Publisher’s Corner: Answering the Headlines

Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Legislative Gazette file photo

Former Majority Leader Dean Skelos Cries at his Trial

Skelos, on trial for allegedly using his political clout to get his kid a job, broke down and cried on the stand. His argument, justifying what he had done, was powerful. Basically, he was just doing what was needed. His son had some problems and needed his help and he was just trying to find him a job. He’s not the first father to do that. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. Among other things, the son allegedly threatened the employer who hired him and didn’t show up for work all that much. When told about it by people like Alfonse D’Amato, Skelos appeared to have turned at least a partially blind eye. But the argument of a father trying to help his son is strong. While it is dangerous to have your client take the stand, I assume the defense didn’t think it had a choice seeing that this trial is a do-over. Skelos was convicted at his first trial but the decision was reversed because of the Supreme Court protections afforded to corrupt politicians.

It is all very interesting. Juries want to hear from the accused. Not only that, jurors are human beings and when a grown, otherwise stoic, man cries, they will feel for him. He was once one of the most powerful politicians in the state and perhaps he let the arrogance that comes with that get the better of him. His problem, unfortunately, is that most people, including those on juries, may think, “They’re all a bunch of crooks” and all politicians are on trial, not just one individual. Once you agree to take the stand, the prosecution can ask you a lot of questions about anything you might have done in your office. But, hey, if I were in his shoes, I might have taken the risk. Of course, I never would have been in his shoes.

DiNapoli’s Dire Warnings about State’s Finances

You’ve really got to hand it to Tom DiNapoli. He is truly an exception to the “all politicians are sleazy” rule. A lesser man might stay out of Andrew Cuomo’s way as the governor runs for re-election this year. We know that Cuomo has consistently tried to bully DiNapoli, to the point that he and a feckless legislature took away an important part of DiNapoli’s oversight responsibilities. Some of the things that Cuomo’s errant aides have been convicted of having done might never have taken place if DiNapoli had been allowed to do his pre-audits of state programs. That includes parts of the famous “Buffalo Billions” program which seemingly succumbed to the pay-to-play syndrome that is so prevalent in New York State politics.

DiNapoli just continues to do his job. Put simply, he is concerned that New York’s spending will be greater than its revenues. We can all understand the concept because in budgeting for ourselves and our families, we know that our income has to stay ahead of our expenses. Maybe someday Cuomo will learn that it is never a good idea to kick your colleagues when you don’t have to. People tend not to forget that kind of thing.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Army Powering Zephyr Teachout

Everyone is talking about this remarkable young politician who went door to door, the old fashioned way, and knocked Joe Crowley (who far outspent her) off his perch. Before she even wins her first election, she is off and running and endorsing other progressive candidates. One of the reasons why Ocasio-Cortez won is because of old fashioned identity politics. People are more likely to vote for folks who are more like themselves than for someone who is from a different group. Now Ocasio-Cortez is endorsing other candidates like Teachout who are not of-color or Hispanic. We’ll get to see how far her clout extends. Pretty exciting!