Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Maybe It's An Ethics Kind of Week

We just keep getting hit with excuses to write about the need for ethics reform in New York. Yesterday, it was the California proposal to ban legislators from using campaign funds to employ relatives. Today, it's a great column from Bill Hammond in the Daily News on the "hot dog pol" who "lobbied while on the public payroll." Hammond notes that less than two years after leaving the Assembly, Robert Straniere (who apparently has just launched a new company, "New York City Hot Dogs") was "holding a $65,000-a-year job at the state Health Department even after he took a full-time partnership with the New York City law firm of Kantor Davidoff." Kantor Davidoff apparently lobbies both the state and city.

The whole column is worth a read. Hammond states "It should be a bright line in politics: Either you work for the public interest as a government official, or you work for a private interest as a lobbyist... Only in New York can a pol get away with working both sides of the revolving door at the same time."

We agree. We should note that even under New York's current and fairly weak ethics laws, it is illegal for a former member of the legislature, within 2 years of his service, to receive compensation for services related to the passage of bills or resolutions in either chamber. The timeline detailed by Bill Hammond suggests that Straniere went to work for the Kantor Davidoff less than 2 years after leaving the Assembly. Hammond notes that Straniere's law partner stated Straniere "never worked with the Legislature until he had been out for two years, as the law requires."

We hope that's the case. And we hope that the fact that all of this activity seems to have been perfectly legal will spur the legislature to pass more comprehensive ethics reform.

(Hat tip: Knickerbocker Blog)

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