Cuomo, Citing New Scandals in Legislature, Vows a Push to Change Laws
In the wake of two corruption cases announced last week that led to the arrests of members of the State Legislature, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday that he would push for changes to the state’s election and campaign fund-raising laws, declaring, “Never waste a crisis, as they say.”
The governor, in an interview on a public radio program, said he believed that the arrests would prompt enough of a public outcry that state legislators would finally be motivated to consider reforming a variety of ethics and fund-raising laws that they had previously resisted changing.
“You can make major reforms when you have the people’s attention, and we have the people’s attention, and I think that’s a good thing,” Mr. Cuomo said on the program, “The Capitol Pressroom,” adding, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for many, many years.”
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who ran for governor with the promise of cleaning up the scandal-plagued state capital, also sought to distance himself from the arrests. He said that they reflected more of a problem in the politics of New York City than in Albany, and noted that no new law would prevent bad people from deciding to commit criminal acts.
“You will always have individuals who break the law,” he said. “Why? That’s the story of power, and greed, and human nature, and arrogance, and hubris. So if someone says, ‘Well, we need a system where no one does anything wrong,’ then they’re talking about a utopia that doesn’t exist.”
Mr. Cuomo’s comments followed the arrests last week of State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, who was accused of a scheme to offer bribes to buy a place on the ballot for mayor of New York City, and Assemblyman Eric A. Stevenson, who was accused of taking bribes.
Mr. Cuomo proposed a wide-ranging series of ethics changes when he was running for governor. But after setting up a new state ethics commission in his first year in office – whose effectiveness has been questioned – Mr. Cuomo has not pursued additional changes, although he had said before last week’s scandals that he would seek an overhaul of the state’s campaign fund-raising laws in this year’s legislative session.
In the radio interview, Mr. Cuomo provided few specifics about the changes he would seek. But he listed a number of areas he said were ripe for reform, including a state law that requires candidates seeking to run on the ballot line of a political party other than the one in which they are enrolled to obtain the permission of party leaders. (Mr. Smith is a Democrat, but he wanted to run for mayor as a Republican.)
Mr. Cuomo suggested ending the cross-endorsement of candidates by multiple political parties, lowering financial contribution limits to political campaigns, expanding the jurisdiction of district attorneys to investigate public corruption, and making changes to the State Board of Elections. He also said he was considering whether to appoint a panel with subpoena power, known as a Moreland Commission, to investigate corruption in Albany.