The buck must stop here

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Bharara should be applauded and celebrated. This isn’t the first time he has dipped his toes into the waters of New York political corruption. He has proven to have no fear when it comes to politicians.

It is time for reform and transparency in New York state politics. Governor Cuomo has said, “We have zero tolerance for any violation of public integrity and public trust.” The governor is right, but as evidenced by Smith’s and Halloran’s brazen acts, elected officials are still not afraid to partake in corruption schemes involving discretionary funding.

According to a New York Post article entitled “State Capitol Gang of Crooks,” since 2007, 11 state senators have been charged with crimes. To put this in perspective, during that same period, only nine lawmakers have lost re-election bids. The charges against the elected officials range from looting government-funded health centers to domestic abuse, embezzlement, bribery, tax evasion and assault.

For years, New York politicians have promised to allocate “slush funds.” These funds have often been used to promote shady dealings to fatten politicians’ pockets. Whether they were given to developers who were working behind closed doors with elected officials, or handed out to fake charities and then used for either personal gain or pet projects, it has all been on the taxpayers’ dime.

Smith has already stated that he will not be stepping down and is going to take this case to trial. The investigation and trial are going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and guess who will pay the bill? The taxpayers! A double whammy from Smith.

The underlying culture of “pay to play” must be changed. New York state must step up its enforcement efforts and dedicate the right amount of funding and manpower to an enforcement watchdog agency that can properly keep tabs on corruption.

As voters, we must kick these corrupt bums out of office, either by voting them out or demanding their resignations. Stupid is as stupid does, right? If we keep electing the same crooked politicians, we can’t expect different outcomes.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column?

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