Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to create a new class of state-level corruption crimes was lauded by district attorneys as a necessary step to fight political wrongdoing.
But does it have a future in the Legislature, and in what form?
One of the state Senate’s co-leaders—Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx—issued a statement Tuesday backing Cuomo’s plan as a solid first step. One of the IDC’s members, Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens, was charged by federal prosecutors last week with trying to bribe his way into the New York City mayoral race.
“The corrupt acts brought to light last week by the U.S. Attorney demonstrate a clear and ongoing threat to the core of public service,” Klein said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to stop that threat dead in its tracks. The Governor’s proposals today are a good first step towards doing exactly that.”
Cuomo’s plan (background here and here) was neither backed nor shunned by the two other top lawmakers in the Legislature. In a statement Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said he would work with Cuomo and lawmakers to “root out corruption wherever it exists.” A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his office was “working closely with the governor and reviewing the proposal.”
“In light of the charges brought last week by the U.S. Attorney against members of the Legislature, we must redouble our efforts to create a government New Yorkers can be proud of,” Skelos said in the statement.
The plan garnered support from various lawmakers in the minority conferences, including Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, and Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, Westchester County.
“The bottom line is you have to ramp up the penalties to try to provide not just draconian punishment for somebody who is guilty, but you’ve got to try to deter the behavior,” Latimer said. “If the consequences get more and more severe, then it becomes more and more risk for somebody who’s thinking about getting involved in some scheme apropos to what we’ve seen lately.”