The arrest of Skelos on Monday, less than three months after Silver also was busted on federal charges, neuters the leaders of both parties in both houses of the Legislature. The Empire State was never a bastion for the pure of heart, but the twin takedowns make this an era of historic venality. Still, to call the arrests shocking wouldn’t be accurate. Inevitable is more like it.
You could smell the rot of Albany around the country. And with Skelos and Silver having a total lock on every action and non- action, there was no way to believe they were running clean houses. Cuomo once accused me of believing that “all politicians are corrupt.” Well, well, where did I ever get such a cockeyed idea? In truth, I don’t believe all politicians are corrupt. Just most of those in Albany, along with a smattering here, there and everywhere else.
Albany is different in all the worst ways. Corruption there is not a side gig, it’s the heart of the matter. Some pols have been busted in their first terms, meaning they went there precisely to steal. Others did it slowly, learning from the master kick-backers one con at a time. As the string of nearly 40 indictments and convictions shows, legislation, regulations, taxes, spending, the budget — they’ve all been distorted so the crooked pols could get a cut of the action.
It’s a cesspool of self-dealing, where almost nothing is done on the merits. Scores of so called charities have been created for the sole purpose of looting taxpayer money. Of all the sky high taxes New Yorkers pay, the corruption tax is the most galling. The real cost of government is grossly inflated when the toll takers are on the take. The Skelos charges are typical. They allege he was “monetizing” his office by selling favors to various interests and corporations, primarily to get money for his son. He should have just told the kid to get a real job. But that’s not the Albany way. What’s the point of power if you don’t abuse it?
Think of what it must be like in the capital for an honest person, legislator or bureaucrat. Wherever you look, somebody is on the take. Some role models, some peer pressure. That pattern helps to explain why New York has such lousy government. If you were a man or woman of integrity and talent, but knew you would have to fall in line behind party leaders like Silver and Skelos, would you run for office or even work in the capital? Hell, you could get the same experience by jumping in the Gowanus Canal!
There is, however, one official who emerges from this muck smelling like a rose — Preet Bharara. Not since Rudy Giuliani cleaned out the stables of City Hall 30 years ago has there been a Gotham prosecutor brave enough to take on the Big Boys. Back then, it was Donald Manes and a slew of dirty pols and shady businessmen who had made whole areas of city government their private thing.
Now it’s Albany and it’s Bharara, who has Giuliani’s old job as head of the legendary Southern District. He’s a bulldozer in a china shop, and thank God for him. He’s also been incredibly articulate about the need for New Yorkers to get mad as hell and not take it anymore. Now it’s Albany and it’s Bharara, who has Giuliani’s old job as head of the legendary Southern District. He’s a bulldozer in a china shop, and thank God for him. He’s also been incredibly articulate about the need for New Yorkers to get mad as hell and not take it anymore.
As for Cuomo, he came into office vowing to throw the bums out, ended up embracing Silver and Skelos, and now he’s covered in mud. What can he be thinking? Do tell, lucky fly on the wall, do tell.
New York Post- May 5, 2015- by Michael Goodwin