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Bharara says his office running investigations in Albany

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, addresses a news conference on May 28, 2013, in Manhattan. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

ALBANY -- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wednesday he has several active investigations in Albany, or, as he called the state capital, a place that sometimes looks like "the intersection of ambition and greed."

The comments came hours before the only televised debate in the governor's race. Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo faced opponents, including Republican Rob Astorino, who has said Albany has become more corrupt under the current administration.

The prosecutor, based in Manhattan, said state government continues to poorly police itself; allows big campaign contributions with few restrictions, which can lead to corruption; and hasn't limited outside jobs by lawmakers, which can lead to conflicts of interest.

"You have a recipe for what we have in New York, which is a little bit of a corruption disaster," Bharara said on public radio's "Capital Pressroom."

He wouldn't comment on the Moreland Commission established in 2013 and abruptly shut down this year by Cuomo.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi declined to comment. Media reports have carried claims that top Cuomo aides counseled the commission's leaders to avoid Cuomo allies in its investigations.

This year, Cuomo ended the commission's work when he struck a deal with the legislature for some of his ethics measures.

Cuomo said that was his goal for the commission and denied any interference.

"I can't 'interfere' with it, because it is mine," Cuomo told Crain's New York Business in April. "It is controlled by me."

Bharara said independence is critical for any investigative organization.

"When you are trying to solve a problem you need some amount of longevity and you certainly need -- at the core of the institution -- independence," Bharara said.

Bharara took over the files of the Moreland Commission, most of which appear to have been targeting legislators, according to the commission's interim report.

"We have a lot of files, and a lot of things we're looking at, and I can't give a timetable ... with respect to when we would finish any one of those," he said.

Astorino's accusation that Cuomo is part of Albany corruption seems based on Bharara's previous comments that the closing of the Moreland Commission raised questions.

Bharara also issued a statement warning against tampering with potential witnesses on the commission after some commissioners issued unsolicited public statements supporting Cuomo's role.

Bharara wouldn't comment when asked whether Cuomo was part of his investigation.


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