Did Cuomo obstruct his own anti-corruption crusade?

posted at 1:21 pm on July 23, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that he’d had enough of corruption in the state capital, and launched a high-profile commission to independently find and root it out. When it got to close to Cuomo himself, the New York Times reports today, the governor had a change of heart and shut it down. Now the feds want to take a closer look at both the corruption and Cuomo’s actions in obstructing his own commission (via Jammie Wearing Fool):

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide,Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

If this scenario had played out in a police investigation, that would be criminal obstruction of justice. As it is, the grant of subpoena power to the supposedly independent commission may end up having the same effect. After all, the executive branch is responsible for law enforcement, and the commission was clearly an attempt to work around any other potential conflicts of interest in the executive branch to perform that function. Granting the commission subpoena power would establish that, as opposed to just a fact-finding commission that reports on issues for the governor and whose operations would be clearly political rather than investigative or the enforcement of law.

Cuomo told the NYT that he created the “independent” commission, and therefore he could run it any way he saw fit:

“A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive,” the statement said. “It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test.”

Yet, The Times found that the governor’s office interfered with the commission when it was looking into groups that were politically close to him. In fact, the commission never tried to investigate his administration.

Besides, that conflicts with what Cuomo told the press last year:

Gov. Cuomo said Thursday his special investigative panel on government corruption can investigate whoever it wants — even him.

“Anything they want to look at they can look at — me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the Controller, any senator, any assemblyman,” Cuomo told reporters during an event in upstate Oneida. “They have total ability to look at whatever they want to look at.” …

“If this doesn’t give people faith and trust, I don’t know what else can,” Cuomo said.

In March, Cuomo quietly shut the panel down, but US Attorney Preet Bharara was not pleased. The cases that prompted the commission’s formation came out of his office, and Bharara had urged the commission to get aggressive. Suddenly, Cuomo’s initiative looked a lot less like a courageous attempt to clean up Albany on his own, and more like a way to pre-empt the US Attorney from doing his job. He seized the files from the commission and assigned investigators to continue the probes that had gotten shut down — and started a new one about Cuomo’s interference with the commission and its subpoenas.

This has other consequences, too. Cuomo, like his father Andrew, reportedly has presidential ambitions and hoped to use his track record as governor of the second-most populous state as a springboard in the future. This kind of obstruction of a corruption probe, even if it doesn’t prove criminal, will almost certainly hobble those ambitions, especially if Bharara files indictments either against Cuomo’s staff or against lawmakers that his commission let off the hook. For now, this removes one potential Democratic alternative to the stumbling Hillary Clinton in 2016, or at least “pull[s] it back” considerably.


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In the “Is water wet?” category of Democratic Party politics.

MikeHu on July 23, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Cuomo: Investigate all corruption except my own.

That’s how it looks. Sometimes a cigar is really a cigar.

s1im on July 23, 2014 at 1:26 PM

The democrat party is a criminal organization pretending to be a political party. It is run by criminals for the betterment of criminals.

jukin3 on July 23, 2014 at 1:26 PM

As it turned out, it was getting too close to the truth about his cronies.

jake49 on July 23, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Is that The Godfather theme I hear?

viking01 on July 23, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Imagind the $hit storm if this were a republican impeding a criminal investigation. It would be 24/7 from now until November and every republican would be required to denounce the criminal actions. Since it is a criminal democrat there will be ZERO national media play.

jukin3 on July 23, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Why do I suddenly want a kwanza cake ?
Hmmm….

burrata on July 23, 2014 at 1:32 PM

It’s one thing to have ambitions, and another to be a viable candidate. Cuomo, even without this obstruction, wouldn’t have been a viable candidate.

As for the obstruction, I would consider it very likely that Schwartz gets indicted – and this is just the latest of the numerous scandals plaguing Democrats in NY.

Athos on July 23, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Is that The Godfather theme I hear?

viking01 on July 23, 2014 at 1:31 PM

OK, now, let’s be careful with the Italian stereotypes.

Capisce?

mankai on July 23, 2014 at 1:38 PM

What a maroon. Anyone investigating political corruption in New York thinking it WASNT going to lead up the Democrat Establishment tree is dumber than Obama.

ConstantineXI on July 23, 2014 at 1:38 PM

What I can’t figure out is why the Holder Justice Department wants to publicly embarrass Cuomo. Cui bono?

Having watched the Moreland a commission carefully since inception, in hopes the cess pool that is Albany would finally get a little sunlight and Sheldon Silver would come tumbling down, I was surprised the governor pulled the plug and stunned the Obama administration reacted. In Chicago, a place where monsters finance houses for future Presidents and no one even raises a skeptical eyebrow, nothing that happens in Albany would probably even rate comment. So, investigating Cuomo can only be a political slap at him.

As I said, cui bono?

MTF on July 23, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Is US Attorney Preet Bharara a Clintonista?

KW64 on July 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Cuomo, like his father Andrew, reportedly has presidential ambitions

Psst, Andrew is the son, Mario is the father. And they are both corrupt. Having lived many years in the Hudson Valley, Albany is no paragon of virtue.

rbj on July 23, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Capisce?

mankai on July 23, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Ya talkin’ ta me? Ya got some’tin’ to say to me?

Fugghetaboutit…

viking01 on July 23, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Is US Attorney Preet Bharara a Clintonista?

KW64 on July 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Looks like Bharara is getting his creds ready to be the Guv .
This is Bharara’s campaign for higher office , after persecuting Dinesh and that female Indian diplomat .

burrata on July 23, 2014 at 1:46 PM

The “Five Families” is now Six.

viking01 on July 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM

He should shut his mouth, a turkey might fly into it.

Sheesh what a yap.

Akzed on July 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Is US Attorney Preet Bharara a Clintonista?

KW64 on July 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Cuomo was HUD Secretary under Bill and was the guy who had as much to do as anyone in creating the mortgage crisis that nearly sank the country.

So, yes, he was a Clintonista. Not sure how he is regarded today, but I assume he is still a Clintonista.

MTF on July 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM

DimocRats are nothing but crooks, liars, thieves, cheats, and frauds.

If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be DimocRat in the first place.

Meople on July 23, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Imagind the $hit storm if this were a republican impeding a criminal investigation. It would be 24/7 from now until November and every republican would be required to denounce the criminal actions. Since it is a criminal democrat there will be ZERO national media play.

jukin3 on July 23, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Come on, it’s not like he closed down a bridge.

LouisianaLightning on July 23, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Corrupt.

pat on July 23, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Of course he’s still a Clintonista. He knows what happened to James MacDougal and Vince Foster.

“Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

—– Don Corleone

viking01 on July 23, 2014 at 2:01 PM

This kind of obstruction of a corruption probe, even if it doesn’t prove criminal, will almost certainly hobble those ambitions

Given King Barack’s actions to date, this would only pad Cuomo’s Democratic resume.

GarandFan on July 23, 2014 at 2:04 PM

We now live in a land of politicians where most are criminals and they have legions of bureaucrats who do nothing and get paid to do nothing, behind a unionized wall where they can’t be touched, and we support them with our tax dollars earned by our own sweat and blood.

Isn’t there any other nation out there that isn’t corrupt?

Deckard BR on July 23, 2014 at 2:06 PM

Did Cuomo obstruct his own anti-corruption crusade?

When it got too close to him and his cronies?

In the “Is water wet?” category of Democratic Party politics.

MikeHu on July 23, 2014 at 1:24 PM

So we have “is water wet?”
How many others can we list?

Does a bear shiite in the woods?
Is the Pope Catholic?
.
.
.
.

dentarthurdent on July 23, 2014 at 2:14 PM

If he gets re-elected, there’s no more hope for my beloved home state.

Red Cloud on July 23, 2014 at 2:15 PM

What I can’t figure out is why the Holder Justice Department wants to publicly embarrass Cuomo. Cui bono?

Having watched the Moreland a commission carefully since inception, in hopes the cess pool that is Albany would finally get a little sunlight and Sheldon Silver would come tumbling down, I was surprised the governor pulled the plug and stunned the Obama administration reacted. In Chicago, a place where monsters finance houses for future Presidents and no one even raises a skeptical eyebrow, nothing that happens in Albany would probably even rate comment. So, investigating Cuomo can only be a political slap at him.

As I said, cui bono?

MTF on July 23, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Andrew Cuomo has presidential aspirations, putting in in conflict both with the Obamas and Clintons. He might even be running in 2016.

The Clintons in particular hate the Cuomos.

ConstantineXI on July 23, 2014 at 2:33 PM

I think they’re clearing the field for Fauxcahontis not Granny Clinton.
But Cuomo is a thug. Its too bad Astorino doesn’t have the warchest to fight him.

Iblis on July 23, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Ed-

Cuomo, like his father Andrew, reportedly has presidential ambitions and hoped to use his track record as governor of the second-most populous state

His father is Mario New York is the third mostpopulous state. Texas overtook us a few years ago.

dentalque on July 23, 2014 at 3:06 PM

…he’s got a big mouth!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 23, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Criminals running NY as well as the banana republic of america!!

Thanks democrats!

Lonetown on July 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Really not all that different than what is going on at VA/IRS/etc.
Investigations are only for The Little People.

Another Drew on July 23, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Cuomo is the man who, with the help of a corrupt legislature passed the SAFE Act in the middle of the night to avoid any input from citizens of the state.

They conspired to use a statute created for emergencies as a means of avoiding democratic processes.

There of course was no bona fide emergency. Just backroom political deals that used the process to hide their corrupt, despotic impulses.

Now New York is saddled with a law that contravenes the US Constitution and specifically The Second Amendment which New York’s Constitutional convention insisted be included for ratification.

I hope the US Attorney uncovers the vast corruption not only in the governors office, but also in the legislature. It’s about time somebody cleaned up the state.

Marcus Traianus on July 23, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Hey, Andrew!

As Bob Grant used to say of your father, Mario: tu se proprio uno sfacime!

Emperor Norton on July 23, 2014 at 6:52 PM