Cuomo's Key Aide to Meet With Feds In Commission Probe

Monday, 04 Aug 2014 11:08 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Larry Schwartz, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's highest-ranking aide, will meet with federal prosecutors this month who are investigating whether the governor's administration interfered with the anti-corruption Moreland Commission.

Schwartz, as secretary to the governor's office, was Cuomo's official conduit to the commission, which the governor himself set up in July 2013 to investigate reports of public corruption, reports The Wall Street Journal. The 25-member panel, with several district attorneys, was given powers of subpoena and named deputy attorneys general.

But in March, less than a year after Cuomo named the commission, he disbanded it. The New York Times, in a three-month examination of the commission's activities, "found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him."

An attorney for the Cuomo administration, Elkan Abramowitz, also got a letter from federal prosecutors, saying that the administration's contact with people on the commission could be construed as witness tampering or obstruction of justice, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, Michael Koenig, an attorney for the commission, got a similar letter.

When Cuomo shut down the commission, several of its pending corruption probes were left open, and Cuomo has been facing accusations that his aides steered the commission away from investigating his allies.

Cuomo has acknowledged discussing news inaccuracies with "relevant parties" about his office in connection with the commission.

Schwartz, Cuomo, and the attorneys are not commenting on pending investigations, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Mylan Denerstein, who is Cuomo's counsel, is also set to meet with prosecutors this month.

Cuomo selected Schwartz as his top aide in 2011, his first year in office, and he consults with the governor on all aspects of the administration, and connected regularly with the Moreland Commission's members.

Cuomo's office has admitted that Schwartz once told a commissioner to rescind a subpoena to a media-buying firm, Buying Time, that had worked for the governor's 2010 campaign.

The commission reissued the subpoena weeks later, which Cuomo said shows the group was acting independently.

Meanwhile, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, one of the commission's three co-chairs, is assisting with the probe, The New York Daily News reported Monday.

Rice and U.S Attorney Preet Bharara, whose team is investigating the commission's closing, have met several times, a source tied to the commission said.

Her spokesman, Eric Phillips, confirmed she is assisting federal investigators, but did not give specifics and said she is declining to comment publicly.

Rice, a Democrat, is a congressional candidate for the Fourth Congressional District seat of retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and has been heavily criticized by GOP opponent Bruce Blakeman for her silence in the matter.

Last week, he called on her to release all e-mails from her time on the commission, reports Newsday, saying that "in our search for the truth, we are asking [Rice] . . . to break her silence and tell the public exactly what she knew regarding any political interference."

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