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Perspective on Yankee-gate

August 18, 2010

It’s not hard to understand what happened. Everyone was talking about the big game. Someone said to the governor that he should be there. He thought it was a great idea. Then someone from the governor’s office called the Yankee front office. Yankee officials — who are used to dealing with such requests – made it happen.   

You can make the case that the governor really should have been there, that his presence was official whether he threw out the first ball or not.  It gets a little harder to defend when you consider the fact that his kids also attended. But, really, was bringing the kids along such a crime? 

Of course, the tickets were expensive. But in no way is this akin to accepting an expensive gift from a lobbyist who is seeking favors in return. There’s no quid pro quo here. 

Yes, the letter of the law is that nothing with more than nominal value may be accepted by a public official. It is a good rule and this matter must be addressed. It’s just that the Public Integrity Commission, which we’ve tried to defend recently, makes too big a case of it. 

In this regard, the commission’s attorney gave a closing argument that was reminiscent of Captain Queeg’s missing strawberries speech.  “No member of the public could have gotten those tickets!” Duh. 

Adding to the Caine Mutiny atmosphere was the governor’s former spokesman, ironically a former a Navy lieutenant, who seemed a little too eager expose Paterson. 

The commission’s show yesterday was just that — a show. Commission lawyers harrumphed. The commission spokesman snorted that by not showing up, the governor had shown disrespect for the commission. (Didn’t the governor all but call the commissioners a bunch of bums after the state inspector general’s scathing Troopergate report? Didn’t the governor demand all of their resignations?)   

The commission always seems to have a way of inviting questions about its conduct, rather than having the focus be on the conduct of the official involved. 

In this regard, the governor’s attorneys asked the commission to delay the hearing until Judith Kaye completed her review of the ticket matter. Rather than simply postponing, the commission plowed ahead, insisting that the request didn’t come through proper channels. Could it really have been that hard to work something out on this point? 

The commission insists that this is an egregious violation compounded by untruthfulness and a lack of cooperation and is asking for a nearly $100,000 fine against the Governor. This is what the commission always does – it alleges hideous conduct. It floats a massive fine. Then it settles for a few hundred dollars. 

This isn’t a dignified process that enhances confidence in the system; it’s a game and everybody knows it. Most people settle with the commission to make them go away. 

Of course, the commission needs to do its thing. Paterson was and is in the wrong. But, again, the commission needs to stop overdramatizing things. 

After all, this isn’t even the real problem. The real problem is the apparent misuse of the State Police in the Sherruna Booker matter. It’s an infinitely more serious ethical matter than Yankee-gate.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    August 18, 2010 2:26 PM

    Yet again, it’s the coverup, not the crime. Amazing how no one ever learns that lesson.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    August 18, 2010 2:50 PM

    The Commission looks petty in not granting Olson a temporary stay for the hearing and they looked foolish a while back with their hors d’ourve ruling. Hopefully, Cuomo cleans house.

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