Lawmakers win on ethics ‘reform’

Some questions:

Is the new so-called ethics bill everything it is supposed to be?

I recently wrote a column in which I congratulated the governor and the Legislature for getting it together. I was particularly interested in the part of the new legislation that would disclose what outside people were paying to legislators since we know that some people who “employ” legislators who are also attorneys or consultants are certainly trying to curry favor with them. I also appreciate the fact that under the new plan, there would be a single ethics commission to supposedly police both the executive branch and the Legislature. Under the present system, the Legislature has its own ethics commission that has been more of a lap dog than a watchdog. Everyone in the system knows how disgraceful that group has been. In some cases, that so-called watchdog group did nothing until the prosecutors had acted. Obviously, they should have blown the whistle before the prosecutors made formal accusations. It has been a joke.

In my earlier column, I warned that the “devil was in the details.” I’ve been around the Capitol for so long that I know the way these people think. They reform, but they do it in such a way that they get to keep whatever they had in the past. They may give up a little and justify it with, “Well, it’s a start.” Governor Cuomo wanted a political victory and the legislators don’t want their outside income curtailed. I should have followed my instincts and been a bit more dubious. While it is true that some progress was made, it now turns out that instead of disclosing exact amounts, they will just disclose amounts between with certain parameters which have not yet been determined. We might be told whether an individual had hired a lawyer legislator and paid them between ten thousand and a hundred thousand dollars. We should be told exactly how much an outside employer had paid. Why in the world wouldn’t they be specific? Could it be that they want to make accessing the information as difficult as possible? Once again, the legislative leaders won that round. Presumably, one of the reasons why the previous governor vetoed that last phony ethics bill was for precisely this kind of dodge.

Another question: How exactly is the redistricting process going to work?

This one former New York Mayor Ed “How’m I doing?” Koch got right. It is nothing short of disgraceful that the very people who are running the Legislature get to draw their own districts. You will all remember that Koch got the overwhelming number of legislators to sign a pledge that they would support a plan to clean this mess up. Of course, the Republican state Senate leader and others who signed have tried to get out of their pledge — they thought they would be in the minority and would be screwed by the Democrats. Koch was reduced to screaming, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Now we’ll see whether Andrew Cuomo signs whatever flawed redistricting plan the Legislature comes up with. My bet is that he will not and since we have to get it done, a state judge will have to make the decision. The question, of course, is which judge will end up getting to supervise the remapping of the legislative districts. Remember that many judges were politicians long before they were judges. Some judges actually want to be advanced and might need help from key legislators. Others want the Legislature to raise their salaries. Call me a cynic, but I suspect that we will be faced with the same old, same old scenario that we have seen in the past. I keep thinking that we send our finest young men and women abroad to fight for democracy, but here in this country, we fix elections so that only some people can win. Disgusting.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/13/2011

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One Comment on “Lawmakers win on ethics ‘reform’”

  1. Harvey in exile in Upstate NY from Rockaway Beach Says:

    I call you a realist the irony being that Mario primaried for NYC mayor and lost to Koch, than both primaried to be Governor and Mario. Mario won. Why this insertion? Because yound Andrew in his GTO-type cars was a terror in the campaign . Now a nother Cuomo is Governor finding themselves in a hoprrible period of fiscal uncertainty. In periods of fiscal uncertainty in NYS two things are certain there will be significant ethics lapses in our elected officials and the pain will never be shared by the elected officials and like the bugeler at a racetract, off they go again. The difference this time is the Internet as a factor. ran aganist Koch for NYC . Ethics and NYS Government is hardly compatible. What Andrew is offering is but a small baby step. If he was real he would make it simple, like campagn finance laws. The ethics reports would be published on the Internet and offered for public few and comsumption. Then of course I would ask Blair Horner to be the first Executive Director, like Andrew for Blair when he was AG for the first year. The public would see much to lose their appetites but also learn that we do have quite a few ethical legislators. However we’re not done yet. What must be done in New York State is to stop hiding and pass Initiative and ReferandumASAP. When I worked there in the late 70’s this was the buzz word but wasdewliberately killed by predecessor corrupt Speakers of the Assembly. I&R will simply restore integrity to NYS Government by enabling the people who pay the bills and still haven’t made moving plans and eligible to vote the ability to place a legislation on the ballot, pass it and then it would function like in California become law. I know it’s dangerous when we srestore the rights of rthe people of NY but it sure would be an interesting example, just like California. The outcome of giving the people of NY Initiative and Referandum like my lousy spelling, but in all current situations there has been an influx of intergrity in our Government.

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