Yesterday, Joe Bruno, former Republican Senate Majority Leader, was found guilty on two counts of essentially taking payola money from a business associate in return for favors and contracts. He was acquitted on five other felony charges and one where they just couldn't decide.
The details brought out in the trial have finally opened the window on exactly how the Senate was run under his leadership and how business was done in Albany for the 15 years he was in charge.
What we saw was a textbook example of how a powerful politician used his position in the Senate to enrich himself and his associates via the activities of his "other outside jobs" as a consultant and business owner.
As disturbing (and unsurprising to those who have followed Albany politics) as his law-breaking was, what should be more disturbing are the activities for which he was not convicted. The fact that they were not against the law speaks volumes about the law itself and the way the rules of the Senate have evolved over the decades.
Because there has been no threat to the power structure in Albany for so long, players left and right have learned to play the system, and the lawmakers have done nothing to upset the cart.
An example of strange bedfellows that this system created is the incredible union support Uncle Joe and the Republicans received over the years. Why would unions support a Republican party that repeatedly passed environmental, education and taxation legislation that hurt working class people? Well, it turns out that Bruno did consulting work for an organization that had the unions as clients so now we have a pretty good reason why he gave the unions everything they asked for come contract time. Nice payoff using state money.
Well, the times they are a changing.
The rocks that have been turned over this year have shown a particularly seedy and messy world; a world that New Yorkers should no longer tolerate. They certainly can't afford it anymore.
Now the question becomes, how do we change the State Senate and how it does business? Well, it begins with the Senators themselves. More specifically, your Senator.
If your Senator isn't committed to real reform, they shouldn't get your support. It's pretty simple.
We should be dedicated to electing Senators who listen to dissenting opinion, make decisions based on fact and discussion, not influence and money, and that they represent the people that elected them, not their own self-interest. If we elect an army of these people to represent us, as was the intent when the Constitution was drafted, then all the other issues most of us are concerned about will take care of themselves through ethics reform, open debate, and the electoral process. (h/t to AB)