ALBANY -- Some Democrats aren’t allowing one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s toughest weeks in office to fade away.
Longtime Democratic consultant Blake Zeff wrote Monday in Capital New York that, “This time, Andrew Cuomo may be in some trouble.” He referred to last week’s stinging criticism of Cuomo from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The governor had abruptly shuttered his anti-corruption Moreland Commission in a political deal with the Legislature for other reforms.
Former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green wrote in Sunday’s Daily News that the Cuomo team previously meddled in another Moreland Commission, one that was looking into the performance of utilities after superstorm Sandy.
Cuomo had appointed Green to that commission years after Cuomo defeated Green in a primary for attorney general. But Green said Sunday that he had privately threatened to resign from the commission because “the governor’s staff attempted to compromise our independence by steering or arm-twisting us into what seemed like pre-commission conclusions.”
Cuomo had no immediate comment Monday.
He has said he always intended to end his corruption commission if the Legislature adopted the ethics measures it rejected a year ago. In the state budget deal adopted March 31, Cuomo obtained some of those measures.
He will get to appoint a new enforcer for the state Board of Elections with a staff to investigate campaigns. He also secured a test case for the public financing of campaigns, although advocates for the measure aimed at reducing the influence of big donors say it is fatally flawed.
Perhaps most importantly, he will appoint a new member to the Board of Elections who could cast tiebreaking votes in the regulatory board long gridlocked by a partisan split in members.
On the day of the deal March 31, Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group told Newsday: “At worst, it’s a cynical move to create the illusion of reform while in reality creating a program that will fail, and to kill the Moreland Commission.”
Bharara has taken over the files of Cuomo’s corruption commission and in a radio interview refused to rule out investigating the political deal that ended the commission.
"If you begin investigations and you begin them with great fanfare," Bharara said of the Cuomo commission, "you don't, I think, unceremoniously take them off the table without causing questions to be asked."
Zeff is also an editor and columnist for Salon.com and has worked for the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and is former staff member for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.
Zeff wrote that Bharara “humiliatingly suggested that Cuomo’s focus on cleaning up Albany was nothing more than a ploy to gain political leverage in budget negotiations.”