Posted by on October 23, 2014

Conference of corruption categorically unqualified to champion ethics reform

New Yorkers are an American people of historically diverse ideas. We’ve had a Republican governor sandwiched between a father-son pairing of Democrats. One house of our legislature is controlled by Republicans. Democrats preside over the other. The sun-tanned farmer in Cayuga County needs to squint to see the New York in the investment banker shopping at Barneys on Madison Avenue.

New York’s collective direction is not predestined. It is fought for at the ballot box and in the Capitol building.

There is rarely consensus.

This election cycle, however, New Yorkers seem to agree on one thing: the people of the greatest state in the union deserve representatives who conduct themselves with integrity and honor. Hardworking families who play by the rules every day at school, at home and in the workplace are incensed that legislators think they’re above the law.

Speaker Silver has continually employed Machiavellian means to water down provisions that would enact real, effective ethics reform. Even a cursory glance of the newspaper shows why. A recent report tells a disturbing story- Speaker Silver has spent $700,000 in taxpayer funds on private defense counsel for himself and former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics found that Lopez sexually harassed at least eight staffers. Two of them are suing Lopez for his unspeakable misdeeds and Silver for his premeditated cover up.

Sheldon Silver has decided that you should be paying for their legal fees.

Don’t New Yorkers deserve their legislators to be held to a higher standard?

My Assembly Republican colleagues and I have a detailed plan for comprehensive ethics reform. I cosponsor Leader Brian M. Kolb’s sweeping proposal to enact term limits for legislative leaders and require corrupt legislators to forfeit their pensions. Leader Kolb’s bill also calls for fundraising transparency and demands tough criminal sentencing for lawmakers guilty of abusing the public trust.

The Assembly Minority’s ability to courageously fight corruption is hardly unprecedented. In 1882, a freshman representative arrived in Albany brimming with collegiate exuberance and righteous enthusiasm. He shocked the establishment when he called on the legislature to investigate Theodore Westbrook, a corrupt Supreme Court judge who was helping the notorious robber baron Jay Gould defraud railroad stockholders.

Tammany Hall Democrats stifled his inquiry. The force of the assemblyman’s will and the purity of his public advocacy bent popular opinion and catalyzed legislative action. He convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand up against the downstate, democratic machine. Westbrook was investigated after all.

The assemblyman’s name was Theodore Roosevelt.

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