Last year, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, assembled an independent ethics panel to expose the pernicious, deep-rooted culture of corruption in Albany. In its own way, it worked: Today’s New York Times has a big feature recounting how Cuomo sought to steer—and in some cases quash—the panel’s investigations when they got too close to his own turf.
The Times story, following up on Cuomo’s sudden dissolution of the ethics panel in April, reveals that the governor's office is under federal investigation for ... political corruption. Mission accomplished!
One example of Cuomo’s long-suspected meddling now under scrutiny: Last year, a senior Cuomo aide quickly intervened when the governor’s office learned that the panel’s appointed members, in the course of investigating suspected campaign-finance violations, had subpoenaed a media-buying firm that coordinated several television ads for Cuomo in 2010:
Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission's three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse. “ This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive: “Pull it back.” The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn.
So far, Cuomo doesn’t seem to think there’s any problem with his or his aides’ behavior—after all, it was his own panel. “You suggest the Commissioners and staff wanted to be independent,” his office wrote in an extraordinary letter to the Times. “Well they couldn’t be because they really weren’t.”
Photo credit: Associated Press