New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is both calling for reform—and defending the political culture of Albany—after legislators were arrested in two separate corruption cases last week.
Speaking on Susan Arbetter on public radio's The Capitol Pressroom Monday, Cuomo took pains at several points to argue that Albany is functioning better under his watch than in the past.
"It's unquestionable that over the past couple of years the state government is working better," he said, ticking off his signature accomplishments of three on-time budgets, property tax cap legislation, and a deal on teacher evaluations.
"These cases are more about New York City than anything else. The case involving the state senator dealt with the New York City mayoral election," Cuomo said.
In one case, state Senator Malcolm Smith allegedly tried to bribe Republican county leaders to get on the party's mayoral ballot. The second case alleges that Bronx assemblyman Eric Stevenson took bribes in exchange for introducing a bill that would help local businessmen.
The federal complaint against Stevenson revealed that a second legislator, Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro, has been a government informant for more than three years as part of a deal to avoid prosecution for a perjury charge.
Cuomo said Monday that the latest federal corruption charges against state lawmakers create an opportunity for an overhaul to New York's election laws.
"Yes, you can bring individual cases when the rules are violated, but the better way to do it is to reform the overall system," the governor said.
The governor has previously called for public campaign financing in state elections, but he declined today to detail any specific proposals he will pursue.
Cuomo would not pin the blame for the lawmaker's alleged misdeeds on legislative leadership. New York Post columnist Fred Dicker reported Monday, citing unnamed Cuomo sources, that the governor wanted to oust Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver after this latest scandal, but the governor said Silver is not responsible for the lawmakers' alleged misdeeds.
"I don’t know what culpability you could place on anyone but those individuals, and as a general rule, I work very well as partners with the legislature. I’m a partner to Assembly Speaker Silver," Cuomo said. “But it is wholly up to the legislative bodies to select the leader.”