The former senator's conviction is statewide news, of course. Two capital region newspapers had very different, banner headlines on the front page:
"BRUNO GUILTY" - Albany Times Union
"Bruno vows to fight on" - Schenectady Daily Gazette
The Times Union has never been a fan of Joe Bruno's; not its news coverage, nor its columnists and certainly not its editorial board. The feeling was mutual. Their headline today is the largest font I've ever seen in this newspaper, and probably larger than the size it used for the Man on the Moon or the 9-11 Terrorists Attacks. That speaks volumes.
By contrast, the Daily Gazette's headline indicates coverage that reflects the significance of the news story, and no more.
Sen. Bruno represented Rensselaer and Saratoga counties in the state Senate for 32 years, 14 of which he served as Majority Leader. I did not follow this trial closely and am in no position to second-guess the jury's verdict. There is no joy in seeing this accomplished, likable and elderly man stand as a convicted felon, especially given the fact that he was cognizant of the state laws governing his behavior and appeared to adhere to them.
That a vaguely written federal statute depriving honest services can supersede state ethics laws governing state legislators is a concern, especially with the wide discretion it gives federal prosecutors. This federal law used to indict and convict the senator is simultaneously under judicial review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices appear skeptical of its constitutionality (here).
This case on Sen. Bruno is far from completed. He is appealing the verdict, and the Supreme Court's review of the federal law convicting him may end up overturning the outcome.
State Legislature Should Remain Part-time
The New York state legislature is technically a part-time job with outside employment and income permissible. It should remain that way. New York would not be better off with a full-time legislature and it spends too much time in Albany as it is. Anyone who believes differently should look at the worse, ongoing mess made by the full-time legislature in California. It's not the workload that keeps state legislators in lengthy sessions in Albany; rather, it's the inability to agree on big issues, especially in times like these of economic distress.
If state legislators work on the outside, and they legitimately should, they will need to study this case carefully and remain within the federal law as long as it remains on the books. The legislature also should tighten its own ethics laws by requiring greater disclosure and scrutiny of outside income. That already has begun with a law just introduced to tighten the ban on using legislative employees for non-legislative business (here). Seems obvious, but existing law is not. Lawyers in the legislature (which are most members) also should have to reveal their clients; of course, the nature of the work must remain privileged.
I believe it is good for the legislators to work and spend time in non-legislative employment and activities--fully disclosed--to have a better appreciation of how their actions in the Capitol affect real people.
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