New York: Capital Of Corruption
By Gene Berardelli, Esq.
To say that New York politicians are ethically challenged is not exactly going out on any limb. I mean, we are the proud home of the likes of Anthony Weiner. Pols brazenly take money, and even try to rig mayoral nominations. We even had a former politician who was arrested and convicted for soliciting dirty money from an undercover agent in order to pay for his attorney fee from his last corruption charge. No, I did not make that up, his name is William Boyland. Look it up.
Past politicians have always talked big about cleaning up the Albany cesspool, but not much resulted. Even Eliot Spitzer promised to be a “F—in’ Steamroller” on ethically challenged pols, before becoming known as Client No. 9.
But still, hope springs eternal. So when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) created a Commission to Investigate Public Corruption under the state’s Moreland Act to “probe systemic corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns, and elections in New York State”, good government advocates and everyday citizens heralded the news. Maybe, just maybe, this was the turning of the wretched tide.
The Commission was to be, in the Governor’s own words, totally independent of political interference. It was empowered to issue subpoenas, examine witnesses under oath, and tasked with reviewing the adequacy of existing state laws, regulations, and procedures involving unethical and unlawful misconduct by public officials and the electoral process and campaign finance laws. The ultimate end goal was to make recommendations to toughen and improve existing laws and procedures once the Commission wrapped up its 18-month span. Laudable, right?
But like the lizard says in those insurance commercials, “Fughedaboudit, this is New Yawk!”
Recently, the New York Times – yes, THAT New York Times – wrote a sweeping expose charging that Cuomo’s office, at his direction, had blatantly interfered with the Commission’s work, even quashing subpoenas and hamstringing investigators who had the temerity to focus on groups with ties to Cuomo himself and his campaigns, or on issues that – Heaven forfend – may reflect poorly on the second-generation Governor.
Anecdotal tales of rampant interference from Cuomo’s staff, and intimations from the Governor himself that the Commission abusees its authority and coerces certain legislative leaders into bending to his agenda, read like a grainy film noir caricature of old school power and corruption coming to a theater near you. In the end, the Commission’s work was cut short, and Cuomo trumpeted a truncated legislative package targeted at rivals rather than reform.
The Times story resulted in a 13-page “methinks he doth protest too much”-styled response from the Governor, which could have been summed up in one succinct turn of phrase – that it’s my Commission and I’ll investigate what I want to. The “totally independent” Commission, it would seem, was not really independent at all.
Or maybe it did more than that. After all, a real independent investigation, led by U.S. Attorney, and slayer of countless corrupt politicians, Preet Bharara, may be picking up some steam. Now he who created a corruption commission to investigate foul play may be under investigation for possible foul play he committed while interfering with the course of investigating corruption. And even Jon Stewart, the face of progressive pop culture, has even taken notice and called Cuomo on the comic carpet.
And to tie the hypocrisy in a big red bow, in the face of all this, the NY Democrat party just started a TV ad campaign portraying Republican gubernatorial challenger, Rob Astorino, as corrupt.
Welcome to New York, folks.
Gene Berardelli, Esq. is an attorney at Novo Law Firm, a boutique personal injury law firm in downtown Manhattan who, through his time as Law Chairman of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, NY, has become a recognized expert in NY Election Law. Gene is also the founder and co-host of Brooklyn GOP Radio, an internet based radio show broadcasting Fridays at 7 PM on WAAR that highlights local, citywide, statewide and national politics – with a little Brooklyn swagger thrown in.