Learn From State’s 10-Year JCOPE Mistake

The recent decision by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics not to revoke approval for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal isn’t surprising.

In fact, it should have been expected.

Gov. Kathy Hochul hasn’t had much time to develop a short list of candidates to fill vacancies on JCOPE, so a Cuomo appointee placed on the board the day of the vote backed the man who appointed him. Again, this shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.

The greater question is why JCOPE exists in the first place.

“One hundred percent of the corruption enforcement in New York has been by federal prosecutors, with zero from JCOPE,” John Kaehny, director of Reinvent Albany, told the Associated Press earlier this year. “JCOPE has aggravated things by giving free passes to the governor for a multi-million-dollar book deal with a company whose parent company gets state subsidies in the form of film and television production tax credits.”

JCOPE’s reliance on political appointees has rendered it a toothless ethics tiger that should be replaced. The real question is with what.

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would end JCOPE and create a new entity that allegedly wouldn’t fall victim to political influence. That’s a start — but it will take two years to pass a Constitutional amendment. Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx, is among the legislators who has proposed legislative changes to JCOPE, though people like Kaehny say JCOPE is so far gone that legislative fixes won’t accomplish anything.

We favor Krueger’s route even though it will take at least two years.

As things stand now, JCOPE is useless. Attempting to fix it legislatively will likely result in JCOPE remaining useless. A new ethics board is needed — and this time, the state Legislature and the governor must submit themselves to a non-partisan, transparent process.

JCOPE has been a 10-year mistake. Let’s learn from that mistake.


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