If Cuomo gets elected, there is guaranteed war in Albany

In New York state, we have an equivalent to the New York Stock Exchange. Depending on who you are it is an efficient place to exchange your money and resources for results. Frankly, it’s a little like a house of ill repute. The johns come in and they are met by handmaidens called lobbyists who introduce them to the girls. The lobbyists are usually well-connected. They may come from the administration of former governors and powerful legislators. Often, people take these relatively low-paying jobs in government so they can make friends and gather IOU’s and debts. Then when they go into lobbying, they can call in the debts and really cash in. Everyone knows who these folks are. As long as your connections are still in office, you are okay. The problem for many of these folks is that people retire or move on. George Pataki has moved on and the people who went from his administration to the lobbying corps have lost a little more clout every year. Some of these firms renew themselves by bringing in folks who have contacts with more contemporary politicians.

These lobbyists know where to go. Everyone goes to the top dogs because in New York state, the so-called leaders are equivalent to kings, emperors and potentates except in the state Senate where a gang of incompetents has taken over. They’ve gotten so greedy and so malevolent with each other that power seems to be less dictatorial than in the other house, the state Assembly.

The people are disgusted but impotent. They are so frustrated that they just don’t know what to do. They are reduced to saying “Remember in November” and “Turn them all out.” Trust me — that has a lot of people, most especially the controlling Democrats in both houses, scared to death. They had a chance earlier this year to pass meaningful ethics reform and to regain the people’s trust. As usual, however, in order to protect the goose that has been laying golden eggs for so many years now, they came up with a newer version of the usual “reform” nonsense they’ve been pushing for years. They almost got away with it. They even got some self-serving good government groups to endorse the turkey so that they could go home to their members and say, “Look what we accomplished.” But Gov. David Paterson, who made his bones in the Legislature, saw the turkey for the bird that it is and vetoed the bill. I’m sure he figured that they’d have to go back and pass a better bill but the denizens of the deep got lucky. They turned their attention to the hapless State Senator Hiram Monserrate who was accused of serious domestic violence and rode him out of the Senate. They seemed to figure that compared to him, they were oozed ethics. Monserrate became just the scapegoat they were looking for. There hasn’t been any sign of revised and effective ethics legislation since Hiram got booted. My bet is that the people weren’t fooled.

Into all of this comes the presumptive governor, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has made headlines by going after the Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada for all kinds of potentially criminal wrong-doing. Now he’s made the theme of his non-formalized campaign, “Clean up Albany.” Everyone who is running is saying that. By his actions as Attorney General, Cuomo seems to have the stones and the will to make it happen. But so did Eliot Spitzer and look what happened to him. In any case, Cuomo is making the right noises and the folks in the Legislature are so scared by the mood of the voters that they have to embrace the popular Cuomo.

If and when he gets elected, however, there is a guaranteed war. If Cuomo means what he says (and he certainly has been the beneficiary of a lot of big contributions on the political stock exchange) and cleans things up he will immediately become presidential material. It can’t be lost on him that both Roosevelt cousins got from the New York governsorship to the White House by taking on the Legislature.

There is a great distance between lip and cup here. So far, the Legislature has done a good job of protecting its turf. Just as there will always be sexual prostitution, the same goes for prostitution of the political variety. If you were in their shoes, would you throw away YOUR license to do business? I think not. Ironically, the only thing that will mandate change is if the sleeping giant awakens and says, “Enough is enough.”

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 5/4/10

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