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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 10:00
Governor Cuomo tries to stamp out corruption with an independent commission who deals with interference from unexpected places. Attorney Preet Bharara lasers in on the committee’s findings.
Links to NY Times articles mentioned:
The Many Faces of New York’s Political Scandals:
NY Times article about Moreland Commission:
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It's January 5th, 2005, a cold snowy day in Albany, New York. Inside the state capital, Dr. Richard Talb, the director of a cancer research lab at Columbia University, shrugs on a heavy wool coat over his black suit and colorful bow tie. The ceremony honoring assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has just ended. As Dr. Talb walks towards the door, he feels a hand on his elbow. Dr. It's Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the assembly himself, one of the three most powerful men in state politics. Speaker Silver, thank you for inviting me. Dr. Talb, do you have a few minutes? I'd like to talk to you more about your research, if you can spare the time. Yes, of course. I can always make time to talk about what we're doing at the same. Let's watch, shall we? Silver needs the relative privacy of the back hallways of the capital for this conversation. Luckily, it's late in the day and the capital is emptying out. People hurrying home before it snows again. I wanted to thank you for your referrals to the law firm. We're getting some nice settlements for your mesophilia, my patients. How's it going with your research, though? Honestly, it's been challenging. There's only so much we can do without additional funding. Ah, yes. You sent me a letter to my office about that, didn't you? There are several state grants I think we qualify for. Well, I agree. The state will be allocating research money shortly, and I was thinking specifically of one of our grants in the amount of $250,000. Well, that would be a tremendous help. We could buy more equipment, hire another researcher. It's important work. And if you have other patients in need of legal assistance, keep sending them to me. I'll forward them along to my firm, and then I'll see what I can do about that grant money. Dr. Talb has been genuinely interested in his patients and committed to finding a cure to a rare cancer that afflicts people exposed to asbestos, but he understands a quid pro quo when he hears one. What silver is genuinely interested in are kickbacks, or referral fees, as they're more politely called. Silver is of counsel to the law firm Whites and Luxembourg, but he does no actual work. Instead, silver's value comes in the form of referrals. Each sick patient, Talb sends a silver, silver sends to the firm, and receives a kickback. In the last two years, silver has made a little money from Talb's patients, but he knows where there's a little, there's often more. Millions more. Giving Talb's center a small state grant, with the hint of more down the road, just might make those millions show up. What neither of them know is that this arrangement will come to haunt them in ways they never expected, or intended. An scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily, when an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska. It sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins, and where it's headed, will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter, who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC, and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Some wondering, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scan. This is the third episode in our series about the state of crime in Albany, New York. In our last episode, former Governor Elliott Spitzer resigned from office in a prostitution scandal that made headlines across the nation. Shortly after, former Senator Joe Bruno was indicted for fraud. In 2011, a new governor is elected, and he has an agenda, one that the two most powerful men in the state, assembly speaker Sheldon Silber and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellos, are resisting. And when two strong opposing forces collide in Albany, someone's bound to go down. This is episode three. Hey to play. It's a sweltering summer day in July 2013 in Albany, New York, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is feeling the heat. Two and a half years ago, he swept into office on the promise to clean up Albany once and for all. Again, since then, New Yorkers have watched as one scandal after the next has plagued the Capitol, legislators drummed out of office in a trail of shame, tax evasion, influence peddling, bribery, and bezel. Something was rotten in the city of Albany, and to the public, it looked like Cuomo wasn't doing anything to clean up the stink. He knows Albany has become the laughing stock of the nation, and with a reelection year right around the corner, this isn't good press. He's been doggedly trying to push through an ethics reform bill, one with real teeth, but certain legislators seem equally as determined to water it down. To get his agenda through, he'll need a strong arm, and he doesn't have to look far to find a legislative weapon that will give him the muscle. Something called the Moreland Act. The Moreland Act was introduced more than a century ago, and it gives the governor or anyone he appoints the ability to examine the affairs of any department in the state and recommend legislation. They can interview witnesses, hold hearings, and issue subpoenas. Over the years, it's been used to investigate malfeasance within welfare, the utilities, and nursing homes. What Angel Cuomo's father, three term governor Mario Cuomo, was the first to use a Moreland Commission to investigate government integrity. His son plans to take it one step further. The governor's office invites the press to the elegant red room on the second floor of the state capital. A U shaped table has been set up against the dark wood paneled walls. He did around it are some of the most seasoned prosecutors, professors, and lawyers in the state, just some of the people who will make up a new commission to investigate public corruption. Governor Cuomo sits in the center of the table, wearing a dark suit and a bright blue tie that matches the tablecloth. When the room quights down, Cuomo folds his hands and begins to speak. This is a very powerful step that the state government is taking. The recent rash of wrongdoing by legislators in Albany has shaken the public confidence, the public trust in government. You hear about it from one end of this state to the other. It's not that corruption in government is no, in many ways it's the oldest drama, how power corrupts. But it is inexcusable. To me, public corruption is a double crime. It's the underlying crime and then it's the crime of breaching the public trust. He looks around the table at the bipartisan group he has put together for his task. It's an extraordinary amount of law enforcement power. There's an executive director, Loyal to Cuomo, three cochairs and 21 other members and they will rarely get along. But today they look serious and determined as the governor speaks directly to them. Your mission is to put a system in place that says, we're going to punish the wrong doers and to the extent people have violated the public trust, they will be punished. Two, there is a system in place so the public should feel confident that if there is wrong doing going on, there's a system in place that will catch those people and make sure it doesn't happen again. The governor opens up the floor for questions. The media have been covering one state house scandal after another for years. They are skeptical that the commissioners will be allowed to do their jobs without interference. A reporter turns to one of the panel's three cochairs, the district attorney from Syracuse, William Fitzpatrick, and asks how the commission can impartially investigate things like campaign finance violations when governor Cuomo is one of the biggest fundraisers in the state. Fitzpatrick could pass for a career military man with his rectangular wire rim glasses and square haircut and he gets right to the point. The governor is not looking to, I mean he and I have spoken about this, he's not looking for rubber stamps, he's looking for an independent commission and we'll do what Deep Throat told Bob Woodward to do, follow the money. In other words, it's hunting season at the state capital and everyone is fair game. Governor Cuomo gives the Moreland commissioners 18 months to finish their work. A preliminary report outlining problems with the political system is due in December. It's been a long time coming but it looks like legitimate nonpartisan oversight has finally found its way into New York state politics. For cynical tired New Yorkers, it's a sliver of hope. Two weeks after his red room meeting, the governor releases a 30 second campaign ad promising to clean up corruption and Albany with the help of his new commission. He delivers his message in a serious tone looking straight into the camera. So I am appointing a new independent commission led by top law enforcement officials from all across this great state to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing. The politicians in Albany won't like it, but I work for the people and I won't stop fighting until we all have a government that we can trust. It airs 97 times that day. Not everyone is happy about the Moreland commission, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for one. After Elliott Spitzer left office in 2008, Speaker Silver has settled into business as usual and he would like to see that continue. Silver is a battle tested veteran who has been representing Manhattan's Lowry side for 30 years. He wants to enjoy a productive working relationship with Cuomo's father and he's known Andrew since he was a kid. While he and Cuomo don't always agree, they mostly get along, so he'll support the governor and his Moreland commission for now as long as it doesn't encroach on any of his interests. Silver's powerful counterpart, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellos, isn't as optimistic. He's a long Islander, the grandson of a Greek immigrant. He's got street smarts and at sixth sense for when something poses a real threat. He senses it now. His commission could cause real problems for the way things operate in Albany. But he's also politically smart. He learned at the feet of Joe Bruno, who was a master of playing the press. In an interview, Skellos tells reporters that the commission has the possibility of becoming a witch hunt and then in the tried and true strategy that the best defense is a good offense, he hints that the commission might have reason to look at Governor Cuomo himself. The Moreland Commission Investigator set up shop in an office building in Lower Manhattan. The commission's chief investigator is E. Donia Perry. She's a former federal prosecutor from the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office and with some big wins under her belt, she's not only tough, she's smart. Tassed with following the money, Perry begins looking at big political donors. Political donations are legal, it's how most politicians fund their campaigns. What the commissioners want to find out is whether a politician gave the donor something in return. Perry and her team quickly pinpoint a powerful trade group called the Real Estate Board better known by its initials, ReB. ReB members are developers who own hundreds of millions of square feet of expensive New York real estate. Glenwood Management, Tishman Spire, Trump International Realty. Collectively donations from board members and their firms add up to more than $21.7 million. They give to politicians from both parties, but the biggest recipient was none other than Governor Andrew Cuomo. Now, Perry and her team want to know whether that money influenced legislators to give the group a lucrative tax break for new housing, a tax break worth millions. The commission prepares a subpoena asking for details about the donations and connections to the tax break, including a record of phone calls with legislators. Knowing the subpoena though is the last thing executive director Regina Calcuttair wants to see happen. She's a former securities lawyer, an unlike Perry, she has experience working in government. She has even run for office herself. She has a direct pipeline to Governor Cuomo's office having worked for him in the past. And Perry suspects she's using it when Calcuttair strongly discourages her from issuing a subpoena that could make the governor look bad. The cochairs overrule Calcuttair. And before they can send their subpoena to the real estate board, cochair Kathleen Rice receives a call. Mr. Rice. Mr. Schwartz? On the phone is Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor and his senior aide. Schwartz is a no nonsense guy, the muscle behind the administration, and he's pissed. I've been told the commission plans to issue a subpoena for the real estate board. We have, yes. Let me offer you some helpful advice. Don't. Don't. If we all do respect Mr. Schwartz, we were told this commission would be independent. How are we supposed to do our jobs if we can't subpoena records? Why don't you send them a letter instead and ask them to send you what they have voluntarily? Mr. Schwartz, do you really think they're going to voluntarily give us records that show illegal activities? Illegal activities. That's quite an assumption you're making, Mr. Rice. I highly suggest you quash it. And that's just the first interference from the governor's office. An investigator start looking into donations from a major retailer to see if they've influenced another tax credit, it's also discouraged. The commission is told it might look bad for the governor. Commission is only two months into their work, and many of the commissioners are frustrated by what they see as threats to their independence. Eventually, those feelings make their way to the press. At a stop in upstate New York, a reporter asked Governor Cuomo whether his office is hampering the investigation that he himself started. He replies, anything they want to look at, they can look at. Me, Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, any Senator, any Assemblyman. By August of 2013, the commission is following other money trails too, to Albany Lawmakers Outside Income. About two thirds of Albany's 213 lawmakers supplement their annual salaries with other jobs. More than three dozen of them work as lawyers, where they earn huge paychecks, at least triple their government salaries. There's no limit on how much a New York lawmaker can make on the side, and it is perfectly legal, providing there are no conflicts of interest, and legislators are being paid for doing legitimate work. But what counts as legitimate? Commissioners begin sending out letters to politicians earning more than $20,000 from outside work. They request details about their earnings and who their clients are. They want to find out if those clients have any business before the state, which could count as a conflict of interest. There are two lawmakers who stand out from the group, and they just happen to be the two most powerful men in the state, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellows. A year earlier, Silver, a Democrat, was paid $450,000 by Manhattan law firm Wights and Luxembourg. Democrats are Republican, reported earnings of $250,000 from his work with law firm Ruskin Moskow and Falta Check. The services both of them provided are a mystery, which is why the Commission wants details. Details, the legislators aren't eager to share. Suddenly, Democrats and Republicans have something they can agree about, keep the Moreland Commission out of their business. It's mid September when the Moreland Commission really starts to fray. People members suspect Executive Director Regina Calcutera is a plant from the governor's office, put there to make sure there's no blowback on Cuomo. She seems to be relaying all their plans back to Cuomo's senior aide Larry Schwartz, and how would she even know their plans unless she was reading their emails? A feeling of paranoia and mistrust envelops the office. Some people stop sending emails through their work computers altogether, others threaten to quit. The former chair William Fitzpatrick realizes something needs to be done or the group will fall apart before they've been able to do any good. So he asks for a meeting with the governor himself to ask him to stop the interference coming from his own office. When Fitzpatrick and his two cochairs arrive, they must first face down Larry Schwartz, who gives them strong advice. He tells them that the Commission was created to investigate other politicians, not the governor, and there is a way business is done in Albany, a way that might look funny to people on the outside. The governor's office, meaning Schwartz himself, needs to be kept in the loop. With that warning, they are ushered into Cuomo's office. Cuomo is more conciliatory. He understands it's been tough, and he promises to give them more room to do their work. The cochairs leave the capital unsure of their next course of action. The governor had said that there would be no more interference, yet his senior aide said Cuomo's office should be informed of their every move. The governor said that they could investigate whomever they wanted. Schwartz said the governor is off limits. But before the night is over, the Moreland Commission will get a shot in the arm from a powerful federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, a man named Priet Barat. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, where you woke up in the morgue, where you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening, asks our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening, brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit, and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. Then thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening, is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. After months working behind the scenes, the Moreland Commission's first public hearing is scheduled for the evening of September 17th. The Commission invites law enforcement officials to discuss public corruption cases they've prosecuted. The first witness is a legal superstar, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Prit Barara. Born in India, Barara grew up in New Jersey as an all American boy with an unusual name and a brilliant mind. He graduated from Harvard and received his law degree from Columbia. His rise in the ranks of the Justice Department seemed faded, and he's a mass considerable power. The US Attorney in the Southern District has so much authority that there's an old joke in New York legal circles that goes, God wakes up one morning and decides he isn't powerful enough, so he points himself US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Barara is known as an unswerving crusader for justice, and a man who never shies away from a fight. In fact, he's likely to throw the first punch. When he went after Wall Street, his office ultimately posted an astonishing 82 convictions for insider trading, earning Prit Barara the title of the enforcer. Dynamic, an eloquent, and arguably a man who loves a headline, Barara urges the commission to be aggressive. Use your power of subpoena, look at everyone. He says, in all things, toughness and independence will pay off. This isn't just idle talk for Barara. His office has already been investigating corruption and Albany on their own, but now it's up to the commission to follow through. Sheldon Silver and Dean Skillow's have never had to account for their very high salaries at the law firms that pay them, not one dime. Hiring a legislator in Albany is a savvy move for any big New York legal or consulting firm, and their very happy clients. According to a Times investigation, over the last five years, companies represented by these firms have landed more than $7 billion worth of state contracts. A client of a firm that employs state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skillow's won a state contract worth close to $2 billion dollars alone. Any company that lands a big fish like the Assembly Speaker or the Senate Majority Leader has a powerful ally in business. So it's no surprise when the legislators refuse to comply with the commission's voluntary requests for records and clients names. What is surprising is that in an rare show of unity, the Republicans and Democrats send a joint letter on September 20th. They question whether the commission has legal right to ask for anything at all. In the governor's office continues to intervene as well, despite Cuomo's reassurances, the commission starts to get ticked off. Perry's at the end of her rope with all the playing politics. Just when she thinks the commission is getting somewhere, someone more powerful pulls a fast one. She knows silver is hiding something. Why else wouldn't he disclose details about the half a million dollars a year he's earning from outside work? He claims to be a simple personal injury lawyer, but he hasn't done any actual litigation in years. She's checked the records. So what is he doing? To make matters worse, the commission's running out of time. Their first report is due December 1st, with thanksgiving on the way, Perry would rather not trade in a turkey dinner with her kids to pull out her hair over investigations that go nowhere. But she will if she has to. Cochair willing fits Patrick, too, is impatient for answers. So far, only a handful of lawmakers have voluntarily disclosed their outside income, like the sheep farming lawmaker from upstate counties who happily told the commission about the five grand she made selling wool. They've subpoenaed the law firms with ties to all many lawmakers for more information, but if it's Patrick's skeptical, he'll ever get what he wants. But he'll keep trying. Like Perry, he wants results. For the past 20 years, Shelley Silver has been known for leading the assembly with a stoic face and an iron will. He sits back and watches, keeping his opinions close to the vest. His reticence has served him well over the years, and is certainly not going to change now, regardless of who subpoenas him or the firms he works for. But he's going to have to be even more careful than usual. His kickback scheme, or referral arrangement, with cancer research at Richard Tab, has worked out nicely. He's gotten Tab's cancer center more than half a million dollars in grant money, and he's been able to play rainmaker for Whites and Luxembourg. On the surface, it's a win win. Dr. Tab gets the funding he needs to conduct more research, and the victims or their survivors receive compensation for their pain suffering. But Sheldon Silver is the big winner. He's taken home more than $3 million of the course of this relationship. It's not his only lucrative association. Years ago, he set up a secret scheme. In return for legislative favors, he convinced two of New York's biggest real estate developers to switch their legal business to a tiny two person law firm, a law firm that happens to be run by a friend of Silver's, a lawyer who used to work for the state assembly. When the developers do business with a law firm, the firm pays Silver kickbacks. Over the years, close to a million dollars worth, even though once again, Silver does no actual work. One of those huge real estate developers is Glenwood Management, a prominent member of the same real estate board that the Moreland Commission was told not to subpoena. Glenwood develops luxury apartments in New York City, and has been a generous supporter of the campaigns of several powerful legislators, including Governor Cuomo, Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skellows. Glenwood has a lot of business before the state, too, like legislation involving real estate taxes. If the Commission uncovers these clear conflicts of interest, Silver will go down, and he knows it. If there is any hope that he'll survive the prying eyes of the Moreland Commission, he needs to get all his ducks in a row, and fast. On November 10, Donia Perry, Bill Fitzpatrick, and the other Moreland Commission investigators are working as fast as they can. In just three weeks, their first official report is due, and they are far from prepared. The law firms they've subpoenaed are stalling for time, and the Commission is encountering roadblocks everywhere they turn. Fitzpatrick decides to take his case to the press. Perhaps showing off the Commission's determination will turn up the heat, and cause some of their targets to cough up information. On November 13, he walks into the studios of WRVO, the public radio station in Oswigo. It may be a small upstate station, but it's enormously influential. The political show he's about to appear on is heard in 22 counties and even parts of Canada. This Patrick and host Grant Reher settle into their chairs, put on headphones, and get quiet. The engineer gives them a countdown, and then turns on the recording. They're rolling. My guest today is on and dog a county district attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, who is serving as co chair of the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption. The Commission was formed by Governor Cuomo in light of recent spade of public official scandals, and in the wake of a failure to negotiate a public ethics package with the legislature. District attorney Fitzpatrick, welcome to the program. Thanks, Grant. It's good to see you. Bill, give us an update. You've been at this for a couple months now, and it's a two sided coin, right? I mean, you're going to make policy recommendations, but you're also doing a lot of investigating, am I right? That's right, Grant. We want to bring transparency, make candidates disclose who they're getting money from, and what they're doing in return. It's difficult. We can make recommendations until we're blue in the face, but it's the legislature that has to pass new laws. You've got subpoena power. So do you as a commission have the authority to pursue things in a criminal fashion that you find? We do. And I can tell you without being tantalizing, I can tell you that we have. OK. Can you as moreland commissioners arrest or indict? We can't do that. We can't convene a grand jury. But we will be referring the cases to the appropriate prosecutorial agency. We'll see how it all plays out. Grant Rehör is a veteran public radio host. He won't share his feelings with his listeners, but in the studio, Fitzpatrick can see it all over his face. Rehör is floored. Fitzpatrick has made his point. Crooked lawmakers should be running scared, and the interview makes news all over the state, which makes Shelley Silver very nervous. He's got to do something more to stop this freight train. On November 22nd, Sheldon Silver and Dean Scales, along with their respective legislative bodies, file a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against the Moreland Commission to quash the subpoenas. They use arguments designed to make them look noble in the press and make the governor look bad. They claim that the commission are overreaching and seeking privileged client information that is protected by law. Most damning of all, they say the governor is using the commission to browbe the legislature into passing legislation he wants. Ironically, the legislation Cuomo wants is ethics reform. Sheldon Silver feels like he's finally turned the coin. This lawsuit could tie up the issue in the court for years. He might just land on his feet after all. This chilly and investigator, Daniel Perry's kitchen, and at 6am, still dark on this late November day. Daniel Yons and takes her first sip of coffee, then she pulls a turkey out of her fridge. It's Thanksgiving morning. But there are papers all over the counter, scribble drafts of her portions of the Moreland report. She pushes them out of the way and grabs the stuffing in the sage. Her Thanksgiving day, as she worried it would be, will be a mix of hurried meal prep, a few quick bites of turkey and cranberry sauce, and a lot of writing. The commission has promised their interim report in three days on December 1. In wild silver, scalos, and so many others are still fighting the subpoenas, Harry's team of investigators have turned up more dirty dealings at the Capitol than she had ever imagined. There's no shortage of things to write in this report, and she won't hold back. For one thing, she's determined to include what the investigators found about the connection between large political donations to Governor Cuomo and the real estate board, which largely bankrolled the governor's committees to save New York. She's just worried that, in the end, what she has to say won't see the light of day if the governor's office and handful of Cuomo loyalists on the commission have final say. She takes another gulp of coffee and surveys her kitchen. What's next? Ah, the pies. Many thanksgiving gratitude commissioners may have enjoyed didn't last long. As they prepared to release the report, there's infighting over what should be included, especially the details about Cuomo and the real estate board. The donations were made into Cuomo's committee to save New York. Because of New York's loose laws, the committee never had to identify its millionaire members, which allowed them, legally, to make political contributions in complete secrecy. Harry wants this in the commissioners report. Harry also wants to include emails the team found from a prominent New York builder who held a birthday party for Governor Cuomo, a fundraiser that employed a complicated campaign donation loophole to skirt donation limits. The fundraiser was legal, but he was hardly ethical. Harry believes the loophole exposes the kind of toothless anti corruption laws that are in need of serious overhaul. The three cochairs agree with Harry and want to include all of the investigators findings. There's just one problem. Other members of the commission loyal to Cuomo, including executive director Calcutera, don't want to include anything that makes the governor look bad. With the deadline approaching, Harry is losing sleep wandering whether the truth will be buried. The two sides argue about wording in the report right down to the wire. Calcutera wants the report to say that only a majority of commissioners agree on certain recommendations for reform. The cochairs are adamantly opposed. They are worried that if they are not unanimous, if they don't show a united front, it will kill any chance at reform. At 5.52pm on December 2nd, the cochairs receive the final report. After, it's been released by the executive director's team to the press. Harry's heart sinks. All of her arguments showing the money trail to the governor's office have been removed. Calcutera's team has also bypassed the cochairs wishes and used the word majority instead of unanimous. Cochairs Milton Williams is a former state and federal prosecutor. He's used to dirty tricks in the courtroom, but there is no way he's letting it happen with this commission. He personally calls Calcutera and raises his voice so she gets the point. You cannot operate like this. You need to remove the word majority now. Calcutera's team finally makes the change shortly after midnight. The recommendation for campaign finance reform will appear to be unanimous. With the press rarely prints the correction. They've already run with the first version. Still, even with some of the details gone, the report is a clear call for serious reform. Our investigation thus far reveals a pay to play political culture driven by large checks and neemic enforcement of the weak laws we have on the books and loopholes and workarounds that make those laws weaker still. They write that it's a culture dominated by bribery, the most blatant form of public corruption. That existing laws make public bribery incredibly difficult to prosecute that New York's politicians have one single driving motivation. Money. And this is just their preliminary report. Investigators stress that they are still uncovering crimes and campaign finance loopholes large enough for a corrupt lawmaker to drive semis through. They have 12 more months. They are not even halfway through their investigation. But the infighting has taken its toll on two of the most independent members of the commission, cochair Kathleen Rice and investigator Donja Perry. In January, Rice quits to run for Congress. In February, Donja Perry resigns in frustration. But cochairs Bill Fitzpatrick and Milton Williams remain, and they are still determined to fight the good fight. And their next front will be looking at how lawmakers may be using campaign funds for personal expenses. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is equally determined to stop the commission's work before they get to him. He goes on the attack. He holds a press conference blasting the Moreland Commission. He calls it a fishing expedition to intimidate legislators, and accuses Cuomo of using the commission as a threat to get legislators to pass his ethics reform package. But Silver doesn't fight the commission simply by maligning it in the press. In late March, the State Assembly and Senate vote to poll the Moreland Commission's funding. But behind the scenes, even bigger moves are happening. And it all goes back to those three men in a room. Governor Cuomo wants his package of ethics reforms passed. It could look like a big win to the voters when election time rolls around again. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellos want the commission off their backs. It appears the three men have negotiated a quid pro quo. On March 29, 2014, Governor Cuomo makes an announcement to reporters. It lasts precisely 63 seconds. He is killing the Moreland Commission. The legislature will pass a modest ethics reform bill that will include stronger laws against bribery and enforcement of election laws. He claims the ethics reform bill achieves his goal of cleaning up Albany, so the commission is no longer needed. No one knows exactly what went on behind closed doors. But it appears that when they negotiated the $142 billion state budget, the governor, the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader made a deal. And the new ethics reform package has some very curious features. The legislation creates a supposedly independent commission, yet it's made up entirely of appointees from the governor and the legislative leaders, with rules to allow the commissioners to block investigations. All votes will be done in secret by the commission, under threat to felony prosecution, so the public can't even find out what the commissioners might be covering up. And the rules say nothing about how much money legislators can make from outside sources, or what they can do to earn it, or who has to know. So in the end, nothing has changed. It's arguably even worse, all delivered under the guise of reform. New York newspaper editorial boards issue scathing rebukes of the governor's surprise decision to end the commission. What is the governor trying to hide? And just how much did his interference affect the commission's findings? After weeks of withering criticism, Governor Cuomo issues a statement to the press. He says, it's my commission. I can't interfere with it, because it's mine. It is controlled by me. In other words, the executive branch can and will decide what to do with the commission, even if that means decommissioning it. The message is clear. The governor Cuomo is moving on, and so should the press. But US attorney Priet Barara is not at all ready to move on. Barara has been suspicious of Cuomo's interference all along. Now he's more suspicious than ever, and he publicly criticizes Cuomo for shutting down the commission. Lawmakers who have been less than honest should be nervous. Barara's success is legendary. He went after the Gambino and Colombo mob families in New York's Asian street gangs. He indicted one of Wall Street's richest and most powerful hedge fund managers and put him behind bars. Priet Barara wants Albany to understand what it means to be on the wrong side of the southern district of New York. He intends to find out why the governor so abruptly shut down his own commission. Barara orders Cuomo's office to turn over all more than commission documents immediately. Then he and his team spend weeks pouring over them, looking for indications that the governor's office has broken law. The New York Times also assigns investigative reporters to dig into the Moreland Commission shutdown. They spend three months looking into emails and interviewing former members to try and figure out exactly what happened. In July, the newspaper publishes a long report detailing spying, suspicion, and tensions between the cochairs, investigator, Daniel Perry, and the executive director and Cuomo loyalist, Regina Calcutera. It says that the governor's office blocked any examination of Cuomo donors or other groups he's worked with. Barara's investigators keep looking, and they find some very interesting items. Not about Cuomo, but other state lawmakers. Albany is about to be shaken to its core in the same way Wall Street was. The enforcer is on a roll, and he's starting at the top. Shelland Silver and Dean Scalace may have thought they were finally in the clear, but they're not. From Wondry, this is Episode 3 of 5, a New York State of Crime for American scandal. On the next episode, Preet Barara is determined to make Shelland Silver and Dean Scalace account for their actions in court. If you'd like to learn more about corruption in Albany, we recommend the New York Times three month investigation into why the Moreland Commission ended so abruptly. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details, and while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, sound design, and executive produced by me Lindsey Grant for Airship. Additional production assistance by Derek Barrans. This episode is written by Michael Byrne. Our consultant is longtime Albany journalist Jay Jocknomitz. Our producer is Stephanie Jenns, Marshal Louis, and her nonlop has for Wondry.