This Week’s Attitude
State Senator Carl Kruger’s alleged criminal activities prompted a letter to the editor (in this week’s issue) from a local activist who wrote that he was “elated” when he heard the news. The writer, Steven Kaye, indicated he had previous disagreements with the senator over local issues, but it's not a mature reason to gloat over the man's politician’s troubles.
Carl Kruger could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of all the charges facing him, which include bribery, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. But rejoicing over that outcome is a small-minded response, whether or not you like the guy.
Perhaps Kruger violated laws an elected representative is expected to advocate, if not uphold; yet even if federal prosecutors successfully present their case, it’s not a cause for celebration.
When I’ve dealt with the senator as a reporter, I found him abrasive at times and disliked the grandstanding tactics he employed to highlight his argument.
If the charges facing Kruger convince a jury of his guilt, the senator could serve more time behind bars than the 17 years he has served his Brooklyn district. That would suit me, not because I disagree with the guy’s style, but because he violated the trust of his constituents — like me — who voted for him. In retrospect, many who did vote for him in the last election might now regret their choice.
While ostensibly serving his district in Albany, it appears that Kruger was also making deals to boost his personal wealth. His six-figure salary that, until his troubles emerged, included a five-figure stipend for being chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, just wasn’t enough to support the lavish lifestyle he preferred.
Among the charges are one count for conspiracy to deprive New York State and it’s citizens of honest services and two counts for conspiracy to deprive New York and its citizens of their legislator’s honest services. If convicted on those counts, he could serve up to 40 years.
The exhaustive federal complaint portrays Kruger as a lawmaker involved in assorted shady services in exchange for payments, for which he reportedly pocketed over one million dollars. It also claims the senator used his office to sponsor legislation that he convinced other legislators to support, for which he directly benefited, and also directed state monies to benefit lobbyist acquaintances and their clients.
Based on the detailed charges, it gives the impression that Kruger rarely made a decision unless it involved a guarantee of money or an exchange of favors directly for him or funneled through an accomplice. The events that forced Kruger to surrender on March 10 capped almost a year of rumors that he had been under federal investigation, which his lawyer proclaimed had ended last September.
Though Sen. Kruger’s colleagues have not uttered a word of condemnation, when he returned to Albany it was reported that his peers mostly shunned him. The as-yet-unindicted Kruger was expected to address Democratic senators on March 14, perhaps to express regret for the distraction the federal complaint has created, but he cancelled when some lawmakers refused to attend. Politicians are rarely high on the public trust scale, but Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, another legislator charged in the same investigation, reduced what little confidence remained a few more notches.
Nonetheless, this case is just the latest example of how money plays a crucial part in how our city, state and nation’s policies are shaped. It’s a shame that so many elected to serve in Albany turn into bad apples, particularly when they see an opportunity to stuff their wallets.
The New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10) cautions, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” but some of politicians must not be familiar with that phrase or just don’t give a darn when they’re tempted. New York’s legislature’s reputation is disreputable enough; more corruption is not required to further sully it.
Talk of ethics reform has wafted through the halls of state capitol and political campaigns for years, but little is ever accomplished. Politicians talk a good game of reform, but when the opportunity presents itself, support fades faster than a waning full moon. This latest disgrace, for what has been termed the nation’s most dysfunctional legislature, should be, as the U.S. attorney said, another wake-up call to undue New York’s ethical morass.
Enough is enough!
If the bums in the state legislature refuse to understand how foolish they look every time another colleague gets caught in a web of corruption, they should resign or be voted out of office.
If the state’s politicians can’t reach an accord on ethics reform, then voters must demand changes or the legislature will continue to be nothing more than a few rotten apples making things tougher for the ripe ones.