Another Amigo
Bites The Dust
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

 

The conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. is seismic news in New York's political culture, although it can hardly be described as a surprise. From the newspaper reports, it appears that everyone knew for years that Espada was a crook. He was not convicted on the basis of a single incident or some long ago dereliction of duty, this man’s fraud pervaded his conduct as a legislator and poverty entrepreneur. He ran, and looted, a nonprofit community health organization which received millions of dollars in federal funds for many years.

There is a sort of cognitive dissonance in the rise and fall of Pedro Espada Jr. Everyone has known for some years that he is a thoroughly corrupt politician, yet he held office and successfully bargained with his colleagues to enhance his leadership position by intimidating the Democrats into giving him the title he desired.

The Rich Become Reformers
By Seeking Restrictions
On Campaign Financing
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Now that Governor Cuomo is in midst of the second year of his first term, people are pointing to his success as a manager and as an executive. His popularity rating is 68% (according to the latest Quinnipiac poll) and while there are certainly disputes over specific measures he proposes to eliminate the perennial state debt, one would have to say that he is well-poised to make the effort.

The next challenge Cuomo tackles should be campaign finance reform. A new coalition of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders called New York Leadership for Accountable Government (NY Lead) has formed in response to a line uttered by Cuomo in his State of the State address this year expressing his desire to enact campaign finance reform on the statewide level. The group, whose members include David Rockefeller, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, was described in The New York Times last week in an article entitled "Wealthy Group Seeks to Reform Election Giving".

A Banana Republic
Sliced To Order
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Looking down at Albany as the 2012 legislative session begins its slow march into local history, we see an aura of tranquility, justified pride in a handful of modest achievements and, above all, relief that the institution survived its decennial brush with the New York State Constitution which regrettably now permits the disgraceful gerrymandering which enables a minority party to remain in power despite diminished political strength and popular support.

The state’s daily newspapers unanimously, and strenuously, railed against the current scheme of districting which gives the legislature carte blanche to district itself at will as long as no ethnic minorities are offended. This results in boundaries which protect the number of minority voters in a district, but leave the decision as to which individuals hold these seats to the politicians who crafted the lines.

A New Series
(Part 1 of 8)
Evan Palenschat received his J.D. from Columbia Law School
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Today, we begin an eight-part series on the future of campaign finance reform in the aftermath of the much-disputed Citizens United decision. The series is written by Evan Palenschat, a graduate of Columbia Law School, currently working pro bono for New York Civic.

Since Governor Cuomo voiced his desire to enact statewide campaign finance reform in his State of the State Address in January of this year, good government groups like New York Civic have made achieving this long sought after goal one of our principle focuses for 2012. Through this series, we hope to articulate the current challenges facing campaign finance reform in this country and explore some of the key cases coming up through the federal court system that could further impact the relationship between money and elections in our country. Ultimately, New York Civic’s aim is to help our lawmakers in Albany craft a campaign finance system that not only realizes the goal of facilitating more inclusive, just, and democratic elections, but also one that will survive the intense legal scrutiny certain to be applied to any system we pass – if, indeed, we are able to surmount the immense obstacles in the State Legislature to pass any reform of the process in the first place.

Cuomo, GOP Senators
Agree On Some Issues
Facing Legislature
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Last month saw a shift in the state legislature’s balance of competing interests.

The three centers of power in Albany are the governor, the assembly speaker and the senate leader. Two are Democrats, Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver. Recently, the Democratic governor found support from Albany Republicans on a number of issues, and he has reciprocated their kindness.

In theory, the governor should align with his own party members in the legislature. However, that has not turned out to be the case this year, for both ideological and practical reasons.

Because both the Cuomo people and the governor’s staff wish to appear to be loyal Democrats, their differences with their fellow party members in the State Legislature may not be reported immediately. However, it is now taken for granted in Albany that there are marked divisions between the Democrats in the governor's administration and those who work on the Senate and Assembly staffs, whose primary loyalty is to the people who hired them. This principle of realpolitik is expressed in Rule 8FM: “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

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