I thought maybe I should offer a brief introduction for those of you who don't know me. I'm a former reporter and editor with the Union-Sun & Journal and former talk show host and production director at WLVL.
Over the course of the last 15 years, I've reported on every municipality and school board in East Niagara. For quite a while, I was what the US&J refers to as their "city reporter," getting the bulk of the flashy headlines while writing stories about Lockport's city and town governments and the Lockport City School District. In that time, I got to know almost all of the major players in Lockport politics and business — most of whom continue to contribute to the local scene today. The contacts I made back then are going to make my job as news editor here at ENP considerably easier.
Our intention at East Niagara Post is to bring you news that interests you. News that's important to you. And news that affects you. Those are — believe it or not — not all the same thing.
As news editor, I'm going to write stories about your friends and neighbors (but hopefully not you) getting arrested. I'm going to write stories about economic development (there's one coming out later today, in fact). And I'm going to write stories about political process, commonly referred to as "inside baseball." Those will all be factual accounts. News.
As a columnist, once a week (on Fridays), I'm going to give you my opinion on all of those things. I'm also going to discuss my kids, some day-to-day minutiae, and whatever else I feel like writing.
Today I feel like writing about the great betrayal of New York known as Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
About a year ago, Cuomo set up the Moreland Commission, an independent investigative panel charged with rooting out corruption in New York. The state has been plagued with political corruption for at least as long as I can remember. Historians will tell you it goes back to the beginning, actually.
Cuomo heralded this new group as being the end-all be-all for eradicating the great disease of money in politics. Politicians would be investigated. Subpoena's would be delivered. Charges would be brought. Resignations would be expected.
The group got right to work. They went after Assemblymen. They went after Senators. They went after the governor. And they got abruptly shut down.
In March, days before the passage of the state budget — but after it had been primarily hammered out — the governor unceremoniously disbanded the group, saying it had done its job. Mind you, it had barely begun to scratch the surface.
One of the things we did learn from the commission was that our own state Sen. George Maziarz had spent more than $140,000 of campaign funds over a six-year period without specifying what the money was spent on — more than any other member of the state Senate or Assembly.
We later learned that Maziarz' chief of staff and another aide was subpoena'd by a U.S. Attorney regarding those findings, which would have never seen the light of day had Cuomo had his way.
See, Cuomo wanted to give the appearance of rooting out corruption. Or root out other people's corruption. But not his own. Not his friends. And not his supporters — of which Maziarz could be considered.
In the end, Cuomo canned the corruption commission (alliteration much?) in order to broker a budget deal and save face.
It may have been his undoing.
Andrew Cuomo has aspirations higher than New York State governor — just like his father did. But as the facts come out about the degree to which the younger Cuomo hamstrung the Moreland Commission, it jeopardizes those aspirations.
Barring something particularly damning coming out in the next couple months, Cuomo will be re-elected as governor in November. But it's the last office he'll ever hold. And his demise will be the corrupt act of disbanding a commission he created to root out corruption.
Scott Leffler is news editor of East Niagara Post. He'd like to think that his column will offer weekly news nuggets, sage advice and opinions not found elsewhere. That's the goal, at least. Look for it every Friday.
This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.