In dealing with the political world every day, I’m seldom taken aback by something that many would consider tone deaf. Because, let’s face it, a majority of politicians are in fact tone deaf.
But this one actually made me do a double take.
While trials are ongoing for former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, state lawmakers are not expected to approve any measures to strengthen ethics laws in New York. Hardly surprising considering how deep corruption runs in the Empire State.
Here’s where things really get interesting, however.
Democratic Assemblyman Gary Pretlow said criminal behaviors in the legislature are not a result of corrupt officials per se but because they’ve been treated like sh*t. No really, he said that.
Via State of Politics:
“You need to change things in Albany,” Bartoletti said. “Everybody says they’re going to be reformers. Everybody says that. Somehow the rhetoric really outpaces what the actual actions are.”
Lawmakers, however, say the cause of corruption is more specific than a lack of strong ethics laws. Namely, it’s the lack of a pay raise in more than 15 years.
“When you treat people like scatological material, sometimes they act like scatological material and the members of the Legislature have always been treated badly,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Mount Vernon Democrat.
In particular, Pretlow was referring to William Scarborough, a Queens Democrat recently sentenced to 13 months in prison for improperly billing his campaign for over $50,000 in personal expenses.
Pretlow surmised that Scarborough had to steal $50,000 because he “had to eat.”
“People have to eat and that’s what I think happened with Scarborough. He just wasn’t able to make ends meet,” Pretlow said.
Does he have a point?
Scarborough himself made the same argument, crying foul because he was making a meager … $79,500 annually.
A New York Times article reported that Scarborough said he was unable to keep up with bills despite taking a second job at a college and was angry that lawmakers had not had a raise in their $79,500 salary in 16 years.
He couldn’t keep up with his bills – on $80,000 plus a second job.
Perhaps it’s time to cut HBO from the cable lineup if you can’t keep your bills straight making well over the average New Yorker.
Mr. Pretlow – the sympathy card might work when discussing a story of an orphan on the streets stealing a slice of pizza so he can eat. It doesn’t work with an Assemblyman who made over $80,000 and then stole another $50,000.
Pass ethics reform measures first – we’ll talk salary later.
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession