New York State is again in the corruption spotlight, wresting the dishonor back from Blago's Illiois. "The Accidental Governor," David Paterson, is not going to finish his term, I can confidently predict. There is a deeper story here than Gov. Paterson's downfall. The systemic political corruption in our state touches every politician and bureacrat in a leadership position, at every level of government. It deeply infects NYC, most counties, and permeates Albany. And yes, it's bipartisan. Still, examining Paterson reveals an insight into the mindset of our elected representatives, here in NYS.
The NY State Police have a recurring role in our political scandals, going back to Gov. Pataki, at least. They seem to have a political function, beyond the power of their union in Democratic Albany. Of course, with so many other powerful interests being catered to, they are relatively "behind the scenes," except when it comes to gubenatorial scandals. While Spitzer was found to have used them to spy on a political rival, Paterson allegedly used them to improperly pressure a woman to drop harassment charges against a senior advisor. Spitzer was taken down by a different scandal, but Paterson's actions re-open an examination of political corruption and influence in statewide law enforcement. This is just the tip of the iceberg, regarding NYS/City/local corruption.
Governor Paterson is a product of a corrupt system. His father was a contemporary of Charles Rangel, David Dinkins, and other "old school" African American leaders, who gained power as Democrats starting in the '60's. Unfortunately, the system they inherited was already corrupt, and they did little better than their predecessors at improving their constituents' day to day life, or opportunities for a better one. They played the system, as most previous pols have, as a "me and my friends benefit" game, combined with a "pay to play" mindset toward constituents.
Paterson's short record in office shows numerous examples of these types of behaviors. His inability to control taxes and spending wouldn't be so flagrant, had he not talked so strongly about doing it. He has the propensity to do the exact opposite of what he says publicly. His process for filling Sen. Clinton's vacant seat was as convoluted, and probably corrupt, as the one in Illinois, which has Gov. Blago facing criminal charges. More recently, his role in selecting a developer to expand the Aqueduct race track to include slot machines is under investigation, as well as his attendance at game one of last year's World Series. Before you laugh, he may have committed perjury covering up how he got the tickets!
The latest news comes from the second "summit" of African American NY "leaders," who came out of the meeting at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, supporting Paterson remaining in office. Unfortunately, at least three of this "leadership" group are under investigation, as well. Their support plays against Paterson, and reflects badly on the whole NY Democratic "establishment," not to mention themselves. As one Harlem resident said about Rep. Charles Rangel, one of the members of the group who is under multiple investigations, "get your hand out of the cookie jar!"
The list of officials indicted, or under investigation in NY seems to grow every day. Gov. Paterson is only a symptom of this corruption, with his "accidental" rise to power. He's obviously been incompetent, throughout his political career. He's the son of Basil Paterson, who used his political power to get his son a career in politics. This is the same type of "old boy" network that minority leaders fought against, until they got power. It really is an institutionally corrupt political system, but that doesn't exonerate the players, it only explains why honest people don't get into NY politics.
Meanwhile, NY State is falling apart, financially. There is no "opposition" to the political corruption, even from the NYS GOP. They give "lip service" to tax and spending restraint, but often "go with the flow" when budget time comes up. Pataki started out doing the right thing, but quickly became tainted with the "tax and spend/pay to play" culture. By the end of his time in office, he was under investigation for many things, including a "sweetheart" sale of riverfront state owned land to a politically connected developer. His early tax-cutting reputation was in shreds, after the way he screwed middle class NYers. (Note that no-one took him seriously as a presidential candidate, or as a candidate against Sen. Gillebrand. He's not viable, thanks to his time in the sewer of the NYS Governorship.)
Spitzer was another "to the rescue" type, coming from the Left. He was going to "clean up" NYS government, the way he cleaned up Wall Street. We all know now how little he actually "cleaned up" Wall Street, and his contribution to NYS politics is becoming a legacy of corruption, thanks to David Patetrson. If there was ever a state that needed a "political insurrection" by the taxpaying people, it is New York. "Governor" Cuomo (this is 99.9% certain to happen) will not fix the system; he is part of it, and has been for years. NYS needs a governor like Chris Christie of New Jersey, someone who will take the bull by the horns, and challenge the entrenched liberal interests.
As for Paterson, he will be OK, in the aftermath of this. The past few weeks have probably been the worst of his life, and it will only get worse until he resigns. NY Democrats should be thinking along the same lines as I am about my NY Republican party: We need some new blood, and new leadership. This goes for all factions of both parties, whether in Harlem, Nassau County, Albany, or anywhere in the state. Let's learn from Paterson, and all of our fooolish elected officials' mistakes, and get serious about fixing our economic and political bases. That's what it will take to emerge from the current malaise infecting us.