After winning guilty verdicts against New York’s two former legislative leaders, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the cases show a broader problem with the state Legislature.
Bharara, in an interview with the New York Times, said a lack of oversight and loose laws are part of the problem in Albany — which has had nearly 40 lawmakers face ethics woes since 2000.
“The corruption in the State Legislature in Albany has not been episodic,” Bharara told the paper.
“It’s been systemic, and if nothing else, the trials revealed that there’s a deep culture problem, and a matter-of-factness about how at least these two defendants, who’ve now been found guilty, went about their daily corrupt business with barely a thought about it.”
Bharara has led a crusade against government corruption, and he’s had stunning results: nearly a dozen lawmakers have been convicted under his watch, including two in the Hudson Valley: former GOP Sens. Nick Spano and Vincent Leibell.
But nabbing former leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, a Republican and Democrat, respectively, over the last month has been Bharara’s top achievement so far.
They were two of the “three men in a room” that controlled state government.
The third man in the room, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has previously drawn the ire of Bharara for shutting down a corruption-busting panel in 2014. Cuomo’s aides have also been accused of interfering with the Moreland Commission’s work.
Bharara wouldn’t say what other public corruptions he is pursing.
But he did tell the Times that the ability of lawmakers to earn outside income and porous laws with weak disclose requirements, as well as power concentrated with the legislative leaders, creates a dangerous mix.
“It makes it harder to prosecute the bad apples when every apple is able to be nontransparent about that outside income,” Mr. Bharara said.
“I’m trying to suggest that these are things that are really, really worth talking about.”