Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘oxymoron’ as follows: “a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings.” Some fine examples include auto pilot, jumbo shrimp, liquid gas and sadly, Albany ethics. It is a disgrace that nothing has been done during the 2016 legislative session to change Albany’s culture of corruption.
A recent Siena College poll found that a record 97% of New Yorkers feel it’s important to strengthen ethics laws. With the former leaders of both the State Senate and the Assembly being convicted, and over forty New York elected officials accused of misdeeds in the last twelve years, voters are sending a strong message to Albany. Clearly a change is needed. If elected to the Senate, I would pursue the following priorities:
Strip convicted elected officials of their pensions: This is truly a “no-brainer.” Elected officials who betray the public trust have no business living off the taxpayers for the rest of their lives. And they shouldn’t be comfortable knowing that regardless of their misdeeds, they will have a soft landing on the public dole.
Restrict outside in- come: Many legislators earn outside income at law firms and other practices that have business before State government. This creates clear potential conflicts of interest, much of which could occur behind closed doors without the public ever knowing. We must prevent all legislators from earning a salary from any business that could influence their decision making as public servants.
Eliminate loopholes that circumvent campaign donation limits: Any at- tempts to reduce shady money in politics will only be for show until we establish clear and airtight campaign finance rules. We cannot expect politicians to regulate or restrain themselves absent a consistent set of fundraising rules that applies equally to all.
Impose term limits to prevent politicians from becoming creatures of Albany: We see the same sad story time and again – honest elected officials sink further over time into the Albany swamp until the temptation to profit or power overcomes their better judgment. Term limits will ensure that fresh faces who want to do the people’s work will regularly go up to Albany and change it for the better.
I’ve worked hard in my own capacity to raise our ethical standards here on Long Island. Recently, I proposed ethics reforms as a Director on the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA). My proposal included asking for County elected officials to disclose a “list of political donations to elected officials, County committees and local political clubs.” In response, Nassau passed a new law requiring vendors to disclose donations to elected officials. While a step in the right direction, this is not sufficient. We must all work harder and summon the political will to effect change. I know that it will be a top priority for me if I am elected to the State Senate.
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