With Moreland Put To Bed, Can Albany Move On?
A sigh of relief was likely breathed on the second floor of the state Capitol on Monday when U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office announced no charges would be filed following an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and its handling of the Moreland Commission.
Bharara’s office determined there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude a federal crime had been broken after allegations of administration meddling in the panel, as well as the “premature” shutdown of the commission itself following an agreement on ethics legislation.
Investigations generated by the commission’s initial inquiry, however, remain ongoing.
Still, state lawmakers were glad the cloud of the investigation into Moreland — which was initially launched to investigate their colleagues and their outside activities — appears to have dissipated over the Capitol.
“I think it always helps when people are absolved of any questions around activities,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “So, I think that helps. I think it also doesn’t let us off the hook in terms of doing all we can to make sure that we are transparent, we are taking care of the public business first and foremost and really emphasizing that we are public servants and that’s what we are here to do.”
In many ways, the announcement by Bharara’s office is an inverse of the earthquake that shook Albany around this time last year, when federal law enforcement moved to arrest Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, a day after Cuomo delivered his State of the State address.
Now, Bharara is clearing Cuomo of Moreland-related misdeeds, two days before the governor officially sets his 2016 agenda.
“We know we have a job to do,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “We really want to hear the governor’s message. We’re ready to do the peoples’ work. I take the U.S. attorney at his word and we’re ready to move on and do the peoples’ work.”
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein also signaled he was eager to move forward after the Moreland Commission investigation was put to rest.
“At the end of the day, it was very clear the Moreland Commission wanted campaign finance reform, they wanted a more robust ethics proposal,” he said. “We got some of that done, we failed on campaign finance reform. But that’s something that still have to move forward on. So, I’m just glad it’s kind of behind us. I think we have to move forward and get things done.”
Still, Republicans weren’t so sanguine about the development.
Cuomo’s Republican opponent of 2014, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, seized on the “insufficient evidence” description employed by Bharara, a turn of phrase that could supplant his “stay tuned” catchphrase in Albany parlance.
“In shutting the Moreland Commission last year, just as it was discovering criminal evidence against his ‘two amigos’ in Albany, Andrew Cuomo proved that he is no reformer,” Astorino said. “The fact that insufficient evidence of federal crimes was available to indict Mr. Cuomo of obstruction of justice is not the same as finding him innocent.”
New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox also hopes “stay tuned” still applies, especially when it comes to the reported investigation into the state’s economic development programs in western New York.
“The US Attorney did state he is continuing what were active Moreland Commission investigations,” Cox said. “In addition, the statement does not apply to the Governor’s Buffalo Billion and sole-sourced contracting to his wealthy donors.”
Cuomo’s office released a statement from administration counsel Elkan Abramowitz.
The governor himself was not asked about the development in a radio interview on Monday conducted by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on January 12, 2016 at 6:24 am, and is filed under Albany. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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