Frustrated that state lawmakers didn't take any steps to fight public corruption or campaign finance reform, Governor Andrew Cuomo this year created what's known as a Moreland Commission to make recommendations to clean up Albany. The group held its first hearings Tuesday night. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
With some high-profile witnesses speaking out about government corruption, Governor Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission is trying to show that it's taking its job seriously.
"We are all hopeful that this commission's efforts will lead to a greater understanding on the part of the public and the policy makers regarding the nature and the scope of the problem of public corruption," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
The Moreland Act is a law dating back to the early part of the 20th century that gives the governor the power to investigate. The commission can compel witnesses to testify and issue subpoenas, but it cannot prosecute.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was the first witness at the public hearing. He said that current laws governing corrupt officials need to be updated.
"A galling injustice that sticks in the craw of every thinking New Yorker is the almost inviolable right of even the most corrupt elected official, even after being convicted by a jury and jailed by a judge, to draw a publicly funded pension until his dying day," Bharara said.
After announcing that he would like to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, Cuomo and the legislature failed to pass legislation. Republicans blocked a plan to adopt New York City's public financing system on the state level.
Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich testified that New York City's model works.
"New Yorkers deserve a better campaign finance system, one that diminishes the role of the powerful special interests and actually gives a greater role or voice in the political process for the average New Yorker," Ulrich said.
Tuesday night's hearing coincided with the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. As a result, many people were not let inside the hearing out of fears that there would be disruptions.
"They hand-picked who was going to go in, and they said it was already filled to capacity, but no one had gone in yet," said one person.
The commission has 25 members, including three co-chairs. There will be another New York City public hearing next month focusing specifically on campaign finance reform. The commission must issue a preliminary report by December 1.