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Diaz Says Albany Has Ethical Double Standard

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The Daily News recently highlighted a $100,000 donation to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by Extell Development that appears to have been made the same day as a piece of legisaltion that granted the company tax breaks was passed in the Assembly. The tax breaks applied to the One57 building at 157 W. Fifth St., and others.

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The bill had been scheduled for a vote in June 2012. Cuomo's representatives have denied any connection between Cuomo's approval of the bill and the donations but Sen. Ruben Diaz sees things differently.

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He used his newsletter to imagine what would happen if he was caught up in similar controversy.

My dear reader, can you imagine if I did that kind of thing? Can you
imagine if I, Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., received $100,000 from any developer right before I threw my support for a piece of legislation that benefited that developer?

Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t think there would be full-scale
local, state, and federal investigations claiming that I had accepted a
bribe in exchange for a political favor? Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t think that every single editorial board would be condemning me as corrupt? I can only imagine the torch and pitchfork crowds descending on my office.

This spring, as a number of minority legislators were busted in corruption cases and wiretapped by other minority legisaltors, some began to question whether minority legislators from the city were being singled out. The New York Times ran an article on the issue.

A number of legislators have recently mentioned an incident that took place during Gov. David Paterson's waning days in office. Paterson took tickets to The World Series from the Yankees and was subsequently fined $62,125 by The Public Integrity Commission — the ethics group that has now been replaced by Cuomo's Joint Public Commission On Public Ethics.

The scandal added to Paterson's many woes as he was trying to mount his campaign for governor. Paterson eventually dropped out and Cuomo — who had already announced his campaign — no longer had a primary against a black candidate as he did during his failed 2002 run for governor.

Some legislators point out that there have been a number of incidents that seem ethically dubious involving Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that have gone uninvestigated — incidents similar to the Yankee ticket scandal or perhaps worse.

No ethics group is investigating Silver's mishandling of sexual harassment charges or the fact that the Cuomo administration negotiated a deal to keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo that included a 12-seat luxury suite. The Cuomo administration said the box will be used to promote Buffalo and some elected officials will pay to use the box.

But others criticized the deal.

“No government agency needs to lease a luxury suite to market upstate New York,” former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky told The New York Times at the time. “If they need to buy tickets, that’s fine, then they buy them on an as-needed basis. The cost of the luxury suite is being paid by the taxpayer, remember that.”

Now that Cuomo has freed the Moreland Commisison to investigate corruption and campaign finance, Diaz and other lawmakers wonder if it will truly analyze powerful leaders like Cuomo. The commission has subpoenad developers who have donated to Cuomo but Diaz remains skeptical:

Let’s see how bold and fearless the Moreland Act Commission is when it pursues compliance with the subpoenas it served on the One57 building management Let’s see how the Governor’s Commission investigates what appears to be corrupt and improper influence by luxury developers.

Let’s see if the Commission investigates the role and timing of the $100K donation to the Governor’s political campaign.

Will we see a quiet resolution of these subpoenas with no inquiry into the Extell donations to Governor Andrew Cuomo?

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