Yesterday, two Democratic New York State Senators jumped ship to caucus with the Republicans, potentially shifting the majority from the Democrats to the Republicans. This has huge implications in the world of open government and online transparency as whomever is elected Senate Majority Leader in New York controls the entire budget. Were control of the budget to switch, it is likely that the entire new media team that created this pioneering new web site for the New York Senate would be removed. The future of Empire State transparency may very well be at stake here.
Now, just for clarification, prior to the Democrats’ winning the state Senate in 2008, the body was governed in — and I don’t mean this gently — a totally corrupt manner. Under Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, now facing multiple indictments, the Senate operated as a favor factory with official operations as hard to find as acting in the Star Wars prequels. Bruno ran a secret television studio, a secret printing office, and a secret traveling office in a GMC van. Now, the same guys who supported Bruno are poised to potentially come back into power and possibly undo a lot good work done to make the notoriously opaque state Senate more transparent.
Of course, the newly formed Republican caucus is claiming to be in favor of real reform. That is, at least, what Sen. Pedro Espada, one of the switching Democrats, has said. Espada, who has declared himself the temporary President of the Senate, is no shining light of reform and thus I’m taking his pronunciations with a Dead Sea sized helping salt. Espada is notorious for his refusal to file his campaign finance disclosures and has now been outed as earmarking $2 million to nonprofits that are run by close associates and possibly himself. One of those nonprofits was organized one week prior to his appropriation of the earmark. Sounds fishy? Read the whole New York Times story on it.
The other Democrat who flipped doesn’t necessarily have any corruption strikes against him, however he is facing charges for, literally, slicing his girlfriend’s face up with a broken glass.
The Democrats are currently claiming that the party switch is illegal are challenging the change in leadership. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of Albany and whether the transparency efforts will wind up being lost in this fracas. Considering the character of these two party switchers it doesn’t look good.