The Latest Albany Rip-Off

Send in the Espadas

It's brazen. Outrageous. A rip-off.
The latest antics of the Espada family in Albany are enough to shock even a cynic.
Magically, amidst a hiring freeze imposed because of the state's financial troubles, the son of the turncoat Democrat who managed to paralyze the State Senate has received a newly created job working for the Senate's Democratic Conference as "deputy director of intergovernmental relations."
The position has not existed before. It will pay $120,000 a year. Clearly, the Espadas have benefited from the coup engineered by the elder Pedro Espada Jr., the senator who crossed over to the Republican side and tied up the Senate for weeks.
Now his son, Pedro G. Espada, gets a new job -- in the murky field of "intergovernmental relations" -- whatever that means. Presumably, Pedro G. can learn something from his daddy, who inter-related so well to the opposing party, that he became Senate Majority Leader.

It's a wonderful country! Even a rascal can aspire to great heights in Albany's august Senate Chamber.
The elder Espada insists there was no deal here.

"Let me make it unequivocally clear that this is not the result of a quid pro quo or a contingency to my ending the Senate stalemate," he said. Maybe he should have added: "And if you buy that, I have a nice bridge to sell you."

The majority leader further explained that his son, a former assemblyman, was looking to return to government service in some capacity. "I encouraged him to pursue it."

Nepotism -- favoritism shown to relatives -- goes back many centuries. And it is practiced today in countries all over the globe. Thus, in a state election in Queensland, Australia, the premier was accused of nepotism for giving her husband a highly paid job. In India, the Nehru-Gandhi family has been taking care of its own for years by bestowing various government jobs. The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, has his unelected wife, Hazel Manning, in his cabinet.
You may not have heard about any of those, but, when it happens in Albany at a time of financial trouble, it hits home.

A rain of e-mails descended on a Syracuse newspaper when readers heard about the Espada affair. One blogger wrote simply: "A crime."  Another reader said: "What did you expect? The politicians are looking out for their own, at the expense of the rest of us." And still another: "New York State is now officially a banana republic."

As the Daily News editorialized, it's time for the Albany DA, David Soares, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the State Commission on Public Integrity to put the new state ethics laws to a test.

It's time, too, for a constitutional convention to outlaw nepotism and institute a most basic reform: give voters the right to recall those in office who abuse the public trust.

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