Everybody was waiting to see what the governor’s anti-corruption Moreland Act Commission would come up with. The idea was to trace the money, no matter from what source, to see if there was endemic corruption throughout New York state government. The governor made it clear that he thought there was. To find it he chose some of the best minds in New York including a group of district attorneys charged with fighting crime in their counties, towns and villages. The governor’s instructions were to follow the money no matter where it was. To make sure that the Legislature was covered Attorney General Eric Schneiderman deputized the members of the Moreland Commission which is empowered under the state constitution to study the executive branch only. With Schneiderman’s help jurisdiction of the group was extended to the legislative branch. No one expected, however, that the executive branch would be left out of the investigation.
So, it was with some surprise when Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney appeared on a television show and announced that the reason that the commission had gone after the legislative branch of government only was that it was never supposed to investigate the executive branch. This was news to many people who had never heard that. No sooner had Mahoney said that then Attorney General Schneiderman took issue and said that no such agreement had ever been made and that the executive branch of government had never been excluded from investigation. However, people like Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group said that he was surprised at how little attention was paid to the executive branch. This was pretty embarrassing stuff for Governor Cuomo. After all his very healthy campaign account had something like $30 million in it.
The whole point is that no one gives you huge amounts of money who doesn’t want something back for it. This is exactly the kind of legal bribery that Governor Cuomo has been bemoaning. Just a few days back Governor Cuomo had been given a concert by Billy Joel in which the top seats were said to be going for fifty thousand dollars. Now I like Billy Joel’s, music but it sure isn’t worth fifty grand to hear it. Nope, when someone gives you that amount of money they want something. If the real estate industry wants breaks on building luxury Manhattan condominiums and/or co-ops and gets what they want from the government one might surmise that the money they invested in someone’s campaign was well worth it.
In any case the first Moreland Act report is done and is already on the shelf where it is already collecting dust. There are those who believe that this was the game all along. The governor gets credit for taking on the forces of evil but, some are suggesting, he never really wanted a change in the rules. In fact, when the main conclusion of the Commission, calling for a system of campaign financing was announced there were reporters who thought that Cuomo was slow to endorse the recommendation even though he had been proposing it all along. It took him a few breaths to endorse the idea. All of this came after Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News, in the story of the year reported that Cuomo’s agents had been calling in plays to the so called independent commission suggesting who should NOT be subpoenaed by the group. Some of these groups were friends of the governor.
The Moreland Act group says that this first report was just preliminary. Cuomo is to be congratulated for appointing and charging the group with its important mission. Cuomo was swept into office promising to clean up government. So what does Cuomo do now? If Cuomo is suspected of playing it fast and loose he will lose credibility and potential votes. But, if he goes for broke to clean things up, his credibility and popularity will rise. What do you think he’ll do? I can’t wait to see.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 12/9/13