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State lawmakers fight Cuomo commission subpoenas in court

Leaders of the New York state legislature are in court fighting a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ethics commission that they turn over details about their private law clients.

Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are asking a state Supreme Court Judge to quash subpoenas from Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, demanding they reveal details of private law clients who pay them more than $20,000 a year. Their attorneys are arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the governor to directly investigate the legislature and it violates the separation of powers.

Legislative leaders wrote memos to their members, saying they believe Cuomo is using the tactic to try to coerce or threaten lawmakers into agreeing to the governor’s ethics reform package.  

Cuomo has said it’s a mistake for legislators to fight the requests for details of their outside employment, saying it makes them look like they have something to hide.

In a statement, the co-chairs of the Moreland Commission say some of the lawmakers clients are already complying with the subpoenas. They predict the commission will prevail in court.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.