Cuomo Creates Panel to Investigate Legislature

ALBANY (AP/Hamodia) -

Gov. Cuomo says he is creating a powerful investigative committee under New York’s anti-corruption Moreland Act after abandoning a legislative solution that would have included public funding of campaigns. The Democrat says negotiations to create rigorous public integrity laws failed, so he’s creating the investigative panel to look into the politicians instead. He says Wednesday he refused to “significantly compromise” his reform proposal.

The committee will have subpoena power and go after the influence of campaign contributions on pols. Similar panels ordered by governors over decades under the state’s powerful Moreland Act have led to corruption probes and arrests.

“I don’t believe in the concept of self-policing,” Cuomo told reporters. He said the issue was forced by the latest spate of corruption cases involving lawmakers this spring.

“I want to restore the level of trust,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to take a significant, clean break.”

Dozens of corruption cases in Albany over the last decade have been handled by federal prosecutors, not the numerous ethics enforcers in the executive and legislative branches.

“With continued inaction against corruption, the Legislature is enabling a few bad apples to grow into a bushel,” said Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union good-government group. “This inaction is forcing the governor’s hand to act by forming a welcomed Moreland Commission.”

Dadey blamed the Legislature for refusing to agree to Cuomo’s proposal, saying the Senate and Assembly failure “to enact any new measures to fight this crime wave of public corruption is a willful disregard of public interest.”

The Independent Democratic Conference that shares majority control of the Senate with Republicans fully supports Cuomo’s proposal.

Pending a last-minute agreement with lawmakers on legislation, Cuomo’s decision with just days left in the 2013 legislative session also ends for now the years-long effort for public financing of campaigns. The bill to use $40 million to as much as $200 million a year to fund a voluntary system of matching campaign contributions 6-to-1 was wrapped into the “Clean up Albany” agenda.

Conservative groups opposing public financing call it a waste of taxpayer money and has not proved successful in New York City, where it’s been in effect for years.