The Parade of the Browbeaten. Various NYS Democrats issue Press Releases Hailing Moreland Commission and Himself.
— Michael Powell (@powellnyt) July 28, 2014
And indeed, that's what we got today from former Moreland Commission members as well - a coordinated PR effort, starting with a long statement released by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick:
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick released a lengthy statement on Monday insisting the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption made decisions independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, though he confirmed a top aide to the governor sought input on the panel.
In the same four-page statement released on his office’s letterhead, Fitzpatrick said the commission “was not an independent prosecutorial agency” that couldn’t make arrests or convene grand juries.
The statement from Fitzpatrick today comes as Cuomo is due to appear in Buffalo this morning to make an unrelated economic-development announcement.
Then Cuomo made his long-awaited statements about Moreland this morning that - lo and behold - referenced Fitzpatrick's :
Throughout the back-and-forth with Buffalo and limited Albany media, Cuomo stuck to his guns and didn’t waver from his stance that the commission was a success and that there wasn’t interference from his office; rather, conversations and dialogue were just that.
“The Moreland Commission was a phenomenal success,” Cuomo said. “It generated all sorts of interest in the behavior of the Legislature. It brought all sorts of cases that have actually come to fruition. And it was, I believe the stimulus to get the ethics reform passed that we got passed. And the ethics reform bill is great.”
The governor said the panel accomplished what it was set out to do: help devise new stronger ethics laws.
Cuomo said the commission took guidance from many people, held hearings and spoke to the Senate, Assembly and Executive Chamber.
“No one ever said they shouldn’t be talking to people or get advice or consultation from people. They should be independent,” he said. “And the co-chair today says, ‘I was 100 percent independent. I made the decisions. Did I talk to people? Or course I talked to people. It would be unintelligent not to talk to people. But I made all the decisions.’”
Earlier Monday morning, commission Co-Chair William Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney, sent out a three-page statement defending the commission, his role in the commission and the governor’s handling of the commission.
Cuomo said the best example of independence was Fitzpatrick deciding to send a subpoena the second floor did not want the commission to send. The New York Times detailed to a subpoena sent to an media-buying firm that initially was withdrawn at the behest of the governor’s office but later went out anyway.
But the Parade of the Browbeaten backing Cuomo up wasn't done yet:
Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen disputed reports that he threatened to resign over frustration with the governor’s office involvement with the now-defunct Moreland Commission.
Mollen said he knew that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office would have input in the panel’s direction, but he backed up statements today by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick that the commission was ultimately independent.
“I never had any quarrel or misunderstanding that the governor and his people would provide advice, support and input on what we were doing,” Mollen said in an interview today with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “But I also always believed that we had absolute independence to go wherever the commission wanted and the governor could not stop us if we choose to go somewhere.”
Mollen was mentioned in the New York Times investigation Wednesday that he was among district attorneys that threatened to resign over the intervention of Cuomo’s office in seeking to direct who was issued subpoenas by the panel.
“I always had the opportunity to be heard with the commissioners and chairpersons,” Mollen said. “I always had the opportunity to express my viewpoint. Sometimes it was accepted, sometimes it was not. But I never came to a point where I said, ‘Look it, we’re going to do this or else I’m going to resign or we should resign.’”
The Parade of the Browbeaten continued later in Rockland County:
Last week, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe declined comment on the role Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office played in the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption’s now-defunct investigation, citing an ongoing probe by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the commission’s abrupt shutdown.
On Monday, Zugibe apparently changed his mind.
Hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly addressed claims in a lengthy New York Times investigation published last week, Zugibe issued a three-paragraph statement denying he ever threatened to resign from the Moreland Commission. The Times reported Zugibe, a Democrat who was one of the panel’s 25 members, had discussed leaving the Moreland Commission amid frustrations caused by Cuomo’s office’s interference with its work.
“At no time during my tenure with the Commission did I ever threaten to resign from the Moreland Commission,” Zugibe said in the statement. “This blue ribbon group under the guidance of the co-chairs did incredible work, recommending substantive policy changes and pursuing investigations that would strengthen ethical standards and provide comprehensive oversight. I am proud of the work we accomplished through this landmark effort to practice and promote the highest standards of ethical behavior in New York State government.”
Zugibe’s statement mirrors comments Monday from Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen, who also said he never threatened to quit the Moreland Commission. (The Times’ story doesn’t say the commissioners “threatened” to quit the Moreland Commission, but rather “discussed” it.)
The statement strikes a different tone than comments Zugibe gave to Gannett’s Albany Bureau earlier this year.
In May, Zugibe was critical of the package of laws Cuomo agreed to in exchange for disbanding the commission a month prior. Those laws included tougher bribery penalties and a more-independent office to investigate election-law violations, but didn’t include several recommendations of the Moreland Commission—including the closing of a loophole allowing individuals and companies to flout campaign-contribution limits by opening multiple limited liability companies.
“I cannot fathom when the governor sent over the recommended legislation, why would they negotiate out the LLC loophole or the limitations on the housekeeping accounts?” Zugibe said in May. “Did their constituents want that? Of course not. It was self-preservation.”
And then the parade finished up in Erie County:
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita in a statement on Monday said no one, to his knowledge, threatened to quit the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption over concerns of gubernatorial involvement.
Sedita, in his statement, said the commission wouldn’t stand for any interference from the governor’s office and resignation was discussed as possibility.
But after the governor’s office agreed to not interfere with the work of the panel, the resignation talk stopped.
“In the summer of 2013, rumors began to circulate that members of the Governor’s Office sought to veto the issuance of subpoenas for those with political ties to him,” Sedita said. “Although we recognized our statutory duty to regularly report to the Governor and to the Attorney General, we would not stand for any interference, and discussed a number of options, including resignation. The Governor’s Office, through our commission chairs, agreed not to interfere with our work. No one, to my knowledge, threatened to resign.”
Why was Cuomo MIA for five days after the NY Times published their Moreland story?
He was putting together the Parade of the Browbeaten, that's why.
You have to wonder just what he's got on these people that they're tying themselves into pretzels to back him up.
Whatever it is, it must be really good - or bad, depending upon your perspective.
Unless of course this was all coincidence and these men decided to make these statements today, on the very same day Cuomo was surfacing to defend himself, because some strange alignment in the universe we don't yet understand compelled them to do so:
I'm sure it's coincidence multiple Moreland members decided to put out similar statements today, 5 days after NYT published its report.
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) July 28, 2014
Yeah, that must be it.
In any case, who doesn't love a parade?