Yesterday, former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was convicted of two felony charges of mail fraud under the federal honest services law. He is all but certain to appeal. If he wins on appeal, it will not be because Bruno did not accept millions of dollars in consulting fees from individuals with legislative interests without disclosing the payments (he admits that he did), but rather because the federal statute under which he was charged is currently under review.
Some have argued that the federal prosecution of Bruno underscores the failures of state ethics commissions to do their jobs. We're not sure that's fair. The sad fact is, it is not clear that there is any state statute under which to charge state politicians for the kinds of crimes Bruno was alleged (and now convicted) of committing.
The question, then, shouldn’t be about the problem with Bruno’s actions – most would agree that it is undesirable for a legislative leader to accept over $3 million from individuals who wish to influence policy outcomes – but the problem with
We need these reforms soon, before the next Joe Bruno – and odds are good that there will be one – walks.