Ethics reform still lacking in Albany
All Gov. Andrew Cuomo is missing is a flight suit and an aircraft carrier.
The governor may be declaring victory over the scandals that have made our government a national laughingstock. But in reality, the only winner is business-as-usual.
Earlier this month, the governor decided to disband his nine-month-old Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, known as the Moreland Commission.
The governor's decision is premature and disturbing, especially given the weakness of new state legislation being touted to curb corruption and dilute the influence of outside money on state government.
On Thursday, the governor deflected criticism for his decision, saying the dissolution was a matter of planned obsolescence. But Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, was so incensed at the decision that he stepped in and had his own office take on the Moreland Commission's pending investigations. Even the governor's decision to disband the commission is raising eyebrows with the federal prosecutor, who said he is considering looking into whether the governor's office had inappropriately tried to influence the scope of the commission's investigations.
The Moreland Commission wasn't the end-all to corruption in New York. It has been criticized as a paper tiger, for being too political, overly selective in its enforcement, influenced by the governor's office, targeting only legislators, and being secretive.
But it did open the door on influence peddling, issuing over 200 subpoenas and reviewing millions of documents as part of its investigations. It also was effective in pointing out where weak existing laws allowed for corruption.
Those problems are not solved by the new ethics laws, which fail to reduce the influence of political donations, or by a pilot program for public campaign financing that never got off the ground.
The governor originally sought to strong-arm legislators into ending corruption on their own. When they didn't police themselves, he put in this commission to do it for them.
Now the state has neither effective ethics reform legislation nor an anti-corruption commission to watch over it.
Not even close.