A ‘disheartened’ advocate on Cuomo’s role in steering an anti-corruption panel

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ALBANY—After a report last week that gubernatorial aides were involving themselves with a supposedly independent anti-corruption panel, a major good-government group has written a letter voicing concern that such interference would be “a shocking waste of the momentum for meaningful change which its appointment created.”

Common Cause said it read “with alarm” a report last week by the Daily News' Ken Lovett that the commission held back a subpoena of the Democratic State Committee at the request of the administration. In the letter (which Lovett reported this morning in his weekly column), Common Cause executive director Susan Lerner notes the rhetoric from both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office is aiding the commission's efforts, which stressed its independence.

“It is, therefore, disheartening and a matter of great concern to us to read reports that the commission has been discouraged by the governor from issuing all of the subpoenas which it believes are necessary to properly fulfill its multi-part mandate, allegedly because those subpoenas are addressed to the Democratic Party and to some of the governor's large campaign contributors,” Lerner wrote.

The letter was addressed to both Cuomo and Schneiderman. A Cuomo spokesman said he hadn't seen it; a Schneiderman spokesman declined to comment.

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In a statement, Moreland Commission spokeswoman Michelle Duffy acknowledged that it was regularly reporting on its activities to the Cuomo administration, and taking “input,” but that commissioners retain ultimate control. Both Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick have insisted, publicly, on the commission's independence.

"The Moreland Commission by original design reports on a weekly basis to the Governor who empaneled it and the Attorney General, who deputized its members. It is staffed by employees of the Attorney General and Executive Branch and is led by the three co-chairs who represent the directives of the commission,” the spokeswoman, Michelle Duffy, said in a statement. “The co-chairs get input from the Governor's office, Attorney General's office, and outside experts, but it is their judgment and discretion that governs the commission and determines its action. The commission, large and diverse, is dealing with complex subjects and has robust debates, as it should, but acts as a whole and reaches full unanimity in all strategic decisions."

The commission is supposed to issue a preliminary report on its findings by December. Here's the Common Cause letter:

131007 Common Cause to Moreland by jimmy_vielkind6146