Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 8, 2013

Cuomo says overhaul of NY ethics needed -- again


Niagara Gazette — "At the end of the day, crooks are crooks," Sleight said. "It doesn't matter what ethics law you pass. If you are willing to take a bribe, you take a bribe."

The former state lobbying executive director said governors and legislatures focus on new ethics laws in press conferences, while the small stuff that foster what Cuomo as attorney general had called a "culture of corruption" goes untouched.

"It starts with gateway violations, just like drugs," said David Grandeau, now an attorney representing lobbying clients.

He said the culture is fostered by routine abuse of legislators' "per diem payments, friends and family on the payroll, abuse of campaign funds for non-campaign purposes, and they go from there."

Grandeau blames his frequent target, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics created under Cuomo's ethics overhaul two years ago, which replaced another board created four years before under the ethics overhaul of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

"That's why these guys do it. They get away with it," Grandeau said. "This is the governor's responsibility."

Cuomo said he's had private discussions with legislators on his ideas.

"It's very hard to do it piecemeal ... the better way to do it is to reform the overall system," Cuomo said Monday. "Even good people in the system will say the system doesn't work."

He said ordering a corruption fighting commission under the Moreland Act, which he threatened the Legislature with two years ago but didn't implement, is just one of several issues he's exploring.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last week charged state legislators in two separate bribery cases. The arrests came two days after federal authorities arrested a state senator in an alleged plot to bribe his way into the New York City mayor's race. Since 2004, two former Senate majority leaders and nine legislators and high-ranking executive branch officials were convicted on corruption charges.

"We could all write a treatise on what needs to be done," Cuomo said. "It's not like we don't know the ideas."

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