Friday, June 10, 2011

Panning the New York state ethics bill

The Glens Falls Post-Star is generally known for offering poorly thought out, small-minded editorial positions completely devoid of any nuance or forward thinking. The one exception is that they typically run pretty good editorials on issues related to governmental transparency, the topic which earned its editorial writer, Mark Mahoney, his Pulitzer Prize.

An editorial
earlier this week dealt with the proposed bill in the New York state legislature on ethics and public integrity (try saying that without a snicker). The governor and two legislative leaders fell over themselves patting themselves on the back and describing the agreement as ‘historic’ about as often as Rudy Giuliani invokes 9/11.

The Post-Star points out that the bill is seriously flawed and said that it is, at best, a mere first step. Unfortunately, we know that it’s not to be; Albany only ever does the bare minimum necessary to give the illusion of something meaningful.

It points out that the new ethics commission would have even fewer investigators and less time to do its work than the current, ineffectual panel. The bill makes it virtually impossible for the commission to actually take action, since nearly everyone has veto power.

State electoral law is rigged to ensure that the two corporate parties are the only ones realistically able to win any party-based election. Leaders are so confident of the rigged system that the ethics bill contains no provision for enforcement against elected officials who are outside the two corporate parties. They can’t conceive that there would ever be a non-Democrat or –Republican in state government to worry about.

Ethical standards as well as the organization and conduct of elections are supposed to be non-partisan, not bipartisan. Kudos to my friend Bob over at Planet Albany for being one of those rare mainstream journalists aware enough to actually understand the difference.

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