ALBANY – An anti-corruption commission report released Monday proposes taxpayers’ money be used to help fund political campaigns among a slew of ideas to combat Albany’s notorious misconduct but calls for no heads to roll.
The commission, created by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo six months ago, proposes many of the ideas that had been sought by Cuomo but were rejected by the Legislature. Whether the Legislature, which has fought the commission’s subpoenas, is any more willing to support Cuomo’s reforms is uncertain going into an election year.
The commission also seeks lower limits for contributions, greater disclosure of legislators’ private law firm clients, greater disclosure of who contributes to politicians and political parties and a new enforcement body.
“Our ongoing investigations have revealed phantom health clinics, inexplicable statutes, pay-to-play arrangements, under-disclosed outside income, misuse of party ‘housekeeping accounts,’ potentially improper use of campaign funds, and more,” the preliminary report concluded. “The need for reform, now, is clear. Delay should not be an option. We have proposed in this report a broad menu of reforms. These measures will be a strong step toward reining in corruption and restoring New Yorkers’ trust in government.”
The commission has the power to refer cases to local prosecutors but doesn’t mention any legislators in this report. The commission will continue to operate, but the report was a major goal.
Cuomo told former Democratic Gov. David Paterson on his radio show the public has lost confidence and “the public has lost trust.”
“If we restore trust,” Cuomo said in addressing lawmakers, “your power is actually increased as is your ability to do good.”
Cuomo created the commission after the latest spate of corruption cases brought by federal prosecutors. About 30 public officials have been involved in corruption cases over the last seven years.
The commission is in the hands of Cuomo. He’s expected to seek a deal with the Legislature, but his Moreland Commission has driven more of a wedge between him and the legislators, all of whom are seeking re-election next year.
Cuomo was criticized for his involvement with the commission, which had been billed as an independent body headed by top prosecutors but spent much of its public time examining the ethical behavior of the Legislature.
The most recent corruption cases involved legislators, rather than any executive branch employees.
The State Senate’s Republicans, who’ve long opposed using public money to fund campaigns, declined to comment on Monday. The Legislature would have to approve the recommendations.
Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares control of the Senate with Republicans, said: “Six months after the Moreland Commission first convened, we find ourselves back at Square 1, negotiating a comprehensive ethics reform bill with the governor and members of the Legislature.”
The IDC and Assembly Democrats support versions of many of the proposals.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has built a nearly unassailable $30 million campaign fund. He has benefited from campaign-like TV ads from a lobbying group that refused to identify its donors and from fundraisers such as his birthday event today, which will feature entertainer Billy Joel.