December 3, 2013
A commission report describes a political system that nurtures corruption.
It’s not just a few bad apples; the basket they’re tossed into encourages spoilage.
A trade association tells its members to cough up $10,000 apiece for a fundraising event for Democrats who control the state Assembly. It also wants donations for the Republicans who run the Senate, as well.
The association explains that the ability to persuade the Legislature to pass or block legislation “is directly tied to our continued positive relationship with our leaders in Albany. Failure to (donate) will seriously impact our ability to serve you and this industry.”
This example of what the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption has been finding isn’t about one isolated case of bribery; it’s about the wholesale buying of the Legislature — year after year, right under the public’s nose.
Could the capital’s pay-to play culture be any more blatant, New York? Could the need to rein in the influence of big money be any more apparent?
This commonplace, casual corruption ought to be infuriating — and embarrassing enough make voters wonder just how much arrogance and lack of integrity it takes for any lawmaker to defend the status quo.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo should turn the panel’s recommendations into a comprehensive package of legislation in 2014. And if he gets resistance from lawmakers, he should put them on notice that he will turn Election 2014, when they’re all up for re-election, into a referendum on reform.
The commission pulled together in one report much of the collective wisdom that comes from years of observing a corrupt system at work. It called for lowering New York’s absurdly generous campaign contribution limits, closing loopholes that allow rich individual and special interests to get around those limits, reining in the soft money that flows through political party “housekeeping accounts,” and writing clear rules to prohibit personal use of campaign funds.
It called for a more independent elections investigation agency than the do-little, politically-controlled Board of Elections, changes in bribery statutes and other laws to allow prosecutors to better hold corrupt politicians accountable, and greater disclosure from lawmakers of outside income and personal connections to groups seeking public funds.
And it not only called for a system of matching public funds for political campaigns to help encourage and empower small donors, but it put the lie to spurious claims by Senate Republicans and other critics that this would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The figure, it confirmed, is closer to $62 million, a bargain for cleaner elections and government.
Last year, campaign reform was lost in a stew of competing proposals. This time, Mr. Cuomo should take the lead, turn the commission’s recommendations into a legislative agenda, and insist that legislators either pass it, or face the consequences next November. Perhaps the fear of being voted out of a job would finally put all that self-interest in the Capitol to good use.
Read the full report at http://tinyurl.com/nm3d3wk