Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer of Scandal

The summer of scandal in Albany trudges on.

It's getting to be routine.

Some new transgression, calls for new investigations, calls for resignations, support voiced by various groups for "ethics reform".  And a few days later the cycle begins again.

When a guy like me is bored with scandal in Albany we have a problem.

It appears that no one actually wants to do the hard work of actually thinking about what will change the culture.

It will not be changed by a "magic bullet" of ethics reform legislation or campaign finance reform.

It will take dedicated ethics professional's doing the small things right over and over and over again.

For example I've been talking to JJOKE commissioners trying to get them to stop being reactionary to the ethics scandal du juor and start thinking about why the various issues persist.

I asked Gary Lavine to step back and think about why the source of funding requirement was passed.  Was it a knee jerk reaction by the gov and the goo goos to the media wanting to know who funded one particular lobbying campaign?  Or was there a valid reason for the public to know the source of funding of lobbying campaigns?  And if it were the latter does the legislation and regulations JJOKE has created accomplish that goal?  I told Gary that source of funding is really an attempt to defund particular lobbying groups.  If the public really wanted to know who pays for lobbying campaigns EVERY lobby organization should disclose the source of their funds traced all the way back to it's origins.  Which of course will never happen.  What exists now is just a trap to catch the uninformed, those groups that cannot afford or do not realize that people that do what I do for a living can avoid these regulations legally without breaking a sweat.

I also asked Gary to review those groups that have asked for exemptions from the source of funding requirements but have not filed the reports that were due in January of 2013.  Groups like NYCLU that met the $50000 lobbying threshold for disclosure but did not do so.  Before you talk about changing the regulations don't you think you are obligated to review the filings or lack thereof?  Ask why Susan Lerner only listed one donor in 2012.  Disclosure has no value if no one reviews it or insures it is accurate.

I wrote many years ago about the strip show quality of ethics disclosures in Albany.  It's a look but don't touch approach and heaven forbid you actually talk to the strippers before passing judgement.

Shelly Silver is in the news for getting frequent flyer points for his trips to Albany.  And no question Shelly must be the kind of guy that takes the dinner rolls home from a bar mitzvah to go to the lengths he does to rack up the miles.  But has anyone bothered to look at the ethics opinions to see if it is permissable?

On the JJOKE website opinion 08-04 which JJOKE has not overruled clearly states State employees and elected officials may keep the rewards and miles and bonus points they earn using state funds to travel as long as it doesn't cost the state extra and the rewards are available to the general public.

That opinion was drafted by John Feerick, the "gold standard" for ethics if you believe Elliot "snookie" Spitzer.  Do you know who dissented to that opinion?  Shelly Silver's appointee Virginia Appuzzo.  Weird huh?

So with everything going on in the summer of scandal is JJOKE doing the systematic temporal analysis of campaign donations and legislative action I have previously recommended?  Nope the Moreland folks are, unless the gov woke up over the weekend and realized his fundraising will be every bit as questionable as any legislators.

No JJOKE is doing another sex harassment case.  The staff is pissed that the assembly didn't tell them about Micah Kelner.  So here we go again JJOKE wastes time and resources to scratch an itch the media has.

Well don't say I am not helpful.  Sexual harassment is prevolent in government and if you want proof send a form subpoena to every single state employee and ask them if they have been sexually harassed, when and by whom.  Then publish the results and moveon to doing the little things right every time, starting with the selection of the next executive director of JJOKE.  It's been over 3 months what are you waiting for?

I might have to take the rest of the summer of scandal off from blogging.  The subject bores me right now and it has brought me so much business it's getting hard to find the time to do anyone's work but my own client's.  Both those that need an ethical bodyguard and those that need an ethics hitman.

Remember when it comes to ethics in Albany you are either a predator or you are the prey.

I'll blog again after the summer I've got a safari to go on.

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