N.Y. Republicans Seek to Block Corruption Panel Subpoena

The New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee asked a court to block a subpoena issued by a commission that Governor Andrew Cuomo formed to investigate public corruption.

The subpoena, served in September at the request of the Moreland Commission, calls for the committee to produce documents by today, according to court papers filed yesterday in state court in Manhattan. In its filing, the campaign committee challenged the document requests and said the commission’s action “suggests partisan bias.”

“The sweepingly broad subpoena would compel disclosure of the committee’s most sensitive internal political communications, in violation of its right to free speech and political association,” Michael Chertoff, the attorney for the Republicans, said in a statement e-mailed today.

The commission also has sent subpoenas to the state Democratic Party, the company it used to place television advertisements, Buying Time LLC, and housekeeping accounts for all parties, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because specific decisions of the panel are private.

Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat, formed the commission in July after failing to strike a deal with lawmakers on a package of anti-corruption legislation. Since then, both the senate and the assembly refused to turn over information the commission requested on a voluntary basis regarding the clients and compensation of legislators who earn more than $20,000 a year in nongovernment jobs. The subpoenas followed their refusal.

On-Time Budgets

The friction between the governor and the legislature is a break in the relationship that helped Cuomo pass the first three consecutive on-time budgets since 1984, a law legalizing same-sex marriage, and a mix of tax increases for the state’s wealthiest residents and cuts for the middle class.

The shift in the relationship started after two state senators and an assemblyman, all Democrats from the New York City area, were arrested in April and May. Cuomo said the cases showed more needed to be done to take on corruption and proposed measures that would have made it easier for local prosecutors to target corrupt officials and boosted the investigative powers of the state board of elections.

Moreland Act

When Cuomo couldn’t strike a deal on the legislation, he created the 25-member commission, which is allowed under the Moreland Act of 1907. The law gives a New York governor broad investigative powers. Every member of the commission appointed by Cuomo was deputized by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman so they could have enhanced investigatory powers to dig through campaign-finance filings and lawmakers’ interactions with state agencies.

The power granted by Schneiderman established the grounds for the commission to pursue the information demanded in the subpoenas sent to the Republican campaign, according to the panel’s three co-chairmen -- Kathleen Rice, the Democratic Nassau County district attorney; William Fitzpatrick, the Republican Onondaga County district attorney; and Milton Williams Jr., a partner in the New York law firm Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard PC.

“We had hoped the Senate Republicans would willingly cooperate and they did not,” the co-chairmen said in an e-mailed statement. “We will prevail in court.”

The case is New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee v. Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, 159965/2013, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

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