Since 2000, 33 New York state lawmakers have faced ethical or legal charges that range from criminal convictions to sexual stalking, Gannett Albany Bureau reported over the weekend.
And that’s just the legislators. The tally doesn’t count a state comptroller’s criminal conviction or a governor losing his office over a liaison with a prostitute. By one count, New York has had more public corruption convictions than any other state in the nation.
The scandals in the Legislature have ensnared 26 Democrats and seven Republicans. And those caught up in scandal have included white, black and Latino lawmakers from regions across the state.
To be sure, New York is far from alone in dealing with political scandal. New Jersey’s governor is caught up in a bizarre kerfuffle that started with a traffic jam; and a former governor of Virginia and his wife are facing a 14-count indictment over charges that they accepted loans and gifts in exchange for helping promote a company’s products.
New York lawmakers seem to have a penchant for getting into trouble. Explanations for this varied in interviews with lawmakers, ethics experts and longtime political observers of the Capitol.
The answers ranged from the simple human condition or to lawmakers and aides being in Albany for days away from their families. Others pointed to the lack of a tough, independent watchdog to keep an eye over one of the largest and most expensive state legislatures in the country.
“It’s the failure of Albany to create meaningful, ethics policing institutions that’s the big problem,” said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, who has observed the Capitol for 30 years.