So just to drive the point home, one of the allegations of the New York Times article goes like this:
Word that the [Moreland Commission's] subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.
“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:
“Pull it back.”
The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.
“They apparently produced ads for the governor,”
Nothing to see here, right?
Besides, the Commission Chair William Fitzpatrick, in his three page letter, had this very detailed response to this specific allegation:
Okay, that wasn’t really what Fitzpatrick said. What he really said was a far more egregious gesture of contempt, something to the risible effect that he always gave a lot of thought to issuing subpoenas because that’s “serious”; and the Commission reissued the subpoena a few weeks after it was retracted; and finally, the suggestion that the Commission was interfered with by such things as, oh, the Governor’s
henchman aide Schwartz telling the Commission to “pull it [the subpoena] back” was - and I quote - “absurd”.
Of course, it’s not like that kind of thing happened except for that one time, though. Right?
According to a subpoena that had been prepared, investigators wanted to examine the real estate board’s political donations, its materials related to a valuable tax break for new housing, and its communications with public officials, including phone calls with lawmakers…
Whereupon Mr. Cuomo’s office stepped in to shut it down.
Mr. Schwartz, the secretary to the governor, telephoned one of the commission’s three leaders in a fury, according to four people briefed on the call. There would be no subpoena to the real estate board, he said.
Ultimately, the commission merely sent the real estate board a letter asking it to provide information voluntarily, which it did.
Apparently the Governor’s office got advance notice of objectionable subpoenas because the Governor had a
spy lackey close associate as one of the Commission’s co-chairs. Her name is Regina Calcaterra.
Investigators began to suspect that Ms. Calcaterra was monitoring their activities and reporting back to the governor’s office:
Ms. Calcaterra repeatedly pressed Ms. Perry [another investigator with the Commission] not to serve the subpoena, emails show. Yet the commission backed Ms. Perry, and on Aug. 19, she wrote to the co-chairs that she would be sharing a subpoena with them “shortly.”
I don’t know what is more laughable – or depressing, depending on your mood: the Commission itself, or Fitzpatrick’s & Cuomo’s when-you’re-caught-just-deny-deny-deny defense. Ugh.
I mean, this shows the “Commission” was just a toxic mix of tawdry skullduggery and highly dishonest political posturing by the Governor’s office. The Feds tried to criminalize such conduct through some statute or other regarding public officials’ failure to render “honest services”, but that was held unconstitutional. And I don’t know if criminalizing is the right way to go, or even remotely effective. Given day to day realities of the political system in the US I’d tend to say no. In any event, I’ve made my suggestion and that has nothing to do with putting anyone in prison.
This does not, of course, indicate that the entrenched corruption of the political class is not a serious problem; indeed I wish we could overcome this vague belief that unless the government is prosecuting someone the wrongdoing, if it exists at all, must be trivial.
Our ‘leaders’ do not so much lead us as reflect us. We tolerate in them the kind of wrongdoing we tolerate in ourselves. Thus we like a little bit of ruthlessness in our politicians, it seems. Unless we’re on the receiving end personally.
We’ll improve the character of our political class when we improve our own. Until that happens, “Moreland Commissions” are worse than a waste of time; they are a farce.