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NYSNYS NEWS: Bharara in Albany, warning of perils of tolerating state government corruption.
NYSNYS NEWS: Bharara in Albany, warning of perils of tolerating state government corruption.

By Kyle Hughes


ALBANY, N.Y. (February 8) — The prosecutor who convicted Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015 swooped into Albany Monday, delivering warnings about the corruption in state government.

“I urge you to demand good government from your representatives here in Albany,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a speech to the Conference of Mayors, which was holding its annual lobbying conference. “Government that is on the level. Government that serves the people. Use you collective clout to add to the voices for reform.”

He said New York has “predators everywhere who see free money, who see opportunities to line their own pockets at your constituents’ expense. He said “honest government” should never be surrendered to toleration of political corruption.

Bharara later attended the swearing in of new Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, where he listened to Gov. Andrew Cuomo deliver a speech on his pick for the state’s top judge. Bharara sat stone-face through Cuomo’s presentation, which included in-jokes and references to his late father, Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo said afterwards he did not plan to meet with Bharara during the visit. “I think his point that we need ethics reform is the very same thing I have been saying,” Cuomo told reporters. “We have a very aggressive agenda on ethics reform.”

After holding private meetings, Bharara delivered a stem-winder speech for a live public radio broadcast on WAMC.

“What’s been going on in New York state government lately is simultaneously heart-breaking, head-scratching and almost comic,” he said. “Albany is unquestionably suffering from a crisis of corruption and that is part of the reason why I am here talking to all of you.”

“The purpose of my being here is to further raise awareness of the problem of corruption, to remind everyone there are tough cops on the beat so maybe some people will think twice,” he said.

He said he wanted to encourage the “whistleblowers and the agents of change” and discourage “the array of enablers who seem to lurk in this town.”

He said the people in the best position to end the corruption in state government “are the people who work in this town. The general prescription is actually simple. If you want to prevent corruption, don’t enable it. If you want to deter corrupt members, don’t become their willing accomplices. For as we all know just two months ago both the leader of the New York state Assembly and the majority leader of the New York state Senate were on trial at the same time on federal corruption charges in a Manhattan courtroom.”

“Both were convicted by unanimous juries within 13 days of each other,” he said. “Two of the most powerful people in New York state, two men with so much of the people’s business in their hands, tried and convicted of federal corruption charges. Not to mention the 11 state legislators tried and convicted by my office alone over the last five years.”

“This moment in history calls for something more than just talk,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk and calls for re-examination of the culture of our public institutions and calls for all of us to ask what we must do to fix this problem.”

“When a problem gets this bad it’s not only because of those who committed the crimes — it’s not just the corrupt actors themselves who bear responsibilities.”

Bharara said he was asked by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who attended the NYCOM meeting, why he always talked about “Albany” when he was describing corruption in the State Capitol.

“Perhaps it’s unfortunate — it’s a little bit of a shorthand in talking about some of the people in government in Albany,” Bharara said. “So I mean Albany no offense when I use the shorthand.”

Bharara ended his day by attending the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Times Union Center