New York City

POLITICAL CORRUPTION: Albany leaders see no need to act

May 8, 2013 Associated Press
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Story updated with more information

ALBANY — Even as the names of more lawmakers surface in a growing federal corruption probe and New Yorkers grow angrier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that there’s no significant progress in Albany toward enacting tougher anti-corruption measures.

Some legislators, he said, see no need to act. A few, he said, don’t want tougher laws. If they don’t act by the June 20 end of the session, Cuomo said one of his options is order a commission to investigate corruption in state government.

“I won’t let it end without something being done,” Cuomo said Wednesday. Hours later, more state lawmakers were identified in a federal probe that has resulted in four lawmakers charged in four weeks.

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New Yorkers who have long shrugged off corruption scandals may be reaching their breaking point, too.

“Albany is a rat’s nest of corruption,” said Simon Shink, 80, a retired pharmacist from Long Island’s Syosset. “I hope it’s a turning point. I adopt a wait-and-see attitude.”

Anthony Tomasello, 55, from the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore, is pessimistic more reforms will work.

“They’ll never fix it,” he said. “They all give us promises. We get a lot of promises.”

“There might be a few laws that might come out of this,” said Ikhlas Abdullah 56, a retired New York City school assistant principal. “But I just think there’s something inherent in the system that allows for this to happen … I don’t think it’s ever going to really change, but hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”

There was no immediate comment from legislative leaders, although negotiations continue and major legislation is often decided in the final hours of the session.

Cuomo said lawmakers have strong, philosophical opposition to some measures, including a Democratic proposal to use public funds to pay for election campaigns in a voluntary matching fund system.

But he also says some see no reason for tougher laws. He notes the federal prosecutor is accusing the lawmakers of breaking laws, not skirting weak ones, and that the accused represent a small slice of the 213 state legislators.

“Some legislators say there is not a reason to do anything,” Cuomo said. “You will get legislators who say, ‘These are just charges, no one has been found guilty of anything and you are innocent until proven guilty, so let’s wait and see.’ So you have a whole spectrum of opinions,” Cuomo said.

He and legislative leaders have been meeting in closed-door talks and in telephone calls on the proposal to use public money for campaigns as well as Cuomo’s proposals to create a new enforcement board and laws to force greater disclosure of campaign donations.

Albany has seen 32 state level officials snared in corruption cases in the past seven years and four in the past four weeks.

“I can never remember a run like this,” says Steven Greenberg, who runs the Siena College poll and has watched Albany politics for three decades.

Greenberg’s last poll, taken before this week’s arrest of Brooklyn Democratic Sen. John Sampson, found 80 percent of people thought more corruption arrests would be coming and a whopping 30 percent feared their legislator could be tainted.

“We were hoping that Andrew Cuomo as a former attorney general would be able to accomplish that,” Shink said of the culture of corruption. “I’m beginning to have my doubts about Mr. Cuomo.”

AP Writers Frank Eltman in Garden City, Rik Stevens in Albany and Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo contributed to this report.

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