Corruption and Albany seem to go hand in hand these days. Over the past decade alone, New Yorkers watched as their state capital was rocked by one scandal after another. The taint of corruption was bipartisan, both Republican Dean Skelos, the former state Senate Majority Leader, and Democrat Sheldon Silver, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly were brought down by charges of massive graft.
It is not surprising, then, that New York received a D- grade from a 2015 State Integrity Investigation.
The primary drivers of corruption in Albany are the fact that we have a “part-time” legislature and our incredibly weak campaign finance laws. Because our state legislators are considered part-time they are allowed to earn outside income which leads to a conflict of interest issues across the state. Compounding this issue is the lack of rigorous campaign finance laws, the absence of which allows big dollar donors to pour money into races without having to account for their spending. One of the most egregious examples of this is the “LLC Loophole” which has allowed special interest groups to funnel money into our elections without contribution limits or disclosure requirements.
In January 2017, Governor Cuomo tried to close the LLC Loophole but the effort never made it past the state legislature. Similar efforts to clean up Albany have ended in failure as well. Take the fate of the Moreland Commission for example, in which an organization ostensibly created to root out corruption in Albany was dissolved the minute it began to actually fulfill its mandate. A series of constitutional amendments would allow New Yorkers to bypass the state legislature and governor to attack the sources of corruption.