State legislators balk at Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission: report

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants to crack down on corruption.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants to crack down on corruption.
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a special commission Tuesday to investigate corruption in Albany after months of scandal surfacing in the state’s capital.

Several members of the New York state legislature have been nabbed in a series of high-profile arrests this year, many on charges related to campaign financing.

The commission will be endowed with subpoena power to solicit records from the Board of Elections, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced he is appointing the commission’s members as Deputy Attorneys General, broadening the scope of their power to include all matters that “involve public peace, public safety and public justice.”

Not only will they be able to subpoena records, they can also subpoena and examine witnesses under oath.

“This commission will be able to conduct a top-to-bottom investigation of New York State’s government, and move us forward to repair our broken political process, strengthen our representative democracy and give New Yorkers the quality of leadership they deserve,” Schneiderman said.

The 25-person commission will comprised largely of district attorneys, including Nassau County’s Kathleen Rice and Bronx DA Robert Johnson, they will not have prosecutorial powers — but they will be able to refer their findings to law enforcement.

The committee comes after a set of Cuomo-proposed campaign finance reform and anti-corruptions bills were killed in the legislature.

Cuomo expressed his disappointment in the Legislature, which “failed to act” on “the most comprehensive and aggressive legislative package Albany has seen in decades to address the corrosive influence of money in elections, strengthen prosecutors’ ability to fight corruption, increase penalties against those who violate the public trust, and give voters more access to the ballot box.” 

“From the beginning, I said I would not accept a watered-down approach to cleaning up Albany and that the Legislature must either pass this legislative package or I would empanel an investigative commission tasked with accomplishing these same goals to achieve reform,” the governor said.

The Republican leader of the State Senate, Dean Skelos, reportedly balked at news of the commission, insisting a “witch hunt” against legislators would be “totally inappropriate,” and threatening an investigation into the executive branch in response.

“A legislative body can also do things we feel is appropriate,” Skelos reportedly told the Daily News.

One of the recent high-profile arrests was Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat. Smith has been charged with trying to bribe his way into the New York City mayoral election on the Republican ticket.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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