A bog of corruption

| dbrennan@queenscourier.com |

“Swamp Thing” was a 1982 sci-fi thriller by horror maven Wes Craven.  There was a horrible sequel in 1989, “Return of the Swamp Thing.”

I came to miss those “Swamp” movies, but then I started covering Albany on a regular basis a few years ago, and encountered what many have described as a political swamp.  I was heartened when Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to “clean up the swamp.”

This swamp was a not a creation of Wes Craven, but it indeed has been a horror that keeps getting worse. It’s the swamp of political corruption.

“A show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well,” said U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. So it appears the swamp has still not been cleaned up.

And this has been a bad week for Albany, even for Albany! Look who’s been busted:

  • State Senator Malcolm Smith, accused of trying to rig a mayoral election.
  • Councilmember Dan Halloran, allegedly taking bribes to help him get to Gracie Mansion.
  • State Assemblymember Eric Stevenson, allegedly taking bribes for writing legislation.
  • State Assemblymember Nelson Castro, accused in a scheme to illegally register voters.

In the understatement of the week, the governor said, “I’d like to say this is entirely an unprecedented situation that public corruption is a new problem, but it isn’t.”

It’s entirely possible that this investigation will lead to more arrests.  And not to, in his words, “waste a crisis,” the governor revealed his plan to crack down on corrupt pols.

He’s giving local DAs a new class of public crimes: bribery of a public servant, corrupting the government, and failure to report public corruption.

If Cuomo has presidential ambitions, he has a lot riding on his war on corruption.  If he fails to “clean up the swamp,” it would no doubt be highlighted by opponents in a national campaign.  But the governor has two more years to try to clean up Albany’s sorry act.  And he’s already gotten the message that he hasn’t done enough.

In the meantime, the new “Sheriff of State Street” appears to be U.S attorney Bharara.  He’s talking like he might have his own ambitions.

By the way, there’s been talk of a third “Swamp Thing” movie. But I’ve moved on.  I’ve seen enough.