Not even a subpoena-wielding panel of top prosecutors from across the state could figure out who paid for a series of shady political mailers that attacked western New York and lower Hudson Valley senate candidates last year.
Common Sense Principles, a group that sent out political mail attacked Democratic senate candidates in 2012, has gone to such great lengths to conceal its funders that a series of subpoenas and interviews couldn’t turn up its backers, the Moreland Commission wrote in its 98-page report on corruption Monday.
The 25-member panel, appointed in July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, took a look at a number of campaign advertisements and mailers from the 2012 cycle, finding evidence of collaboration between Senate Republicans and the state Independence Party and several ads where funders were hidden behind ambiguous group names.
But when it came it Common Sense Principles, the Moreland Commission was stumped. The group targeted three Democrats in close 2012 races—Ted O’Brien of Irondequoit, Monroe County; George Latimer of Rye, Westchester County; and Joseph Addabo of Queens—with harsh negative mailers that attacked their records.
“So who pays for Common Sense’s political spending in New York? Despite issuing a number of subpoenas and conducting several interviews, the Commission still cannot say,” the report reads. “A New York-based direct mail company that sent the 2012 attack mailers has informed the Commission that the Common Sense mailer had been ordered by a Florida-based intermediary company. Common Sense, according to the direct mail company, is a ‘ghost company.’”
In a statement, Latimer spokesman Brian Hegt said the senator is “thankful for the efforts of the Moreland Commission members and staff for trying to uncover these shadowy operators.”
“Unfortunately, this is the new normal: relentless inaccurate negative attacks, lavishly funded by special interests hiding in anonymity. Regardless, the Senator continues to support the Governor’s and the Commission’s efforts to root out corrupt and fraudulent political practices,” Hegt said.
The commission noted that it didn’t have luck serving subpoenas on Common Sense or the Florida “ghost companies.”
“This daisy chain of out-of-state corporations and ‘ghost companies’ appears to exist for one reason: to hide the source of money used to fund negative advertising and influence our local elections,” according to the report. “Even this Commission, armed with subpoena power, still has been unable to track down the sources of the torrent of money flowing into and within our state.”
The Common Sense Principles section of the Moreland report starts on page 39: