Bharara Had Hoped For Tangible Results
From the morning memo:
Back in September, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sat down with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption to urge them to take an aggressive stance on government malfeasance.
In his four-page testimony, Bharara set down some basic hopes for the commission, including that they use their subpoena power effectively.
And he called on them to essentially rattle some cages and get some tangible results.
“…[P]ublic hearings are important and policy proposals are important too. But so are hard-nosed investigations and prosecutions, which I hope will be a primary, rather than tertiary, focus of the Commission,” Bharara said in his prepared remarks. “Nothing shines a light brighter or focuses the public’s anger and attention better than the actual arrest and conviction of a corrupt politician.”
The prosecutor who has made a name for himself taking on large financial institutions as well as public corruption in Albany doesn’t think that wish was fulfilled.
As The Times reported this morning, Bharara wrote to commission members expressing his disappointment the anti-corruption panel is concluding its work following a budget agreement that brought some changes to the state’s fraud and bribery laws.
The agreement struck by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders was apparently not enough for Bharara.
According to a letter obtained by the Times, Bharara’s even wondered whether the commission had been set aside only because of a compromise in the budget.
“The sequence of these events gives the appearance, although I am sure this is not the intent, that investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away as part of the negotiated arrangement between legislative and executive leaders,” he wrote.
Cuomo maintains the commission was due to conclude its work once state lawmakers had reached an agreement on ethics reform.
The Moreland Commission, indeed, was really running on three parallel tracks.
First, there was the commission itself, which reportedly was the subject of influence from Cuomo’s office and his top aides when it came to directing subpoenas (eventually the state Democratic Committee was issued a subpoena after Republican campaign committees were targeted).
Going on behind the scenes was the ethics negotiations themselves, which eventually included the adoption of the Public Trust Act. The agreement did not include the public financing of political campaigns or any new regulations on raising money for campaigns.
And on the third track was a challenge brought by state lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate who declared the entire commission had no jurisdictional authority to investigate the Legislature.
Lawmakers in the case argued the commission was violating the Constitution’s separation of powers because the executive branch was attempting to probe the legislative branch when it came to more information on their outside, private-sector income.
Moreland pushed back, however, noting the attorney general’s granting of jurisdictional authority gave them the needed powers.
Regardless of the legal arguments, the case dragged through the state court system, with adjournments pushed back from March through the middle of April.
This seemed to suggest a clear time table for budget talks: As Moreland’s legal authority was being hashed out in court, the adjournments bought negotiators in Albany some time to agree on an ethics package.
Once Cuomo and lawmakers agreed to the ethics changes, he said the commission would wind down its work.
Court filings this month show lawyers for the firms representing state lawmakers, as well as the commission itself, agreed their arguments had become moot.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on April 10, 2014 at 9:25 am, and is filed under Preet Bharara. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|