Forget phony pledges of allegiance to the rule of law. The new oath of office for New York’s legislators elected to Albany should be the famous Oscar Wilde verse: “I can resist anything but temptation.”
Between garden variety crooked lawmakers busted in recent weeks and the practice of rewarding the party faithful with madeup jobs, New York’s government reads like a script from the writers of Boardwalk Empire or The Sopranos: Full of corruption, patronage, nepotism and neglect of duty to the people it supposedly represents.
The shame of this whole criminal empire is that voters keep sending the same people back again. It’s as if they are rewarded for their their thievery.
Unfortunately, the seedy lawmakers-turned-lawbreakers aren’t only connected to the State of New York; a few of them reside in the City Council as well.
For decades now, the driving force behind hiring in state and local governments seems to be summed up in one sentence: “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.”
Back in the day, when unions were controlled by the mob there was a time-worn hiring code that always included a number of “no-show” jobs for relatives of union bosses. There is probably some of this folklore still alive in unions, but organized crime families have weakened in recent years, the result of constant pressure from federal prosecutors.
Now its the state government, rather than some mafia crew, that’s handing out the no-show jobs—and at the expense of all taxpayers.
The New York Times recently compiled a scathing expose of the hiring practices of the Empire State Development Corporation. Reportedly, this agency has a had a knack of hiring relatives of political contributors who supported the election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
With about 300 employees, Empire State is one of the smaller state agencies. But governors of both parties have often used it for patronage because legally, it is a public authority—nominally independent of the state government, though controlled by the governor.
Empire State has hired 49 people in the first 20 months of the Cuomo administration, according to personnel records obtained by The New York Times. The records show that nearly a third were the governor’s political associates, donors and friends or their relatives.
It’s unclear if every candidate had the qualificiations for the job, but common sense dictates that having relatives with friends in high places could not have hurt their chances at getting hired.
Whether its honest or dishonest, graft has no place in government. Jobs and contracts should be awarded based on merit, not contributions. The spoils system remains alive and well in New York State, and it’s costly to the pocketbooks and souls of the taxpaying voters.
It would be nice if the voters would remember who the crooks are and make sure they are not sent back to steal some more. Again, though, we can’t just “vote the bums out.” We must be vigilant to ensure that we don’t vote new bums to take their place in government.
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