In addition, Cuomo has ensured that the anti-corruption commission will not probe his own campaign fundraising or the largesse he or his PAC, the Committee to Save New York, have received from corporate donors in return for tax breaks and other gifts.
Gov. Cuomo has moved to grab greater control of the anti-corruption commission he vowed would be independent when he created it in July, the Daily News has learned.Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation complain that Cuomo and his top aides, unhappy with the direction of the panel, have played a much more heavy-handed role in the commission’s actions in recent weeks, even at times overruling the wishes of the body’s co-chairs.The changes began after the commission subpoenaed five developers who received lucrative tax breaks last year in a housing bill, the sources said. The News subsequently reported that two of the developers had donated heavily to Cuomo around the time he signed the bill.Since then, despite the governor saying the commission can look into anything it wants, including him, Team Cuomo is said to have had final say over at least some subpoenas and other actions by the panel.One subpoena seeking lobbying and campaign donation information from the Cuomo-friendly Real Estate Board of New York had been drafted by the commission and approved by its three co-chairs but ultimately was never sent at the demand of Cuomo aides, several sources said.The commission also prepared to subpoena the state Joint Commission on Public Integrity and the Legislative Ethics Commission for information that included complaints filed against lawmakers over the years.But at the insistence of the governor’s staff, those subpoenas also never went out, the sources said.
In addition, Cuomo chief lawyer Mylan Denerstein is said by insiders to have been heavily involved in drafting a letter sent to some lawmakers seeking information on their non-government outside income and clients.That “interference”, sources said, rankled some feathers on the commission and was a topic of discussion at an Aug. 29 closed-door commission meeting. It was at that meeting “that the governor’s involvement became crystal clear,” a source said.At a separate meeting last Tuesday, days after the Legislature rejected their request, sources said several commission members wanted to immediately subpoena the income and client information from the lawmakers. But panel co-chair William Fitzpatrick told them that Cuomo wanted to delay for at least several weeks so he could attempt to negotiate an ethics reform package with legislative leaders.When some complained one shouldn’t preclude the other, Fitzpatrick, according to sources, defended Cuomo’s involvement by saying that “We work for him. This is his commission. The main reason we are here is to affect meaningful change and legislation. Secondarily, if that doesn’t work, we investigate.”By law, the panel created by Cuomo under the Moreland Act is required to report to the governor and attorney general--who deputized the commission’s 25 members--on a weekly basis. But some sources complain its gone beyond simple updates. The three co-chairs met personally in mid September with Cuomo, Denerstein, and secretary to the governor Larry Schwartz. The three also met with the Cuomo staffers and Schneiderman chief of staff Micah Lasher in a separate meeting.Cuomo and his staff are now said to be working more through Fitzpatrick, the Syracuse district attorney, rather than commission executive director Regina Calcaterra, who is said to have rubbed some commissioners the wrong way.
This is all going to blow up on Cuomo at some point.
He can't declare the Moreland Commission an independent entity, then essentially take over the commission and use it as a weapon against the legislature while making sure it doesn't look into his own fundraising shenaganins without it coming back to bite him.
For a while now, Cuomo has been able to use his approval ratings and personal popularity as leverage against the legislature in pushing his agenda.
With his approval now under water, he no longer has that luxury.
Legislative members are already beginning to push back against his dictatorial rule and this will be made much worse by his using the Moreland Commission against members but making sure the executive branch isn't targeted in the anti-corruption probe.
As I wrote earlier today, this is all good news for New Yorkers who are sick of Andy Cuomo and his corporatist agenda.
He is less likely to get that agenda through the legislature this year with all the animosity up there in Albany.