The Daily Star
---- — Under ordinary circumstances, we would be applauding any issue upon which New York’s Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans can agree.
But the circumstance that arose a week ago in Albany is anything but ordinary.
The legislators had until Sept. 20 to respond to the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption’s request for detailed information about their outside income and legal clients.
In a rare display of bipartisan unity, the legislators refused.
“Ethically repugnant” is how the commission characterized this impressive example of lawmakers being willing to put aside party politics and reach across the aisle to achieve a common goal.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves — for several reasons.
For one, the public has a right to know if our elected officials are conducting private business with groups or individuals that might be seeking to influence legislation. That’s called a conflict of interest, and we deserve some assurances that our lawmakers are doing their best to avoid such situations.
For another, it’s an embarrassment for New York state to witness how far politicians in Albany are willing to go to avoid doing the right thing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made ethics reform a key piece of his agenda for the first half of the year.
“I’m not going to leave town without restoring the public trust and the integrity,” Cuomo said in June, referring to the June 20 end of the legislative session.
But the legislature let him down, failing to pass the governor’s ethics proposal. In response, Cuomo created the commission that set the Sept. 20 deadline — at which lawmakers have thumbed their collective noses.
But wait. It gets better.
The fine men and women we have put into office in Albany are so dead set against the idea of disclosing possible conflicts of interest that they are willing to shut down state government to hold what Cuomo earlier referred to as “a bright line.”
The commission can subpoena lawmakers to get the information it previously requested, but it seems clear that the Assembly and Senate will fight this one with everything they’ve got.
These characters make the House Republicans threatening to shut down the federal government because of objections over government spending look positively noble by comparison.
So even though the talking heads in Albany seem to have closed their ears pretty firmly against common sense, we’re going to add our voice to the chatter.
Listen up, folks. Is this really the legacy you want to leave behind? Do you really want to be able to say that you took a bold stance against transparency in government? If you do, understand that the interest you’re serving is not that of the citizens that you were elected to represent. It’s your own. And we won’t forget that at election time.