New York is corruption’s proving ground. In December, 2013, three months before Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission, it issued a preliminary, ninety-eight-page report describing “an epidemic of public corruption.” For instance: “One out of every eleven legislators to leave office since 1999 has done so under the cloud of ethical or criminal violations.” But those are only the people who got caught violating the scant, weak, and poorly enforced anticorruption laws that govern their conduct. “The real scandal,” according to the report, “is what remains legal.”–Jill Lepore
What ails Albany: lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of principle — joined with overabundance of greed, cronyism and self-dealing. –U.S. Attorney, Preet Bharara
The cornerstone of new ethics reform should be term limits on all state elected officials.— Chemung County Sherriff, Chris Moss
It is easy to predict what won’t cure corruption:
- Term Limits
The above measures are sure to be ineffective because the incentive for corruption would remain–arrests might make officials more careful, term limits would periodically change the players, but corruption would remain the rule. What might work is reform that prevents officials from accepting payments or favors for any reason. This should include:
- Full time pay with other sources of income prohibited.
- Public financing of election campaigns.
In an article which appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette on February 3, 2015, Chemung County Sherriff, Chris Moss, writes:
If we enact term limits, we effectively do away with the current broken power structure and the eventual corruption that inevitably arises from it.
Moss is wrong–term limits are not a solution to the problem of corruption. Term limits would change the players, but do nothing to prevent corrupt persons from being elected or newly elected persons from being corrupted.
Moss suggests that term limits would reduce “incumbent’s focus from working on their reelection to focusing on voting their beliefs and principles.” More likely it would cause the soon to be unemployed to focus on short-term gain and the revolving door to private employment when their term ends.
Moss concludes that term limits would attract non-career politicians who would “bring a much needed common sense approach to the Legislature.” Again, I disagree–what is common sense to some is folly to those who are wiser.
Would term limits be good for NY-23? I think not. We might not have Tom Reed to kick around any longer, but we might have someone even less responsible. Even if we had someone more responsible, it wouldn’t last. Short timers would have no reason to consider the long term public interest; they would need to get rich quick, and to arrange for a golden parachute when their term ends.
When a legislator’s service is inadequate, the direct and most effective solution is to vote that person out.
© William Hungerford – February 2015