The controversy over Gov. Cuomo’s abrupt shutdown of the Moreland Commission comes down to this: the man overpromised.
He should not have said that the commission would be free to investigate anything and anyone, including his office. It was a comment that the ordinarily careful governor probably regretted the moment after he said it, and he was wrong to pull its plug in a way that appeared self-serving.
Mr. Cuomo will survive accusations that his office interfered with the investigation of state government and that he disbanded the commission well before its work was done. Frankly, the issue doesn’t exactly resonate with voters, who rightly are more concerned with issues like economic development upstate, taxation and public employee pension and benefits reform. Mr. Cuomo has been a leader on all of those issues, something voters surely will remember later this year, when he is up for re-election.
Let’s remember that Mr. Cuomo put together this Moreland Commission probe after months of fruitless talks with legislative leaders about achieving genuine ethics reform. Like many New Yorkers, Mr. Cuomo has been embarrassed by the spectacle of state officials being led out of their offices in handcuffs. Nearly three dozen have been caught up in corruption cases. At one point last year, four legislators were placed under arrest in a four-week span. Those arrests came after it was revealed that two legislators agreed to wear a wire during meetings with colleagues in an attempt to curry favor with prosecutors.
To his credit, Mr. Cuomo tried to negotiate comprehensive ethics reform with legislative leaders, but they simply refused to recognize that the public was losing faith in state government.
It was then, and only then, that Mr. Cuomo chose the nuclear option of authorizing a Moreland Commission probe of state government. It was an option reflecting frustration with a legislative leadership that is accustomed to business as usual.
It’s hard to question the governor’s frustration. It is, after all, shared by most well-informed voters who are embarrassed by the Legislature’s shenanigans and bipartisan log rolling.
If he is re-elected, Mr. Cuomo still will have the chance to bring about real reform in Albany. Today’s headlines will fade. Hopefully Mr. Cuomo’s determination to change the culture of Albany will not.