I am shocked, shocked to find that corruption is going on in Albany!
The state Commission on Public Integrity charged Gov. David A.
Paterson on Wednesday with violating state ethics laws when he secured
free tickets to the opening game of the World Series from the Yankees
last fall for himself and others. The announcement came as the
governor, already mired in scandal, met with his cabinet and insisted
he would stay in office.
In addition to violating the state’s ban on gifts to public
officials, the commission found that Mr. Paterson falsely testified
under oath that he had intended to pay for the tickets for his son and
his son’s friend. The commission determined that Mr. Paterson had never
intended to pay for the tickets and only did so after inquiries from
the media, after which he submitted a backdated check as payment.
One of my areas of specialty as a lawyer was public ethics laws. Indeed, I represented a whole bunch of public officials — and, more commonly, people who want to do business with public officials — who got into hot water over free tickets, hotel stays, meals and all manner of other perks, bribes and assorted nastiness.
It was a lot of fun! Especially when I got to ask my clients stuff like “now, you planned to pay for all of that, didn’t you . . .?” only to see the light slowly flicker in their eyes, and then go dark again. When you see a politician struggle so mightily to lie only to come up short it actually restores your faith in the system a little.
Anyway, one thing I learned during all that work was that almost every state has a mirror-image gifts law. That means that it’s both illegal for a government official to accept valuable gifts from those who do business with the state — and the Yankees employ people who registered lobbyists with the State of New York — and illegal for people who are doing business with the government to give said official the gift. We used to call it the “one steak, two charges” rule.
And yep, New York has such a law — The Lobbying Act — which prohibits a lobbyist or client of a lobbyist from offering or giving
a public official a gift more than nominal value unless under the circumstances
it is not reasonable to infer that the gift was intended to influence
such public official. And in case you want to defend the Yankees and say that they weren’t trying to influence anyone, almost every state presumes that gifts of a certain value or exclusivity — which would totally cover primo World Series tickets — are intended to influence.
So, who on the Yankees gets charged with the ethics violation here? I’m going to say A-Rod. It was probably his fault.