Shutting Albany’s Doors

“Clean up Albany,”

It has been a shared belief for some time that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambition and assumed presidential aspirations have gotten in the way of what at one time had the promise of a real revolution in the state capital. Now, after a devastating New York Times story about his meddling with a much-heralded anti-corruption initiative, suspicions about Mr. Cuomo are fast turning to deep disappointment.

“Clean up Albany,” Mr. Cuomo said more than once when he was the state attorney general running for New York’s top job. Now it seems that role will have to fall to someone else.

Mr. Cuomo created the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption to great fanfare and promises of impartiality. It was supposed to get at the roots of Albany’s backroom deals and make for honest and open state government. But when its investigations moved too close to Mr. Cuomo’s financial backers, however, his aides moved in to put on the brakes. Mr. Cuomo next simply shut down the commission in a quiet budget change after it had been in existence for only about nine months.

Speaking this week in an upstate appearance, Mr. Cuomo defended his actions and those of his subordinates. This came at about the same time as one of the Moreland Commission’s three co-chairmen did a public about-face, refuting earlier statements he had made in emails obtained by The New York Times in which he complained about meddling from above.

Mr. Cuomo appears in a panic about the unfolding scandal, contradicting his own earlier promises about the commission’s independence and praising its staff, whom he had not so long ago derided as acting “with no logic or basis.” A year ago,  Mr. Cuomo said, “It’s an independent commission that will investigate whatever they believe needs to be investigated.” Now, he says that since he created the panel, it could not, by definition, investigate him or outside parties to whom he was close. Mr. Cuomo’s revisionist defense is not credible.

Since the time Mr. Cuomo disbanded the commission last year, Preet Bharara, the United States district attorney for the Southern District of New York, has shown major interest, seeking records and looking at the governor’s role. Federal attention may be the only way to finally bring some order to Albany and complete the work that Mr. Cuomo or his subordinates wanted so badly to shut down when it got too near.