So much of this editorial has come out of my own mouth for over a decade. It is sickening and ludicrous to actually think that the very people that corrupted the process will actually fix it. That will NEVER happen. We can no longer sit idly by and expect them to fix it, we can no longer tolerate this corruption that permeates the halls of Albany’s den of iniquity. Cuomo is a product of this hell hole. We cannot actually think he and his special squad of misfits will actually uncover the real corruption, they will simply grab the low hanging fruit and then claim victory, the corruption is fixed. We need to tear it down and rebuild the entire legislature, next year they are ALL up for reelection, it’s time. ~Rus
Our opinion: The state Legislature’s problem isn’t just a few corrupt lawmakers. It’s a culture of corruption that, so far, the leadership and rank and file refuse to fix.
From sexual harassment in the state Assembly to nepotism in the Senate to the abuse of influence and misuse of public money in both chambers, the New York state Legislature stands as an embarrassing monument to corruption. And the worst part is that many New Yorkers will read that sentence and wonder, “Yeah, so what else is new?”
Have we lived with a Legislature plagued by a culture of corruption for so long that it is naive or Pollyannaish to think this is not the way it has to be? Can we honestly look at the breadth of the scandals and abuses of power that have come to light in recent years and conclude this meets even a minimal standard of good government?
If the answer is yes, then we deserve every William Boyland, Joseph Bruno, Nelson Castro, Mike Cole, Pedro Espada Jr., Efrain Gonzalez, Diane Gordon, Sam Hoyt, Shirley Huntley, Carl Kruger, Vincent Leibell, Vito Lopez, Brian McLaughlin, Hiram Monserrate, Kevin Parker, John Sampson, Tony Seminerio, Ada Smith, Malcolm Smith, Nick Spano, Eric Stevenson and Guy Velella that we get.
Surely we have not become so jaded that we accept this.
It is time — right now, in 2013 — that lawmakers, from the top leaders to the most junior members, take stock of the state of this disgraced institution, if for no other reason than the fact that voters surely will next year.
If there is a common thread running through virtually every scandal that has plagued the Legislature in recent years, it is a sense that with power comes certain entitlements. We have a spoils system run amok. The first order of business not just for too many lawmakers but for the parties that control the Assembly and Senate is not the people’s business, but their own.
We are not engaging in hyperbole here. Anyone who has observed the Legislature closely knows that the preservation and exploitation of power — from refusing to pass laws to restrain the influence of money in government to the doling out of perks and privileges — has become legislators’ first order of business.
And so they exercise what they perceive to be some sort of natural rights.
The right to help friends and relatives, as illustrated by the civil case claiming that former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s daughter was rewarded with a virtual no-show job at the Research Foundation of the State University of New York.
The right to have one’s misdeeds covered up, as we saw in the Assembly’s behind-the-scenes handling of former Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s serial sexual harassment, which cost taxpayers more than $100,000, and the flirtations of Assemblyman Micah Kellner with a young subordinate, episodes that the Democrat-controlled Assembly tried to handle without public exposure.
The right to deprive children of sufficient money for education, as Senate Republicans have done by selectively doling out discretionary school aid only to their own districts.
The right to manipulate elections, as the Legislature did in the last redistricting, a bit of chicanery compounded by a proposed constitutional amendment to solidify the entrenched political powers.
And on it goes.
Under bitter fire in the Lopez scandal, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently created a more independent investigatory process for ethics cases. That’s something. But the track record of this Legislature demands a stronger, more sweeping message.
The message must be one of a far tougher standard not just for individual lawmakers, but for the conferences and their leaders. The culture of corruption that makes a Vito Lopez or Micah Kelner think they can hit on women who work for them starts with a legislative ethics system that assumes lawmakers are entitled to keep their ethical lapses private.
The culture of corruption that let Mr. Bruno think he was entitled to put relatives on the payroll is the same one that allows the conferences that control the Legislature to think they’re entitled to lard their own payrolls with extra staff at taxpayer expense and manipulate redistricting to preserve their jobs.
The culture of corruption that made all those lawmakers we mentioned think they’re above the laws they broke (or are accused of breaking) is the same one that refuses, year after year, to put lower limits on the campaign money they can accept, tighter regulations on how they can spend it, and real enforcement that can make sure they’re playing by the rules.
We expected the Legislature to act on such good government initiatives this year, because that’s what we were promised during the campaign season. Instead we got a song and dance. But it isn’t too late for them to shuffle back to Albany and try to restore the public’s trust.
They have the power in 2013 to make a change for the better. Otherwise, come 2014, they should not be surprised if New York voters do it for them.