Monday, March 23, 2009

Newsday Gets It On Pay To Play Politics

Ah the term "pay to play," always has an interesting ring to it and makes one think the worst of politics and power. If you want action from your government, then get ready to pony up with the legislator that can make it happen. The idea is a staple in New York politics, and it is the leading cause of so much of the corruption we see across the state. The question of how to get rid of it is to get rid of the money by instituting clean elections. After Hank Morris and David Loglisci were indicted last week for their extreme pay to play crimes, it was heartening to see Newsday's Op-Ed get on board with the program.

From Newsday:

New York is only one of three states where an elected official in the only person responsible for managing the public pension fund. Most states have boards of trustees who are appointed, with myriad combinations of how they are selected and how much independence they are given. A board, however, is not a perfect solution. In recent years there have been scandals and probes of board members in several states, including California, Texas and Illinois.

Whether New York should change its sole trustee arrangement needs to be examined. What doesn't need to wait is campaign financing. Not needing millions of dollars to run reduces the temptation to abuse the office.

Since DiNapoli took office, he has been recommending public financing for comptroller races. His proposal would cap spending in the primary and general election campaigns and allow the candidates to get $6 in public funding for every $1 raised. This still requires the candidates to solicit contributions of more than $1 million in private funds. It's a start.

The Morris indictment, however, should spark support for public financing for all statewide races. In the past two years, Gov. David A. Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have all supported campaign financing reform, if not outright public financing. Which ones will now take ownership of the movement for campaign reform - Paterson? Silver? Or Smith?

Attorney General Cuomo just hung a "For Sale" sign for all to see on Albany. Now, we need to see who's going to take it down.
That "For Sale" sign is something that Cuomo has been repeatedly pointing out so that all can see it. The sign has been there for decades.

As for taking ownership of campaign reform, any of the three of those being responsible for change is laughable. Smith and Paterson are for it in name only and Silver is a high priest in the pay to play culture. They all benefit from the current power structure and are reticent to change it. The movement must come from the grassroots and it has to grow into a fevered pitch so that the three men in the room have no choice but to relent and institute clean elections. That can happen with a dedicated single-issue campaign to hold legislators feet to the fire by having them go against their party's "leadership" and act as leaders on their own.