When David Paterson was the State Senate minority leader, I wrote a column about him and his so-called conference. Clearly, neither party owns the franchise on greed, stupidity, insanity or self-destruction. But now, after the Democrats waited years to show what they could do as top dogs, some Democratic members of the State Senate appear to be intent on blowing it. This has got to be very bad news for the good, honest members of the Democratic majority; people like State Sen. Liz Krueger from the East Side, who has been working for years to bring ethics reform to the Senate.
It seems as though we are regaled daily with stories of self-destructive stupidity on the part of our politicians. One Brooklyn Democrat, Kevin Parker, saw a New York Post photographer trying to take his picture and went after the guy, allegedly ruining his camera. No matter what you think of the Post, that was a pretty dumb move. Malcolm Smith, the Democratic leader who is desperately trying to stay in the majority, punished Parker and took away his $22,000 "lulu" (extra money for being a committee chair). Of course, he gets to keep his salary. Add to that the indictment of State Sen. Hiram Monserrate for beating up his girlfriend and things get even dicier. It doesn't stop there. The New York Daily News has been doing excellent work reporting about some of the nonprofit recipients of "member items" who then turn around and help the donating politicians with campaign labor, money and other favors. As a prime example, they cite State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. and his "Soundview Health Clinic." Espada has also been fined for breaking election laws. Once, quite a while ago, a State Senator threw one of my internship students out of her office because she wanted a black intern and he was white. I debated her on national TV, and I was astounded at her arrogance and her argument that she could do that if she wanted to. I suspect that once some folks get elected, they think they are untouchable. The truth is, they become prime targets for prosecutors and news media folks who know that they will make their "bones" by exposing politicians' wrong doings. I think that politicians should employ personal ethics counsels, just to protect them from their own stupidity. Then again, they'd have to actually listen to them. I still shake my head every time I see this sort of thing. I mean, how stupid can you be?
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.