Now we will see who wants to clean things up
Andrew Cuomo says he wants Albany cleaned up. I believe him, to an extent. If he is able to insist that we limit the use of outside money by those who wish to feather their own nests, he will go down in history as a great Governor, having achieved what no one up to this time has been able to do. Remember, this same Governor has played the game the way the rules are now written. Published reports tell us that he has collected somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty million dollars for his own campaign fund. I, for one, take him at his word that he wants to apply a heavy dose of antiseptic to the system and that his intentions are real. There are those who believe it’s all show and not that much tell. One piece of evidence that Cuomo means business is his appointment of a special Moreland Act Commission that has been empanelled to “follow the money.” In this, he has the assistance of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who, in his own words, “deputized” the members of the commission so that they could cross over the “separation of powers” barrier and investigate the great monetary marketplace known as the legislature.
We know that this is a high stakes poker game and we know that it is considered quite dangerous by the members of the legislative branch. Indeed, they have taken the Governor to court for having the nerve to appoint a commission that will investigate their piggery. The legislature knows that if Cuomo and his commission get their way and clean up the system, they will be unable to continue conducting the business that has so far brought great wealth and prestige to at least some of them. So in order to protect themselves, they need a theory to give to the state’s high court.
Of course, judges are people with their own political needs. For example, the judges want to stay on the bench after they reach the age of seventy. The people just voted to keep things the way they were and force them to retire. I personally thought that was a mistake. The Governor said very little on the matter but hinted that he was opposed to the constitutional amendment allowing them to stay on. In addition, the Chief Judge, the honorable Jonathan Lippman, is said to be a good friend of Speaker Sheldon Silver, the chief protagonist in keeping the system the way it is now.
The argument made by the legislature is that the separation of powers between the various branches is sacrosanct and the Moreland Commission has no right to subpoena their records to find out who is getting what or playing the game of “legal bribery.”
The ace reporter for the Daily News, Ken Lovett, broke a story a while back, reporting that the Governor’s office was protecting some of his political friends from the embarrassing subpoenas. That is a serious charge. Either the Governor is committed to letting the chips fall where they may or he is not. In trying to quash what they are calling unconstitutional subpoenas, the legislature is arguing that this is all a power play on the Governor’s part to get his way in passing meaningful ethics reform. It would seem so and the people of the state should be supporting him. It’s time to clean up the mess.
There was a story in the New York Times last week about people who bring dogs into the city for rat hunting. One little dog is put into garbage bins and the rats run for their lives out a hole in the bin where bigger dogs grab them. Obviously, most legislators are not rats. Nevertheless, now is the time to see who wants to clean things up and who wants to play nonsensical games allowing the dirt to stay put.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/25/13