Sunday, December 21, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: The Corruption Bells Keep Clanging in Albany

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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara isn't keeping summer hours; if you blink in New York, you'll probably miss some public official getting indicted.

It happened to me – I took last Friday off and an Assemblywoman I never heard of resigned after admitting to being in a bogus marriage to get immigration papers.

Luckily, I was around yesterday when State Senator Tom Libous was charged with lying to the FBI about an investigation of his son who got a job in a politically-connected law firm.

It feels that almost on a daily basis, NY1's crack political team is either covering public officials getting hit with corruption charges – or at their trial.

Like a reform-minded Santa Claus keeping track of who's being naughty, the good-government group Citizens Union maintains a meticulous list of Albany lawmakers who've gone astray, noting that 26 state legislators have resigned because of ethical or criminal issues – and that three sitting State Senators – including Libous – are under indictment.

Citizens Union's Dick Dadey notes that "legislators are more likely to leave office due to ethical or criminal issues than to die in office, or be redistricted out of their seats."

This is hardly a new problem with our lawmakers. While Mayor de Blasio likes to remind us that New York is the progressive capital of the world, it's also the place where Boss Tweed turned graft into a work of art and two mayors -- Jimmy Walker and William O'Dwyer – quit before they could be indicted.

Reformers like Dadey believe that campaign finance reform could help while others are pushing term limits for state officials – or pay raises in the belief that better people will run for office if the salary is higher and the temptation to steal is lower.

It's not clear to me what would work; politics is inhabited by alpha-dogs who wake up every morning thinking they should run the world. Bellevue and Rikers are filled with people who embrace that kind of mindset.

Enforcement might be the only real solution. Have ambitious prosecutors like Bharara patrol the ambitious politicians. And the governor's decision to decommission his ethics commission looks more foolish than ever.

In the meantime, remember that New York is still leading the way at something and hope for some crazed border collies to keep guarding the Empre State's sheep.

Bob Hardt

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