Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trust, but Verify

Remember the old Ronald Reagan line about the Russians and their adherence to nuclear weapons treaties? Reagan said he trusted that they were in compliance, but that he still wanted verification.

This is the attitude we should have regarding elected officials in New York. Any particular official might seem to be the most honorable person in town, but that doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be checked out when issues arise.

That goes for administrations, as well.

Case in point: There was an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday that raised serious questions about the Cuomo administration and its relations with certain unions.

The article said that the administration had “quietly authorized a $50 million bailout of an insurance fund for 1199 SEIU health-care workers...”
This article cited union officials who said that this bailout was the “key to gaining union backing of a budget plan that shaved nearly $1 billion from the state's Medicaid program.”

If this reporting is accurate, then someone in the administration has a problem.

We all know that political deals get worked out all the time. We know that one side doesn’t agree to do something without a concession from the other side. But this appears to be different. This appears to be a situation where an inducement was offered. And the amazing thing about this situation is that some of participants in this particular deal are admitting as much.

Here’s another passage from the article: “Union officials said the benefit fund's cash problems were part of budget negotiations with the governor's office. “It was always on the table that we had to solve this problem," said Kevin Finnegan, the union's political director. Another person familiar with the budget negotiations said the bailout was key to (gaining) 1199 SEIU's support.”

The article goes on to explain how the $50 million was awarded without legislative approval or other review, and how people in the health care community are shocked by the move.

Now, again, it is possible that this is just an appearance problem. It is possible that the administration has a good explanation for all of this.
Unfortunately, the administration appears to be dismissing the article as baseless “conspiracy theory.”

Maybe the story is off base, but the administration needs to explain why.
This brings me back to Ronald Reagan and his notion of verification. Who is going to provide verification that the administration acted appropriately?

As I’ve written in the past, there’s no functioning state ethics panel to review this or other situations.
As I’ve written in the past, the Legislature seems very reluctant to assert its right to review the actions of the Executive branch.
As I’ve written in the past, the good government groups, without Blair Horner to guide them, appear willing to accept a self policing policy from this administration.
And as I’ve written in the past, the media– with it appears a few notable exceptions including the article’s author, Jacob Gershman -- doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds it. In this regard, no other news organization seems to have picked up on this significant story.

The person with the most to gain by a robust review of this matter is the Governor himself. The governor is too smart not to realize verification of what occurred is far more beneficial than brushing off the story and hoping no one pursues it.

So who will provide the verification we and the governor need?
Quién proporcionará tan la verificación nosotros y la necesidad del gobernador?

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