Just about a year ago, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was indicted on a slew of corruption charges that included allegations that Blagojevich demanded $50,000 and $100,000 campaign contributions from companies simply wanting a chance to do business with the state, according to the indictment.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Chairman of the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Senator Jeff Klein, sent a letter to labor leaders across the state informing them of the creation of the 2010 Labor Advisory Council. The letter goes on to say that "the council will be an opportunity for labor leaders from around the state to engage in direct dialogue with members of the Senate Democratic Majority Conference". At this point, the communication looks relatively innocuous.
The letter goes on to invite the reader to join the Labor Advisory Council as an Advisory Chair. This invitation is extended to a "core group of leaders in the labor community". As an Advisory Council Chair, participants "will have the unique opportunity to advise the Senate Dems on the structure and focus of the Labor Advisory Council. In addition to all meetings, conferences and events that are included with Advisory Council membership, the Advisory Chairs will be invited to an exclusive meeting with the Senate Democratic Majority Leadership".
The correspondence also details a schedule of private meetings, briefings, receptions and galas that Council members will be invited to attend.
By the way, General Membership in the Labor Advisory Council will cost the council member a campaign contribution to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee of $25,000. An Advisory Chair position requires a $50,000 campaign contribution to the DSCC.
What Klein has done with this solicitation looks eerily familiar to what Blagojevich is accused of doing. No matter how you slice it, this stinks of demanding a payoff for access to state "leaders".
Blagojevich demanded campaign contributions from companies looking to do business with the state, and he's likely going to jail for it. Now, unions aren't companies per se, but they are organizations that have an unquestioned interest in doing business with the state.
Klein's actions show a complete and utter disdain for the law and must be investigated. They are "pay to play" in its most basic form. Unfortunately, the one person who will make the decision as to whether or not an investigation is warranted is State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The odds of Cuomo, who continues to lurk in the shadows as the presumed Democratic gubernatorial candidate, taking on this task are virtually nil. After all, that would entail investigating his Democratic brethren.
If nothing else, the state's Commission on Public Integrity needs to look at this solicitation by Klein as a possible ethics violation. Anything less will be construed as condoning this type of activity - and that is unacceptable.