Want a new legislator? Looks like there’s a better chance of them get caught with their hand in the cookie jar or posting fun, flirty classifieds on CraigsList than getting voted out of office.
A report released today says that one of every 11 legislators who left office since 1999 has done so on account of ethical or criminal charges, making it more common reason than being voted out of office as a impetus for legislative turnover.
“One would think in a democracy, electoral defeat would be the major reason for a change in representation in the legislature,” said Rachael Fauss, policy and research manager at Citizens Union. “Yet since 1999, more legislators have left their seats because of retirement or a private sector job than through losing a competitive election.”
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of government officials who have left office due to ethical or criminal misconduct has more than tripled from the previous six-year period. During this time period, 13 government officials left office in scandal, showing a massive jump since the 1999-2004, where only four legislators left office for such reasons.
The study, produced by good government group Citizens Union, comes on the heels of Rep. Chris Lee’s recent resignation after shirtless photos surfaced of him contacting a woman through CraigsList.
In the wake of the report, Citizens Union is calling for a quick passage of ethics legislation to prevent further occurrences.
“This acceleration of criminal and ethical misconduct among our state’s elected officials over the past four years is alarming and needs strong corrective action,” said Citizens Union executive director Dick Dadey.
“If there ever was a need to address this crime wave of misconduct, the time is now to enact meaningful ethics reform,” Dadey said.
Former governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson are cited in the report for their respective scandals, along with former comptroller Alan Hevesi who accepted a plea bargain for defrauding the government. State Senator Hiram Monserrate received special mention for being the first legislator to be ousted by the legislature itself as opposed to outside legal authorities.
The report was released shortly before State Senate Democrats held a press conference detailing their six-point ethics package that they hope will be brought up for debate in coming weeks.