Other lobbyists like onetime Bronx assemblyman Roberto Ramirez and former Republican assembly leader John Faso have also been implicated in the pension scandal. The only reason more haven’t been is because Hevesi - and his successor, Tom DiNapoli - decided to continue a policy that exempted lobbyists dealing with the fund from registering or filing as lobbyists. A memo that DiNapoli’s lawyers sent to the Public Integrity Commission in July 2009 distinguished the pension fund from other “governmental entities,” contending it was not “a state asset” and thus not subject to state procurement policies, including those regulating lobbyists. Hevesi took a similar position in 2002, shortly after he was elected.

More disclosure and tighter reins won’t begin to break the cult. Andrew Cuomo has to move in a wholly new direction, creating an office of lobbying relations that will become the only passageway onto his second floor for lobbying information, which is sometimes informed and helpful. This filter will be staffed by technocrats who think of birds when they hear someone mention feathers. The unit will be staffed not on the basis of who they know, but who they don’t know. Once this ban on direct contacts with decisionmakers is extended to all state agencies, Cuomo may have set an example that the senate and assembly will have to emulate.

I ran this remedy past Blair Horner, the New York Public Interest Group lobbyist who is the ethics watchdog of Albany and once worked for Cuomo. Horner sees all kinds of practical difficulties, fearing “bottlenecks” and other “logistical questions,” but says “it could work.” He thinks it should be “tested out” in a pilot project.

Caleb Ferguson
The calm before the storm.
Caleb Ferguson
The calm before the storm.

Of course, the danger of anything piecemeal is that the Big Boys could set in motion a new pattern of Cuomo seduction before the wholesale innovation gets off the ground, and, thus, radical change would never occur. Feathers blasted the idea as “naïve,” and said “the generalists” Cuomo put in the unit “would know us all in two weeks.”

It’s not just the state that would be protected by erecting these walls. It’s Cuomo himself. If he falls into the get-along ways of the lobbying caste, just changing the seating arrangement at the head table, he will become the main course. And New York, the love of his family’s life, will sink deeper into its swamp of cynicism.

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