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Tim Wu on the Moreland Commission

Tim Wu

Tim Wu is running for Lieutenant Governor of New York State on the Democratic line against hometown favorite Kathy Hochul. Wu, who lives in Manhattan, grew up in Toronto. He is a Harvard Law School graduate and currently a professor at Columbia Law School. He is famous for coining the term “net neutrality”—the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discriminating against or favoring certain users. The principle is designed to ensure an even playing field for users to communicate and conduct business without interference from a third party.

Running on a shoestring campaign supported by many small donors, Wu’s candidacy was recently backed by the New York Times. The Buffalo News disagreed, arguing that “Wu’s utter lack of political experience is just one of the reasons that Democrats should support Hochul in the September primary.” The Democratic primary is Tuesday, September 9.

Before either of those endorsements were published, Wu dropped by the Artvoice office to talk about his campaign. His no-nonsense approach to issues is typified by his response to one big question hanging over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign: What was up with the Moreland Commission?“

Only in New York can an anti-corruption commission get corrupted. It’s like a bad joke, except it’s true. It’s endemic with the problems in Albany in more than one way. First of all, everything is a show. People think an anti-corruption commission is really going to do something. But it turned out that the only purpose of the thing was to pretend to do something. When it started actually catching corruption or potentially investigating people who were Andrew Cuomo’s allies or donors—suddenly it had to be steered and controlled. So it shows us that it wasn’t real.

When they formed the original Progressive Party in 1912, one of the things they said was the problem with America is we have an invisible government. We have the visible government—which says certain things and does certain things—then we have the invisible government, which is controlled by corrupt politicians and big business. That was in 1912.

And I think we have similar problems today. Many things that we think are the government are really just for show—much of the legislative process and things like the Moreland Commission, things like hundreds of other task forces. Then there is the real government, which is controlled not by voters but by donors. The interests of money tend to reign supreme. With the Moreland Commission it became obvious. It’s one of the few times it’s been exposed. That’s point one.

Point two, after the New York Times released its story showing things that were probably violations of state law had occurred—there was no inquiry. No investigation. Compare it with (New Jersey Governor) Chris Christie’s bridgegate scandal. Immediately, the Assembly, the Senate, the Port Authority itself—there were a series of investigations trying to figure out what went on. Even the governor set up his own investigation, which was a whitewash.

In New York, with the Moreland Commission scandal, there was a deafening silence. The only actors holding state government responsible in New York are the press—which does a good job but lacks subpoena power—and Federal prosecutors. It seems crazy that a state with the greatness of New York should rely on Federal prosecutors to keep its house in order.”

- statement by Tim Wu

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