Waiting for the “reformers” to find the elephant that isn’t in the room

Late last week, former Republican Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Joseph Bruno was indicted for corruption. According to the indictment, Bruno was using his position to steer contracts to companies that employed him as a "consultant."

Missing from the indictment, as is usually the case with elected officials who wind up in this sort of trouble, is any mention of campaign contributions.  Somehow, however, I’m certain that Bruno’s indictment will shortly become exhibit A in the argument for "clean elections" or "pay to play" or some other "reform" in New York and elsewhere.

After all, the "reformers" used the corruption scandal of former Connecticut Governor John Rowland to get the Nutmeg State’s so-called "pay to play" law enacted, banning contributions from anybody lobbying or doing business with the state, despite the fact that his scandal had nothing to do with campaign contributions. You can read the press release of the Brennan Center applauding the recent decision by a federal judge to uphold Connecticut’s law, you’ll note Rowland’s misdeeds include conspiring "…with other public officials and state contractors to award and/or facilitate the award of state contracts in return for free or greatly reduced vacation stays in Florida and Vermont, free construction work on his Connecticut lake cottage, and free private jet flights to Las Vegas and Philadelphia-the value of which totaled in excess of $100,000." Nary a mention of campaign contributions.

So it’s hard to imagine them not seizing on this scandal to promote the idea that if only Bruno had been able to dip his hand into the public till to fund his campaigns, or if citizens doing business with the state could be stripped of their First Amendment right to support the candidates of their choice, then all would be well in the Empire State.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.