Maybe there’s something in the drinking water in Albany. New York has gone through one gubernatorial sex scandal just to land in the middle of another. What appeared to be limited to simply a personal issue with incoming Governor David Paterson has now blossomed into an issue of potential electoral misappropriation of funds. Paterson now admits that he may have used campaign funds to pay for his extramarital trysts — and you’re not going to believe how he categorized the expense:
Gov. Paterson admitted Wednesday he may have improperly billed his campaign for at least one hotel tryst with a girlfriend.
The hotel tryst was apparently listed as “constituent services.”
A Daily News review found that in a handful of other campaign expenditures, Paterson may have used campaign funds to cover personal expenses and misstated their purpose in public disclosure forms.
The records also show he made reimbursements, but he acknowledged he may have failed to pony up in one instance.
Constituent services? Well, perhaps Paterson wanted some truth in accounting.
After the departure of Eliot Spitzer for hiring high-priced prostitutes, New York had hoped to settle into a calmer political period with the mild-mannered Paterson at the helm. He shocked the state by immediately admitting to several affairs a few years earlier, when his marriage had foundered. The disclosure intended to get past the rumors that had run in the capital and eliminating a source of distraction for the transition.
Now, though, it looks like New York has a bigger headache. Using campaign funds for personal use is as illegal as hiring prostitutes; both of them are misdemeanors. Paterson’s offense will not likely cause him to step down, though, because as the Daily News reports, every politician in Albany has probably committed the same crime. They may not have paid for hotel expenses for paramours, but the purpose matters little to the commission of the crime.
So here’s a question for the New York political structure: if all of you are using campaign funds for personal expenses, why not just make it legal? One answer is that it destroys the firewall between campaign contributions and personal kickbacks, which is why the law exists in the first place. It’s good to know that the people New York voters elect to pass and enforce laws don’t seem to have trouble ignoring them, especially when they ignore the laws that specifically apply to themselves, which they themselves pass to make themselves appear clean.