• A Case for Term Limits & Campaign Finance Reform
By Terry Gipson, 12/15
In 1976, Gerald Ford was President, disco was big, and, like most 8th graders, I was glued to the TV watching a new show called Charlie’s Angels. It was also when some of New York’s current State Senators first got elected.
That’s right. Our State Senate and Assembly have members who have been in office since the Ford, Carter, Reagan, and even Nixon administrations. Recent events in the Senate have shown exactly what happens when a legislative body has no term limits and no laws that effectively limit campaign contributions from large corporations.
In a January Senate vote, Long Island’s Dean Skelos, who came to Albany in 1980, was unanimously re-elected as Senate Majority leader by his GOP colleagues. This included “yes” votes by newly-elected Hudson Valley Republican Senators Sue Serino, George Amedore and Terrence Murphy, all of whom ran on a platform of “independence.”
Then, Senator Skelos was indicted on bribery and extortion charges in an alleged “pay to play” scheme involving wealthy New York City real estate developers. Public campaign finance records show that these same real estate titans also spent millions of dollars to elect Senators Serino, Amedore and Murphy, all of whom claimed they would fight “New York City special interests” in their campaigns.
Now, Senators Serino, Murphy and Amedore have joined their Republican Majority colleagues in refusing to pass common sense anti-corruption laws that would stop corporations from making unlimited campaign donations. In fact, after Skelos’ arrest, they all voted for his handpicked successor – another Long Islander John Flanagan – who won’t let legislation to clean up Albany’s corruption mess come to a vote.
Flanagan joined the “Albany status quo club” in 1986 and has recently been dodging questions from the press about his own ethics baggage. Public records show that Flanagan happens to be a staunch supporter of New York City’s privately-run charter school industry that has received huge influxes of taxpayer dollars that instead could have funded Hudson Valley public schools; an industry that spent millions of dollars supporting the campaigns of Flanagan and Skelos, as well as our own Hudson Valley Senators Serino, Amedore and Murphy.
Predictably, Senator Flanagan received unanimous support from all of his Republican colleagues, including those that have been there since Ford, Carter and Reagan, as well as the self-proclaimed “independent voices,” from the Hudson Valley. A New York Times photo showed them all on the Senate floor applauding their decision to keep things in Albany just the way they have always been.
In fairness, Governor Cuomo’s campaign records show that he also received millions from NYC real estate developers and charter schools. And recent reports indicate that his administration is cooperating with a federal prosecutor’s probe of financial relationships between New York lawmakers and campaign donors in the real estate industry who have business before the state. Corruption in our legislature is bipartisan… the entire list of arrested Senators and Assembly members is far too long to list here.
How many of our current legislators will still be in office in the year 2045? History tells us that some of them will. This means that many important issues will remain unresolved unless we insist that they pass term limits and real campaign finance reform today.
And here’s my earlier op-ed on ethics & the state budget http://pojonews.co/1HIqk4m