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Museum of Political Corruption Panel Convenes In Albany Tonight


When New York lawmakers announced the state budget agreement last week, ethics reform was not part of the package. That’s likely to come up at tonight’s Albany Museum of Political Corruption roundtable discussion at the College of Saint Rose.

The Museum of Political Corruption, which is yet to open, has plenty of material if the past few years in state government are any measure.  Museum founder and president Bruce Roter:   "The idea came about several years ago, when all of the headlines of political scandals came about, and those headlines haven't seemed to cease. I thought this would be a good way that the public could address these issues where we could learn about corruption and we can get educated and more empowered."

Blair Horner, Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, is one of the panelists. Horner has been a staunch critic of state government’s lax approach to ethics reform. Horner has called this Albany’s “Watergate” moment following the high-profile corruption convictions of the state Assembly and Senate’s previous leaders, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.

Horner spoke with Alan Chartock on WAMC's Capitol Connection:  "What you see in the budget often, is the governor uses the issue of ethics as leverage on other issues that he wants in the budget. So for example, before you said 'it's not always clear what the governor wants,' and of course that's a reasonable argument. But you can tell when he fights hard for an issue, he wants to get done, no matter how contorted and yoga-like the position is at the end. So it was clear this time around, 'cause he's driving around the state on $15 minimum wage, on paid family leave, that he had to get something in those bills, even if the details are sorta weak, it was clear when he dropped ethics like a hot potato after he announced that he's gonna put it in the budget, he made a big speech on it, he never lifted a finger after that, it was pretty clear to lawmakers he didn't wanna do it, and maybe, although we don't know because it was all in secret, he might've said 'look, I'm not gonna push ethics if you guys work with me on 15 and paid family leave.’ [Chartock tries to interject] Because two budgets ago he dropped the Moreland Commission to get the budget on time. So there is some sort of history of him using his advances on ethics as leverage to get something what he wants in a non-ethics issue, at the expense of that."

Horner will be joined on the roster by Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, author of Corruption in America, though they and other participants will not be representing organizations or speaking in any capacity other than as scholars or concerned citizens. Teachout challenged Gov. Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary.

Roter hopes the discussion will foster a better understanding of the mechanisms of political corruption in New York.   "It's been going on for way too long and it's really engrained in the culture up here. But I also hope they dispel their frustrations and come to believe that we can participate and that we can change things and make a better government."

The forum begins at 7:30 the Carl E. Touhey Forum at The College of Saint Rose, 1009 Madison Avenue, Albany.  This event is free and open to the public. It will be preceded by a fundraising event.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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