A Joint Statement by Howie Hawkins and Ramon Jimenez
The Green Party was the main critic of the Moreland Commission when it was first created in July of 2013. Our warnings, unheeded as they were, have unfortunately proven true.
“The Green Party said it was doubtful that the Commission would do much to prosecute elected officials for corruption, despite the tidal wave of cases against state legislators in the last decade brought by US Attorneys, not countyDA’s. The Commission is just another bully pulpit for the Governor to talk but not act on ethics and campaign finance reform in the state legislature – something he was not up to the task of pushing through during his first three years in office.
“Cuomo’s own fundraising needs to be a principal target of the newly appointed Moreland Commission, starting with his enormous contributions from the gambling industry, the nearly $30 million he has secured for his re-election, and the $15 to $17 million in unreported funding he raised to support his agenda. The Commission needs to place donors under oath to determine whether they were seeking favors in exchange for their contributions.”
It has become fashionable in recent days to describe the latest developments with the Moreland Commission as Cuomo’s Watergate — that Cuomo’s attempt to tamper with witnesses may prove to be a bigger crime and scandal than his initial interference with the operation of the Commission. (See our new video on Moreland at bit.ly/UVmnI0.)
But, the corruption and criminal acts go deeper. Numerous elected officials in New YorkState routinely and brazenly violate the public trust to enrich themselves, their friends and campaign contributors at taxpayer expense. Lawmakers have increasingly legalized bribery in a multitude of ways: pay-to-play campaign contributions, porous donor rules, and receiving legal fees for representing clients that work the political system.
We are encouraged that the US Attorney Preet Bharara seems to be take his responsibility to combat corruption at the state capitol seriously. We have seen little evidence of that from Attorney General Schneiderman, the State Comptroller, or local district attorneys. We have heard little from JCOPE on any of this. We would at least expect that JCOPE would investigate Cuomo’s use of campaign funds to pay for an attorney to represent the Governor’s office in the investigation of the handling of the Moreland Commission; this is wrong on many levels.
Why aren’t more lawmakers in jail for their corruption? New YorkState laws against public corruption are too weak. Tougher laws are needed, starting with full public campaign finance reform to end campaign contributors’ ability to pay lawmakers. A campaign contribution should not be the best investment that Wall Street can make.
It was certainly no surprise to us that the Cuomo administration sought to impede the work of the Moreland Commission once it stated that it wanted to investigate the campaign contributions of the Real Estate Board of NY.
Rooting out corruption and making an example of dishonest lawmakers should include state legislative leaders Shelly Silver, Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos at the top of the list. It violates the peoples’ trust to make money from their law firms’ representation of clients who stand to benefit from their legislative influence.
It was wrong that someone such as Senator Joe Bruno, who glorified the art of corruption, was acquitted. Joe Bruno was not innocent, he is just evidence that the laws against corruption are a joke.
We would like to conclude by adding that we are strong supporters of home rule, and believe that the NYC government — not Albany — should have the right to determine the local minimum wage, and to set tax policy for city residents and workers.
We also stand with community residents in calling for justice for Eric Garner, whose death was ruled a homicide by the coroner. Those who killed Mr. Garner should be criminally indicted and the legal system should be allowed to determine the level of innocence or guilt. We also need a truly independent Citizens Police Review Board with the authority to correct misbehavior by law enforcement members.