The biggest and worst problem plaguing Albany and New York State politics is corruption. Albany’s especial brand of dysfunction thrives in an opaque environment, and there is a complete and bipartisan absence of political or moral will to change it. It’s been well over a decade since people and organizations began to seriously address this culture of corruption, and NYU’s Brennan Center deserves kudos for pushing the issue with specificity.
It was almost a decade ago that Suffolk County Executive Tom Suozzi barnstormed the state, seeking the Democractic nomination for governor under the banner of “Fix Albany”. We send Assemblypeople and Senators to Albany, and while we see occasional profiles in courage, like Mark Grisanti’s pivotal vote on same-sex marriage, these individuals do little legislating and a lot of grandstanding. Nothing ever changes, and there’s no one who’s all that interested in cleaning Albany up.
Enter Andrew Cuomo, a former Attorney General who swept into Albany to get things done, but also to restore trust in state institutions. While he has infuriated the gun-hugging areas of the state outside the NYC media market, he has now successfully angered the left, most starkly by helping to maintain a Republican Senate majority. In order to secure the Working Families Party’s Wilson Pakula, Cuomo decided to actually back members of his own party to win Senate races.
But his most promising act was to establish a “Moreland Commission” to investigate corruption in Albany – most importantly, the misuse and corruption surrounding campaign finance in the state. This dovetailed nicely with Cuomo’s now-erstwhile support for public financing of elections – a goal he all but abandoned in order to “get things done” with respect to a budget deal with the other two men in the room. (That hasn’t changed, either).
This New York Times article is a blockbuster of investigative journalism, outlining the ways in which Governor Cuomo’s office micromanaged and hamstrung the work the Moreland Commission was doing before he unceremoniously and summarily killed it in order to “get things done” viz. budget deal with Silver and Skelos. Here is a brilliant timeline that the Times put together. Luckily, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, is picking up where the defunct commission left off, investigating and prosecuting obvious illegality.
I frankly don’t get it. If Cuomo’s aim is to ascend to the White House, he’s just dealt himself a huge blow. It won’t do much to say, “I fixed Buffalo, the unfixable” when opponents and allies alike view him with distrust because when it came time to address the state’s most pressing problem, Cuomo whiffed.
He didn’t just whiff – he threw the game.
I’m not going to support Astorino, and Zephyr Teachout lost me by holding a “Cuomo resign” presser with Astorino. It’s high time we stopped demanding resignation and impeachment every time a politician does something stupid or with which we disagree. It’s stupid and childish.
I want someone to say that the NY SAFE Act is a distraction from the real problems we have, like unfunded mandates, the Gap Elimination Adjustment robbing schools blind, the completely unregulated and mismanaged state Authorities, our corrupt and corrupting Wilson Pakula/electoral fusion system whereby party endorsements are exchanged for money and jobs, and the toothless, ineffective board of elections that is unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute campaign finance fraud. These are all long-standing issues, and very well known. But New York has a dictatorship of the bureaucracy, and for some reason elected officials have no will to fight that tyranny of the careerists. Even, tragically, Andrew Cuomo.
Getting things done is great, and it’s a welcome change from the feckless Pataki Adminstration. But New York Democrats have had almost 10 years to do something meaningful about not just the symptoms, but the root causes of why the state underperforms economically – especially outside of the New York City metro.
Four years ago, a New York Observer article wrote that mine was the “Site that Saved Andrew Cuomo”. I don’t – for a second – doubt, question, or regret my 2010 support for Cuomo over Carl Paladino. But in 2014, the continued state gutting of public school budgets, tyranny of the Authorities, continued erosion of public trust through “electoral fusion” dealmaking, and Albany’s unwillingness to heal itself make me wish for a true alternative – not just a Westchester County apparatchik or a leftist Manhattan protest candidate.
New York isn’t broken because of the number of bullets you can put in a magazine is now restricted. But your focus on things like that help to distract you from genuine problems that affect us all.