Reacting to a recent rash of scandals in the State Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of a special commission to investigate corruption at a press conference at Hofstra University on July 2.
Cuomo, along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, formed the new ethics panel to probe alleged and confirmed cases of corruption and misconduct ranging from criminal charges to violations of voting laws and campaign funding policies during state elections. The group will serve as an independent committee for the investigation of any state agency that governs public peace, safety or justice.
Cuomo said that he launched the initiative after the Legislature rejected his bill to reform current election and campaign finance laws by adding more stringent stipulations.
“People of the state are questioning what kind of people are serving in the State Legislature in Albany,” he said. “Their trust has been eroded — people tend to be cynical towards politics in the first place — and this in some ways affirms the negative. I want to make sure we did everything that we could to restore their trust.”
Cuomo added, “The more you trust the government, the more capacity the government has. We’re only limited now by the extent of your trust.”
In working with the governor to form the commission, Schneiderman appointed 25 bipartisan law enforcement experts from across the state — who Cuomo said would serve as a “public watchdog” for the Legislature and have the power to issue subpoenas for public records and examine witnesses under oath in the investigation of corrupt officials. The commission features 11 district attorneys — including Nassau County D.A. Kathleen Rice, who will serve as one of three co-chairs — four law professors from universities across the state, nine attorneys in private practice with corporate or criminal defense law firms and the director of a forensic and litigation consulting firm.
“The governor has proven that a few bad apples, a couple of bad laws and a bunch of loose rules in Albany can threaten this progress and undermine the confidence people deserve to have in their state government,” Rice said. “That’s why it’s so important that we work together to make sure those we entrust to lead our government actually play by the rules.”