This week, we learned that the State Senate had established committees that literally sold accessibility to state politicians for menu item dollars. Labor leaders were told that for 50 grand they would have “increased access” to the Senate majority. Others were told that 25 grand would buy them power.
If you are recorded by the FBI saying to a legislator, “If you vote for this bill I will give you this much money,” you are guilty of bribery under the law. On the other hand, if you get money from a well-heeled lobbyist and then vote the way he wants you to but there is no announced quid pro quo, is there anything illegal about that? Of course not. That’s as American as apple pie.
The cabal running the now Democratic Senate seems to have missed the subtlety of the whole game. For years, Republicans were grabbing anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down, but doing so with taste and refinement. When Democrats finally got power, they were like the dying man who gets to the water hole and drinks too much, too fast.
Unfortunately, some of the worst characters among them have gotten their hands on power and become the “leadership.” This crew would rather hold power—even at the potential cost of their majority—than lose their access to the cookie jar.
The problem is that the Democratic Senators, having blown it and repulsed the public, are now panicking. Rather than pass the tough ethics legislation that is needed to sanitize their house, they are running in the exact opposite direction. As a result of their panic, they are looking for the money that is the heart of contemporary politics. Surely they had to recognize that putting a public menu out for all to peruse would lead to shame and dishonor. But no, they thought that the promise of filling their campaign coffers was worth the risk. Well, it wasn’t and isn’t.
Clearly, there is nothing illegal about the whole thing. After all, one of the great myths of the Albany game is that the word “access” is a sanitized version of “bribery.” Everyone now plays the game. Key lobbyists who direct money to key legislators for campaigns have immense power. Even Congressmen, seeking to have their districts preserved in the coming reapportionment, hire “connected” lobbyists to make sure that they get the best districts possible.
Democratic leaders believe that they are so invulnerable that they simply can’t lose the Senate. I am here to tell you that by their misbehavior they have almost assured that is exactly what will happen. Mark my words.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
Trackback from your site.