‘Sheriff of Albany’ taking a courageous stance

Things are getting real interesting in Albany. You’d have to be a complete dope not to understand that up here in the state capital, it’s all about money. That legendary charlatan and keen observer of legislative behavior, George W. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, spoke of honest graft and dishonest graft. While a whole bunch of legislators are on their way to jail because they broke the law, most of our elected representatives are too smart for that. They choose honest graft.

The Legislature is supposed to be a part-time job. The announced salary is just short of $80,000 but almost everyone in the Legislature has a so-called “leadership” position entitling them to extra pay. During the session, they’re only in Albany two or three days a week and they get extra for that, too. But in order to “make do,” many members of the Legislature have another job. The real question is what they do for their money.

Now, the avenging Andrew Cuomo who has vowed to clean up Albany, has unleashed a Moreland Act Commission to do for Albany what Wyatt Earp did for Tombstone. It’s akin to not allowing the cowhands to bring their guns into town. In this case, the Commission is asking legislators how much money they are making on the outside and what they are doing to earn it. They have to comply, says the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

The Legislature will undoubtedly take the predictable route. Their hired lawyers will argue that they are a constitutionally protected, separate branch of government and the Moreland Act Commission can only investigate the executive branch. Of course, that other court — the court of public opinion — is not going to like it if the legislators take the legalistic and somewhat cynical approach because everyone will know that they are just protecting their own fannies.

Some of these legislators with two or three jobs really do work hard. There are doctors and professors and such and they can easily prove to the commission that they have legitimate jobs and they work hard for their money. No matter what the investigators ask, they would be protected. On the other hand, they may have patients and clients who will, for perfectly understandable reasons, not want to be identified. This could get quite nasty.

One would have to be very naïve not to believe that people bring their law business to the firms of legislators so that they could get a break in the policy process. Democratic Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver has disclosed pushing about a half a million dollars in outside salary working for a law firm that makes its money suing doctors. Some people theorize that New York will never have tort reform because Shelly won’t allow it, and that is why his firm pays him so much money to be of counsel. If the Moreland Act Commission has its own way, Shelly may have to account for the billable hours that he puts into earning his money. Dean Skelos, the Republican Leader of the State Senate, reported that he makes “as much as” $250,000 in outside income. He, too, would have to account for his time.

I think that in his effort to clean up Albany, Andrew Cuomo has really been quite courageous in unleashing this commission onto the public corruption monster. After all, he has to deal with these people and you had better believe that they are not going to be in a mood to play nice with the governor while the commission is active. But he’ll never be the Sheriff of Albany if the same old, same old, stuff continues to go on. I’m willing to bet that the boys and girls in the Legislature will sit down with the governor and make a deal on what he wants so that they can keep what they have.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/10/13

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: