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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A great editorial in the Syracuse Post Standard today

In a hastily arranged ceremony Monday, state Sen. John DeFrancisco swore in an ethically challenged colleague to be a heartbeat away from the governor's chair.
It was all in the name of reform.

First, following the Republican "coup" in the state Senate, DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, swore in his good friend, Republican Dean Skelos of Long Island, as majority leader. Then, at Skelos' bidding, he swore in Democrat Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx as temporary Senate president -- putting him first in succession if something should happen to Gov. David Paterson.

Espada has been fined tens of thousands of dollars over several years for failing to disclose political contributions. At the moment, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Soundview Health Care Network, a nonprofit organization Espada ran until recently.

Espada's qualifications for the powerful Senate job? He was willing to throw his vote to the Republicans in return for the post -- and an apparent promise of help in next year's election from billionaire Tom Golisano. Espada was joined in his defection by fellow Democrat Hiram Monseratte of Queens, who has been indicted on felony charges of slashing his girlfriend's face with a broken glass.

Skelos, DeFrancisco and other Republicans insist they recruited these stalwart public servants to help them reform the Senate. "We were serious about all the good government reforms, the things Democrats said they would do as soon as they got the majority," DeFrancisco told The Post-Standard.

Republicans controlled the state Senate for decades, but somehow didn't catch the bug for reform until the Democrats took over in January and claimed the perks -- the plum offices and committee assignments, the fawning attention of lobbyists, and control of millions of dollars in pork-barrel grants to hand out to constituents.

It is clear that "reform" was merely a cover for Monday's coup. The Republicans wanted to get their power back, plain and simple, and they found two Democrats desperate enough to help them do it. Whether they will honor the spirit of the reforms they announced Monday has yet to be seen.

The apparent mastermind of the effort, Tom Golisano, is not an elected official at all. His main qualification is that he has millions of dollars. Golisano, who recently moved his residence to Florida to get out of paying his share of taxes under the new, Democrat-enacted surcharge for high earners, also insists it is "reform" that drives him.

GOP leaders spent weeks planning the coup -- weeks they could have spent attending to the vast problems facing their constituents. Now the chaos they created throws into doubt whether any meaningful work can be done in Albany in the final weeks of the legislative session. Once again, it is the citizens of the state who will be left behind.

Even for Albany, this is a new low. All New Yorkers should be embarrassed at what is happening in the capital this week, and all voters should take careful note of who is responsible for it.