Seizing on controversy swirling around the Moreland Commission, a state anti-corruption panel that Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice co-chaired, Bruce Blakeman, who is running against her for Congress, called on Rice last Thursday to publicly explain her role at the panel, and to release emails and other documents from her time there.
Blakeman held a press conference to discuss Rice’s leadership of the Moreland Commission on July 31 outside the state Supreme Court in Mineola, eight days after The New York Times published a front-page story alleging that Gov. Andrew Cuomo interfered with Moreland investigations that touched on his administration or backers.
Rice must “let the public know exactly what she knew, when did she know it, and if there was unethical or illegal conduct, or the potential for that, why didn’t she report it to the U.S. attorney or the attorney general?” Blakeman said.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, has launched an investigation into what transpired at the Moreland Commission, which the governor created in July 2013 and shut down in March, nine months ahead of schedule.
The same day Blakeman gave his press conference, the Times reported that Cuomo or his “emissaries” urged Moreland members to publicly defend the governor and the commission’s record, prompting Bharara’s office to warn Cuomo in a letter that attempts to influence Moreland members’ statements could amount to witness tampering or obstruction of justice. Cuomo defended his handling of the commission at a press conference in Buffalo, where he repeatedly cited a statement Moreland Co-Chair William Fitzpatrick issued claiming the commission operated independently.
Rice campaign spokesman Eric Phillips fired back at Blakeman on July 31, saying that Rice could not comment on the commission’s work because Bharara’s investigation is underway, while also disparaging the Republican candidate.