Times Herald Record Editorial: Provoke an opponent and we can learn a lot

May 09, 2014

If you can't win in the winner-take-all Albany arena, at least you can irritate your opponents and hope they reveal a bit about themselves.

That's what Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, is doing very effectively these days. In part, it's a smart election year strategy. But it also offers a chance to see why it is so hard to clean up Albany. Anybody who tries faces obstacles in committees and on the Senate or Assembly floor supplemented by personal attacks.

The latest example came this week when Tkaczyk introduced a bill that would close a pretty big loophole, the kind that legislators love to put into law so that they do not have to face public scrutiny or answer uncomfortable questions.

As part of a package of reform bills introduced by Democrats in the Senate, her bill would require all lawmakers to disclose their outside financial interests by the annual May 15 disclosure date even if they might have left office before that.

In other words, her law would have all legislators covered by disclosure requirements if they were in office during the legislative session, including those who chose not to run again or who were defeated at the polls.

"You should disclose your outside income for every day that you're in office," Tkaczyk said Tuesday.

This would affect members of all parties and there are more than enough Democrats who would like to hide their outside interests to make this a truly nonpartisan effort, one that allows voters a chance to see what some who have made money by using their influence would like to hide.

The spokesman for the Senate GOP, Scott Reif, did not see it that way. His response was that "rather than working to create new opportunities for the hardworking taxpayers and families who reside here, Sen. Tkaczyk is playing politics in Albany. When it comes right down to it, you can't trust Tkaczyk."


A senator tries to close a loophole in a state Legislature known nationwide for corruption and rule bending and the best that the opposition spokesman can say is that she is not working hard enough to create jobs?

That would be surprising had it not been for the collision between the two a week before when Tkaczyk tried to get Republican backing for a bill that would have prevented other states from sending their toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing into New York. That, too, was all about politics, Reif said.

Tkaczyk's reform bill was part of a package that included stripping pensions from legislators convicted of felonies, public election financing, tightening limits on campaign contributions and changing other rules that allow people to avoid campaign spending limits.

We probably can expect a lot more of the same this election year, from candidates and from the designated hitters on the party payroll. Anybody who tries to clean up Albany, whether that involves the toxic stew of money and lobbying or the toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, can expect no real answers beyond the boilerplate response that it's all about politics and you can't trust these people who keep trying to change things.