Cuomo: Moreland Was Never Interfered With
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday took more than 15 minutes worth of questions in Buffalo insisting the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was not interfered with by his office, though he acknowledged conversations were had with his office and the commission’s leadership.
Cuomo, appearing in public for the first time since The New York Times’ extensive review of the commission’s work was published last week, said the conversations the panel had with his top aide, Larry Schwartz, were not tantamount to interference because the commission never acted on them.
The Times reported Schwartz emailed the commission’s leaders to claw back a subpoena that was to be issued to Buying Time, a media-buying firm that counted Cuomo among its clients.
Cuomo, speaking at SUNY Buffalo for an economic development announcement, today pointed to the commission not heeding Schwartz’s advice as a sign of independence.
In essence, Cuomo defined undue interference as the commission acting on input from his office, but just the opposite occurred, he said.
“As a matter of fact, the best evidence of independence is when someone from the second floor says well why don’t you do this? The chairman says let me think about and the chairman says I disagree, I don’t want to do that,” Cuomo said. “That’s not a sign of interference. That is demonstrable evidence of independence.”
The governor has come under fire the role his office played in attempting to direct or block subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel formed last year, with both his Republican opponent Rob Astorino as well as Democratic primary foe Zephyr Teachout knocking his handling of the commission’s power.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has taken possession of records generated by the commission and is reportedly investigating the governor’s office’s role in the panel’s work.
Throughout the question-and-answer session, Cuomo said the incident with the commission not heeding Schwartz’s ask to pull back a subpoena was a sign of how it was a separate entity.
“It’s proof of the exact opposite,” Cuomo said. “It’s total independence and it verifies the exact point: We will talk to everyone, but at the end of the day we make our own decisions.”
Cuomo leaned heavily on a lengthy statement released earlier in the morning by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, one of three co-chairs of the commission, who insisted that while the governor’s office had input on the panel, the final decision rested with Moreland’s members.
“Of course, there were going to be conversations,” Cuomo said. “Of course there was dialogue. It would have been unintelligent for there not to be.”
A 13-page response from the Cuomo administration to the Times’ reporting, however, said the commission was never meant to be an independent entity and that was a creature of the executive branch.
Cuomo’s office said that any investigation of the governor or the attorney general, who granted the commission members the power of deputy attorneys general, would not have “passed the laugh test.”
Left unsaid is what impact the deputizing of the commission’s members could have any further investigation from federal prosecutors.
Cuomo, who had previously said the commission could investigate anywhere it wanted to, said today the panel could have done so, found nothing to investigate with his campaign activity.
The governor once again pointed the commission’s main objective was to get a new ethics measure approved in the Legislature, which was ultimately done so through the budget.
Good-government groups are not enamored with the ethics package, and Cuomo admitted more needed to be done, including the passage of public financing of political campaigns.
“The Moreland Commission was a vehicle to get the law passed,” Cuomo said. “We got the law passed and upon passing the law the expiration and termination of the Moreland Commission was done because it accomplished the purpose. The purpose was pass the law.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on July 28, 2014 at 12:59 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|