Cuomo’s election reforms fall short – By George J. Marlin
The following appears in the May 10-16, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Albany’s ever growing bi-partisan gallery of rogues confirms British historian Edward Gibbon’s observation that corruption is “the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.”
In recent years, more than 30 state-elected officials have been convicted of a crime, or have been indicted or censured. The list of those who have been found or pleaded guilty:
Republican Sen. Guy Velella, Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., Democratic Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr., Democratic Sen. Shirley Huntley, Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger, Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell, Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate, Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, Democratic Assemblyman Clarence Norman, Democratic Assemblywoman Diane Gordon, Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and Democratic Assemblyman Roger Green.
April nominees to the perp walk were Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblymen Nelson Castro and Eric Stevenson. In May it was Sen. John Sampson. All were indicted by the feds on various corruption charges.
These arrests have caused the usual uproar. The ruling classes and media have expressed outrage and shock and have demanded reform measures to cure Albany’s diseased body politic.
Reacting to the April indictments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo treaded carefully. Remember, when he signed into law two years ago his ethics proposal he declared, “This legislation will help end an era of corruption in Albany.”
This time he was not so boastful and made this sober comment: “You’re not going to legislate away criminality and greed and venality and abuse and arrogance. It doesn’t matter what the law says. It’s human behavior.”
Every person who has achieved the age of reason knows that accepting a bribe is illegal, as is selling political nominations or selling government contracts. So why do so many in Albany choose to commit felonious acts?
Hubris, insolence or excessive pride has driven many in Albany off the path of righteousness.
The other reason many Albany pols wind up behind bars: They are dumb. Anyone with American horse sense would see through the stupid hot money schemes concocted by these dopes.
While the governor’s initial comments hit the mark, unfortunately he felt compelled to unveil a slew of hastily composed election reform proposals that he claims will “help prevent public corruption.”
His plan for an independent office to enforce the election law is absurd. Every time there is a problem, Cuomo rushes to create another commission or oversight board.
Remember JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics created two years ago as part of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011? It was supposed to instill the fear of God into legislators. We can see how much good it has done.
What needs to be fixed is the patronage-laden and incompetent State Board of Elections. The governor should order the authority to get rid of the political hacks that serve as commissioners in every county elections office and to appoint competent managers who are not subservient to local political bosses.
The governor’s proposal to dismantle the Wilson-Pakula Act of 1947, which requires candidates seeking to run on another party’s line to obtain the permission of the leaders of that party, would not improve the system but further corrupt it.
Wilson-Pakula was created to prevent third parties from being infiltrated and taken over by the major parties. Major party leaders could “persuade” fellow party members to re-register in a third party in order to impose the will of the major party. Republican turncoats, for instance, could take control of the Conservative Party, and nominate the preferred candidate of the GOP boss.
Cuomo’s so-called reforms just don’t cut it. Instead of strengthening New York’s electoral process they will further encourage arrogant and dumb politicians to game the system.