Here's how State of Politics wrote that story up:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District dropped another shoe, and this time it landed directly on the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s now-defunct panel charged with investigating wrongdoing in state government.
As the Times reported this morning, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office has formally subpoenaed commission members for communications ranging from emails and text messages along with other documents to get a better understanding of how the panel functioned.
Notably, the federal government also asked commission members to turn over their state-issued Blackberry devices, which were used to communicate via the governor’s preferred method, PIN-to-PIN messaging.
The subpoenas suggest that federal prosecutors are indeed looking into reports that Cuomo’s office interfered with the commission’s own subpoena power when it came to the direction of its investigation.
Cuomo himself, of course, has noted it was his commission in the first place, and that any sort of involvement would be naturally, since the panel was a creature of the executive branch.
But the Moreland Commission was empowered by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who bestowed the power of deputy attorneys general on commission members, potentially muddying the waters of were subpoena power began and ended.
Yesterday we noted on the blog the commission’s outside contractors — one with K2 Intelligence and other another Cyber Search Corp. — provided a window into its work through its contracts as received through a Freedom of Information Law request.
The contract with K2 Intelligence showed the company was using software frequently used by federal criminal investigators to help build, in part, “dossiers on persons of interest.”
In a comment here at Perdido Street School, Patrick Sullivan wondered this:
I wonder if the true story behind the massive charter school give-away in the budget bill gets revealed. It doesn't make sense that such sweeping concessions were made by the Assembly Democrats without even a single one of them voting no.
I have wondered the same thing.
It was just amazing that the Assembly Dems gave on the charter concessions without any fight at all.
Michael Fiorillo in another comment notes that clearly neither the AFT nor the UFT wanted to fight the charter concessions and Silver said as much to his constituents when he said he had no backing to oppose the charter provisions:
Cuomo got the charter legislation by "taking care of" Mulgrew and Weingarten - whatever that exactly means, and to be revealed by events over time - who by all rights should have been raising hell about it. That the UFT was silent during all of that is the tell, combined with the fact that Silver, in a message to people in his district, complained about the giveaways but said he had no support to back up his opposition.
It's not unrealistic in the least to think the UFT and AFT leadership were given something in return for not fighting the charter concessions.
It would be interesting to know just what that something was.
As an ancillary part to the story, let me remind you of the NY Post story from a few months back that reported the UFT had paid to have their headquarters at 52 Broadway swept of bugs:
Something’s bugging teachers-union boss Michael Mulgrew — or, at least, he thinks so.
The United Federation of Teachers president blew a huge wad of union cash to play out a paranoid James Bond fantasy when he paid $17,849 for a security team to sweep his headquarters for bugs, documents show.
A crew from Protective Countermeasures & Consulting Inc. was hired to sweep for listening devices at the UFT’s offices at 52 Broadway, a review of union spending reports reveals.
The payments were made in January and March of last year, just as the union leadership grappled with key strategic decisions such as labor-contract negotiations and who to support as the next mayor.
The union would not say if any surveillance devices were found.
Some union members thought it was unlikely anyone would bug the union — and that it was ridiculous that Mulgrew is using Cold War tactics to play a game of “Tinker, Teacher, Soldier, Spy” in the UFT headquarters.
“I have no idea why they’re doing it. It’s very odd,” said James Eterno, a dissident UFT member who ran against Mulgrew for president in 2010. “I didn’t know we were like the CIA and have to keep secrets. I didn’t think we were that important. It’s not like someone is going to get killed if something leaks out.”
The UFT told the Post the money spent on sweeping for bugs was nothing more than "routine security services," but as is noted in the Post story, it seemed odd that the leadership was worried somebody was bugging them.
Odd in a CIA kind of way, at least.
Not so odd if some members of the leadership were engaging in activities that they wanted to keep under wraps from anybody who might be looking into them.
Put all these little tidbits together - the Moreland Commission investigations that Cuomo allegedly put the kibbosh on, including subpoenas aimed at his own donors, the weird capitulation of the UFT/AFT and the Assembly Dems on the charter school provisions Cuomo wanted in the budget, the UFT sweeping their offices for surveillance at least twice last year and you find a whole list of things that just make you go "Hmm...."
You know, maybe there's nothing here, maybe it all can be explained away by simple politics - the unions gave on charters because they didn't want to fight Cuomo, the Assembly Dems gave on charters because they didn't have the backing of the unions, so why bother fighting Cuomo on the issue?
Maybe Cuomo gave nothing up to get the charter provisions in the budget, maybe he got nothing in return from the charter school donor people, and maybe the UFT leadership just had 52 Broadway swept for bugs because they were concerned about hygiene.
Maybe all of these things are just coincidences and they're not really related at all.
Or maybe the story is a lot more interesting than all that, and while the entities and people involved have so far kept that story under wraps, Preet Bharara's nosing around in the Moreland Commission wreckage with subpoenas threatens to unwrap it for all to see.