New York is about to undergo yet another spasm of political bloodletting. This time, the heads on the chopping block include three of the most powerful elected state officials: Shelly Silver, Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The New York Post is reporting that, in an abrupt about-face, JCOPE has “voted yesterday to launch a massive investigation into the actions of everyone involved in the Vito Lopez sex scandal — including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.”
JCOPE members are prohibited by law from discussing their deliberations, but it’s fair to guess that the Commission’s change of heart was engendered by Governor Cuomo’s threat to convene a Moreland Act investigation if it didn’t do the job.
Since the commission members don’t actually investigate anything themselves, that task will be left to JCOPE’s executive staff — which is packed with Cuomo’s allies, including Ellen Biben, who was a senior advisor to Cuomo when he was the Attorney General. Along with Linda Lacewell, Biben was responsible for prosecuting the cases against former State Comptroller Hevesi and his political advisor Hank Morris.
Cuomo is too smart to attempt to directly sway JCOPE’s investigation. But he has made it clear from press statements that he wants a full investigation of all the major players, including Silver, Schneiderman and DiNapoli — none of whom are anything but “allies” of necessity to him.
Up until now, dealing with Silver has been a necessary evil for Cuomo, who could not hope to pass any meaningful legislation without him. But now, at the very least, a full JCOPE investigation threatens to seriously weaken Silver and his allies (including DiNapoli), who all pose significant obstacles to Cuomo’s reform agenda.