This week's federal cases against state lawmakers have drawn attention to a culture of corruption in Albany that public officials had hoped to leave behind. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Bombshell accusations of graft, greed and old-fashioned corruption have once again tarnished Albany's image. Only this time, the taint of scandal comes as leaders have insisted they were cleaning up the capital's dysfunctional reputation.
"Crisis? We have a corruption eruption," said Doug Muzzio of Baruch College. "It is unbelievable. Pretty soon, we'll have a quorum of state legislators and city council members in prison."
In his resignation statement, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who has been cooperating with authorities for four years, which is as long as he has served in the Assembly, indicated that there may be more indictments.
"I continue to cooperate with State and Federal authorities in this prosecution and in other investigations," Castro's statement reads.
"We will be back here again and again announcing arrests as we have in the past, with respect to Senator Carl Kruger, Senator Hiram Monserrate, Senator Nicholas Spano, Senator Vincent Leibell, Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, Councilman Larry Seabrook, Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and so many others," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Some argued that the state ethics commission, known as JCOPE, falls far short of expectations, and that has allowed this culture to flourish.
"This is not new. We've had corruption in Albany going back as long as there's been government in Albany," said David Grandeau, a former state ethics commissioner. "What's happened is that, unfortunately, the governor, the good government groups, everyone has said we've had ethics reform, and people expect that things will change. They haven't changed. In fact, they've gotten worse."
Still, former corruption prosecutor Mark Peters argued that more can be done to clean things up.
"Every time bills are passed, we get scoring on them that tells us what the financial implications are," Peters said. "You can certainly have the same kind of scoring that will tell you who is likely to benefit from this legislation."
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Stevenson's alleged actions violate the public trust and cannot be tolerated. He urged the Assemblyman to resign his seat. The Speaker's statement did not mention Castro by name, nor did it address concerns of the U.S. Attorney that there is a culture of corruption in Albany.