Moreland de-escalates, extends deadline on subpoenas

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ALBANY—A war of words between legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is de-escalating, at least temporarily.

A flurry of subpoenas sent by the Cuomo-convened Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption were due back on Tuesday, but legislators were granted a one-week reprieve, three people familiar with the investigation said. (Moreland Commission spokeswoman Michelle Duffy, along with lawyers for the legislative majorities, declined to comment.)

These subpoenas seek details on legislators' outside income, and for lawyer-lawmakers, lists of their clients, which legislators have said they won't give up without a fight. But instead of a new skirmish, Tuesday brought expressions of kindness. First Attorney General Eric Schneiderman—who set up the commission along with Cuomo—then the governor himself emphasized publicly that it was trying to find reforms, not legislative scalps.

“I want ethics reform … that's what the Moreland Commission is all about,” Cuomo told Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom.” He did not speak ill of legislators, or repeat his affirmation of a statement last week that the Assembly and Senate are systemically corrupt.

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The shift followed a one-on-one meeting between the men on Wednesday, as the Buffalo News reported. Since it took place, GOP senators have been praising Cuomo's leadership for bringing casinos to the state.

Contrast that with what happened when the first round of subpoenas were due. Senate Republicans filed a court challenge to have them quashed, and several legislators advanced bills to rein in future commissions convened under the Moreland Act. Cuomo allies and legislators bickered for days, and while the governor made a similar point about a working relationship, he did so one breath after threatening to campaign against non-compliant senators.

This week: “There's a tension between the governor and the Legislature through the Moreland process. That's true. But it's functioning,” Cuomo said. “We have a very good working relationship with the Legislature, and it's highly functional. I was with Leader Skelos over the weekend doing Sandy-related activity.”

Billy Crystal was there, too.