The state’s new Commission to Investigate Public Corruption has the potential to finally address, in an organized and effective manner, the illegal and unethical practices of too many elected public officials in New York.
The 25-member commission, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week under the Moreland Act, has the authority to investigate crimes and recommend new election and campaign-funding laws.
The commission joins the fight already in progress with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which just announced that legislators’ financial disclosure forms are now available online at jcope.ny.gov. The public ethics commission was created after passage of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 to “restore public trust in government by ensuring compliance with the State’s ethics and lobbying laws, regulations, and guidance.”
JCOPE notwithstanding, the State Legislature has for years been seen as a pit of scandal and a stronghold of abuse of power. Its public attempts at cleaning house have proved to be more talk than action. The Senate and Assembly, having shown that they have no intention to police themselves, continue to gerrymander districts to enshrine their fiefdoms, and some have spat on the public trust by acting not just unethically, but unlawfully.
We know that the true public servants in Albany, the ones who are there for the right reasons, want to improve the government’s reputation and root out their corrupt colleagues. But cleaning house from within isn’t working. If it weren’t for the U.S. attorney, none of the recent indictments and arrests would have happened.
The new commission is populated mostly by district attorneys, prosecutors, defense lawyers and criminal-justice scholars and guided by enforcement practitioners like New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and these men and women know what needs to be done and have the experience to know how to do it.
We think that the caliber of the appointees, such as Co-chair Kathleen Rice, Nassau County’s district attorney, bodes well for the independence, toughness and smarts that will be necessary to accomplish what previous anti-corruption efforts have failed to do.