In the past week, the release of the report by the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has caused quite an uproar with its multitude of findings.
The first announcement came the same day the Moreland Commission report was released, which was December 2. The Jewish Voice reported on the findings for the December 6 issue in an article titled “Panel Rules: NY Political Scene Corrupt.” In the first reports to come out regarding the panel’s conclusions, as reported by the Jewish Voice, the commission had found evidence of “probable wrongdoing” and recommended “sweeping changes to New York State’s elections, ethics and campaign finance laws.”
In the flurry of reports that have followed in subsequent days, even more grim announcements have followed suit. Take this issue’s coverage of the commission’s investigation into a New York City nonprofit agency that, while the panel refused to name the agency, it deemed worthy of conducting a 25-day investigation and noting the investigation’s findings in the final report which the Moreland Commission recently released.
The agency was mentioned as a result of receiving millions in taxpayer dollars when the exact services of the nonprofit are still in question, if any services are provided at all. At press time, this agency is still on the take and still receives funding, as the panel’s final disclosure was to simultaneously “out” the company while also back pedaling from outright accusations with the disclaimer that the “investigation remains in its early stages, and it is possible that the organization provides laudable services to the public,” and emphasized that it had “found no impropriety to date and reached no conclusion at this time.”
Talk about doublespeak! And in terms of contradictory language, the panel’s co-chairman, William Fitzpatrick is now doing damage control. Fitzpatrick is still making the rounds touting the hopeful prospect of the state Senate approving a public campaign system while Senate Republicans have already opposed the public financing measures, making the proposal dead on arrival.
Among the commission members themselves, some who initially recommended campaign finance reform jumped to the ship of dissention by the time the report was released on December 2. Seven members in fact have switched to the side of opposing such reforms.
Enter Fitzpatrick. On a recent television program just this past Monday, December 9, he said “I’m reading that there’s only one vote short ... That doesn’t sound like dead on arrival to me.”
This must be the “fuzzy math” former President George W. Bush infamously referred to.
How are we, the public, to trust a commission established to investigate fraud and corruption in state government when the commission is fairly contradictory in its final report? How do we trust a report that deems it both noteworthy to mention a 25-day surveillance project for a nonprofit agency that then concluded that while the investigation into the nonprofit is ongoing no wrongdoing has yet to be determined? It is hard to read between the lines of the two faces of the commission.
It is hard to believe the commissions co-chairman who encourages us to remain hopeful to the possibility of achieving campaign finance reform when it has been reported that seven of the panel members alone don’t support such reform. If they don’t support it and they are the ones making recommendations to the state Senate, why would the Senate then dare to pick up the torch of a cause the commission has already abandoned?
Especially considering the report accused the state Board of Elections of failing to enforce election laws. And that’s not all. The New York Times wrote that “the report suggested that campaign finance laws were so lax that fund-raising can amount to ‘legalized bribery.’”
In final, we reported last week that the report stated the following: “The commission’s preliminary observation is that both the general state of out political system, and the way business is transacted within it, cry out urgently reform. New York needs comprehensive reform to restore public trust.”
Therein lies the trouble: How can public trust be restored when the report’s findings, and the deluge of news stories that follow, are in complete juxtaposition, not only of each other, but of their own findings and conclusions. From this we are supposed to regain trust? We don’t even know which version or whose interpretation to trust.
But don’t worry, the spin doctors will have another go at it and try to tell you what to think next. The question is, will you believe it?