The Moreland Commission has generated a lot of hysteria, but way too thick a smoke screen of obfuscation. Throw in the Real Estate Board of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Secretary Lawrence Schwartz, the alleged protagonists that cajoled this crisis into fevered pitch and you learn of fiction concocted to titillate while seemingly validating a well-managed plot whose plausible scenarios feign credibility. The facts differ from those offered by pundits who sense a smoldering fire. Let’s review what is known and the facets that fit into a puzzle that has eluded those watching this hoped for salacious story as it unfurls before an audience riveted to the shenanigans of Albany. The cage is being rattled. Nothing has been revealed; intentioned or political or illegal.
Hobbled with a seemingly endless diet of innuendos, scandals, and subsequent arrests, Gov. Andrew Cuomo set up the Moreland Commission to create a perception of ethical conduct among the members of the New York State Senate.
In the meanwhile, the contentiousness recognized in backroom discussions, and the recalcitrance intimated publicly before the New York State Senate, suggested New York State Senate Majority Co-leader Dean Skelos was reluctant to cast his votes for Governor Cuomo’s Proposed FY2014-2015 New York State Budget; to be also supported by the votes of his Co-leader Jeff Klein, head of the independent Democratic Conference.
In the meanwhile, the ten-member New York State District Attorneys who presided over the Moreland Commission, had learned that some Senators’ conduct was illegal. It would soon be learned that they numbered twenty.
Members of the New York State Senate are permitted to apply for transportation re-imbursement costs, that is, items such as gasoline, and toll costs. By law, the same Senators are entitled to charge their election campaign efforts for transportation re-imbursement. The illegality was revealed when it was discovered that some Senators filed for reimbursement from the New York State Senate, his/her political campaign effort, and or re-imbursement for miles travelled on Federal Income Tax returns. That would amount to double or triple dipping. A definite “No, no!” Not ethical and not legal.
Out of a current roster of 63 New York State Senators, 20 were found to be double-dipping. The twenty were all Republicans.
Gov. Cuomo approached Senator Skelos with a backroom “solution”. Gov. Cuomo would dismiss the Moreland Commission in exchange for a horse-trade with Sen. Skelos; rather than maintain his reluctance toward approving the budget, Sen. Skelos would instead approve Gov. Cuomo’s Proposed FY2014-2015 Budget. By dismantling the Moreland Commission, the 20 Senators engaged in allegedly illegal conduct would be free of a paper trail that if found, could exacerbate their earlier than expected political demise. Gov. Cuomo also wanted passage of Campaign Finance Legislation. Such a bill passed but it fell short of what Gov. Cuomo had hoped for.
Senator Skelos accepted the deal. In doing so, Sen. Skelos salvaged the careers of twenty Senators.
On the campaign trail, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has recoiled from the scandal; not quite bringing the political brouhaha to roost with Gov. Cuomo. Have you noticed that not one Republican Senator has endorsed the Astorino candidacy? Part of the deal.
Those who once ssweated out their possible demise before the likes of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara may not realize that a paper trail does indeed exist. A look at the reimbursement forms presented to the New York State Senate and those presented by the respective Senators by their political campaigns are public knowledge. Mr. Bharara has the added ability to gain access to IRS reports where tax write-off of mileage travelled and travel expenses may have been claimed that are duplicates or triplicates of similar, albeit redundant credit/reimbursement already claimed.
A sincere thank you to those that stirred this issue in my consciousness again and a thank you to those who honed the facts with the precision of a scalpel.