New Yorkers have known for years that many members of the state government have been involved in shady business deals, backroom agreements and under the table payments and agreements that are not in the best interest of the people. Rumors were always whispered throughout Albany, the state Capital, of who was involved in deals to strike back and those who voted against them, or deals to skim money that wouldn’t be taxed all while trying to tax the upper and middle class to “fix” the crumbling state economy.
These corrupt officials have run New York State into the ground. New York now ranks in the bottom ten of most economic categories, including economic outlook. In 2014, the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked New York State number 50 in economic outlook. 50. Dead last. Not even the combination of New York City’s popularity and business industry with Upstate’s agriculture and industrial sectors could save the Empire State. So what exactly could?
The first hope for New Yorkers was the 2014 mid-term elections. On the national level we saw a clear GOP victory, with many Congressional seats in both the House and the Senate turning from blue to red. The GOP has their biggest lead in the House in decades and the Senate is in Republican control for the first time in Barack Obama’s Presidency. The GOP even picked up a few gubernatorial seats, notably in Illinois and Massachusetts. There was hope for change in New York as well, as several congressional seats turned from blue to red(notably the defeat of Dan Maffei in the Syracuse region, who was heavily backed by former President Bill Clinton). The biggest hope was that Rob Astorino, the Westchester County Executive could defeat incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo for the gubernatorial seat. That unfortunately did not happen as New York State had the worst voter turnout in the country, around 29% of eligible voters.
When Andrew Cuomo was first running for Governor in 2010, he ran as a crusader who would “clean up Albany,” which was well known across the country for its widespread corruption. As Governor Cuomo enters his second term, that still has not happened. Cuomo managed to form a committee during his first term that was supposed to investigate the corruption in Albany, but it was disbanded in the early months of 2014 by Cuomo for unknown reasons. The commission, known as the Moreland Commission, still has not released its findings to this day. However, thankfully the investigation was not completely stopped.
On January 22, 2015, US Attorney Prett Bharara announced that New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was under arrest for several felony counts, including pocketing nearly $4 million in bribery and kickback schemes related to the law firm in New York City he has associations with. Earlier this week, Silver resigned his role as Speaker as many Republicans called for him to step down. Democrats, however, continued to defend the Speaker, calling him an honorable man. Both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were among those who defended Silver, with Governor Cuomo stating “If you can’t trust him, who can you trust?”
In the press conference that followed, Prett Bharara announced that the investigation into corruption in New York State was not yet finished. Just the other day this was proven when former New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was convicted of a bribery scheme. Bharara then claimed New York to be the “show me the money” state. There are also rumors that Bharara and his office are looking into current Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for corruption charges, but that has not been confirmed.
So does Bharara have a point? I think so. New York State has consistently shown over the past few years that they have some of the most corrupt politicians in the country. Just to name a few, scandals have plagued former Governor Eliot Spitzer, former Speaker Sheldon Silver, former Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith and former mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. When more charges come down, and they likely will, more names will be added to that list. Many in New York would not be surprised to see Dean Skelos and Andrew Cuomo added to that list for various reasons.
As disgusting as this is in New York State, this should serve as a strong warning and example for the rest of the country, politicians can be corrupt, and a number of them unfortunately are. Also, it is important to note the voter turnout rate in New York State. In the 2014 midterm elections, only 29 percent of eligible voters voted in the election. This means that less than 29 percent of the population in New York State determined who the next governor was going to be. If people want to change the atmosphere of corruption and government, they need to be informed and vote. Politicians can be held accountable for their actions, but only if the people are informed and vote. People have known that Speaker Silver has been corrupt for years, he has been Speaker for 21 years, the people in his district could have voted him out at any time, but they unfortunately didn’t.
It is our duty as citizens to keep an eye on our elected officials or some of them will take advantage of the people and do what they can to make a profit for themselves. Sheldon Silver’s replacement for Speaker of the Assembly has already stated he promotes an increase in the pay of members of the Assembly, even though New York is in a disastrous financial situation. That is the kind of thing people should note and consider at the ballot box, or when deciding to vote at all. Hopefully what’s going on in New York State will serve as a wakeup call to many in the state and around the country that political corruption is still around, but that the people can do something about it.