Governor Cuomo May Have Corrupted His Own Anti-Corruption Commission
"It became purely a vehicle for the governor to get legislation. Another notch for his re-election campaign. That was it,” Barbara Bartoletti, a special adviser to the commission, told The New York Times.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office repeatedly interfered with the work of a commission investigating corruption in New York politics whenever the investigation got too close to groups connected to the governor, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
The Moreland Commission repeatedly pulled back subpoenas to companies that bought air time for the governor or donated to his campaigns, at the behest of the governor's office and a board member — the commission's executive director Regina M. Calcaterra — who worked closely with the governor's secretary, according to the paper. The governor abruptly disbanded the 18-month investigation in March, 10 months early.
Several members of the commission said they felt limited by the governor's office and Calcaterra, who at one point demanded to see all subpoena requests before they were sent out. “We were created with all this fanfare and the governor was going to clean up Albany,” Barbara Bartoletti, a special adviser to the commission, told The New York Times. “And it became purely a vehicle for the governor to get legislation. Another notch for his re-election campaign. That was it.”
In public Cuomo said the commission had the freedom to investigate what they wanted (In August 2013 he said "Anything they want to look at, they can look at — me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman.”) but in a 13-page response to The Times, the governor's office said the commission was never independent, because he created it.
In December the commission released a preliminary report stating that it was investigating pay-to-play schemes, lawmakers using campaign funds to support girlfriends, and some actions that were "perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong." The investigation ended before charges could be filed, and instead the state legislature passed limp reforms that barely touched the surface of the state's corruption.
Both voters and officials have been skeptical, at best, of the way the Moreland Commission was handled and shut down. An April poll found that 61 percent of voters disapproved of the commission being shut down, while government watchdog groups and lawmakers were "disheartened," as Manhattan Democrat Sen. Brad Hoylman put it, according to The Times. Manhattan U.S. Attorney General Preet Bahara's office is currently investigating the commission.
Cuomo's political opponents were also quick to jump on the report. Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor challenging Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor, said Cuomo should resign, according to Capital New York. “The governor corrupted his own anti-corruption commission. It shows the arrogance of power here," Republican State Chairman Ed Cox said.