Monday, August 11, 2014

Funny how Chris Christie's Bridgegate is big-time news...

... but Andrew Cuomo's corruption issues aren't.

But despite the passage of timely balanced budgets, New York State government isn’t in great shape. Lately, more Albany politicians have gone on to prison than to higher office. Most of the cases involved bribery. In an attempt to reduce the influence of money in the New York capital – or, in the eyes of skeptics eying his $35 million war chest, appear as if he wanted to reduce said influence – Cuomo appointed the Moreland Commission to investigate politicians’ unethical and illegal behavior. To demonstrate the gravity of his endeavor, he had state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officially designate commissioners as deputy attorneys general, thereby granting them law-enforcement powers. But once the commission got started, the trail led to some of Cuomo’s biggest funders.
The governor then faced a choice: endure any embarrassing revelations an inquiry may produce, or quash the inquiry and avoid short-term re-election campaign turbulence. Cuomo chose political expedience.
According to the New York Times and my conversations with people involved, Cuomo’s top aide Larry Schwartz called commissioners and commission staff multiple times and directed them not to subpoena major Cuomo backers. Federal witness-tampering law bars attempts to conceal documents or otherwise obstruct an official proceeding.
Soon thereafter, following passage of a watered-down ethics bill that gave Cuomo the political victory he felt he needed, the governor dissolved the commission. That’s when Bharara decided to pursue the tangled threads left by the commission’s abrupt disbandment.
Though Cuomo hunkered down when City and State and the New York Daily News ran smaller stories about his administration’s meddling, he denied any inappropriate interference after the recent Times expose. In concert with his public statement, another senior Cuomo aide, Joseph Percoco, allegedly called several commissioners to request public statements backing up Cuomo’s; Schwartz may have resisted making the calls this time around. Several supportive statements from commissioners magically appeared in media inboxes within minutes of each other. Percoco’s intervention may have violated federal obstruction of justice statutes, which prohibit attempts to “influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” Courts have expansively interpreted the “due administration of justice” clause to forbid any conduct interfering with a legal proceeding, which would encompass Bharara’s investigation.

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