Editorial: New York's growing political hall of shame
We've never liked term limits, but as it happens, we don't have to. Federal prosecutors are doing the job for us. The latest official to land in trouble is Brooklyn state Sen. John Sampson, an ex-leader of the Senate Democratic caucus, who's accused of embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements.
His rendezvous with infamy was expected after the feds revealed last week that an ex-colleague, former state Sen. Shirley Huntley of Queens -- facing criminal troubles of her own -- made secret recordings for the government.
Think this stuff is just par for the course in politics?
Wrong. The Empire State is just a hair's breadth away from being a national laughingstock for its corruption. That won't exactly help Albany's governing class sell the state as a premier business climate.
Bear in mind some of the marquee names on the current dishonor roll. There's ex-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who in December got sprung from the slammer, where he landed for his role in a pay-to-play investment scheme. There's city Comptroller John Liu, who hasn't been charged with wrongdoing, but whose 2009 campaign tried to game the city campaign finance system.
There's the "I Spy" episode that played out when two state legislators simultaneously made the rounds wearing live federal wires. Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens, the former majority leader, was caught in that net.
Then there's Assemb. Vito Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat who's facing lurid sexual harassment accusations and potential claims he violated state law. He's now putting together a City Council race. Special prosecutor Daniel Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney who's investigating Lopez, needs to release his findings fast -- in time for more palatable candidates to get a footing.
Since 1999, says Citizens Union, a good-government group, more than 20 state legislators with criminal or ethical baggage have been ousted. Not all politicians are bad, but too many are. We need talented and ethical public servants. And we need legislative bosses who can run clean shops. So who's willing to step up? Not all at once, please.