Memo to Albany: First, Lock the Front Door and the Vault.


Let’s say you managed a bank that gets looted every night by burglars who trundle loads of cash through the unlocked front door and open vault. You would probably put a strong new lock on the front door, make sure the vault was closed tight, and hire a watchman. But that’s not how it works in Albany, where the governor and the legislature have just nailed shut the cat door to the basement.

Is it progress? Sure, especially if your bank is being robbed by cats. Our bank is not. Our problem in New York State is the exchange of huge political contributions in exchange for huge political favors and state contracts. This “pay to play” is usually completely legal. Yes, it is completely legal in New York for a person doing business with the state to give the governor $250K worth of campaign contributions using Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and then get an enormous state contract. Indeed, this is exactly what companies at the center of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation, like COR Development, LP Ciminelli, and Columbia Development have done. In their case, the issue is whether government officials rigged bids so these companies would win – which is not legal.

In New York City, people doing business with the city can give a maximum of $400 to mayoral candidates, and contributions from LLCs and corporations are banned. Despite the recent conviction of the leaders of both houses of the legislature and opinion polls showing overwhelming numbers of New Yorkers believe the state is corrupt, this common sense approach is deemed a “non-starter” or “fantasy” in Albany. Then again, maybe we can find a new name for “pay to play reform” laws: it worked for online gambling, er, Daily Fantasy Sports, which just overwhelmingly passed the legislature.