The legislature passed The Moreland Act was passed and signed it into law in 1907. Republican leader in the assembly, Sherman Moreland, on recommendation of Governor Charles Evans Hughes, introduced The Act (Cuomo).
The governor is authorized by The Moreland Act, now Section 6 of the Executive Law, “either in person or by one or more persons appointed by him for the purpose, to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state.” Investigators were empowered to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, hold hearings, and subpoena “any books or papers deemed relevant or material.” Moreland Act commissions derive their power from that act and from Executive Law Section 63.8.
Governor Andrew Cuomo implemented a commission on November 13, 2012, under the Moreland Act to investigate the management, response, preparation and of New York’s power utility companies w.r.t. several major problems impacting the State, which includes, Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.
The Cause & Effect in of the Commission
A report claimed that more than twenty four state lawmakers were under the surveillance of The Moreland Commission over personal purchases and potential misuse of the campaign money.
City & State claims that it possesses documents used by the now defunct Moreland Commission through its investigation on the issue of corruption in Albany. The commission focussed into how lawmakers spent their campaign cash (Cuomo, Moreland commision, 2012). In exchange for ethics reform the commission was disbanded by the Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Gannett’s Albany Bureau was told by Rockland County D.A. (district attorney) Thomas Zugibe that they conducted execution which showed that the legislators were misusing the campaign cash for their personal use.
Zugibe claimed that the investigation was going very comprehensively and a lot more findings are yet to be reached at and he believed that a lot of those acts would continue.
Thousands of dollars in expenses by elected officials were questioned according to an article by City & State, the commission questioned.
City & State article by JON LENTZ, MATTHEW HAMILTON AND MORGAN PEHME
City & State stated that the commission found out and mentioned who among lawmakers was most suspected about the misuse of the campaign cash. State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, reportedly scooped out more than $140,000 from campaign funds over a period of six-year period with no reasonable justifications or declaration of his purchases.
Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, Orange County, has the 2nd highest of unspecified campaign spending of about $100,000 for the payment of his credit card bills with no information about his “underlying purchases”, according to the report.
State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, Erie County, spent about $80,000 from his campaign money unreportedly for his credit card expenses.
While Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, spent $23,000 at clothing stores and also on hotels all over the United States and outside.
Reports by City and State reveal a credit card bill on a credit card held by Gallivan’s campaign committee revealed $1,000 on cigars, $1,200 at casinos and $300 at salons (Schneiderman, 2013).
Moreland Commissioner Makau Mutua claimed that the investigations had unearthed criminality by 10 to 12 state law makers. There has been a lot of speculation about what the investigations have found about the campaign fund expenditure or personal use expenditure and what actually is disclosed to the general public. The commission’s work is openly dismissed by many legislators and is termed as “witch hunt”.
The documents of the report show that the investigators focused mainly to check out on what purposes did the law makers actually spent the campaign money on and if it were used for any unlawful purposes or not.
Notably, the governor, the state comptroller and the attorney general were not covered by the commission.
No conference or party was singled out, in fact the legislators chose the investigators and formed a team to strictly focus on the merits.
Multiple Commission sources expressed frustrations and regret that the personal use investigation was cut short. The investigations team was set to subpoena the campaign treasurers of the lawmakers in question, as well as the vendors pertaining to the relevant expenditures, but it never got the chance.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares was handed over the information regarding the personal use investigation with a hope that he could pursue some potential charges, before the shutdown of the commission by the governor, according to some multiple Commission sources. The investigations team left out the executive director of the Commission, Regina Calcaterra, intentionally, with a fear that she could tip off the governor’s office (Spector, 2014).
Sources failed to identify which lawmakers were referred to Soares for the prosecution within the Commission. For the Albany County District Attorney a spokeswoman said that office does not comment on “matters of public integrity investigations.”
The New York law states that state-level campaign contributions could be used for a lawful purpose but they cannot be converted to a personal use by any person who is not related to the political campaign or to the holding of a party position public or office.”
However, there is a loophole created as there is an ambiguity created as the ban on “personal use” does not exactly define what “personal use” actually means which in turn enables the candidates to buy whatever that could have some or the other connection for a public office or to serve the elected official. Some lawmakers used these campaign funds to pay the bills of legal proceedings and fees. And also in a case, the Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno spent more than $1,000 from those funds to buy a cover for his indoor pool at his home and argued that it was only because he could use the pool occasionally for any political events (JON LENTZ, 2014).
Governor Andrew Cuomo disbanded the commission before it could even finish one year’s work.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s defense
Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that his actions and decisions to disband the Moreland commission would not be contrary, or an obstacle or rather subject t the investigation.
A response was given for the widespread criticism for the sudden and unjustified decision taken by Mr. Cuomo to disband the commission after the legislature accepted to include an ethics package which included reforms of the state board of elections, in March. There took number of investigations and Mr. Bharara, after many requests, received the files of Moreland’s for further inquiry.
Mr. Cuomo contended for the disbanding of the commission and argued that the main aim of passing such commission was to pass the reforms in which the legislation had failed in the year 2013.
The good government groups criticized Mr. Cuomo for disbanding Moreland without appealing and getting a majority consent of the Legislature.
The difference as stated by Mr. Cuomo is that the funded elections are a divisive “political thing,” while the less ideologically charged legislation reforming the long-toothless state Board of Elections was not.
The explanation given by the governor states that public financing of elections is supported by him because it has small donors “in the game,” but he doesn’t consider it as a potentially transformation of state politics and that the influence of special interests provided by the Supreme Court rulings allows to spend without any limit for independent campaign efforts (BRAGG, 2014) .
What still is believed and argued is that Rome wasn’t built in one day! The Governor hurried in taking the decision to disband the commission without even letting the State to submit it’s first investigation report. This rather puts a question on the loyalty and fidelity of the governor. He should have waited if his intentions were bona fide and were in the interest of the public. In fact, it is criticized and held that he was aware of the corruption among the law makers and to cover and to let it remain opaque, he took the decision of disbanding the commission within a year of its introduction or implementation.
BRAGG, C. (2014, April 24). Cuomo on Moreland tampering: It’s my commission. Retrieved from CRAIN: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140424/BLOGS04/140429924/cuomo-on-moreland-tampering-its-my-commission#
Cuomo, A. M. (2012, November 13). Moreland commision. Retrieved from New york state: http://utilitystormmanagement.moreland.ny.gov/
Cuomo, A. M. (n.d.). The Moreland Commision. Retrieved from New York State: http://moreland.ny.gov/
JON LENTZ, M. H. (2014, May 11). INSIDE MORELAND: DOCUMENTS REVEAL DETAILS OF LAWMAKERS’ CAMPAIGN SPENDING. Retrieved from City & state: http://cityandstateny.com/2/75/inside-moreland-documents.html#.U3U0qtL_Bdz
Schneiderman, E. (2013, July 2). Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption Releases Report. Retrieved from New York state: http://publiccorruption.moreland.ny.gov/
Spector, J. (2014, May 12). Report: Moreland Commission targeted misuse of campaign cash. Retrieved from Lohud: http://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/politics-on-the-hudson/2014/05/12/report-moreland-commission-targeted-misuse-campaign-cash/8995079/