Friday, August 1, 2014

Getting to be MorelandGate as Bharara Threatens Cuomo with Investigation over Corruption Commission Tampering

*Now political summer 2014 heats up *US Prosecutor Preet Bharara warns Cuomo 
*Cuomo ad blitz right before Times piece on corruption probe
*Lotsa Dem Party cash went to pump up Cuomo --Did any of that come out of UFT/NYSUT COPE funds???  
*Green Party gubernatorial nominee calls for criminal investigation of Cuomo and Moreland
*Republican Party nominee asks, "Where is Andrew?"
2014 has been a dull summer in New York State news. By contrast, 2010 had the struggle over Race to the Top, showing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew bowing before (and caving in to) Bill Gates' Common Core State Standards. With U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's threat to investigate Cuomo over possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering, [July 31]this could tarnish Cuomo's reputation and grab increasingly negative attention. Talking Points Memo reported on the same story with this digest, "NYT: U.S. Attorney Tells Cuomo To Back Off Witnesses In Ethics Probe."

Cuomo has chugged along as Cuomo the invincible as he made parents' heads explode with his see/hear/say no evil approach to inBloom [the failed plan to siphon tons of private data on schoolkids to the state government and who knows how many corporate education companies] or Common Core, and as he gratuitously shut down the [state corruption investigating] Moreland Commission because "It's not a legal question" and because "It's my commission."  Read Daily Kos on Cuomo's power grab tone.

So now as July closes we get the big New York Times story, U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Preet Bharara. (Credit to DemocraticUnderground posters for the NYT and Cap NY links below.)

U.S. Attorney Warns Cuomo on [Moreland Commission] Ethics Case

From the Times:
In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.
The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March.
Click here for the full Times story. And gratuitiously there was lots of Democratic Party cash going into a Cuomo campaign ad bltiz right before the Times hit last Wednesday, "Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission," as Capital New York reported:

Democrats ramped up ads as Cuomo girded for Times hit

Capital New York reported, as noted in the above link, that the New York State Democratic Campaign Committee began buying $281,655 worth of advertizing time on July 19, the day after Cuomo sent off a turgid 13 page missive [Cap NY gave a link for that letter to the Times site, but apparently the Times does not have that letter on its site at this point] to Times reporters working on the story. It is no wonder that campaignmoney.org reported July 24, "New York Newspapers 'Front Page' Gov. Cuomo Moreland Commission Scandal." The site listed 13 upstate newspapers' reactions after reporting,
The New York Times published ["Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission"] a bombshell investigation yesterday into Gov. Andrew Cuomo's meddling in the affairs of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission he created. This morning, New Yorkers across the state woke up to the story splashed across newspaper front pages with headlines like "Did Cuomo cross line?," "Specter of conflict haunting Cuomo," and "Gov. Cuomo under fire."
Like Cuomo needed the money! Take a look at this post at Diane Ravitch's blog, "Billionaires Rule! How Governor Cuomo and Hedge Fund Managers Protected Charter Schools," April 13, on Cuomo's charter school friends.
According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.
Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.
That Ken Langone is the same character that made an Adolf Hitler-Barack Obama analogy, the same fellow that is a top Chris Christie donor and the same fellow that says that Pope Francis' criticisms of capitalism could cause the wealthy to scale back their donations to the Catholic Church.
They can laugh now, the corruption probes haven't finished their work.

And as ProPublica reported, Cuomo has raised millions in campaign donations through a loophole that he promised to close.

Now we get to the question, how much UFT or (now Mulgrew-controlled) NYSUT Committee on Political Education (COPE) money has gone to Cuomo in recent weeks? It is not out of the realm of possibility, for Mulgrew's proxy Andy Pallotta spent $10,000 on an entire table at Cuomo's birthday fundraiser.

Cuomo's opponents have been quick to respond. Green Party nominee for governor Howie Hawkins responded on July 27:
Today's New York Times article on the Moreland Commission is a disturbing documentation of the ongoing efforts by Governor Cuomo and his staff to prevent an independent investigation into corruption at the State Capitol. Mr. Cuomo's behavior, including deceiving the public as to the workings of the Commission, falls far short of the minimum ethical standards for the highest elected official in our state.
Even the Commission's one watered down report stated that state government is “a pay-to-play political culture driven by large checks." Cuomo is the kingpin of that domain, as his $40 million plus election war chest highlights. Cuomo and his staff however ensured that key issues that would reflect badly on him were stricken from the report, especially information that investigators had learned about the powerful Real Estate Board of New York and its political donations.
While we are encouraged that the US Attorney has picked up investigations dropped by Cuomo's disbanding of the Commission, this story makes clear the urgent need for an independent criminal and ethical investigation of the activities of Mr. Cuomo, starting with the enormous amount of massive campaign contributions he has raised during his tenure. This investigation needs to examine the funds that Governor has raised - and spent - for various party and independent committees that he has controlled, as well as the potential misuse of public funds to promote his candidacy.
As I have pointed out in this and prior campaigns, it is impossible for politicians to effectively investigate themselves. That is why I have called for non lawmakers to control bodies such as JCOPE [NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics].
More recently, Hawkins weighed in on the developing MorlandGate mess with his statement approval of U.S. Attorney Bharara's involvement. Earlier in July Hawkins noted the declining standardshttp://www.howiehawkins.org/clean_up_albany_corruption for political behavior in our times,
"While Watergate is viewed as our generation's greatest political scandal, the reality is that the morals of political officials have dramatically declined since then. Behavior considered shocking by public officials 40 years ago is now treated as routine. The great shift in wealth to the very rich over the last forty years has gone hand and hand with the perception by lawmakers that they are entitled to treat public service as a license to enrich themselves," said Hawkins.
Republican Party nominee for governor Rob Astorino released a video, "Where is Andrew?" The video ad advises viewers to "Call 1-800-Moreland."

So there you have it: Cuomo has a lot of explaining to do: why did he close the Moreland Commission? Another point: why is the now Mulgrew-controlled NYSUT or any other unions bothering to shell out thousands for such politician that is cozy with the privatizers, the hedge funders? --and a politician that we might add is possibly a bit crooked.

At the very least, regardless of how far Bharara can get with investigating Cuomo, the governor's rapacious greed for money and power look too tactless for someone with presidential ambitions. Serious donors will go to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, should he attempt to run. And both Clinton and Republican contenders will be easily able to tarnish Cuomo with the Curroptmo tag.

For a reminder of how this is a governor more concerned with catering to the one percent than in helping ''working families'' read my post this January, "DeBlasio Seeks Pre-K Help, Cuomo Pushes Millionaire Tax Cuts / Why Mulgrew-Iannuzzi NYSUT Battle Matters."

For the best on-going coverage of Cuomo and his manipulation of the Moreland Commission, regularly visit Perdido Street School blog. e.g., His latest post has the important news that "Daily News Reports That Andrew Cuomo Has 'Lawyered Up'." Cuomo has hired a top criminal defense attorney and his top aides have hired their own personal attorneys. Yes, the political summer is heating up.