Commission is best hope for a 'cleaner' New York

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Cuomo was wrong about one thing in his announcement of the commission’s creation. He said that the “people of this state should sleep better tonight knowing that there is a mechanism in place to make sure their government is not only competent, but is also meeting the highest ethical and legal standards.” The people simply want to see results, and are way less interested in the creation of commissions than they are in seeing bad guys going to jail.

And the commission faces formidable challenges, the most difficult of which is to navigate the secret, quid pro quo systems that lurk like toxic sludge beneath the halls of power in a structure shielded by separation-of-power rules within each branch of state government.

The Senate co-majority leader, Dean Skelos, was quoted as saying that “a witch hunt is totally inappropriate.” That’s fine, but we didn’t hear anyone proposing a witch hunt. Skelos also reportedly said that the Legislature has its own subpoena-empowered committees to look into executive branch campaign finance issues. He’s right that the Senate and Assembly shouldn’t be the only targets, and if he has good reason to think there’s corruption in the state house, he should make that evidence public.

Spokespeople for the Senate majority coalition and the Assembly leader, Sheldon Silver, sent out positive, anti-corruption statements. We hope they aren’t just politically correct words.

Almost like the human body’s immune system, ever ready to defend itself from attacks to its health, state government seems well designed to thwart threats to its status quo. The new commission is not empowered to directly investigate the Legislature. The governor — i.e., the executive branch — is barred from investigating the Legislature, another branch. It can only investigate agencies of the executive branch. It will use that power, though, to look into the Board of Elections and, through that agency, election and campaign finance issues.

We think the new commission can succeed. It’s got the right people to battle the entrenched powers that be. We hope it does, for the good of the state. The citizens of New York will be hoping, too, and watching.

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