ALBANY – To many observers, the contrast between the new Moreland Commission’s findings on public corruption and Gov. Cuomo’s actions is nothing short of breathtaking.
Monday night, Cuomo’s commission released a much-anticipated report that found the state’s “pay to play political culture” of big campaign contributions and special interest access had so badly corrupted the political system that dramatic steps, including a costly system of statewide publicly financed campaigns, were needed.
Tuesday night , Gov. Cuomo brushed aside the findings and was holding a multimillion dollar fundraising gala at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. Tickets cost up to $50,000 each, Billy Joel was the headliner and many of the city’s most influential movers and shakers – many of whom benefit from official state actions – were in attendance.
It’s a good guess that even Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father who knew about Moreland Commission probes of public corruption, wouldn’t have stood for something so cynical.
In fact, in 1988, that Gov. Cuomo, in the middle of an almost identical ethics furor sparked by the findings of his own Moreland Commission, imposed an $8,000 limit on contributions to a fundraising event – in order to lead by example.
The new Moreland Commission’s findings were predictable from the start. Money is the mother’s milk of state and national politics, no surprise there.
But while the commission claimed in its report that it was “created in response to an epidemic of public corruption that has infected the state,’’ it was, in fact, created by Cuomo in early July because he had failed to win legislative approval for a last-minute package of “reforms’’ he unveiled in late Spring.
The reason for the package? Cuomo, who two years earlier had assured the public that he had gone a long way towards ending public corruption with yet another new ethics law, had been politically stung by a string of indictments against state and local politicians brought by Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a rising political force.
When the Legislature, and especially Senate Republicans, bucked his effort to “me to’’ Bharara by approving his “reform” package that included a costly and, polls show, unpopular plan for publicly financed campaigns, he created the Moreland panel and sent it after the lawmakers.
The just-issued report, which fails to focus on Cuomo’s own role in facilitating a corrupt political climate, is plagued with internal contradictions including the portrayal of the Legislature as corruption-soaked, even while conceding there “are many honest and well-intentioned public officials in this state who serve well and admirably.’’
If that’s true, where have those officials been as the culture of corruption as portrayed by Moreland plays itself out?
Why didn’t, for instance, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo take more steps to disrupt that culture when he was in office from 2007-2010 and why, if the problem is so serious, did he wait until 2 ½ years into his term as governor to appoint the Moreland Commission?
Cuomo's CSNY PAC took $2 million from gambling interests at the same time Cuomo was expanding gambling in the state.
Cuomo and/or the Democratic Party apparatus he controls took $400,000 from real estate interests, they received $35 million in tax breaks in return.
Cuomo received cash from the hedge fund managers known as the Democrats For Education Reform, they got Cuomo to run with their education reform agenda.
Now Cuomo takes $50,000 a pop from "supporters" the day after the Moreland Commission says the “pay to play political culture” in Albany of big campaign contributions and special interest access has so badly corrupted the political system that dramatic steps, including a costly system of statewide publicly financed campaigns, are needed.
But somehow, Cuomo's own corruption commission doesn't mention anything about Cuomo or his donors.
Looks like Andrew Cuomo needs a corruption commission of his own to look into him and his donors.
I won't hold my breath waiting for one to be convened, but excuse me if I don't get all choked up when Sheriff Andy talks about how he's cleaning up the pay-to-play culture in Albany at the same time he's having his pal Billy Joel streetlight serenade his donor class.