Moreland Commission targets Cuomo’s soft money too

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ALBANY—In their second declaration in just over six hours, chairs of the commission charged with cleaning up public corruption said they would “look across the board” at soft money accounts maintained by political parties and legislative conferences, including one allied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Everything is on the table. We are looking at everything,” said a joint statemeent from the commission's three co-chairs, which include district attorneys Kathleen Rice and William Fitzpatrick, and Milton Williams Jr., the chair of the Fund for Modern Courts.

Earlier, the co-chairs suggested they would follow up a prior request that legislators list outside clients, which was promptly rebuffed by legislative leaders, with subpoenas to compel their disclosure.

Both actions came after a meeting in which the panel's 25 members, apparently irate with the negative reception they've recently received in the press, pushed ahead where they had previously balked.

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Soft money accounts, known as “housekeeping" committees, allow political groups to raise unlimited contributions in support of generalized, party-building actions. The Moreland Commission was already examining the interplay between the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and the Independence Party, and according to a source had also subpoenaed the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

But the commission stopped short of subpoenaing the Democratic State Committee's account, reportedly after receiving pressure from Cuomo aides. (The governor has denied personal involvement, but danced around questions about whether his aides influenced the process.)

Earlier this year, the Democratic committee raised a record amount of soft money to spend on pro-Cuomo ads. The donors include George Soros and Time Warner Cable, who were legally able to skirt limits on direct contributions to Cuomo's individual campaign account.

A source confirmed the Democratic State Committee, as well as committees attached to the Republican, Independence, Conservative and Working Families parties will all receive subpoenas.

While legislative spokespeople did not immediately offer official comments, the decision to target the Democratic State Committee could blunt the feeling among legislators that the commission is on a witch hunt.