Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stamp Out Public Corruption In New York State - Roosevelt Island Assembly Member Micah Kellner Proposes Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act To Start

Image Of Corrupt Politician From About Career Planning

Roosevelt Island's Assembly Member Micah Kellner published an op-ed in the March 13 NY Post on political corruption in New York State politics. An excerpt:
It's Groundhog Day in Albany. Yet again, we see state lawmakers hauled before a court on corruption charges; yet again, we hear talk of ethics reform -- and yet again, it's far from clear the Legislature is prepared to do anything about it.

Sen. Carl Kruger and Assembly Member William Boyland stand accused of taking bribes from special interests, in return for special favors. These allegations are just the latest wave in a seemingly endless tide of graft and corruption, reinforcing the perception that all lawmakers are crooks or clowns.

And until we finally step up and pass real, comprehensive ethics reform, we'll deserve every ounce of the public's scorn...
Mr. Kellner elaborates on stamping out political corruption in New York State:
As a legislator, it truly saddens me that every time Albany is in the news it’s because of yet another corruption scandal—and I can only imagine how it makes everyday New Yorkers feel. It seem there is a never-ending tide of graft and corruption, which reinforces the perception that all lawmakers are crooks or clowns.

As a member of the state Assembly, I know that isn’t really the case. The vast majority of my colleagues work tirelessly—and honestly—on behalf of the people of New York. But until we finally step up and pass real, comprehensive ethics reform, we’ll deserve every ounce of the public’s scorn.

The only way to stop corruption is through tough and thorough reform legislation. This is why I introduced the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act (PCPEA), the most comprehensive anti-corruption bill in state history. This important reform legislation will clean up Albany by closing the ethical loopholes that some politicians have become adept at exploiting.

The bill:

Enacts a Duty of Faithful Public Service: Incredibly, there’s no such duty on the books today. The Joe Bruno scandal showed what a glaring hole this is. If we want to eliminate the culture of corruption, we need a law that makes clear that public officials must serve the public first and foremost.

Punishes Corrupt Schemes to Defraud the Government: Currently, the law only punishes schemes to defraud government agencies of property, services, or resources. The PCPEA expands the crime of defrauding the government to punish any and all corrupt schemes involving public servants and others who seek to corrupt the operation of government in any way.

Reforms Criminal Bribery Statutes: The bill takes action to ensure that bribery of a public official is punished just as seriously as completed bribes, and it makes sure that public bribery is treated in the same way as bribery in the private sector.

Reforms the Member Item Process: The bill creates new standards and prohibitions for community projects grants, which are commonly known as “member items.” Among other protections, it stops lawmakers from funneling taxpayer money into shady nonprofits that don’t even provide real services, but in which they or their relatives have a financial interest.

Enhances Financial Disclosure for State Officials: As it stands, the clients that legislators represent in private practice are hidden from public view. While this makes sense in a few instances — such as when the clients are involved in family court cases, where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy — there’s no reason why most of lawmakers’ private clients shouldn’t be disclosed, just as they are in other states. This bill will allow the public to monitor the sources and values of outside income earned by our elected officials.

Strengthens Campaign Finance Rules: Up until n ow candidates have legally been allowed to get away with disguising loans intended for campaign use as personal gifts—allowing them to circumvent campaign contribution limits. This bill closes that loophole.

Ultimately, I believe that we should ask why our system encourages lawmakers to have outside income at all. We should make representing New Yorkers a full-time job. Then there will no longer even be a perception of any conflict of interest with our official duties as legislators.

Today, I published an op-ed in the New York Post about the importance of passing comprehensive ethics reform now. You can read the op-ed here.

If we enact these reforms, instead of being synonymous with scandal, it is my hope that Albany will once again be recognized as an incubator of progressive innovation.
Good start by Mr. Kellner.


Gregor said...

The day they stamp out political corruption and bribery in NYS is the day the sun goes out. There is too much money sloshing around in NYS to stop the special interests from trying to directly (bribe) or indirectly (through campaign donations) influence legislators. Having said that, though, maybe Mr. Kellner has a point in recommending making the job of NYS legislator a full-time job so as to (hopefully) eliminate the temptation of accepting moneys from the special interests.

Anonymous said...

Maybe that bill should also include elected Board Members (like ours here on R.I.) that get to vote on the privatization of the buildings they live in. What about the profit gained from that venture? Just a thought...