Wins huge plaudits as a housing advocate before joining the Clinton administration. As Clinton’s HUD czar, makes gains for housing the homeless, but poor oversight leads to scandals. Cuomo’s overattention to his image (producing a $688,000 report on his own performance) raises eyebrows at the Times, which later jeers what it calls his federally financed “campaign fodder.” Decides to run for governor.
Declares that, after 9/11, George Pataki was just a valet to Rudy Giuliani (“he held the leader’s coat”). Establishes little union and party support, and embarrassingly backs out of race. In July 2003, he dumps wife Kerry Kennedy, after she had an affair with a playboy polo player, which ends their political co-dynasty. Cuomo is said to have caught them himself. The split is a tabloid spectacle and truly his humbling moment, his friends say.
Behind the scenes, Mario works the phones, calling in chits from rural counties and party leaders while Andrew mends fences with old foes. Takes in $2.4 million in salary working for Andrew Farkas, a developer he sued as Clinton’s HUD director, alleging kickback schemes and “disgusting” properties. Brings on SEIU’s political director, Jennifer Cunningham, as top political adviser. They deny romance rumors.
Cuomo runs newly disciplined campaign. The Times pans him for ducking debates and endorses A.G. rival Mark Green. The paper also warns against voting for a pol “whose chief concern was burnishing a political résumé.” In September, Jeanine Pirro’s campaign implodes after she confesses to being the target of an FBI probe into, among other things, wiretapping. SEIU backs Cuomo, an endorsement many believe wins him the race.
Using Spitzer-style tactics, Cuomo’s student-loan crusade is his first big victory. The Times loves it! After Joe Bruno puts the kibosh on Cuomo’s Project Sunlight database (to keep tabs on lobbyists and pols), Cuomo has sit-down with Bruno, who restores funding. Cuomo probes Bruno’s use of state aircraft, then with admirable nonpartisanship investigates if Spitzer’s top aides improperly asked state troopers to keep tabs on Bruno. Spitzer staffers grumble, but have to go along.