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Cuomo to face reporters for 1st time since corruption panel conflict

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and top aide Lawrence

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and top aide Lawrence Schwartz, left, talk during a cabinet meeting in the Red Room at the Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, May 9, 2012. (Credit: AP / Mike Groll)

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is scheduled to face reporters Monday for the time since Wednesday’s article in The New York Times reported instances of intense involvement by Cuomo into a corruption commission.

Cuomo will be in Buffalo making an economic development announcement and is scheduled to meet with reporters afterward.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is trying to avoid letting Cuomo steer the attention away from the corruption commission issue. Astorino plans stops Monday in Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

Astorino, who is the Westchester County executive, said he will “kick off a statewide tour calling on Governor Cuomo to answer questions about his administration's role in directing criminal investigations away from his political allies.”

The Times reported instances of involvement by Cuomo and his top aide, Lawrence Schwartz, of dissuading the Moreland Commission from subpoenaing the Real Estate Board of New York, which is a major contributor to Cuomo; and a TV ad campaign production company which Cuomo uses.

Cuomo denied interference, saying the prosecutors who were the commission’s co-chairman made all decisions on whom to subpoena. Cuomo also said the commission couldn’t be independent because he created it and it reported to him.

“You suggest specific instances of improper interference with respect to persons and conduct that you believe relate to or could embarrass the governor,” the Cuomo administration said its 13-page response to the Times last week. “Your fundamental assertion is that the commission was independent. It wasn’t.”

However, a year ago, when Cuomo created the commission by executive order, he bristled at Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who warned the panel would conduct “a witch hunt” aimed at the Legislature, while ignoring Cuomo.

“It’s an independent commission that will investigate whatever they believe needs to be investigated,” Cuomo said in July 2013 in creating the commission.

Last week Cuomo’s response further stated: “The commission wasn’t essentially independent. A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive. It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test.”

“That’s totally ridiculous,” said Albany Law School professor Vincent Bonventre, who researches New York state government and courts. He said Cuomo’s executive order creating the commission assured its members independence from the governor.

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Which was the most fevered lunge for self-promotion by a power player?

Rep. Michael Grimm saying he can continue to serve despite pleading guilty to felony tax fraud. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling on the GOP to push Grimm out. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declining to comment until he meets with Grimm.

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