Cuomo Proposes Fix to the ‘Truly Ugly Picture of Our Political Landscape’

Governor Cuomo speaking at the press conference.

Governor Cuomo speaking at the press conference.

After a series of New York officials were arrested and charged with corruption last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has the solution–or at least the first step. Accordingly, at press conference earlier this afternoon, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a legislative package aimed at curbing the problem.

“Over the past few days, there have been several charges brought against public officials; they span city and state government,” he began. “And they paint a truly ugly picture of our political landscape. I’d like to say that this is an unprecedented situation, that public corruption is a new problem. But it isn’t and, in many ways, that’s what makes it worse.”

Mr. Cuomo’s bill, “The Public Trust Act,” mostly focuses on law-and-order deterrence, including loosening the legal standards necessary to prove bribery, toughening the penalty for those convicted and criminalizing failure to report bribery. Additionally, he is pushing to give state prosecutors the ability to prosecute grand jury witnesses if evidence–independent of their testimony–emerges of criminal wrongdoing.

Of course, there is no way to completely eliminate corruption from government, as Dean Skelos, the leader of the State Senate’s Republican conference, pointed out in statement reacting to Mr. Cuomo’s announcement. Mr. Skelos vowed to take action but declared “no legislation can prevent someone from committing a corrupt act.”

For his part, Mr. Cuomo agreed, and reiterated several times that official misconduct is inevitable.

“There has been a long list of public officials who get into trouble–by the way, not just in this state, but in every state across the country,” he said at one point. “You have a bad combination of chemicals. You have power, you have money, you have ambition, you have greed. You put all those chemicals in one test tube, you shake it up and bad things happen.”

Additional reporting by Ross Barkan. Cuomo Proposes Fix to the ‘Truly Ugly Picture of Our Political Landscape’