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Percoco Corruption Trial Spurs Talk Of Reform In Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The conviction of a former top aide to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is spurring demands to address Albany's culture of backroom dealing.

They're calls that state officials have shrugged off in the past.

A jury convicted Joseph Percoco on federal bribery and fraud charges Tuesday. Prosecutors said Percoco accepted more than $300,000 in bribes from companies hoping to win lucrative state contracts.

Cuomo played dead at a student-led gun protest, hoping that the corruption conviction against the man he once described as his father's third son wouldn't kill his chances for re-election.

"We have the finest level of state employees," the governor said. "This was a total aberration from that."

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the normally confident public orator consulted handwritten notes to publically address the conviction of his former right-hand man.

"There was absolutely no suggestion ever made that I had anything to do with anything," Cuomo told CBS2's Kramer. The governor called it "political garbage."

Cuomo, who said cleaning up Albany corruption was job one when he ran for governor eight years ago, called again for specific ethics reform -- a full-time legislature, the same thing he called for after the indictment Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos.

There was immediate push back from Senate Republicans. A spokesman said in part, ""The alternative to the current system is the creation of a body made up of only professional politicians, who have taxpayer-funded salaries at least double what they are now, who never do anything other than politics, and come to Albany and never leave. Taxpayers would be ill served by that so-called 'reform'."

Meanwhile, good-government groups say the Percoco case shows the need for a new, independent ethics agency, tighter campaign limits and greater oversight of contracts. The head of Reinvent Albany dismissed Cuomo's proposal as a "distraction" from what the Percoco case was about.

"The focus and the urgency is around pay to play and campaign contributions and bribes from people seeking to do business with the state of New York," Executive Director John Kaehny said.

Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing. He said the state should prohibit lawmakers from working side jobs that can create conflicts of interest.

Lawmakers have passed only modest ethics changes since 2000. More than 30 lawmakers facing misconduct allegations have left office since then.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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