The Albany Times-Union
May 9, 2013
Why are Senate Republicans fighting so hard against proposals to stop corruption in Albany?
At a time when recent scandals have driven public anger over corruption to all-time highs, why are Dean Skelos and his GOP colleagues fighting so hard to protect the status quo?
It’s hard to understand.
They’re senators — and the GOP-led majority has sunk to subterranean levels in public opinion.
They’re Republicans — and four out of five of the officials arrested and indicted in the scandal over the apparent auction process for the Republican nomination for mayor in New York City were, too.
They’re Senate Republicans — and they’ve seen their leader, their colleague and a number of their allies (Joe Bruno, Vincent Leibell, Carl Kruger, Nicholas Spano and Pedro Espada) prosecuted, convicted and/or jailed in recent years.
You’d think they’d recognize it’s time to end corruption. Or maybe it’s more simple than that. Senate Republicans are defending the status quo because they are the status quo, and they’re happy to keep it that way.
Trading big campaign contributions for legislative action — or, often, inaction — is pretty much the business model for the Senate GOP. Recent revelations that Wal-Mart made about $500,000 in campaign contributions to state Republicans (including six-figure checks to what’s known as the Senate GOP’s housekeeping account) in exchange for new taxpayer subsidies worth about $50 million are just the latest example.
But there have been others, too.HMOs, insurance companies and drug companies gave checks to reduce oversight and consumer protections and boost their own profits. Soda and beer wholesalers gave checks to keep unclaimed hundreds of millions of dollars in bottle deposits that should have gone back to the public. Lobbyists for industrial agriculture interests gave checks to block basic, humane labor law protections for farmworkers.Wall Street banks gave checks to eliminate state oversight and keep their massive tax loopholes wide open.
It’s just how they do things in the Republican State Senate.
Is it any wonder that the public has such a low opinion of our state Legislature? According to a recent Siena College, poll more than half of New York voters distrust government and 81 percent think that more elected officials will be arrested in the near future, possibly even their own representatives. A staggering 91 percent think public corruption is a serious problem.
That’s why we must have a rigorous debate and legislative action on the various proposals and solutions out there to address the lack of enforcement as well as create a small donor financing system to empower average people to hold their elected officials accountable.
But Dean Skelos disagrees.
He’s cranked up his PR spin machine to fight reform. But New Yorkers should find it pretty easy to see through his made-up stories about public financing.
Republicans had no problem with Rudy Giuliani benefiting from small-donor matching funds in his three races for mayor. Senate Republicans Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza had no problems with public financing when they ran for New York City Council.
But when faced with a real, immediate threat to changing the culture of state government and ending corruption, they’ll say anything.
They just won’t listen to reason.
Is it because they’re too busy saying, “show me the money” to their corporate campaign contributors to hear the public outcry for change?
Bill Samuels is chairman of the New Roosevelt Initiative.