After a two-week break, New York lawmakers returned to work (for three days) amid the stench of more scandal as a handful of their colleagues were busted for a variety of corruption charges. So how do the honorable lawmakers in Albany deal with the scandal?
“Dark humor and stiff drinks,” reports The New York Times.
Apparently, the gag running through the halls of the Capitol is for lawmakers to frisk their colleagues to see if they are wearing a wire after a senator was caught on tape arranging a bribe. “You run into them, and you feel them up and down,” Assemblyman David I. Weprin, a Queens Democrat, told The Times. “You’ve got to make light of it some days.”
If that doesn’t work, start drinking. The workweek in Albany usually runs Monday to Wednesday. That explains why on a Tuesday night legislators, staffers and reporters gathered at Elda’s, a friendly bar in the Center Square neighborhood, to discuss their, ah, four-day weekend plans.
But in general it was back to business as usual. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, held a closed-door pep talk to tell members “a few bad apples” would not ruin their reputation. Meanwhile, one of the accused wrongdoers, attended a brief Senate session and sat in the so-called “crooked seat,” reserved near the chamber’s doors for lawmakers who are in trouble with the law. (The fact that there is a reserved seat in the corner for lawmakers in legal trouble is a sure sign that Albany’s moral compass is askew.)
Indeed, one of the top items on lawmakers’ agenda is working behind closed doors to hammer out a plan to change the state constitution in order to allow commercial casinos. That process is already off to a dubious start, considering one casino operator cut a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to build a $4 billion convention center in hope of securing exclusive casino rights to New York City. That deal failed but that has not stopped the lobbyists and money from casino interests flowing into Albany. By the time the casino process ends, Albany may need more crooked seats.
For those not keeping score at home, here’s a quick update on the recent corruption arrests:
* Malcolm A. Smith, a Democratic senator from Queens, was charged with trying to bribe his way into the New York City mayor’s race.
* Assemblyman Eric A. Stevenson, a Bronx Democrat, was accused of taking bribes from developers of adult day care centers.
* Assemblyman Nelson L. Castro, also a Bronx Democrat, resigned in a deal with prosecutors under which he had secretly recorded conversations with other lawmakers to avoid prosecution on state perjury charges.
* Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. a Brooklyn Democrat, was indicted for bribery and other alleged crimes.