Political foes of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Wednesday for a prompt criminal investigation of his administration following a report that his office thwarted attempts by his own special corruption commission to investigate groups with ties to him.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that a top Cuomo aide pressured commissioners to stop subpoenas to a media-buying firm Cuomo used and to the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members financially supported the governor’s campaign. The commission was also urged to steer clear of the Committee to Save New York, a lobbying group that amassed $17 million from unidentified individuals who supported the governor early in his term with media ads.
Cuomo’s office said that it would be “a pure conflict of interest” for a commission appointed by the governor to investigate the governor.
The governor appointed the investigative commission under New York’s anti-corruption Moreland Act a year ago, in part to examine “compliance with and the effectiveness of campaign finance laws.” The commissioners, many of them county district attorneys, used subpoena powers from the attorney general to gather information from legislators, and law firms that employ them.
Cuomo effectively shut it down in April, after the Legislature passed anti-corruption laws. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara then took the files, saying he would aggressively complete its “important and unfinished” work.
“Interfering with the Moreland Commission’s investigations, that’s obstruction of justice, that’s a criminal act,” state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said. He acknowledged Cuomo’s direct authority over the commission, but said that didn’t extend to the provision under which Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave them subpoena power.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said it was both obstruction and “calculated public dishonesty” by Cuomo.