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Last week, New York government, on both a city and state level, bore witness to corruption in its purest form.
In a matter of days, a mayoral rigging scheme was uncovered that involved the City Council, the State Assembly, and business interests. And then we found out about yet another plan in the Assembly that involved wire-tapping, bribing and, once again, business interests. The Halloran/Smith and Stevenson/Castro debacles revived a question that has driven New York politics for years: is it really that driven by money?
Well, in any sort of political scandal pile-up, the government has to make it seem like it’s doing something. That’s your cue, Cuomo.
Yesterday, the Governor announced a legislative package entitled “The Public Trust Act” to help fix what he called “a truly ugly picture of our political landscape.”
It’s basically a round-up of anti-bribery measures, which include: lowering what it takes to arrest someone for bribing; rising the punishment for it; and fining the hell out out of people that see it yet fail to report it. Also, he wants to give prosecutors of the state the privilege of prosecuting grand jury witnesses if cold hard evidence of bribery is on the table, with or without their testimonies.
The only person in the room not too thrilled about the package was State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, who argued that corruption, whether we like it or not, is an inconvenient truth of politics: “no legislation can prevent someone from committing a corrupt act.”
And Cuomo agreed with him. “You have power, you have money, you have ambition, you have greed. You put all those chemicals in one test tube, you shake it up and bad things happen,” he said at the press conference.
Of course, this is true but criticizing an attempt to make this action just a wee bit harder to pull off seems counterproductive.