The Post Star
September 14, 2013
We’re encouraged by what we are hearing from the Moreland Commission as it tries to clean up state government.
The commission was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s answer to the Legislature when it failed to enact any of his proposed laws to rein in corruption in state government. So two months ago, under the state’s 1907 Moreland Act, Cuomo appointed a commission filled with some of the state’s top prosecutors to look into corruption in Albany.
According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press last week, the commission demanded all lawmakers provide data for outside employment that paid more than $20,000 in 2012. This past year was the first year legislators were required to provide information on outside income, but the information was hard to process, vague and gave just a ballpark figure for the actual total.
But it was a good first step.
The Moreland Commission is making it clear it is going to play hardball, and it set a deadline of Sept. 12 for lawmakers to give up the financial data.
If they do not comply, the commission might subpoena people and records.
We say it is about time.
Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County district attorney and one of three co-chairs for the commission, told the New York Daily News last week, “What we are looking into is: Is it just a couple of bad apples, or is it actually the vine that is corrupt?”
Considering the corruption already exposed among downstate legislators, we believe the commission will find more bad apples. It may find most of New York City is rotting on the vine.
What this all means is that legislators, many of whom are lawyers, will have to give up their client lists and explain what work they did for them.
It is a level of transparency that is long overdue and would immediately expose any patronage going on in Albany.
We believe that is a good start, but are more encouraged the commission intends to go even further by exposing how lawmakers have bent and twisted their ethics around vague laws.
Here’s what Rice told the Daily News:
“I think what needs to be exposed for the public, and I think this is what the commission feels as well, is all of the other things that go on that may not rise to the level of being a crime, but would make someone say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not wrong? That’s not against the law?’ ”
It was that type of predicament that led to Joe Bruno’s trial.
The question ultimately was whether doing consulting work for clients — as Bruno claimed he was doing — was a standard business practice without any ethical repercussions in the Legislature, or was it just a form of legal bribery?
We suspect the Moreland Commission will find lots of gray areas when it comes to how legislators do their jobs. Exposing those areas so unethical practices can be stopped is also paramount if the commission is going to clean up Albany.
We urge all our readers to watch closely as the Moreland Commission goes about its work.
There is a lot at stake.
There is still a possibility that both the Senate and the Assembly may challenge the commission’s authority to investigate the Legislature. The Moreland Act was originally passed as a tool in investigating executive branch agencies.
If both the Senate and Assembly balk at cooperating with the commission, it sends a clear message they have something to hide.
But we suspect we all knew that already.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Vincent Palacino.