By SUSANNE CRAIG, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and THOMAS KAPLAN
JULY 23, 2014
With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.
The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.
Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.
“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:
“Pull it back.”
The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.
“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.
The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.
The demise of the Moreland Commission was nothing like its birth.
To announce its creation, Mr. Cuomo held a news conference at the Capitol, and then barnstormed the state, making appearances near Binghamton, outside Buffalo and on Long Island.
His comments on the shutdown lasted 63 seconds.
It was March 29, less than 72 hours before the state budget deadline. Mr. Cuomo announced a budget deal with lawmakers that included some modest improvements in state ethics laws — strengthening bribery and corruption statutes and enhancing election-law enforcement.
Only when a reporter asked did Mr. Cuomo address the fate of the Moreland Commission and its more ambitious mission. The governor said he had achieved his goal of a deal on legislation, so the panel would be shut down.
(EXCERPT—Much more at the link.)