Teachout Wants AG To Investigate Cuomo’s Moreland Involvement

Fordham Law professor and Democratic candidate for governor Zephyr Teachout wants Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to continue the Moreland Commission’s anti-corruption investigation and expand its scope to include probing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role in the panel.

Teachout sent a letter to Schneiderman asking him to continue Moreland’s work, noting the panel may not have officially ended since no executive order was issued to do so.

“This was a referral to the Attorney General’s office, not just a Moreland Commission.” Teachout said. “The Executive Order changed the nature of the investigation. Counter to what the Governor may say or want, he can’t just declare an Attorney General investigation over.”

Schneiderman granted commission members the power of deputy attorneys general, an added component to the panel that, in theory, gave them the ability to investigate the Legislature and removed separation-of-powers concerns.

But the deputizing of the commission has led some to question whether Cuomo and his office’s efforts to direct or block subpoenas may have abused that power from the attorney general’s office.

Cuomo today in Buffalo insisted the commission was independent and that his office offered “advice” to the commission that wasn’t picked up on.

“The Governor has refused to explain why the actions of his aide were in the public interest, he has not fired that aide, and he has not resigned,” Teachout said. “A continued investigation by the Attorney General is essential for restoring public trust at this point.” Teachout said. “We cannot be entirely dependent on federal prosecutors to protect New Yorkers from corruption in state government.”

 

Comptroller Candidate: Why Is Moreland Director Still On Payroll?

Republican candidate for state comptroller Bob Antonacci is pushing Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli to stop paying Regina Calcaterra, the executive director of the now-defunct Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

Calcaterra, who earns $175,000 a year, is still on the executive chamber’s payroll, though the commission ended in April following an ethics agreement in the state budget.

Antonacci said DiNapoli should stop approving checks to Calcaterra.

“Every two weeks, the Executive Director of the now-defunct Moreland Commission receives a check for nearly seven thousand dollars courtesy of state taxpayers for work she is no longer doing. The Governor should either show her the door or Mr. DiNapoli should refuse payment on those checks. It’s an insult to hardworking taxpayers that she continues to be paid,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci, the comptroller of Onondaga County, previously called on DiNapoli to launch an audit of the Moreland Commission’s spending.

DiNapoli’s office has said it won’t get in the way of any federal review of the commission’s work that may be going on.

Hochul: Moreland Concerns ‘Hard To Fathom’

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul on Monday said it was “hard to fathom” why observers would find it improper that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office sought to play a role in the work of the subpoena-empowered Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

Hochul, in Lake George earlier this morning to meet with local officials, told Time Warner Cable News that Cuomo wanted to tackle corruption in Albany when he took office in 2011 in order to turn around state government’s poor reputation.

She reiterated much of what Cuomo has said: He created the commission, and it reports back to him.

“He created a commission to start tackling these challenges because when he came to Albany, it had such a negative reputation for all these ethical violations and he felt he needed to do something about it. I admire that,” Hochul said. “The commission functioned, it reports to the governor, it was created by the governor. So any thought that involvement with the governor’s office or conversations is improper, it’s really hard to fathom where that comes from to be honest with you.”

Cuomo, in Buffalo this morning, gave a lengthy defense of the Moreland Commission’s work, insisting that while his office sought input on the panel, the commission’s members demonstrated independence by not heeding the request from secretary to the governor Larry Schwartz to claw back a subpoena.

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.”

Astorino Spot: New Yorkers ‘Burned Again’ By Cuomo

A 30-second advertisement released online this morning by GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino blasts incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo for his meddling in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

The ad is the latest sign Astorino, who is behind in both public opinion polls and fundraising, is trying to gain some traction and capitalize off of Cuomo’s troubles with the commission.

In the ad, a narrator cites The New York Times story last week that detailed the level of involvement from Cuomo’s office, including his top aide’s efforts to direct subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel.

“New York voters trusted Andrew Cuomo to clean up Albany,” the ad says. “Now he’s at the center of the biggest corruption scandal in years.”

The spot seems to go after Cuomo’s biggest perceived strength heading into his re-election — namely that he was a different kind of politician when he was elected in 2010.

Andrew Cuomo: Another phony. Another Albany politician in the cross hairs of federal prosecutors,” the ad says.

Burned again – 30 Sec from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Fitzpatrick Acknowledges Schwartz’s Role In Moreland, Insists Panel Was Independent

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick released a lengthy statement on Monday insisting the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption made decisions independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, though he confirmed a top aide to the governor sought input on the panel.

In the same four-page statement released on his office’s letterhead, Fitzpatrick said the commission “was not an independent prosecutorial agency” that couldn’t make arrests or convene grand juries.

The statement comes as Cuomo continues to face questions stemming from his office’s involvement in the commission’s work and the efforts to block subpoenas from the panel to politically sensitive areas for the governor.

Interest in the commission was sparked again last week by an extensive New York Times story that detailed the extent of the role Cuomo’s office, along with that of his top aide, Larry Schwartz, played in shaping the direction of the anti-corruption body.

Fitzpatrick, a co-chair on the commission and a Cuomo appointee, reiterated as he has in previous public statements about his work that the panel was composed of independent-minded prosecutors, law professors and judges.

“We had total investigatory decision making authority and we used it,” Fitzpatrick added.

He acknowledged, too, the role Schwartz played in attempting to have the commission not issue a subpoena to a media-buying firm that counts the governor among its clients.

As the Times revealed last week, Schwartz wrote in an email, “This is not right. Pull it back.”

But Fitzpatrick contends that while Schwartz concerns were initially considered, the subpoena was eventually issued anyway.

“I am not a rigid person,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “and I prefer to absorb as much advice as I can before making major decisions.”

Fitzpatrick called any implication that the commission was compromised because it considered Schwartz’s concerns “absurd” to anyone who knows him.

Nevertheless, Cuomo’s 13-page response to the Times story suggests the commission wasn’t as independent as Fitzpatrick claims or thought.

Cuomo’s office insisted in its response to written questions from the newspaper that the commission needed a guiding hand from Schwartz because of its lack of knowledge of state government.

At the same time, Cuomo, who had previous declared the commission could investigate him or any other statewide elected official, now says the panel’s investigation of his office would not have passed the “laugh test.”

The statement from Fitzpatrick today come as Cuomo is due to appear in Buffalo this morning to make an unrelated economic-development announcement.

The appearance by Cuomo in public is the first the governor has made since The Times story broke last week.

Republican Rob Astorino, meanwhile, will be touring upstate cities with his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, to call on Cuomo to make a public explanation of his office’s role in the commission.

For Immediate Release From Da Fitzpatrick 7-28-14 by Nick Reisman

Here and Now

Good rainy Monday morning!

As expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be at the University at Buffalo South Campus in Buffalo to make an economic development announcement at 10 a.m.

His Republican rival Rob Astorino, meanwhile, will be embarking on a multi-city tour of upstate to call on Cuomo to answer questions about his involvement in the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Astorino at 10 a.m. will be in Utica, 321 Main St., Boehlert Transportation Center.

At 10:30 a.m., Senate hopeful Adam Haber will be endorsed NARAL Pro-Choice New York at the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce, 1 Middle Neck Rd., in Great Neck.

At 11:30: The Suffolk County GOP will hold its gold invitational, Baiting Hollow Golf Club, 100 Club Drive, Baiting Hallow.

At noon, Astorino and his running mate Chris Moss will be in Syracuse at the Onondaga County GOP headquarters, 321 W. Onondaga St., Syracuse.

Also at noon, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan will hold a news conference to announce details of a city-wide food drive plan. Albany City Hall, 24 Eagle St. in Albany.

At 12:30, Reps. Grace Meng, Eliot Engel and Hakeem Jeffires will hold a news conference with Jewish leaders backing Israel’s rights of self defense, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 1st Ave. and 47th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., Comptroller Scott Stringer will speak at another rally for Israel, backed by the JCRC-NY, ag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th St. and 2nd Ave., Manhattan.

At 1:45 p.m., Astorino and Moss will appear at the Monroe County Republican headquarters, 300 State St., Rochester.

At 3:45, Astorino and Moss will appear at the Erie County Republican headquarters, 715 Main St., Suit 102, Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Downtown Independent Democrats will endorse Zephyr Teachout’s campaign for governor at 10 Bleecker St., Apt. 6-C, Manhattan.

Your headlines:

Insiders say the Moreland Commission controversy “paralyzed” Gov. Cuomo and hobbled his chances of running for president one day.

Commission members are scoffing at the idea of internal dysfunction and blame it on Cuomo, while the scandal has been a boon for Astorino’s fundraising.

Even before the Moreland Commission report popped in the Times, Cuomo’s support among voters was softening.

Legal experts say it’s highly unlikely any charges will be brought against Cuomo himself.

Gov. Cuomo is set to endorse Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein today.

More trouble for Sen. John Sampson: He’s being accused of questionable campaign finance practices in his re-election bid.

A woman on ex-Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak’s payroll was never seen at the scandal-scarred former lawmaker’s office.

A lawsuit backed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown aimed at teacher tenure will be filed today. More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Buffalo Monday to make an economic development announcement, his first public appearance since The NYT’s Moreland Commission report.

The TU editorial board writes that every broken promise from the governor has been meant to further his power.

Five companies will be located at Binghamton University under the tax-free START-UP NY program, creating 83 jobs.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is fundraising for Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul.

Republican congressional hopeful Jim Fischer says Democratic incumbent Paul Tonko has “had his chance” and compared his campaign to uphill climb facing Rob Astorino.

“Niche” issues are becoming ballot lines this fall, with both Republicans and Democrats hoping they can move votes.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer wants anti-missile defenses on planes following the downing of a Malaysian airliner.

Drivers’ license plate numbers are being photographed and stored long term by at least nine counties.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout wants a $10 billion expansion of the stock transfer tax as well as an end to corporate political contributions.

Starting today, The New York Times is beginning a six-part editorial series backing the legalization of marijuana.

Police Commissioner William Bratton expects there will be a federal probe of Eric Garner’s death.

Mayor de Blasio and family are returning from their trip to Italy and will spend their first night in Gracie Mansion.

The closing of Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in Wilton was not without a bit of drama.

General Electric Co. is leaving Fort Edward, a community it helped to be a once thriving industrial village in upstate New York.

A federal judge in Syracuse ruled Washington’s D.C.’s ban on handguns is unconstitutional.

The New York Racing Association has hired a “chief experience officer” for year’s meet.

BuzzFeed fired an editor for plagiarism.

To the delight of Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man was arrested.

Extras

NY Mag’s Chris Smith notes Gov. Cuomo could have saved himself a big headache if he’d just admitted all along the Moreland Commission was about leverage.

Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen Odell used his public office to send out a news release for a political endorsement.

State and city officials are urging the federal government to grant temporary status to migrant Central American children.

Meanwhile, a State Island lawmaker objects to bringing any of the children at the border into New York City.

Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is calling on Republican AG candidate John Cahill to return a donation from an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Rep. Paul Tonko apologized for speeding after he was caught doing so on camera.

Gov. Cuomo approved new wheelchair accessibility signs.

Democratic Senate candidate Brian Howard is taking his time setting up a campaign committee.

A travel writer for The Washington Post says there’s a “new vitality” in Buffalo.

The de Blasio administration is setting up a task force to lower fines levied to small businesses.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew says his union’s $350,000 to de Blasio’s nonprofit came without any strings attached.

Here’s a ragtag group of college kids — with anger issues, apparently — who just happen to be organically concerned with Zephyr Teachout’s residency issues.

The residency issue is one the Cuomo campaign is challenging, but Teachout says she qualifies to run.

Republican allies of Sen. Jack Martins filed a complaint against Democratic candidate Adam Haber’s campaign contributions.

Matt Doheny’s decision to drop out of the NY-21 is seen as a boost for Republicans in recapturing the seat.

Astorino Campaign Prods Cuomo Into Commenting On Moreland

The campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino spent the day — with some relish — prodding Gov. Andrew Cuomo into making a public appearance to discuss The New York Times story detailing his involvement in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

A sarcasm-laden statement from Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud expressed faux concern for the governor’s whereabouts.

“Is anyone else concerned that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has gone missing for the past three days? Has an All Points Bulletin (APB) been issued? The governor’s whereabouts have been unknown since…well…since that blockbuster, A1 New York Times story came out on Tuesday about interference with a New York anti-corruption commission,” she said. “It’s an unusual thing, a governor going missing for three days. Isn’t it? Should someone be alerted?”

Astorino himself has been pretty busy, appearing both on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes — a liberal antagonist of the governor’s — as well as Fox and Friends this morning.

Cuomo’s public schedule has him in New York City today, with nothing public planned.

There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of news releases sent out by the governor’s office since Wednesday, the day the Times’ story was published.

Cuomo today signed measure that would approve a new symbol to denote wheelchair accessibility, and he dispatched forest rangers to help fight brush fires in Oregon.

A chart released by NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney shows news releases from Cuomo’s office in the Wednesday through Friday period are at one of the highest rates of the year — at least 22 since the early afternoon.