The news in recent weeks has been filled with familiar stories about New York’s corrupt politics. In an election year, you might think that this would be part of the campaigns. But you would be mistaken. Republicans trying to make ethics an issue have their own weaknesses on this score and Democrats have managed to ignore the stain.
That is unfortunate because in just the past weeks, a former executive for the Competitive Power Ventures plant near Middletown was sentenced to 14 months in prison for bribing a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Although his trial in March ended with a hung jury, he decided to plead guilty.
As the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said after the sentencing, “Many consider this type of behavior to be ‘the way things are done’ in government. But our office does not, and neither does the court.”
How about the voters? Do they consider this the way things are done in Albany? In some ways many of them must because they keep electing the people involved in these incidents to second, third and even more terms in state office and the state Legislature.
Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., the CPV executive, was accused of providing a phony but well-paying job for the wife of Cuomo aide and friend Joe Percoco, who will be spending six years in prison for his part in this scheme. Cuomo is working very hard to distance himself from the legal troubles concerning the CPV plant. Making that task all the more difficult is a lawsuit by Republicans to force the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate Percoco’s potentially illegal activities on behalf of the governor.
At the same time, Cuomo is very much in the middle of investigations into the multi-miliion-dollar state grant to Crystal Run Healthcare and the significant donations from that organization and its doctors to the governor’s campaign.
Democrats are not alone in what is clearly a bipartisan plague of corruption in the state. In the tradition of many Republican state senators who ended their careers with convictions and prison time, we now are watching as two of the three men in the room who once controlled New York head to prison.
Republican Dean Skelos was convicted of corruption just after the former speaker of the Assembly, Democrat Sheldon Silver, was convicted on similar charges. Both successfully appealed the convictions in light of Supreme Court decisions that made such cases harder to prove yet both were swiftly convicted in new trials, showing just how corrupt their behavior was.
Prosecutors argued that Skelos deserved a longer sentence this time because of all the lies he told in the new trial.
“He was evasive and misleading at times, and on several occasions he flat out lied about facts large and small,” prosecutors said.
But the judge on Wednesday said that because of his age and health challenges, he will serve four years and three months instead of the original five. Now, we wait to see how long Silver will serve as both provide yet another reminder of just how corrupt our state government is.