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 to 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.
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.”
Cuomo said lawmakers have strong, philosophical opposition to some measures, including a Democratic proposal to use public funds to pay for campaigns. 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.
“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.”
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.”