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N.Y. Gov. Cuomo’s office interfered with, pressured corruption commission: report

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A commission established in July 2013 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to try to root out corruption in state politics was reportedly beset by persistent interference from Mr. Cuomo's own office, which successfully pressured the commission into withdrawing a subpoena after it was discovered the governor was a major client of the firm in question.

The subpoena was reportedly issued soon after Mr. Cuomo himself suggested the commission subpoena law firms associated with lawmakers rather than the lawmakers themselves in order to get around possible constitutional objections, according to an extensive piece in the New York Times.

Investigators wanted records on Buying Time, a media buying firm that had been paid more than $4 million by a housekeeping account for the state Democratic party in 2013, to see what ads had been placed and if any campaign finance laws were breached.

But Mr. Cuomo was a client as well, spending $20 million on ads since 2002.

Cuomo aide Lawrence S. Schwartz ordered one of the commission's co-chairs to pull the subpoena back, and he did.

"Did Larry 'interfere' or did he give good advice?" said the co-chair, William J. Fitzpatrick. "I feel the latter."

The withdrawn subpoena was one example in the detailed report of how Mr. Cuomo's office and allies repeatedly involved themselves in what was supposed to be an independent commission, to the consternation of some of the participants.

In one meeting, according to the account, Mr. Schwartz explicitly stated the commission was created to investigate the legislature and was not intended to scrutinize the governor — a sentiment seemingly at odds with the executive order establishing the commission and Mr. Cuomo's own past statements that the panel had free rein to investigate anywhere in government.

The governor shut it down about halfway through what was intended to be a year-and-a-half-long life span.

In a statement, the governor's office defended the handling of the commission, saying he couldn't be accused of interfering with it because he created it and it reported to him.

"It's my commission," the governor said in late April. "I can't 'interfere' with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me."

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