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Politics and Government

Bharara appears to slight Cuomo at Albany ethics forum

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Karen DeWitt
/
WRVO News

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, speaking Thursday at a panel on corruption in state government at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, took a shot at some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's actions.

Bharara, without mentioning Cuomo by name, seemed to criticize the governor’s actions. He said with the recent crime wave sweeping state government that’s led to Bharara’s successful prosecution of the former leaders of the Legislature, some recent actions have been inappropriate.

“It should be a time not to be shutting down ethics commissions, but keeping them open,” Bharara said. “It would be a time to actually not be removing watchdogs, and not be removing oversight, but increasing oversight.”

The governor’s closure of a Moreland Act commission to look at corruption in the Legislature drew scrutiny, but ultimately no action, from the federal prosecutor. Cuomo and the Legislature in 2011 passed a law to stop the state comptroller from reviewing contracts for economic development projects that are now the focus of a federal probe by Bharara’s office.

Cuomo has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but two of his former top associates have been accused of corruption.

Bharara also said he might have done some things differently in his prosecution of two former legislative leaders had the cases come before a recent Supreme Court ruling that reversed the corruption charges against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

He said the judge might have treated the instructions to the jury differently, and prosecutors “would have been even more careful” about making sure their summation and rebuttal arguments “completely conformed” with the court’s new interpretation of the federal theft of honest services law.

Bharara did not say whether he thinks there's a chance that former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver or former Senate Leader Dean Skelos will see their convictions reversed on appeal.