This post has been updated throughout. 

The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption’s 101-page preliminary report was released Monday evening with a majority of its commissioners, among other reforms, recommending a system of publicly financed campaigns be adopted statewide.

In a separate “dissent” seven commission members called the conclusions by the commission on public financing “significantly flawed.” The commission was formed in July after Cuomo and the state Legislature failed to agree on any ethics reform legislation following a spate of corruption arrests earlier this year.

The commission and members of the Legislature are still locked in a legal battle over the authority of the commission issuing subpoenas to learn more infomration on their private business interests and clients.

Seven members of the 25-member Moreland Commission on Public Corruption signed on to a three-page dissent that expressed doubts on whether public financing would be a viable option for New York.

In a pointed rebuttal of the benefits of public financing, the dissent references Sen. Malcolm Smith, under indictment for allegedly seeking a spot on the Republican ballot for mayor through bribery.

“Adoption of public financing would not prevent this type of abuse and thus the commission should not endorse it on the erroneous belief it would be a solution,” the dissenters write.

The dissenting members included Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, district attorneys Frank Sedita, Kristy Sprague, Derek Champagne and Kate Hogan, along with attorney Eric Corngold and former GOP Chairman Pat Barrett.

Mahoney is a Republican ally of Cuomo’s, as is Barrett, currently the chairman of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

They write the majority of the commission’s assertion that public finance would alleviate campaign finance problems is “significantly flawed.”

“Anytime taxpayer funds are expended, the burden is on those who wish to spend those funds prove the benefits are worth the cost. We do not believe that burden has been satisfied,” the dissenters wrote.

The dissent focuses on New York City’s system of publicly financed elections, pointing to the flood of money that still flows in city elections despite a system of publicly financed campaigns and donor matching funds.

They draw attention to the so-called super PAC New York Progress, funded by labor organizations to knock Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota spent more than $1 million.

“Simply put, public financing has done little to stop the importance of large sums of money from politically and financially powerful groups,” the commission members said.

The dissent’s argument will likely be wielded by opponents of a public financing — namely Senate Republicans — in the coming weeks should any effort to adopt the Moreland Commission’s recommendations be made.

In addition to public financing of political campaigns, the panel makes recommendations that include:

  • Better disclosure and monitoring of independent expenditure groups that have exploded in recent years,
  • Limiting the use of campaign funds by politicians and political organizations
  • Lowering contributions, closing loopholes as well as limiting transfers from political parties to campaigns

Meanwhile, the commission also recommends the creation of an independent law enforcement agency for election law, tightening bribery and other corruption laws.

The preliminary report does not single out specific officeholders for wrongdoing or accuse them of cutting corners by taking advantage of existing loopholes, insisting such a move would compromise ongoing investigations.

“Many of the specifics from our active investigations, such as names and identifying details, cannot be shared in this Preliminary Report without compromising the integrity and confidentiality of those investigations. What we can describe, though, is deplorable conduct, some of it perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong; some of it potentially illegal – and, indeed, this Commission will make appropriate criminal referrals at such time as it deems appropriate.”

The main document’s executive summary concludes the commission’s investigation work will continue.

“The Commission will proceed with our ongoing investigations as we continue to follow the money. We will also continue to consider new policy areas where reform can bring greater transparency, accountability, and integrity to our governing bodies,” the commission says.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports a system of publicly financed campaigns, but so far has been unable to convince Republicans in the Senate to approve the measure.

Moreland Report Final by Nick Reisman