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Burst the Bubble, Please

September 24, 2014

Thank God for James Comey. The FBI director was in Albany yesterday and said two important things. First, he said that corruption is NOT more prevalent in New York than other states.  And second, he said the real concern and priority of his office is fighting terrorism.

The operative quote here was this: “I don’t want to burst Albany’s bubble in any way, but there are lots of state capitals in this country where we’re doing lots of public corruption work. So it (the level of corruption in New York) doesn’t stand out in my mind.”

There’s no greater authority than this man on both matters. He’s not spinning. He’s not posturing. He’s not engaged in self-promotion. He’s not preparing to run for office in New York. He’s not angling for anything.

The body politic and the media in New York need to internalize what he’s saying.

This narrative that New York State government is plagued by scandal is wrong. Yes, some elected officials have run afoul of the law. But when you carve out offenses that are personal failings – like sexual misconduct, DWI and income tax fraud – we simply don’t have a lot of cases of real political corruption, which is graft, embezzlement, misuse of funds, election fraud and other related offenses. Yes, these crimes do occur, but not in crisis proportions in Albany. Yes, any and all misconduct should be decried, but not to the point where it becomes an obsession.

Of course, some people won’t accept this. No matter what Mr. Comey or anyone else says, they will insist that corruption is out of control. One reason they do this is because they believe that a crisis is the only catalyst for reform.  We happen to support the reforms that are being sought, but we can’t abide the use of a false narrative to achieve a positive goal.

Not that we’re purists here. We posture, too. Just not to the point of losing perspective and failing to confront the real priorities.

That’s what happened in Albany this year. Activists and the media went nuts over corruption. News organizations began to compete with one another to expose problems.  This culminated in the Moreland “scandal,” which was blown way out of proportion by PB and the Times.

We can hear grumbling now: “Oh, but Moreland raises all kinds of integrity questions. Serious questions that need to be addressed.”

Come on.  Nobody stole any money. Nobody covered up evidence of misconduct. Nobody tampered with witnesses. All of that is baloney.

Moreland was an ill-advised attempt to pressure lawmakers into passing a reform agenda. It was closed down when it got out of hand and lost its utility. That’s it. That’s all of it.

What happens when we all at last realize this? Well, maybe the hyperventilating over corruption will stop and maybe state government will begin to focus on priorities again.  That can’t happen too quickly for us.

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