So will I have to stop making fun of freshman Democratic Sen. Dan Squadron? It turns out he's sponsored a couple of bills regarding issues that I've been going on and on about, including one that "requires legislators to disclose business relationships, creates a new income disclosure category and requires random audits of financial disclosure statements," which sounds sort of promising. Another Squadron ethics bill would create a commission "to oversee the executive and legislative branches of government," which sounds something like the new ethics bill Gov. Paterson is proposing. No bill number for either is listed on the Senate's fancy new Web site; it just says TBD, which is Greek to me. I felt better when NYPIRG's Blair Horner said he didn't know what it stood for, either, but pointed me to a place on the site where the draft bill is available. On the plus side, the bill would require legislators to list their corporate clients with regulators, although there is an exemption for individual clients, e.g. of lawyers. And I can't see where it would make this information public, as opposed to the current system where the regulators redact the specific numbers and income bands before releasing anything publicly. Blair, graciously sending me emails on a Saturday, said he thought the bill would make the information public but wasn't sure. (Update: This is clarified in a June 2 post.) He said that issue wasn't addressed in the governor's bill, which would combine executive and legislative ethics review. (I tried to ask the governor's office about this, but his assistant counsel, Jeff Pearlman, didn't get back to me.) The Legislature has controlled its own ethics review for the past couple of decades, with remarkably dismal results, and it's hard to imagine any new oversight agency being worse -- although being Albany that's always possible.
So the bottom line is the Squadron disclosure bill looks too weak to me (and if you go to the draft link you can apparently comment on it --Update Sunday, nobody's commented on the bill yet, but a commenter TBD on this post has explained him/herself--). I also noticed that Squadron's sort-of boss, Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, responded to to the governor's bill by saying Paterson could make a presentation on it to the Senate committee, which ain't exactly respectful, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has not been any more supportive. So the chances of a bill passing by the end of session in a few weeks do not seem high. And being Albany, if anything did pass, it might well turn out to be a giant step backward like Eliot Spitzer's 2007 ethics reform bill, which got rid of David Grandeau and set the stage for the troopergate cover-up and continuing controversy. Of course Smith (and other leaders and legislators) could right now make publicly available his private income and clients, if he and the rest were really interested in the "transparency" they keep going on about.
I think, then, I can still make fun of Squadron as a potential naif or cynic, or the former turning into the latter. I don't think Blair is either and I've been making fun of him for years, comparing him to Charlie Brown always running up to kick the football that Lucy snatches away. But he's one of the good guys. Squadron is a politician.