The New York Times - EDITORIAL - May 28, 2011
The first item on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s post-inauguration to-do list was ethics reform. He’s been in office five months, and we’re still waiting for the bill. While the governor has been negotiating behind closed doors with legislative leaders (shouldn’t transparency top the list of reforms?), others are acting.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have announced plans to use their offices’ resources to investigate anything suspicious that involves the use of state funds. That includes no-show jobs, illegal expense reports, pension padding and bid rigging for government contracts. The Schneiderman-DiNapoli idea is a good one, but not enough. Here’s what is needed, as Mr. Cuomo laid out in his campaign “Plan for Action”:
- An independent ethics commission with powers to investigate and punish legal violations by lawmakers and members of the executive branch. No more self-policing.
- End “pay to play,” with stiff contribution limits for contractors and lobbyists, immediate disclosure of contributions and real punishments for breaking the rules.
- Full disclosure by lawmakers of outside earnings and clients — with no exceptions. Lawyers whose clients have business before the state must come clean. As Mr. Cuomo wrote, “Voters cannot have complete faith in their elected representatives if they cannot assess where else those representatives are earning money.”
- A complete overhaul of campaign finance laws, including a move to public financing of elections, limiting contributions to party “housekeeping” accounts, closing other loopholes and giving the attorney general jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violations.