New York Senator Joe Bruno is making political hay over the recent spate of cop shootings in the state. He's advocating for a new death penalty for the state. The old death penalty was struck down by the State's highest court for violating the rights of defendants.
The most recent cop shooting occurred last week. A young trooper with a wife and infant daughter was shot accidentally by another state trooper while involved in a wild-west shoot out with a fugitive.
This shooting occurred the same week as new Governor Eliot Spitzer announced that he was going to push the Senate and Assembly to pass campaign finance legislation. Currently your average New Yorker can donate $55,000 to a campaign (yep, the cost of a fully-loaded Hummer), and there are limited regulations on Limited Liability Corporations, PACs, soft money to political parties, etc. etc -- the usual hodge-podge of loose laws to allow money to flow unlimited and unregulated into the political scene. Spitzer wants to limit individual contributions to $15,000 ($13,000 more than limits to federal candidates, by the way) and limit contributions from other channels.
Now, when Spitzer advocated this, Bruno made it crystal clear he thinks campaign finance reform is bullshit. He characterized Spitzer's proposal as a violation of freedom of speech.
Bruno doesn't know his constitutional law, though. The U.S. Supreme court made it clear in 1979 in Buckley V. Valeo that there is no violation of free speech by limiting contributions to campaigns. There is a violation if there are caps on how much candidates can spend if they do not take matching funds - but that's not what Spitzer is proposing.
And, frankly, Bruno doesn't care about constitutional law. He's just throwing every half-baked argument at campaign finance reform, because he doesn't want to stem the flow of taint that pervades the New York State political process.
My favorite Bruno half-baked argument came on Thursday when he argued that the state should pass a cop-killer death penalty, and that Spitzer didn't have his priorities straight by advocating for campaign finance reform rather than a death penalty. He was quoted in the Albany Times Union saying: "What is more important than protecting the lives of law enforcement officers? Is campaign finance reform more important than that? I don't think so."
What's wrong with this argument? Well, I'll tell you. :-) It sets up a dilemma between the death penalty and campaign finance reform. But, it's an utterly FALSE dilemma. What, the Senate can't handle more than one policy initiative a year? It's so stupid.
I can't figure out why the people of Bruno's district put up with this crap. I write angry letters to MY state Senator complaining about Bruno (not that Neil Breslin can do much of anything about it, since he's in the opposite party, but still). I look forward to the day when that man loses his bully pulpit. To my mind, he is a perfect symbol for what is wrong with politics in this state.