The corruption of bipartisanship

In both cases, government functioned thanks to the lubrication of lucre, which allowed coalitions to grow across the aisle. There’s been no clear evidence of illegality outside of the bridge scandal, but reporters including Alec MacGillis have shown how Christie doled out favors to his and Norcross’s factions while bullying opponents into support or at least silence. In Cuomo’s case, he launched a highly trumpeted ethics inquiry, the Moreland Commission, after a series of embarrassing arrests of lawmakers, but then muzzled and eventually shut it down—when, it seems, it annoyed too many members of both parties. Unfortunately for them, and for Cuomo, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara decided to pick up where the commission left off and ended up with charges against the two leaders.

One common risk factor for scandal is single-party domination. If one political party controls a state long enough, the opposition party fails to be an effective counterweight and the ruling party may lapse into scandal through sloppiness or lack of competition. I wrote about this pattern a few years ago, discussing the travails of South Carolina, where Democratic Party politicians are perpetual losers. (In that article, I also suggested the Empire State might be getting its own act together, after years of Democratic-dominated corruption, under Cuomo. Oops!)

But bipartisanship holds its own risks, as New York and New Jersey show.