Local Pol Fights Upstate Corruption

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In light of corruption scandals rocking Albany, Assembly Member Micah Kellner is sponsoring a bill to crack down on political wrong-doing

Call it the politicians' version of "If you see something, say something."

In the wake of the recent bribery and corruption scandals in Albany involving City Council Member Dan Halloran, Assemblymen Eric Stevenson and Nelson Castro, as well as Senator Malcom Smith of the Bronx, who tried to bribe his way onto the city mayoral race ticket, New York is trying to bring political honesty back into the picture. This week, Governor Cuomo announced the Public Trust Act which would make it easier for local attorneys to prosecute suspected crooked politicians, and would punish those who don't report the illegal practices of their colleagues.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner is also trying to do his part of curbing corruption by pushing his sponsored bill, a Public Corruption Protection and Enforcement Act, that would, among other things, make sure bribe-takers are punished - whether or not the bribe is actually enacted. The bill has been knocking around the State Senate for several years, since then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was found to have been involved in mail and wire fraud scandals in 2008.

"Every time a scandal occurs, people are angry, but then it slowly fades from everyone's minds," said Kellner. "But with so many scandals piled on top of one another, now is the time to act."

The problem, according to Kellner, is that there are multiple laws to address corruption nationally, but prosecutors and law enforcement do not have as much say on the state and local levels. Kellner hopes that both his bill and the Public Trust Act, if enacted, would deter officials from participating in bribery or scheming if they know that no matter what level, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"It is time that lawmakers work together to enrich the lives of New Yorkers instead of their own wallets," said Kellner. If we want to eliminate the culture of corruption, we need a law that makes it clear that public officials must serve the public first and foremost."

In addition to punishing all forms of bribery, Kellner's bill would also allow complete public transparency of all outside income earned by lawmakers, and would tighten campaign finance rules. Together, Assembly Member Kellner's Bill, and Governor Cuomo's Public Trust Act would address many of the public's concerns about what happens behind state officials' doors. The Public Trust Act could be passed as early as sometime this year.

"I'm glad the governor has chosen to champion this," said Kellner. "We're either seen as crooks or clowns who don't realize what's going on. It's about getting these concepts enacted into law."

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