Very soon, voters in New York State will once again head to the polls to vote in the upcoming election. While I am not a candidate for office this year, the season brings me back to 2010 when I was a candidate for the New York State Assembly. It also reminds me of how dysfunctional our state government still is and how hard it will be to fix it.
In the two years since I ran for the Assembly, our state government in Albany has once again been a miserable failure and remains a cesspool of corruption. Two years ago, nearly every candidate from Montauk to Buffalo was a self-proclaimed “independent reformer.” These charlatans promised to reign in the lobbyists and special interests, to institute independent redistricting and pass ethics laws to curb the corruption in Albany. None of that happened in the last session of the legislature.
Lobbyists and special interests still buy and own our politicians. Many times, it's not the most informed candidates who win an election. It's also not the most well-intentioned candidates who win elections. Instead, most of the time it's the candidate who is best at selling his or her soul to the monied lobbyists and special interests who get elected.
Once these rascals get to Albany, instead of writing and passing legislation for the betterment of their communities and our state, they push legislation and push contracts that support their financial backers.
While in 2010 nearly every candidate signed Mayor Koch's pledge to pass an independent redistricting law, once they got to Albany the same folks forgot their pledge and saddled our state with hideous, politically motivated districts for the next 10 years. Instead of having an independent commission draw district lines that are concise and compact and keep communities together, we once again have politically motivated districts that snake through and divide communities in order to protect the incumbent representative's re-election prospects.
The worst act of insult was the legislatures passage of a joke of an ethics law. The law did nothing to stop the corruptive influence of dirty money in Albany. No one cared to pass campaign finance laws to stop the corruption. No one cared to close the loopholes that monied interests use to by-pass the current campaign finance laws. No one passed any laws to stop the revolving door between government officials and the lobbyists.
My suggestion to the winners of the 2012 state elections is to go to Albany and actually do something! I suggest you start with three important pieces of legislation.
- It's time to pass real campaign finance reform that eliminates the strangle hold that lobbyists and special interests have on our politicians. Arizona, Maine and Connecticut each have enacted public financing of elections laws that have worked. It is time to create such a program for New York. It's time that politicians answer to the people that vote for them and not the people who finance their political campaigns.
- While it won't help for until the next decade, Albany must pass an independent redistricting law now so that we don't have to deal with the political shenanigans that we witnessed this year.
- Finally, Albany should pass an ethics reform bill that will include a truly independent investigative body and bars anyone on the state payroll from lobbying the state for a full five years after the leave the employ of the state.
I understand that these three laws will not fix all of the problems in Albany, but I believe they would be a good first move forward. It's time for the voters of New York to wake up and demand good government. Until we make that demand, we will continue to have to live with do-nothing politicians that are puppets of the lobbyists and special interests, Albany will continue to be the cesspool of corruption it is and we will continue to get our nearly weekly press reports of some politician being indicted, convicted or sent off to a prison in an orange jumpsuit.