Another Albany politician has been convicted of corruption, and yet there seems to be no rush at the state Capitol to stem the tide.
Former state Senate Leader Dean Skelos was convicted kast Tuesday of extortion, wire fraud and bribery charges. He was accused of pressuring businesses to give his son, Adam, no-show jobs or else risk losing the powerful Republican’s political support.
The trial was the latest in a spate of recent case regarding corruption in Albany. Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was convicted in May of corruption.
In March, Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo, was convicted on charges that he received more than $300,000 in bribes.
Just last week, Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University Polytechnic Institute, and three other developers were convicted by a jury, which determined they conspired to cheat on bids for several upstate development projects, including a Buffalo Billion solar-panel plant worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
It was the second trial for the Skeloses. They were convicted in 2015 of extortion, conspiracy and bribery, but a new trial was ordered by a federal appeals court in Manhattan after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the law regarding public corruption when it reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Silver and Skelos were among a trio dubbed the “three men in a room” in Albany, a nod to the longstanding practice of legislative leaders and the governor negotiating key bills behind closed doors.
The reversal of Skelos’ initial conviction “gave people the sinking feeling that one could get away with anything in Albany,” Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the lawmaker who won Skelos’ old seat, told The Associated Press. “Thankfully that proves not to be the case.”
It appears, though, if we want corruption to stop in Albany, it will have to be done through the courts.
State lawmakers have made gestures about ethics reform, passing a few laws to shed some light in the dark corners of the Capitol, but there are still large swaths where sunlight isn’t allowed.
In July 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, created a 25-member Moreland Commission to investigate corruption.
“It’s an independent commission that is free to investigate whatever they believe needs to be investigated on the merits,” Cuomo said at the time. “It’s not about the Legislature. It’s about enforcing the campaign-finance laws in this state. It is not about any one branch or the other.”
Cuomo promised it would be independent, then meddled extensively in its work when it began investigating the governor’s office. After getting legislators to agree to some reforms, the governor disbanded the commission in 2014, leaving far more questions about corruption in state government than it answered.
In February 2015, facing re-election, Cuomo vowed again to clean up Albany corruption.
“We must prove once again that state government can be trusted,” he said then, “and that means passing tough new ethics laws and creating a system that deters, detects and punishes individuals who seek to abuse and corrupt.”
It’s been more than three years, and we’re still waiting for meaningful ethics reform in Albany.
Campaign promises aren’t enough. We need to hold our lawmakers’ feet to the fire to propose, support and enact real ethic reforms.