Gov. Andrew Cuomo went on a lengthy defense earlier today of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the watchdog panel that’s come under fire for lacking transparency that’s now reviewing the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.

Cuomo challenged reporters at a news conference to imagine what the conversation would be like without the panel in place — namely the posibility of lawmakers investigating Lopez and the more than $130,000 settlement to two of the alleged victims.

“Do we have the right systems in place to catch it and deal with it intelligently? That’s what we’re in the midst of the JCOPE investigation and review,” Cuomo said. “If we didn’t have JCOPE, right now we would be no where. If this were last year, there’s no JCOPE, this would be all up to the Legislature and the Assembly to figure out and then we’d be saying how can the Assembly deal with the issue concerning the Assembly and a powerful member of the Assembly? We are better off with JCOPE being in place than without it.”

Cuomo continue his rhetorical rope-a-dope on the issue, reiterating that it’s a “false test” to suggest Albany is “cleaned up” once corruption is erradicted, since wrongdoing will continue to happen.

“We found the situation where someone did something wrong,” Cuomo said. “You will always find situations where someone did something wrong. You will always find situations where someone in power abused their power, made mistakes, did some venial and did something wrong.”

JCOPE officials have not said outright that they are investigating the Lopez sexual harassment claims or the settlement money and the negotiations leading up to it.

The scandal has hit Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver especially hard, with calls from mostly Republicans to resign, though Democratic Sen. Tony Avella called on the longtime Albany power broker to step down from his leadership post.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and Silver have both noted that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s offices had roles as well in either approving the disbursement of the payments or were consulted on the legal language. Neither Schneiderman or DiNapoli had a direct, personal role in the settlement.

But as The New York Times and Newsday reported today, Cuomo’s attorney general office settled a racial discrimination case that included a confidentiality clause as well.

Cuomo noted to reporters — as did spokesman Josh Vlasto in the story — that it wasn’t truly a “secret” since the information was gathered and available under the Freedom of Information Law in addition to the case being conducted in court.

“What happened with the Vito Lopez situation is a totally different situation factually and circumstantially,” Cuomo said.