By Dan Primack
October 25, 2010

Well, it had to happen eventually: Steve Rattner has become an issue in the New York gubernatorial race. Take a look at this new ad from Republican nominee Carl Paladino:

Look, I’ve been plenty critical of how Cuomo has handled the criminal vs. civil aspects of the New York pay-to-play scandal. Specifically, most of the bribe-takers have been indicted, whereas most of the bribe-givers have been asked to pay penalties. It is an unfair dichotomy, not sufficiently explained away by leveraging the latter to provide evidence against the former.

But that does not mean that Paladino’s ad passes the smell test.  

First, the ad refers to Rattner only as a “Democrat fundraiser.” The insinuation, of course, is that Cuomo is being easy on Democrats — a charge that would not stand up to even modest scrutiny.

Cuomo recently obtained a guilty plea from Alan Hevesi, the former Democratic state comptroller who ran for NYC mayor in 2001. Ditto for Hevesi lieutenant David Loglisci. Both men are expected to face jail-time, following the conclusion of a Cuomo-led trial against private equity “placement agent” – and longtime Democratic Party operative – Hank Morris.

Next, the Paladino narrator says that Rattner was “given immunity for an $88,000 bribe of a state official.” That’s based on several press reports, none of which suggest that Cuomo was giving his political pal a sweetheart deal. Instead, the narrative shows that Cuomo, at the time, legitimately believed that Rattner was an unknowing participant in the pay-to-play scam. It wasn’t until later, when Cuomo discovered a series of emails between Rattner and Morris, that the AG realized his immunity deal had been a mistake.

Since that time, Cuomo has doggedly tried to wrangle some sort of settlement out of Rattner. Reports have said that the former car czar already has agreed to pay $6 million to the SEC, and sources tell me that Cuomo may be asking for at least three times that amount.

In short: Paladino’s ad isn’t wrong in its facts, but its lack of context makes for disingenuous garbage.

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