The New York Times has unearthed several sources who have corroborated reports that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office interfered with the Moreland Commission, an ethics panel set up by the Governor himself, from the onset. Top aides were even cited as demanding members of the ethics panel “pull back” subpoenas issued to groups close to the Governor.
Via the New York Times:
With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.
The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.
Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.
“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:
“Pull it back.”
The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.
“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.
While this was the most blatant attempt at intimidation by Cuomo’s office, several investigators and commissioners on the ethics panel claim the demands were politically motivated interference on the governor’s part. The report concurs, saying that the Governor’s office objected “whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.”
The ethics panel members believed they had a “once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany.” That belief quickly dissipated with Cuomo’s office hindering the group at every turn. One investigator even makes the startling claim that they “believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge.”
Cuomo’s office responded to the Times report, maintaining that the ethics panel that he created, while independent, could not investigate anybody with ties to the Governor. A statement issued by the administration read in part, “A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive.”
In other words, the Moreland Commission was designed to weed out corruption, just not the Governor’s own corruption.
GOP chairman Ed Cox has demanded a criminal investigation into Cuomo’s meddling, and in a radio interview this past April, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused to rule out an investigation of Cuomo to find out if he improperly interfered with the work of the Moreland Commission.
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession