US: NY Governor Allegedly Interfered In The Anti-Corruption Commission He Founded

The New York governor’s office tampered with an anti-corruption commission that his office set up to root out corruption in state politics, according to a New York Times investigation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office created the anti-graft commission after the state capital in Albany was hit by numerous scandals involving lawmakers, reports Reuters. The commission was able to subpoena state officials, lawmakers and agency records.

Andrew_Cuomo_by_Pat_Arnow
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo: Pat Arnow)

Cuomo had promised that the Moreland Commission, established in July 2013 to investigate violations of campaign finance laws and other corrupt practices, would remain independent. He also said the commission could investigate anyone, including him, reports NY1.

Cuomo initially said the commission would operate for 18 months but disbanded it in March, nine months early. The US Attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara criticized that decision and said it was prematurely disbanded.

The New York Times says that the commission was compromised from the start because the governor and his aides worked to prevent it from investigating groups close to him.

One example involves a media-buying firm called Buying Time. Investigators subpoenaed the firm to investigate alleged violations of campaign-finance laws, the paper reported.

At the time, investigators were not aware that Cuomo had bought airtime through Buying Time for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. When news of the subpoena reached the governor’s office, senior aide Lawrence S. Schwartz contacted one of the commission’s co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, and ordered the subpoena retracted.

Cuomo’s office sent a response to the Times refuting the allegations, and said that the commission was never truly independent from the governor’s office because it had been  created by the governor.

Cuomo, who is up for re-election this fall, is now under investigation by federal prosecutors for thwarting commission activities, according to salon.com.