The transition from reformer to corrupt politician is an old topic in American culture. It drives efforts to "clean house" as happened in 1994 and 2006 in Congress, and it played an instrumental role in establishing term limits in state offices, especially in the legislatures. Part of that archetype involves a long exposure to political pressures and temptations that come with power, usually over a decade or two.
In New York, it appears that the process takes three months:
Governor Spitzer is planning to funnel millions of dollars in borrowed state money to Senate Democrats, who have been secretly asked by the administration to submit their wish lists for local capital projects, according to lawmakers.
The move marks the governor's boldest effort to solidify his influence over the Democratic conference, whose support he is counting on in the short term to give him an edge during negotiations, and in the long term to play an instrumental role in pushing through his governing agenda.
For the past month, Senate Democrats have been submitting the paperwork for tens of millions of dollars in grants unbeknownst to most other lawmakers. There is no written agreement between Mr. Spitzer and the conference; the administration discussed the possibility of funding Senate Democratic projects with Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, who passed on the message to conference members at a private meeting.
News has slowly leaked out, as Senate Democrats have discussed the money with potential grantees and legislative colleagues. The New York Sun learned of Mr. Spitzer's plan from a Democratic member of the Assembly who heard a Democratic senator talking about a $1 million grant that the senator assumed was in the pipeline.
That didn't take long! After all, Spitzer got himself elected Governor after his term as a crusading Attorney General, looking to tackle corruption on Wall Street and elsewhere. (He missed the entire mess with Air America and the Gloria Wise school, but a guy can only do so much ...) That reputation as a hard-charging reformer made him unbeatable and gave the Democrats the executive office in New York for the first time since Mario Cuomo retired.
So much for reform. Now that he has barely warmed his seat in Albany, he has shifted his game to that of old-time politician and spoils master. He wants to pass a budget of his liking, and he's going to buy as many of his party colleagues as he possibly can to ensure it. After running a campaign that pledged Spitzer to a course that would change "politics as usual", he seems to have discovered an affinity for slush funds in record time.
I'd suggest term limits as a mechanism for New Yorkers to protect themselves from Governors whose long exposure to power makes them corrupt -- but two months seems a little ridiculous. Perhaps New Yorkers might feel the same way about the newly-minted porkmaster they just elected to that position.