With the conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, on eight corruption counts, regular New Yorkers got another peek at the truth: They pay taxes, but the government isn't theirs. It belongs to the political players, the insiders, the elected officials and their cronies. And it is operated for their benefit.
In a call to his son recorded earlier this year in federal wiretaps, then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos explained the power he wielded and his attitude toward it: "I'm going to be president of the Senate, I'm going to be majority leader, I'm going to control everything."
It's not about public service. It's just about garnering, exercising and, yes, selling power.
Adam Skelos was convicted of making $300,000 off his dad's influence. Every penny was compensation for exercising, or the perceived exercising, of his father's power. To further the fortunes of his family, Dean Skelos and his son manipulated state budget negotiations, county contracting processes and industrial development deals. And they did so with an arrogance that was offensive.
Asked to show up for one of the jobs his father arranged for him with a medical malpractice insurer, Adam Skelos said to his boss, "Let's stop pretending. Guys like you aren't fit to shine my shoes. And if you talk to me like that again, I'll smash your [expletive] head in."
Four of the past five Senate leaders, two Democrats and two Republicans, have been charged with betraying the public trust. What's more, in a splashy trial last month, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was found guilty of federal corruption charges for crimes that netted him $4 million.
This is how it works. And if we want it to improve, we need election laws that create competitive races at every level. We need more disclosure, more transparency, more limits on contributions from anyone who has business in front of public entities. And we need to unseat elected officials who fight these changes. Because they're working against the voters, and for their own pocketbooks.
And that's gone on far too long.