Moreland co-chair: Legislative surrender ‘did not pan out’

Cuomo announces the anti-corruption commission. (Flickr)
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ALBANY—The co-chair of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption said today that legislative negotiations over a new ethics law have sputtered, and reports of gubernatorial interference are greatly exaggerated.

Commissioners kept largely quiet amid a barrage press reports and editorials over the last two weeks, but Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick answered some of those criticisms during an interview Tuesday on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

“There's a big difference between interference and input,” he said. “Certainly people from the governor's staff and the attorney general's staff … have had input, but not interference.”

Cuomo appointed the 25-member commission in July after legislators left Albany without any legislative response to a flurry of arrests this session. Earlier this month, the Daily News reported that the commission had nixed a subpoena to the Democratic State Committee's soft money account at the urging of Cuomo aides. A subpoena has since been sent.

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“There was a subpoena that was discussed and brought to my attention, and I am the person who modified that subpoena to reflect the correct party, and that somehow morphed into a story that the governor was interfering and staff were suppressing subpoenas, and sadly, that's just not the case,” Fitzpatrick, a Republican, said.

He substantiated Capital's report earlier this month that commissioners were involved in discussions between the administration and legislative leaders on some sort of omnibus ethics package that would negotiate the commission into irrelevance. Those discussions, he said, included talk of greater disclosure and enforcement of campaign finance laws, an end to the LLC loophole, and “real campaign finance reform, maybe the vehicle being public campaign finance.”

“If General Lee had walked up to General Meade at Gettysburg and said, 'Here's my sword, I surrender,' Mead would have probably accepted it,” Fitzpatrick said. “Those discussions were had, and, quite frankly, did not pan out to anywhere near anything that would satisfy either the Moreland Commission or the governor.”

As such, the commission is moving forward. It said last week it would compel lawmakers to release their lists of outside business and law clients, a request they previously ignored. 

“To sit back and say this is over-broad or an overstepping of powers, that's just absurd,” he said. “Right now the battle is being waged on a public relations level. Some legislators are quoted as saying we're interfering with the separation of powers. Well, 30 members of the governor's staff haven't been walked out in handcuffs in the last five years. Thirty members of the attorney general's office haven't been walked out in handcuffs in the last five years. The problem is, clearly, there is systematic corruption in the New York State Legislature that needs to be addressed.”