Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 6, 2013

GLYNN: Critics say Cuomo tries to sway panel

Niagara Gazette — Corruption in government appears to be prevalent from the tip of Long Island to small towns in Western New York. 

It’s everywhere. Faced with the reality that lawmakers failed to pass anti-corruption measures in response to scandals involving the state Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed the Moreland Commission in July.

Before it began its hearings, Cuomo promised the commission could function as an independent panel, acting without any direction or control from the governor’s office. In fact, it was said then the commission would be allowed to delve into the state’s broken campaign financing system. Even the governor appeared to raise no objections if they looked at his list of campaign donors. (At last count, his war chest was approaching the $25 million mark.)  It’s not likely the probe will reach that stage.

If the commissioners were to be sufficiently empowered to fulfill their task, they needed the right to issue subpoenas for people to testify. Now it seems that Gov. Cuomo is attempting to seize control of the process, according to Ken Lovett, Albany Bureau chief for the New York Daily News. 

The tipoff about interfering in the process was evident, Lovett says, when the commission subpoenaed five developers who received lucrative tax breaks through a housing bill. Two of those developers were hefty donors to Cuomo. Their contributions, by the way, came about the same time as the governor signed the housing bill. At any rate, the subpoena seeking lobbying and campaign donation information from the Real Estate Board of New York (it has close ties to the governor) was drafted by the commission and approved by the co-chairmen. But it never was  sent.

On another matter, the commission struck out after the attorneys for the legislative majorities refused the panel’s request for more information on state lawmakers’ outside income. Among other objections, the attorneys argued that the commission can only investigate departments, agencies and commissions of the executive branch, not the Legislature itself. 

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