New York's latest anti-corruption commission created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo two months ago to root out wrongdoing and promote transparency has no public budget and none of its spending is subject to taxpayer review.
But state records and interviews by The Associated Press show taxpayer costs associated with the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption are already piling up, including $270,000 allocated for its operation so far, the six-figure salaries of at least five staffers and an estimated $150,000 spent by the Legislature to hire three top law firms to confront the panel's authority.
"The public has every right to know how the commission's money is spent," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "It really is up to the governor because the only way the commission can build public support for its ultimate recommendations is by not being the focus of controversy."
Commission spokeswoman Michelle Duffy said the commission will continue to operate to "root out public corruption and make recommendations for systemic change." She wouldn't comment on the $270,000 allocation or say whether there would be additional spending.
She noted that commission staff was hired on pre-existing, vacant positions in the executive branch under Cuomo or is on loan from the attorney general's office and relevant state agencies.
The salaries include Executive Director Regina Calcaterra, who is paid $175,000, and Chief of Investigations Elizabeth Danya Perry, who is paid $140,000, according to payroll data filed with the state.
Horner said paying commission members through executive branch agencies also raises questions about the officials' independence, since the commission is also supposed to investigate the executive branch. Senate Republicans are calling for a "full accounting" of the commission's spending.
Hiding their own expenditures even as they try and force legislators to be transparent with theirs - strike one.
Paying commission members through executive branch agencies but declaring them "independent" from the executive branch and governor - strike two.
Commission Executive Director Regina Calcaterra - tasked in part to look into election and campaign finance violations - has been sued 17 times in her own career for election and campaign finance violations.
Governor Cuomo actually put five people in total on the anti-corruption Moreland Comission who have broken election and campaign finance laws.
So far, Cuomo's lack of transparency and ethics hasn't hurt him (at least not since the Carl McCall debacle), but this kind of thing will come back to bite him if he runs for president.
There is so much this guy hides and doesn't want people to know - from his donor list to his Moreland Commission budgeting.
But that stuff will come out if he goes bigger than Albany.
I'm hoping he does run for president.
I think he could use some of the scrutiny that career move would bring him.