Set down your coffee and find a sturdy chair to sit in before reading the next line.
New York’s government is corrupt.
Still with us? Take your time and catch your breath. It can be tough to suddenly come face-to-face with the truth like that.
Of course, if you read the papers you might have had an inkling this was the case given recent events. For those not in the know, the short version: In April, Sen. Malcolm Smith and others were arrested on charges of using bribery (in some cases with public funds) to attempt to rig the 2013 New York City mayoral race. Soon thereafter, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was arrested on charges of accepting bribes after being recorded by another senator (Shirley Huntley) who was trying to escape her own rap with the feds.
Those are just the major names. And everyone is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. In late April, a Siena College poll found 80 percent of New Yorkers expected more lawmakers would end up on the wrong side of the legal process soon.
Something is rotten in the State of New York. So whose fault is it?
Well, legislators brazenly handing bags of cash back and forth are probably complicit. But behind them stand officials who are unwilling or unable to change the system. They include Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran on a platform of cleaning up Albany but when faced with the incredible opportunity of high-profile scandals merely suggests cosmetic reforms or putting his office in charge of everything. Why not imbue the attorney general’s office with the power to chase crooked politicos, as Cuomo suggested in the gubernatorial campaign?
And while we are all for more oversight at the Board of Elections, there are systemic fundraising issues in New York that must be dealt with. Chief among them is the amount of money in the system. New York’s contribution limits are among the highest in the nation. In general elections, candidates in some Senate districts are allowed to accept more than $50,000 from a single family. In the Assembly, those limits go above $20,000.