Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should just come clean and admit that disbanding the Moreland Commission was a mistake. Then he should let everyone know that he intends to truly clean up New York’s corrupt, crony-ridden state government, while fully cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan. Simple, right?
Not so. The governor is dynamic. He possesses a strong, take-charge personality that creates change – positive change for Western New York by evidence of Monday’s jobs announcement. That commanding approach – common to successful politicians – didn’t play well after promising the commission could look wherever it wanted.
It was that contentious issue that dominated Monday’s press conference when Cuomo was rightly questioned – he might call it badgered – by the media over last week’s New York Times investigative report that contended his office compromised the Moreland Commission’s work by objecting whenever it focused on groups close to Cuomo. Or, on issues close to him.
Co-chairman William J. Fitzpatrick, the Republican district attorney of Onondaga County, insists there was no interference from Cuomo. That has to be taken into account. But still inadequately answered is whether his office sought to discourage the commission from looking at the administration or entities connected to it. Regardless of which side anyone believes, reports of withdrawn subpoenas don’t jibe with Cuomo’s declaration that the commission could look at “anything they want to look at.”
The governor’s office and, in this case, Fitzpatrick as well have been working overtime trying to convince the public of a number of points, such as the commission was designed as “temporary” and its purpose was to obtain the ethics reforms, however limited, from the State Legislature.
We’ll reserve judgment on whether, as Fitzpatrick claims, the commission produced “a report that serves as a roadmap for any prosecutorial agency serious about rooting out public corruption.” And, yes, Cuomo really pushed some worthwhile changes.
But corruption remains a problem in New York, and a significant one. The governor should do more, if nothing else for political self-protection. He should start by trying to recapture the original spirit and tenacity with which he announced the commission’s creation and, like Buffalo’s Grover Cleveland when he was governor and going after Tammany Hall, truly work to root out corruption. Baby steps aren’t enough.
Cuomo is working hard to make New York State a hospitable place to do business, and eliminating cronyism should be a large part of that effort. The Moreland Commission was a step in the right direction, but more is needed. Soon.