The PJ Tatler

The Tick-Tock Begins for Andrew Cuomo

Moreland Commission? We never heard a' no Moreland Commission

Moreland Commission? We never heard a’ no Moreland Commission

The current New York governor and son of a former New York governor — no hereditary political families in these United States, no sirreebob! — is starting to find himself very, very lonely, rattling around in the governor’s mansion — no hereditary mansions in these United States, no sir! — in Albany. From the house organ (okay, the other house organ) of Democrat-Media Complex liberalism, Politico, this fine piece by Jeff Smith:

As news of numerous, exhaustively documented federal charges against New York Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver spread Thursday morning, the New York Daily News went looking for comment from Silver’s legislative colleagues. They found no shortage of pols who had long lived in fear of Silver—who was charged with taking several million dollars in bribes and kickbacks—but now are willing to turn on him. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. Most politicians, possessing unmatched self-preservation instincts, will distance themselves from an embattled colleague, and the alacrity with which they abandon him often speaks volumes about his behavior.

But one person who has worked closely with Silver didn’t attack or distance himself on this darkest of days for the speaker (who has expressed confidence in his eventual vindication). That would be Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Obviously, it’s bad for the speaker,” Cuomo acknowledged Thursday. “But it’s also a bad reflection on government, and it adds to the negativity. And it adds to the cynicism and it adds to the ‘they’re all the same.’” Why exactly would Cuomo go to such lengths not to impugn the inscrutable Silver, with whom he is not particularly close?

Good question! And, amazingly, Politico even manages to come up with the right answer: the big, stinking pile of horse manure known as the Moreland Commission, which Cuomo the Younger abruptly disbanded once it became known that he might be at least collateral damage as a result of its corruption investigation.

In 2013, the governor had charged the Moreland Commission with investigating state government corruption. According to the criminal complaint filed against Silver, as well as sources inside the commission, the speaker, who works as a lawyer outside of his government job, repeatedly refused to comply with commission requests to provide a description of the services he provided to his legal clients or a list of those clients, leading federal prosecutors to subpoena his firm. The Silver-led state assembly then filed a court motion to quash the commission’s subpoenas related to legislators’ outside income.

In exchange for allowing the campaign finance bill to pass, Silver allegedly demanded that Cuomo disband the commission, according to the complaint against Silver, and Cuomo—knowing that the commission was also examining the campaign spending of some of his largest donors—was apparently only too happy to oblige.

Silver has not publicly discussed these negotiations other than lambasting the commission’s inquiry into legislators’ outside income as a “fishing expedition”—perhaps because he knew all along that the guiltiest fish in Albany was staring at him in the mirror every morning. Cuomo has variously asserted that he disbanded the commission because it accomplished its primary goal of persuading the legislature to pass an ethics bill, and because the state didn’t “need another expensive prosecutor’s office”; while he originally called the commission “100 percent independent,” he later stated, “I can appoint it; I can disband it; I can appoint you; I can un-appoint you tomorrow.”

Here come the oh-oh part:

If Silver provides new details about Cuomo’s role in the negotiations that led to the commission’s demise, especially if the speaker reveals that Cuomo or his top negotiators were aware of the criminality underlying Silver’s desire to kill the commission, Cuomo’s vulnerability to an obstruction of justice charge increases. And Silver will be under unrelenting pressure to talk: pressure from the feds, pressure from his family and, of course, pressure rooted in any 70-year-old’s desire not to die in prison if it becomes clear that the only route to a short sentence is to give up a much bigger fish.

What are the chances Silver rolls? Given that US Attorney Preet Bharara has publicly said, “stay tuned,” I would say they’re pretty high. Unless, of course, Shelly should meet with an unfortunate accident along the way.