Corruption panel's report builds suspense for details to come

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders have

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders have shut down the state's anti-corruption commission just days after the FBI's latest investigation of a legislator was revealed. Photo Credit: Jason Andrew

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Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997, initially as a staff writer for the New

Whatever its ultimate impact may be, a report last week from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's corruption commission buttressed much of what is already known and suspected about the dynamic of campaign money in state elections.

In 54 percent of last year's state legislative races, the winner got 80 percent of the vote or more, and of these victors, 90 percent were already in office, the report notes. Incumbents, of course, far out-fundraised challengers.

The report adds: "These contributions [to incumbents] appear motivated not to influence an election that was never in doubt, but to gain access to an officeholder who was likely to remain in power after the election."

What the panel could also have broached, in discussing incumbent advantages, is how stockpiling cash allows legislators -- just like governors and mayors -- to pre-empt serious challenges. That is, an incumbent's access to bigger contributions can simply deter an otherwise willing candidate from running in the first place.

Overall, the commission's interim 98-page report combines elements of a serious policy brief, an opaque indictment -- and an appetite-whetting promise of more detail to come.

"This Commission has discovered much in just a few short months," the report concludes. "Our ongoing investigations have revealed phantom health clinics, inexplicable statutes, pay-to-play arrangements, underdisclosed outside income, misuse of party 'housekeeping accounts,' potentially improper use of campaign funds, and more." While some of the findings are clear, the identities of several purported culprits and players are withheld pending more investigation and possible prosecutions.

So the suspense builds.


LESSONS LEARNED: Reflecting on his recent loss in the Republican New York City mayoral primary, high-profile businessman John Catsimatidis says he's rooting for Democratic mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to succeed at the job, but now wonders if Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasn't right when he proposed nonpartisan municipal elections. Given the system, a relatively small number of New Yorkers determined the outcome. "I was not necessarily a believer," Catsimatidis said of the concept, which was rejected in a referendum a decade ago. "But the election might have made me a believer," he said. "It's something to look at."

He also called for a bipartisan effort to resolve complaints about voting machines.

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