The M.T.A.’s Sneaky Mr. Saul

It’s not often that a Congressional race in the northern suburbs falls within the purview of this page, but Andrew Saul, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 19th Congressional District, is worth a special mention. For Mr. Saul is also vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, thanks to his 2006 appointment by former Governor George Pataki, and as such is in a position to influence M.T.A. decisions that directly impact city residents. And so it is important for New Yorkers—both those who vote in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess and Orange counties, and those who live within the five boroughs—to have a sense of Mr. Saul’s priorities.

It turns out that Mr. Saul’s priorities, at the moment, are to get elected, and to not be too fussy about ethics. As The New York Times reported this week, the candidate has been taking campaign contributions from real estate developers who are bidding on the lucrative right to develop the M.T.A. rail yards.

One would hope that anyone seeking elective office would be careful to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Simple common sense dictates that when a board member of the M.T.A. runs for Congress, taking campaign contributions from people who would very much like to be in business with the M.T.A. is a bad idea.

But such small-minded considerations don’t stop Mr. Saul. In fact, he said this week he sees no conflict of interest in taking cash from developers bidding on the rail yards, never mind that the M.T.A.’s code of ethics instructs board members to steer clear of any conduct which could give the impression of opening the door to improper influence.

Not only has Mr. Saul accepted money from developers bidding on the rail yards; his campaign has also received $4,600 in contributions from the chairman of Danaher, a company that has been awarded contracts worth $1.2 million from the M.T.A. over the past decade.

It’s hard not to conclude that, both as M.T.A. vice chairman and as a candidate for Congress, Mr. Saul just doesn’t get it. The members of the M.T.A. board are appointed to serve the public; it’s clear Mr. Saul has a strikingly low opinion of his public.

In terms of his candidacy, if Andrew Saul wishes to salvage his integrity, there is an easy solution: He should announce that he will return all campaign money from any company that has done, or wishes to do, business with the M.T.A. Otherwise, one must conclude he is clearly unfit for appointive or elective office. The M.T.A.’s Sneaky Mr. Saul