After the state legislature failed to reach a deal on campaign finance reform and a number of state lawmakers were indicted, Governor Andrew Cuomo is following through on a threat he made earlier this year, as he has created a commission to investigate state corruption. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
The familiar sight of lawmakers in handcuffs has inspired Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"The recent rash of wrongdoing of legislators in Albany has shaken the public confidence, the public trust in government," Cuomo said.
The governor has tapped a rarely used power of his office. He's calling it the commission to combat public corruption.
"There has never been a more credible group of law enforcement professionals assembled in this state," he said.
Surrounded by prosecutors, the governor created the investigative body on Tuesday. It's armed with subpoena power and triggered by a century-old law known as the Moreland Act.
It empowers the group, which includes 10 district attorneys from around the state, to conduct a broad investigation. Their task? Examine the state Board of Elections and the state's bribery laws, and investigate the campaign accounts of members of the state legislature.
"They have a broad mandate, and they will have all the resources they need to carry this out, and that's why we're here today," said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Some members of the state legislature NY1 spoke to said they welcomed the commission, but their enthusiasm was subdued and they offered some caveats.
"I don't suspect it will be a witch hunt, but again, I wish that we in the Senate had put forward our own reforms, and then this conversation wouldn't be necessary," said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic Conference Leader in the state Senate.
"I very much respect the governor, but it should be his campaign that's looked at as well," said Assemblyman Matthew Titone of Staten Island.
"People that are doing wrong things seem to be getting caught left and right, so I'm not really sure why it's necessary," said Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn.
Earlier this week, state Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos suggested the commission could be a witch hunt.
Other Albany observers questioned whether it could be successful.
"Let's start with the Moreland Commission, but hope that in the 2014 legislative session, he finally gets up and changes Albany," said Bill Samuels of New Roosevelt. If he doesn't, then I blame him for Albany."
Cuomo has given the commission a deadline. Its first report is due in December.