Paying to Play in Albany

Things don't change in Albany -- they get worse

By Gabe Pressman
|  Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010  |  Updated 5:46 PM EDT
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Paying to Play in Albany

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The State Capitol in Albany

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Just when you think it can’t get worse, a legislator in Albany proves that it can.

The latest piece of chicanery involves giving special access to top labor leaders in return for campaign contributions.

Thus, in a letter to union leaders State Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx offers them "chairmanships" on a brand new "Labor Advisory Council." For $50, 000 these "chairmen" will be entitled to go to meetings, conferences and events as part of their chairmanship.

As revealed by Fred Dicker in the New York Post, they’ll even be entitled to a special meeting with the Senate majority leaders. And, as icing on the cake, they’ll get to discuss 2010 campaign strategy!

This is first degree chutzpah -- an incredible act on the part of the Democrats in the light of the scandals that have shattered public confidence in Albany.

Susan Lerner of Common Cause calls the situation "appalling," adding: "People believe they can sell access with impunity. We virtually have no law to restrain them."

Blair Horner of NYPIRG told me: "This is a brazen example of Albany’s pay to play culture. I’m flabbergasted that they put it in writing."

Horner sees this as an apparent violation of ethics rules at least. He has no confidence that either the Board of Elections or the State Ethics Commission will do much about it.

"These are the sleeping lap dogs of Albany," Horner said.

If passing legislation is linked to these sought after campaign contributions, this maneuver seems tawdry indeed.

"It stinks," Horner says, " to high heaven."
     

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