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Albany probe


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s call for a Moreland Commission to look at political corruption reflects the frustration of New Yorkers over the legislative session which ended last week. The highlight of the session was the record levels of corruption, venality and the inability of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to teach the caucus he rules like a dictator that abuse of women is a violation of law, not a male prerogative.

“That’s what the voters of the state of New York are going to remember, that this was the year of scandal,” Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director of the state League of Women Voters, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The session ended without action on the Women’s Equality Agenda, no agreement on anti-corruption legislation, inadequately debated gun control legislation that has horrified many upstate New Yorkers, capitulation to powerful state government labor unions who feared the governor’s local control board arbitration process, a very large expansion of gambling in the state and inclusion of New York City in the tax-free development zone proposal, which will be so beneficial to upstate but now is debased by special development zones in the city that will result in more political shenanigans by itsAssembly members and senators.

While the governor is properly promoting his leadership success during the session, his frustrations with the Albany status quo manifest themselves with the disclosure that he may convene a Moreland Act Commission to investigate the connection of campaign contributions and the impropriety of certain legislative actions. When his anti-corruption agenda was ignored, he devised an alternative strategy by suggesting that the Board of Elections needs an expanded role to investigate political corruption.

His proposal, which make sense to many New Yorkers, was immediately greeted by Albany experts, who dismissed the efficacy of a commission, citing the sacrosanct legal position of the Legislature. The Assembly does answer directly to voters, but its inability to police itself worries New Yorkers who abhor absolute power.

Mr. Cuomo is attempting to assemble a Moreland Commission made up of Republican and Democratic prosecutors.

“There’s a dual role here,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You’re going to be looking for public-policy recommendations, formulations. But I also want the law-enforcement role, to the extent that they come across specific incidents that they believe are infractions—that they have the authority to investigate and refer those matters.”

The Assembly is not at all interested in having a Moreland Commission looking into campaign contributions and the abuse of member items. It is not in their personal best interest to have anyone ask why certain Little League baseball teams receive thousands of state dollars and others don’t. Or why certain museums or certain school districts or certain charities are supported by taxpayers when agencies in their hometown are ignored. New York voters want to know the answers to such questions.

The stonewalling legislative leaders are proclaiming that the governor has consumed all of his political capital and is ignoring major state issues by focusing attention on their misdeeds.

The reality is that the Legislature failed to deliver little more than scandal after scandal, volatile political coalitions, pandering to narrow interest groups and inaction of some of New York’s most important issues.

The proposed Moreland Commission with prosecutorial-like powers should result in a serious effort to remind the Senate and the Assembly who put them in office and provide voters an opportunity to watch an independent body scrutinize a club of self-serving, power hungry and greedy leaders who obviously feel no threat from any oversight.

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