Legislators have been quick to condemn wrongdoing in the run-up to the trial of former State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who was indicted on corruption charges in January. But let’s not forget that earlier this fall, Senate Republicans unanimously shot down a bill that would have gone a long way towards stopping corrupt politicians from committing the sorts of crimes of which Bruno is accused.
Bruno is accused of taking three million dollars over a thirteen-year period from consultants seeking business with the state. Unlike the current reporting requirements, this ethics bill, if made law, would have required public officials to report annually the names of their consulting clients, how much compensation they received, and a description of the services provided. In their annual financial disclosure forms, they would have also had to disclose the value of outside income.
The bill would also have made public officers and lobbyists provide detailed reports of their business dealings, including the names of people they employ and contract, to an ethics commission. And it would have created an independent investigatory body, that would have subpoena power, to look into questionable business relationships.
The bill — part of a package of reforms proposed by our energetic 29-year-old freshman senator, Daniel Squadron — was shot down by 29 out of 30 Senate Republicans on September 10. Thirty-one Democrats voted for the bill — one vote shy of the 32 needed to bring it to the floor. The Republicans who brought down the bill called it a “poison bill” that was preventing real ethics reform.
Squadron will probably get another shot in January, when rules that will ease up restrictions on how lawmakers can bring bills to a vote go into effect.