The Money Pit: New York's Political Scandals
A New York state assemblyman was charged Thursday - along with four other defendants - in a bribery scandal.
You could be forgiven for asking "Which one?'
In this case, federal prosecutors said Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx faces bribery, conspiracy and other charges.
Prosecutors said Stevenson took bribes in exchange for drafting, proposing and agreeing to enact legislation to aid his co-defendants' businesses.
That's not be confused with the bribery scandal from earlier this week: Tuesday, state Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested in an alleged plot to bribe his way into New York City mayor's race.
Several other politicians were also charged in that case.
"We're now up to 31 statewide elected officials and state legislators who've been arrested in the last seven years or otherwise caught up in corruption charges," said Bill Mahoney, from the New York Public Interest Resreach Group (NYPIRG).
NYPIRG, along with the League of Women Voters and Citizen Action of New York, has come forward in the wake of this week's scandals to again press for reform in campaign finance.
The simple fact, they say, is that money - often in the form of campaign contributions - can stop legislation that has widespread support from becoming law; conversely, unpopular legislation can slip through the state legislature if it's supported by people or corporations with money to spend.
"State government's business is driven heavily by who's paying for what," Mahoney said.
Government reform groups seek public financing of campaigns, but even more basic, they want the laws now on the books enforced. The state Board of Elections, which is charged with enforcing election law, has no investigator on staff.
At least one north country legislator thinks term limits could help as well.
State Senator Joe Griffo (R-47th District) adds "A bad guy's a bad guy and I don't know what you do to change that - but you do try."
North Country Public Radio has an excellent article posted from its Albany correspondent, Karen DeWitt, that goes into more depth on this week's push for reform. Read it here.
Thursday, October 23, 2014, Watertown, NY
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