Here's a taste:
In May 2013, the housekeeping committee wrote a $900,000 check to Buying Time. A day later, an ad began appearing, featuring Cuomo looking straight into the camera. “I am proposing a clean-up Albany plan to fight corruption," he said. "It empowers our district attorneys, it increases criminal penalties. It decreases the influence of money in politics.”
Yes, that’s right. To pay for an ad about decreasing the influence of money and politics, Cuomo used an account with no contribution limits whatsoever. One of the main goals of ethics reformers has been to curtail housekeeping contributions.
Just a couple of months after that not-a-campaign ad ran, Cuomo’s own campaign committee paid Buying Time another $430,000 to run a virtually identical ad, with the same bright piano music underneath – even using the same font in the “paid for by” message.
“I am appointing a new independent commission led by top law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing," Cuomo said in the ad. "The politicians in Albany won’t like it, but I work for the people.”
But then things started to go off-track for the governor. Because the “new independent commission,” known in Albany shorthand as the “Moreland Commission,” smelled something fishy when it noticed that the housekeeping account was buying ads. So it issued a subpoena for information on – yes –Buying Time.
One of the governor’s closest aides, Larry Schwartz, immediately had it quashed, according to three knowledgeable sources. The circumstances are now under investigation by federal prosecutors. Neither Schwartz nor Buying Time would comment for this story.
Bernstein recounts Cuomo's shenanigans with the Committee To Save New York, a shadowy PAC that surfaced to promote his agenda, spending millions on pro-Cuomo ads without ever revealing who the donors were (though news accounts later found gambling interests gave a couple of million in return for expanded legalized gambling in the state.)
She also notes how Cuomo's using hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for pro-Cuomo ads as part of an ad blitz paid for by the Economic Development Corporation.
The ads are ostensibly about how New York is "open for business," but of course the message is, "Cuomo is great!"
Bernstein concludes that all of Cuomo's campaign finance shenanigans, while certainly hypocritical and ethically challenged, may not be illegal:
Last spring, after the Moreland Commission was shut down, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, seized its papers and vowed to continue its investigations. But speaking in Manhattan last week, he was rueful. “The scandal is not necessarily what’s illegal but what is legal." he told an audience. "And we have limited powers and we can only go after things that are illegal.”
So far, there’s no evidence Cuomo has done anything illegal. But the evidence does show that he stretched New York’s campaign finance limits so far they’ve become meaningless. And he did it to tell people he is cleaning up Albany.
Bharara has been very quiet about Cuomo since the summer.
That doesn't mean he's not working on something spectacular to be revealed after the election.
Alas, the statements Bharara made last week concern me that he's warning us that Cuomo the Campaign Finance Crook will get away with his criminality.