The Two Faces of Citizen Action and Progressive Reform
posted at 10:50 am on March 12, 2011 by Jazz Shaw
It was another day and another sad tale of a politician taken down by scandal. New York State Sen. Carl Kruger was found hanging his head in shame and trudging off to turn himself in to the authorities amid long swirling stories that he had been playing fast and loose with campaign donor money and improper application of his political power to benefit his friends. Progressive watchdog group Citizen Action was quick like a bunny on the story. It included a portion of a statement released by the groups Executive Director of the New York Chapter, Karen Scharff.
If the news of Senator Kruger’s alleged corruption doesn’t make our elected officials in Albany race to pass voter owned elections with public financing, then their inaction makes them as guilty as Senator Kruger and his corrupt pals are accused of being.
There’s an interesting game of “Guess the Party” going on here already, which is unusual given Scharff’s willingness to quickly label Republicans by party affiliation for any perceived offense, including turning the Empire State into an oligarchy. But perhaps that had nothing to do with the fact that Kruger is a Democrat. Who knows? I’m probably just suspicious by nature.
But I mention that the previously linked quote was only part of her statement because the entire thing was mailed to me by friend on the CA mailing list. Here’s a bit more of it.
Late Wednesday night, I learned that Senator Carl Kruger would be arrested the next day on federal corruption charges.
Was I disappointed? Of course. Was I shocked? Nope. Why? Because just like you, I know New York’s electoral system is broken.
I see. So when a Republican does something, you’re incensed or outraged, but if it’s a Democrat, you’re disappointed. And rather than it being the fault of the individual for flaunting existing campaign finance laws, it’s clearly just a symptom of a larger problem.
The current mission of Citizen Action in New York is to push for public financing of elections. They were enraged by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and don’t want a bunch of well financed people, “stealing your democracy.”
It’s a noble sentiment, I suppose. I mean, I certainly don’t want anyone stealing my democracy. And this aversion to outside money is also something of a refreshing change in posture for Ms. Scharff’s group. Why is it a change? Because it really wasn’t so long, long ago nor in a galaxy far, far away when Citizen Action seemed to have a bit of a different attitude towards cash and certain groups which still exert a rather heavy influence on campaign finances. In fact, I believe it was in the heady days of progressive ascendancy during the Clinton administration.
SCANDAL UNRAVELS LIBERAL CONSUMER GROUP
Fallout from the campaign money-laundering scheme that has so disrupted the Teamsters union has spread to include a seemingly unlikely group of liberal consumer activists.
Last month, Citizen Action closed its national office in Washington and dismissed 20 employees after financial supporters reacted negatively to reports that the group was involved in a scheme to help fund the 1996 reelection campaign of Teamsters president Ron Carey. Carey has resigned, three of his aides have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges, and a federal investigation into the scandal continues even as some former affiliates of Citizen Action attempt to come to grips with what went wrong with the grassroots group and why.
But at least Citizen Action is out there today, fighting the good fight to make sure nobody steals your democracy. Of course, there seems to be a limit on their concerns over what may or may not be stolen from you. When two consecutive governors tried to place a cap on the amount of taxes New Yorkers could have picked from their pockets, (did I mention these were both Democratic governors?) Citizen Action was right there leading the charge… to stop them.
Actually, the prospect of a tax cap being passed, at least this year, is pretty much non-existent with neither the Republican Senate or Democratic Assembly showing no indication that they plan to take up the idea.
But nonetheless, said NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn, the press conference was a way to get the messsage out to lawmakers about how deep the opposition to a property tax cap is in the education community.
Among those joining the coalition against the tax cap are New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, the New York State PTA; Working Families Party; Fiscal Policy Institute; New York State Council of School Superintendents; New York State United Teachers; Citizens Action of NY; TREND; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Campaign for Fiscal Equity; Alliance for Quality Education; and the Civil Service Employees Association.
I’m not here to claim that Kruger is anything unusual or that New York Republicans haven’t had their fair share of scandals and corruption. This is the Empire State, after all, and I’ve lived here for a long time. But stories like this and the hand wringing over campaign financing by certain groups has to leave you shaking your head.
This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.
Breaking on Hot Air