra, acted unethically, only 11 percent believe they broke the law.

Last week, Teachout’s running mate, Tim Wu, held a conference call with reporters where he claimed Cuomo may have broken four New York statutes—criminal solicitation of official misconduct, conspiracy to perform official misconduct, obstructing governmental administration and hindering prosecution.

Rob Astorino
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino blasts Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid New York Times Moreland Commission report. (Facebook)

The U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Preet Bharara, is reportedly investigating cases the commission was working on before it was unceremoniously disbanded in April. He also reportedly warned in a letter that his office may look into possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering violations related to public statements made by former commissioners defending the governor—statements that were released the same day Cuomo finally addressed the issue.

This is the most criticism Cuomo has faced since taking office, but he remains comfortably ahead in the polls.

The governor does face some challenges, however. The poll found that the slight decline in his margin over Astorino—81 percent to 72 percent—is the result of less support from Democrats. He also saw a drop in Republican backers—30 percent to 24 percent.

Astorino has yet to make up any ground, largely because he’s unknown among a majority of voters.

Teachout, a constitutional law professor at Fordham University who is popular among progressives, has also struggled to get her name out to mainstream voters.

In other news related to the commission, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, one of the commission’s co-chairs, is reportedly “assisting” in Bharara’s investigation, according to the New York Daily News. Rice’s Republican opponent for Congress, Bruce Blakeman, the former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, has called on her to release all emails related to the commission.

In a scathing reply, Rice’s campaign spokesman, Eric Phillips, reportedly said, “The fact that Bruce Blakeman is asking Kathleen Rice to deeply compromise an ongoing federal investigation that she is assisting shows you just how deep into the gutter Blakeman’s career as a political insider has fallen.”