In a way, Governor Cuomo's disbanded and disillusioned Commission To Investigate Public Corruption accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish: we now know who is directly responsible for neutralizing reforms in state government, and it's Governor Cuomo.
The New York Times' three-month investigation of the panel shows that the governor's office stunted the commission's work from the start, despite public promises from Cuomo himself that their purview was "Anything they want to look at, they can look at—me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman."
The committee's executive director, a Cuomo appointee, fed the governor's office all of the commission's communications. When the group wanted to probe campaign donations from the Real Estate Board of New York, a group that has given Cuomo and state legislators millions of dollars, the governor's office shut it down.
Larry Schwartz, Cuomo's secretary, explained in a private meeting to the committee's leaders why they couldn't snoop around the governor's business.
Mr. Schwartz said the commission was examining conduct that was “understood” in Albany but might look “funny” to outsiders, according to the participant, whose account was corroborated by others with knowledge of the discussion.
“Things can be twisted against the governor by the Legislature,” the participant recalled Mr. Schwartz’s saying. “You are looking at places where there may be no wrongdoing, but people will twist it to make it look like there was.”
Here's something "funny": The committee found an email from REBNY's head, Steven Spinola, to its members, directing them to give money to state Democrats so those lawmakers will pass legislation favorable to the real estate lobby. Legislation that, say, allows for fat checks and large tax breaks for developers and businesses and prevents the construction of affordable housing.
“I can tell you that in private meetings with the speaker, the Senate majority leader and the governor, our past efforts to maintain a personal and supportive relationship was critical in shaping the outcome” of legislation, Mr. Spinola wrote.
"Our future ability to adopt favorable legislation, stop terrible legislation or modify legislation to limit the pain to our industry is directly tied to our continued positive relationship,” Mr. Spinola added.
This email, and another email from Extell Development (champion of the Poor Door) discussing how to shower Cuomo with money on his birthday (yes), were also quashed by the governor. As was a subpoena to a media firm Buying Time, whose client was…Governor Cuomo.
Cuomo's 13-page response to the Times' questions is an exercise in taxpayer-funded bullshit. “A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive,” it reads. “It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is currently investigating what happened with the commission. You can tell Governor Cuomo how you feel about his work on November 4 (or September 9, if you're a registered Democrat).