Gov. Kathy Hochul’s performance in office brings to mind the French maxim “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” which means “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Hochul, who had pledged to end business as usual in Albany, has become comfortable with the trappings, perks and power of her office and has been acting Cuomo-esque.
For example, Hochul, like Cuomo, has been using the state’s jet plane liberally. The New York Post has reported that “Hochul took 140 private-aircraft flights at taxpayer expense in just her first seven months on the job, zipping across the state to tap special interests for her huge campaign warchest.”
Air Hochul has cost taxpayers over $250,000.
Then there is the dazzling office she built for herself in Buffalo.
As governor, Hochul has spent only 12 days in her hometown. So, one would think, on the rare occasion Hochul requires indoor working space, an office in a state building would suffice.
Nope, not for Gov. Hochul. Her new Western New York “executive chamber”—which was built in a renovated warehouse and has access to a balcony and a rooftop garden—cost $2 million.
Construction expenditures included: $413,000 for electricians; $362,000 for engineering and architectural services; $240,000 for—get this—doors and frames; and $172,000 for finishes—whatever that means.
The Empire State Development Corporation, which is under the governor’s thumb, paid for the renovations. That’s the same state agency Cuomo used to pay for his handouts to favored interests.
And by sheer coincidence, the Hochul office is located in a building owned by a developer who has donated $62,500 to her campaign committee.
State business to a donor? That’s another Cuomo habit the governor has embraced.
The seriously flawed, Cuomo-promoted, Penn Station real estate development deal that Hochul approved is another example of cronyism. A key developer has donated $69,700 to Hochul’s coffers office.
It gets worse.
In November 2021, Hochul extended Cuomo’s COVID state of emergency order, which suspends not only competitive bidding for various contracts, but the review and approval process performed by the office of the state comptroller.
One company that has greatly benefited from the bidding exemption is Digital Gadgets, which provides Hochul’s Department of Health with at-home COVID tests.
Digital Gadgets, the Albany Times Union has reported, is a “New Jersey-based wholesaler of household and other electronic devices that sells its wares to companies like the Home Shopping Network QVC [and] in 2020 the company pivoted to supplying medical equipment and began landing major contracts in New York.”
In December 2021, Digital Gadgets was awarded a no-bid purchase order to supply the state with 52 million at-home tests. During the next three months the company received 239 payments totaling a whopping $637 million.
By the way, Digital Gadgets owner Charles Telebe, his wife and various family members have donated $300,000 to Hochul.
And, surprise surprise, a member of the Telebe family, James, an NYU undergraduate, was hired by Hochul’s campaign to work on its fund-raising staff for approximately $3,700 a month.
According to James Telebe’s LinkedIn profile, he also worked on the staff of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s short-lived 2020 presidential campaign.
Another coincidence: In 2020 Digital Gadgets received an emergency no-bid contract totaling $119 million from the de Blasio administration.
That contract, according to the Times Union “came on the heels of about $44,000 in donations from Telebe family members to de Blasio’s campaign and related action committees.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
Meanwhile, as the jet-setting governor, who has raised a record-breaking $38 million in political contributions, gallivants around the state, New York’s overtaxed common folks aren’t traveling much this summer.
The looming recession, rampant inflation, high gas and food prices and the crimewave sweeping the state are keeping them close to home.
Quite a contrast.
Hopefully, voters tired of “things remaining the same” will turn out on Election Day and send Hochul packing to Buffalo.