Rob Astorino is working to keep heat on Gov. Andrew Cuomo over reporting the governor interfered with an Albany ethics panel.
Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, made several stops across upstate New York Monday, as Cuomo made his first public comments since The New York Times reported Cuomo and his office tried to influence an independent commission set up by the governor to investigate corruption.
On his stop in Syracuse, Astorino had strong language for the governor, a Democrat.
"This is an administration built on fraud," he said.
He also said the governor is now "engulfed in scandal."
Astorino said that scandal is worse than the prostitution use that took down former Gov. Elliot Spitzer, or the bridge closure debacle that has hampered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"This is Andrew Cuomo's Watergate in the making," he said.
According to the New York Times, Cuomo and his key staff members tried to direct commission members away from a political advertising group with ties to governor. And one staffer allegedly tried to block a subpoena from being issued.
"To suggest that he was suggesting to the commission members where they should go with an investigation is like a mafia boss coming forward and saying he wants to make a suggestion, an offer he can’t refuse," Astorino said. "That is clearly intimidation."
He said Cuomo's half-hour press conference this morning didn't go nearly far enough in explaining to the public what happened between his office and members of the panel, known as a Moreland Commission.
Cuomo told reporters in Buffalo he was only offering advice and the panel was still independent. The panel was disbanded early after the Legislature passed some ethic reforms.
Astorino says Cuomo and his staff could be facing several criminal charges. But Astorino admits he doesn’t have direct knowledge that federal prosecutors are investigating Cuomo’s interactions with the commission.
Astorino, currently the Westchester County Executive, has long trailed the incumbent Cuomo in fund raising and polling numbers since he announced his campaign.