ALBANY –- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders come together this afternoon to announce the deal they already announced on Friday to bolster the ethics law for state employees, including lawmakers.
The usual line-up of “good government" groups also is expected, which causes a bit of a problem for the state’s former chief watchdog of Albany’s lobbying industry.
David Grandeau, who brought a number of high-profile ethics and lobbying cases when he was the head of the state lobbying commission, wonders why the government watchdog groups are rushing out to press for the ethics deal when Cuomo and lawmakers have yet to introduce a bill with specific language describing the various provisions.
“A little scary isn’t it?" said Grandeau. Noting the recently announced deal on a property tax cap, which also has not yet seen any actual legislation, Grandeau, a lawyer, said, “We’re seeing more of it and unfortunately, it becomes government by press release." He said, though, he believes Cuomo may be using the approach to pressure lawmakers to make deals.
Of the government watchdog groups submitting comments of praise in the press release issued by Cuomo and legislative leaders shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, Grandeau said, “I’m a little leery when the good government groups are in a press release on a Friday afternoon. It tells me they’re more interested in the sound bite than they were in actually accomplishing something with it."
Grandeau saw his lobbying agency disappear when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer created the state Commission on Public Integrity, which is now being eliminated and replaced by a single agency to oversee the executive and legislative branches. He said he is a bit concerned about one provision of the new deal -– or how it was been described in the Friday press release.
The new agreement calls for eight of the new ethics agency’s board members to sign off to begin an investigation of a state lawmaker. Further, two of those eight have to be from the same major political party as the person subject to the investigation.
Grandeau called that a “fairly complicated" problem. And he noted the potential problems of a deal written by Democrats and Republicans. “God help us if we ever get someone from the Conservative Party in office because you won’t have two of those people [on the ethics board]," Grandeau said.