To the Editor:
Everyone agrees that corruption in Albany is a serious problem. This past year was one of the worst years for corruption on record, as former Senate President Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were sentenced to prison for enriching themselves off taxpayer money.
As November 8th approaches, every State Senator running for re-election is trying their best to tell you how much they have done to address this issue. My opponent, Sue Serino, has been sending out mail and TV ads promoting her vote in favor of a bill on pension forfeiture, stating her commitment to reform.
Voters need to know the truth about this issue – that the bill leaves the pensions of their former bosses (Skelos and Silver) perfectly intact.
Let’s set aside the fact that the bill in question has not even become law. It still needs to pass again in 2017, then a public referendum, before becoming law. However, if passed, the law would only apply to future cases of corruption. This means that Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver will continue receiving their public pensions, even as they sit behind bars – costing taxpayers $96,000/year for Skelos, and $80,000/year for Silver. Nothing anyone says about how great this bill is will change that.
While I support pension forfeiture, the truth is that doesn’t solve the problem of corruption. To get serious about ending corruption, we must deal with the root cause – that our political system in New York is built to allow an enormous influence of corporate and individual money.
The only way we can have a fair and clean democracy is by creating a political system that ensures average voters’ voices speak the loudest, not those of special interests. Additionally, we need to remove barriers that allow only those connected to the rich and powerful to win elections.
The good thing is there are bills which would do these things! A bill to close the LLC loophole, which allows unlimited corporate donations, has passed the Assembly, but the Senate Republicans blocked it from a vote. Similarly, a Fair Elections bill which would match small dollar donations, and create lower contribution limits for everyone, has been blocked in the State Senate.
The first thing I will do as a new State Senator is sponsor legislation to remove the power of big money in our political process – and deal a significant blow to corruption in Albany.
Terry Gipson (D) is a candidate for the New York State Senate, District 41, which includes Dutchess and Putnam Counties.