Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday defended his corruption commission’s focus on the legislature rather than the executive branch, saying the executive branch isn’t the problem and doesn’t warrant an investigation.
But state Republican Chairman Ed Cox quickly noted that since 2008, Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in scandal and Democratic Gov. David Paterson paid a hefty fine for an ethics violation involving tickets from a local sports team. In 2006, Democratic Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned in disgrace amid state and federal investigations.
“The problem has been evidenced in the legislature,” Cuomo said. “That’s where the indictments are. There has not been rampant evidence of corruption among DAs, or in the AG’s office, or in the comptroller’s office or in the governor’s office.”
Cuomo used the state’s powerful Moreland Act to create the corruption commission six months after the legislature refused to pass his ethics reform package following a slew of federal corruption cases involving legislators.
The act allows a governor to create a commission to investigate only the executive branch, a nod to the separation of powers. But Cuomo used a novel approach, directing an investigation of the Board of Elections, an agency that collects the campaign finance records of legislators.
Cuomo’s interview Wednesday came a day after a member of the Moreland corruption commission said the panel appointed by Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman never probed those Democrats or their offices.
“The commission could look at anything, legally, they know that,” Cuomo said. “Before you do an investigation you need evidence and cause. The whole point here is there has been evidence of corruption in the legislature.”
The 100-page commission report, released by Cuomo on Monday evening, focused mostly on legislative elections and political parties.
“Gov. Cuomo’s hand-picked political operative confirmed everyone’s worst fears that this so-called investigation is a purely partisan, one-party, political witch hunt,” Cox said.
“Unless the Moreland commission thoroughly examines the executive branch of our state government, the only result will be a legally questionable, one-sided report that may already have been written by the governor’s staff for the same political purposes for which he formed the Moreland Commission,” Cox said. “And it will be the corruption of a commission on corruption.”