Good government groups weigh in on Bruno verdict

Posted at: 05/16/2014 6:11 PM
Updated at: 05/17/2014 12:10 AM
By: Dan Bazile

ALBANY -- Dozens of lawmakers have been in trouble before at the State Capitol. Many have been convicted and paid a price for taking advantage of their power as elected officials illegally. But corruption problems continue to linger.

"People that want influence know how to get it in Albany and that is the pay-to-play," said Barbara Bartoletti from the League of Women Voters.

Bartoletti said that pay-to-play culture runs deep in Albany. She said with former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno off the hook, that culture might get even worse.

"I'm fearful and concerned that this will send a message to the legislators that it's open season, give me give me give me. And I will do do do," Bartoletti said.

However, Blair Horner from the New York Public Interest Research Group has another point of view.  He said Bruno was caught in litigation for years. That's hardly a positive, he said. That's why he calls the verdict a cautionary tale.

"I think the lesson for lawmakers is if you're going to have business outside of the government, you better be careful who your clients are," Horner said.

The state legislature is a part-time job. The members are allowed to have outside business. In Bruno's case, it was his outside dealings that resulted in corruption charges. Many entities, like the Moreland Commission, have been created to keep an eye on the situation. Both Horner and Bartoletti say part of the problem is, it's still not entirely clear how far lawmakers can go in their dealings with private business.

"That's where the law there needs to be a clear guidance if you're going to have an outside business this as far as you can go," Horner said.