A Culture of Corruption in Albany

An honest politician is hard to find

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    The Statehouse in Albany

    The rapid accumulation of scandals or potential scandals in Albany is becoming incredible.

    Every day, it seems, new revelations are added to the list. The average citizen has to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of charges and potential charges.

    Thus, there's the selection of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run the track's video slots. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and the State Inspector general are looking into allegations of what Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver calls "serious questions" about the selection system. Was there competitive bidding or was this group chosen because of political cronyism? Was there a better bid that was rejected?

    Also, the Daily News raises the question of whether part of $750,000 contributed by our multi-billionaire mayor to the Independence Party to pay for Election Day poll workers was used to buy a house for a major Bloomberg campaign operative.

    And then there are the questions revolving around the Rev. Floyd Flake, a Queens clergyman and Democratic leader, and his proteges, Malcolm Smith, President of the State Senate and Congressman Gregory Meeks. Federal prosecutors, the News found, are interested in what part this trio played in the racetrack deal and whether Smith has steered appropriations to non-profit groups tied to Flake.

    Governor David Paterson meanwhile has been seeking an endorsement for re-election from Flake.

    In compiling this list of scandals and near-scandals, we shouldn't neglect the case of Hiram Monserrate, just kicked out of the state senate for having roughed up his girlfriend. He's appealing his ouster but he is far from an appealing character. He has become a living argument for legislation against domestic violence.

    Susan Lerner of Common Cause, a nonprofit group that lobbies for more accountable government,  told me: "This seems like an all-time low in state government. The frequency of these investigations is extraordinary. It's like we're living in a swamp."

    Lerner thinks it's time for an impartial, thorough investigation of our state and city institutions but "the trouble is I don't think there's anyone in government who can be trusted to conduct it. It's beyond imagination. We're living in a culture of corruption at all levels."

    In the coming election, she fears people may be dispirited, not trusting either major party to make the changes necessary.

    "The people have to be led," said Lerner, but "where is the leadership?"