Corruption panel reports weekly to Cuomo, claims independence

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A commission created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate corruption regularly reports to him, but maintains it is still independent of the governor.

The disclosure about the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption follows reports about Cuomo administration influence and complaints by government watchdog groups.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the panel was intended to check in with the administration weekly, as well as with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. One of the panel co-chairs is Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

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“The Moreland Commission by original design reports on a weekly basis to the governor who empanelled it and the attorney general, who deputized its members. It is staffed by employees of the attorney general and executive branch and is led by the three co-chairs who represent the directives of the commission,” spokeswoman Michelle Duffy said in a statement.

“The co-chairs get input from the governor's office, attorney general's office, and outside experts, but it is their judgment and discretion that governs the commission and determines its action. The commission, large and diverse, is dealing with complex subjects and has robust debates, as it should, but acts as a whole and reaches full unanimity in all strategic decisions," she said.

The weekly reports are part of the statute that created the commission, an administration official said, but that requirement wasn't included in the announcement of the panel back in July.

Last week, the Daily News reported that the commission killed a subpoena that would have gone to the Cuomo-controlled state Democratic Party.

That prompted one watchdog group to say it was “disheartening” to read of the commission’s lack of independence.

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“When the Moreland Commission was announced, we, along with others, were pleased to hear strong assurances from both of you that the commission would be independent and would ‘follow the money’ wherever the trail led, even if it meant investigating either of your campaigns,” Susan Lerner of Common Cause wrote in a letter to Cuomo and Schneiderman.

“It is therefore, disheartening and a matter of great concern to us to read reports that the commission has been discouraged by the governor for issuing all the subpoenas which it believes are necessary to properly fulfill its multi-part mandate, allegedly because those subpoenas are addressed to the Democratic Party and to some of the governor’s large campaign contributors,” Lerner said.

Meanwhile, subpoenas have gone out to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Independence Party, sources have confirmed.

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