The New York Post - EDITORIAL - January 11, 2010
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has long argued that the best way to clean up Albany is to vest in his of fice broad authority to investigate political corruption. Forget the hopelessly compromised "ethics" panels, in other words: A few well-targeted criminal probes -- with full power of subpoena -- are the best way to make things right. Well, now's his chance. Cuomo's office has subpoenaed a wide range of state Senate e-mails regarding Majority Leader Pedro Espada and his Soundview Health Center, the Bronx clinic that functions as the Espada family piggy bank. The AG's authority is narrowly focused; it comes from his probe into Soundview's possible misuse of public funds. Now Cuomo reportedly wants to know whether Espada used his position to steer cash toward the clinic. Um, is the Hudson wet? Fact is, if Cuomo can't unravel Espada's exceedingly brazen Soundview advantage-taking, he's going to have a tough time justifying a bid for wider powers. If he can, of course, it's even less likely that the Legislature would grant them -- but that's the sad lot of an aspiring Albany reformer. The problem certainly transcends Espada. Take Senate Democratic leader John Sampson. Barely had the gavel come down on former Majority Leader Joe Bruno's conviction for using his office to personal advantage when Sampson tossed a few feathers into his own nest. The Post's Brendan Scott reports that the Brooklyn Democrat last month locked up a gig as counsel to the politically powerful law firm Belluck & Fox. He'll be nicely compensated, no doubt -- but the details will be privileged information because of the lawyer-client relationship. And guess what: A founding partner at the firm, Joseph Belluck, just happens to be a board member at the state Trial Lawyers Association -- a key lobbyist for the tort bar. This, of course, is almost the same arrangement Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has with top tort-law firm Weitz & Luxenberg. Probably not a good year for tort reform in Albany, we'd guess: Clearly, the trial lawyers have covered their bases in both houses of the Legislature. Average New Yorkers come up with the short end of the stick. Meanwhile, Joe Bruno must be wondering why he never got a law degree. Pedro Espada, too. Alas, it'll be a cold day in hell before Sampson, Silver & Co. willingly give anyone the power to probe them. But if Cuomo can sort out Soundview, it will be significantly more difficult to justify denying him the authority to cast a wider net. That would be a good thing.