Cuomo to Investigate Legislators After Campaign Finance Reform Fails

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking today in Albany. (Photo: governor.ny.gov)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking today in Albany. (Photo: governor.ny.gov)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he will follow through on his threat to create a Moreland Commission–a powerful committee with subpoena powers–to investigate state legislators after they failed to come to a deal on a proposed new public campaign financing system the governor has tried to sell as an anti-corruption bill.

“That is the direction I am planning to proceed,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters at a press conference in Albany this afternoon, as the legislative session winds to a close.

Mr. Cuomo, who ran on promises to clean up Albany, said it was crucial for lawmakers to take steps to restore faith in the government after a session that has been marked by one scandal after the next, and resulted in the arrests of half a dozen lawmakers.

“Restoring the public trust, especially after what this state went through with prior administrations, is very important to me,” he said, admitting that he wasn’t surprised that lawmakers were reluctant to implement the system.

But Mr. Cuomo flatly said he wouldn’t let lawmakers significantly modify his legislation.

“I don’t believe in the concept of self-policing,” Mr. Cuomo explained, arguing a proposal for the State Legislature to oversee themselves in this regard was, “in some ways inconsistent, by its very concept.”

Still, Mr. Cuomo painted the session as a glowing success, arguing lawmakers had a achieved “a remarkably high completion rate” when it came to implementing initiates announced in January’s State of the State address, including  gun control laws, new teacher evaluation deals, an on-time budget, new regional economic development councils and other plans, which he hailed as the “most comprehensive economic development program for upstate New York that has ever been proposed.”

Mr. Cuomo was less optimistic, however, about the fate of his women’s equality agenda–which he hailed as “truly historic.” The bill has now been broken down into 10 separate components in order to shield the bulk of provisions from the controversial abortion plank that would have codified Roe. v. Wade in the state law.

“These were very, very difficult provisions to negotiate. We were literally at it for weeks and weeks,” he said, acknowledging that, while the Assembly will likely pass all 10 bills, he expects the Senate, controlled by the Republicans and a breakaway Democratic caucus, to pass only nine.

“We have no agreement with the senate on this bill,” he said. While he left open the possibility of a last-minute deal, he admitted, “Am I optimistic about that? No.”

Still, he urged the senate to let the bill go to vote so the public knows where individual lawmakers stand.

“The people of the state have a right to know,” he said.