Friday, July 27, 2007

Scandal In Albany Warrants Full Investigation. . .

. . .Just Not By The State Senate

Clearly, there should be an independent investigation into what has come to be known as "Choppergate."

The key word here being "independent."

To have the State Senate, controlled by Joe Bruno -- whether the victim or the exposed here -- would be akin to having the fox investigate a raid on the chicken coop by the hawk.

No good can come of a cover-up of this botched attempt to discredit Bruno, a foiled quest that, it would appear, needed no assistance from the Governor's office, Bruno's days numbered, one way or the other.

To have the Senate investigate, however, serves neither the ends of justice nor the good of the people of the State of New York.

Sitting as a Kangaroo Court, the Senate GOP will be quick to condemn the Governor, right or wrong. The good old boys will tell us -- via craftily staged press conference designed for maximum impact -- exactly what Spitzer knew and when he knew it.

Anything to save face for a faltering Bruno, a man with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, and to thwart the possible loss of the State Senate to the Dems in 2008.

Meanwhile, the people's work will come to a halt -- or at least continue at the snail's pace our State Legislature has become infamous for -- leaving the taxpaying public where it has been relegated for years -- nowhere.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo started the ball rolling. Now, by appointment of an independent commission or counsel, he should continue to shed light on this most serious infraction.

And the Governor, anxious to put this scandal behind his administration, should welcome the opportunity to clear the air, and cleanse the repugnant atmosphere that has putrified government in Albany -- a government marred not only by scandal, but by the marked inability to get very much of anything done -- for far too long.

Open government, responsive and responsible, transparent and true to those it is designed to serve and protect, requires no less.
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From Newsday:

Spitzer-police issue won't vanish without probe

This isn't going away. Gov. Eliot Spitzer can deny that he knew anything about the manner in which his senior aides were using the State Police to embarrass Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. But without an independent investigation that includes a review of his role in the matter, as well as that of his top aide, Richard Baum, this is going to fester and affect everything that he wants to do.

We say this in sorrow, not in anger. Spitzer appeared to be a bright, shining light in Albany's perpetual darkness. He has great ideas, unlimited energy and a desire to reform. But the charge here is a most serious one. Abusing the power of his office, especially with the State Police, is not a trivial matter.

And there are too many questions that have not been answered. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation opened the issue, it didn't close it. The refusal of Spitzer's top aides, including Baum, to testify in Cuomo's investigation is troubling. And so is the governor's rush to have the matter closed, and his staff's taking refuge in claims of executive privilege. Now the state Ethics Commission, which has subpoena power, will investigate. If the right people are involved, that may be enough. If not, the governor - if he has nothing to hide, as he insists - should invite Cuomo to appoint a special counsel. Or Spitzer can himself appoint a commission headed by officials known for their independence.

Yes, Spitzer is right, the people's work must be done. The State Police caper must not be allowed to derail agreements on campaign finance reform (as minimal as it is), capital improvements or a slew of other business that still needs to be done in Albany. But the reality is this: It's not enough for the governor to clear himself. And until someone else does, it's going to be a huge drag on his commendable agenda.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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