The New York Post - EDITORIAL - June 3, 2011
It was a long time coming, and it wouldn't have happened without Gov. Cuomo's stern insistence, but it looks like New York now has a governmental ethics bill with real teeth in it. Post readers know how important the ethics deal announced by Cuomo and legislative leaders yesterday is. This paper, and these pages, have campaigned relentlessly for ethics reform for years. How many lawmakers, we asked, would have to go to prison before Albany addressed the institutional rot that has produced one scandal after another? How long would the Legislature resist reform? Then came Cuomo, who made cleaning up a capital that had become a national ethics laughingstock a major part of last year's campaign. He carried a credible club -- promising to sic a special anti-corruption Moreland Commission on the Legislature if it didn't act. Message delivered. And accepted. Yesterday, the new governor got what he wanted.
In Albany, the devil's always in the details. The fine print will bear close reading. But, on the surface, this looks like real reform. The proposed law:
- Creates a 14-member independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics with "broad enforcement powers" over elected officials and staff in the executive and legislative branches.
- Forces legislators to fully disclose income and clients for their outside jobs. Thus, New Yorkers will learn at long last exactly how much Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver makes from trial-lawyer behemoth Weitz & Luxenberg. Ditto for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' gig with Ruskin Moscou Faltischek.
- Requires stricter financial disclosure from lobbyists and expands the definition of lobbyists.
- Hits errant lawmakers where they'll feel it: The attorney general or district attorney will have the ability to use civil forfeiture to revoke or reduce the pensions of public officials convicted of crimes involving misuse of their official powers.
These are tectonic shifts for Albany. And, again, they are long overdue. Congratulations to Silver, Skelos and especially Cuomo for getting it done. And to all those many Albany miscreants now on parole, in prison or on their way there: Hey, you take a bow, too! Cuomo couldn't have done it alone.