The commission that had been examining public corruption in New York state government before it was shut down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hired a criminal defense attorney as it faces a probe by federal prosecutors, according to people familiar with the matter.Michael Koenig, a former federal prosecutor, is expected to represent the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in its dealings with the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the people said. He would function primarily as a replacement for the commission's inside counsel, advising its commissioners as questions arise about their work, the people said.Mr. Koenig is a partner at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, specializing in government investigations."With the wind-down of the commission and departure of staff, outside counsel will ensure we fulfill our ongoing responsibilities arising from the referrals we've made to various law-enforcement authorities," a commission spokeswoman said.Mr. Cuomo created the Moreland Commission last summer after the state Legislature didn't pass a package of ethics legislation sought by the Democratic governor. The commission turned up evidence of criminal wrongdoing by 10 to 12 lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal has reported, including about a half-dozen who appeared to violate campaign-finance laws.Mr. Cuomo disbanded the commission in March as part of a deal with lawmakers to create new anti-corruption laws. Mr. Bharara then took over its investigations and sharply criticized the governor for dissolving the investigative body while it had ongoing work.Mr. Cuomo has said his decision to disband the Moreland Commission was proper, noting that he had always said he would end the investigation if lawmakers agreed to an ethics overhaul.In recent weeks, federal prosecutors from Mr. Bharara's office also sent a subpoena to former Moreland counsel Kelly Donovan, seeking records from members of the commission, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Koenig's hiring was prompted in part by the fact that following the shuttering of the commission, Ms. Donovan, who is executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice, withdrew as the Moreland's chief counsel, these people said.A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.
This is good news if you're looking for signs that Preet Bharara wants to get the bottom of just what happened with the Moreland Commission.
Of course the best sign would be Governor Andrew M. Cuomo retaining a criminal defense attorney for the case, but we're not there yet.