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.


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.

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If hypocrisy were a poison, there would be very few “progressives” alive.

GarandFan on March 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Both parties need to…blah blah blah

In 1972 a republican…

tomas on March 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

I know New York’s electoral system is broken.

Which is the excuse Obooba used to eschew public funding after promising to take it.

The hallmark of progressivism is the belief that a sucker is born every minute.

Akzed on March 12, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Same old Saul Alsinky line of thought…….

Liberals dont claim to be honest or have principles or convictions as do Conservatives–so in Alsinkdys Rules they cannot be held to any set of higher morals…..

so therefore corruption is just being sorry you got caught, hypocrisy isnt even a word in their marxist dictionary’s, Union thuggery is now their term for Democracy, 7 million of destruction to a state capital is now Patriotic……

Welcome to the new Normal…..

sbark on March 12, 2011 at 11:08 AM

If hypocrisy were a poison, there would be very few “progressives” alive.

GarandFan on March 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

It is a poison. Progressives have just developed a tolerance to it.

iurockhead on March 12, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Liberals all know they are scum so it’s barely a thought when one gets outed as a slime ball.

tim c on March 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Too much sarcasim, saying the opposite of what you really mean, makes this article a difficult read. Is this a mystery novel or something?

GaltBlvnAtty on March 12, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Liberals all know they are scum so it’s barely a thought when one gets outed as a slime ball.

tim c on March 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Liberals attempted to turn Madison into Mos Eisley.

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

They failed.

Roy Rogers on March 12, 2011 at 12:10 PM

The Right needs a book of these things to hand out to liberals. Specifics are hard to remember.

Cindy Munford on March 12, 2011 at 12:17 PM

The Right needs a book of these things to hand out to liberals. Specifics are hard to remember.

Cindy Munford on March 12, 2011 at 12:17 PM

The last book liberals read, “Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals” is working out pretty well for us now.

“Alinsky! You magnificent [email protected]! We read your BOOK!”

Roy Rogers on March 12, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Roy Rogers on March 12, 2011 at 12:24 PM

I guess what is really needed is a better memory for myself. Not that I get the opportunity to argue with anyone much but it would be great to say, “Oh Yeah!!!. Well, what about ___________?” I know the fill in the blanks are out there, I just can’t remember.

Cindy Munford on March 12, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Cindy Munford on March 12, 2011 at 12:31 PM

You are covered here Cindy! :)

There is much I’d like to forget, yet every time I try and leave… liberals PULL me back into it! They pull me in and remind me what they’ve done and are doing to our country.

When in doubt, empty the magazine.

Roy Rogers on March 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Public financing of elections?

Doesn’t that mean “putting SEIU union members in charge of all election funds“?

What could go wrong??


landlines on March 12, 2011 at 4:14 PM

What he really did, his fundamental contribution, was to persuade the police that your job is not to make arrests. Your job is to prevent crime. You will not be rewarded for having more arrests, but for bringing down crime. That was the fundamental change.”

J_Crater on March 12, 2011 at 5:16 PM

I guess he won’t be going to Wisconsin to “fight the power”, will he…

crr6 and ‘Fins’: your comments PLEASE!!

Khun Joe on March 12, 2011 at 7:13 PM