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Despite Hochul’s Pledge, Her Policies Have Helped Husband’s Firm
It is no secret that government officials globally strive to maintain transparency and avoid conflicts of interest. However, despite their best intentions, things may not always go as planned. One such case is that ofNew York Governor Kathy Hochul, who pledged to uphold ethics standards upon taking office. Despite her vow, media reports suggest that her policies have significantly benefited her husband’s architecture firm.
Hochul took office on August 24, 2021, following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. During her inaugural speech, she stated that “we will restore the faith of New Yorkers in their government…We will make sure there is transparency and ethics.” Hochul’s declaration of such high standards set the bar high for her administration. However, scrutiny shows that her actions so far have not been wholly consistent with that pledge.
As reported in the New York Times on September 30, 2021, Hochul has been pursuing policies that specifically align with her husband William J. Hochul Jr.’s architectural firm, Hodgson Russ. Hodgson Russ has notably helped Hochul build her political career by hosting fundraisers and providing pro-bono legal work. The marriage between Hochul and Hodgson Russ is one that comes with many benefits as the firm is one of the state’s most influential and powerful lobbying entities.
The report suggested that Governor Hochul was personally involved in retaining global architecture firm HOK to design a new terminal at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. HOK is also a client of Hodgson Russ, and as such, Hochul’s husband, who is a partner of the firm, has an indirect financial interest in the outcome. The governor’s spokesperson, Hazel Crampton-Hays, was contacted to comment on the matter and responded by saying that the governor has not spoken to her husband about his firm’s participation in government projects, adding, “she has been clear that the state’s contract selection process is transparent and merit-based.”
While Crampton-Hayes may make this assertion, it is worrying that the Democratic governor could authorize a contract worth over $70 million going to a firm that indirectly supports her husband’s financial interests. Although Hochul is not personally receiving any financial benefits, this is not a good look for the governor, as her position necessitates that she maintain a respectable and pristine image to serve as a role model to other political leaders.
It is worth noting that Hodgson Russ’ power and influence in New York State politics go beyond airport contracts. According to OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks money in politics, the firm spent over $1 million on lobbying in Albany in 2020, ranking ninth among the most potent lobbying organizations in the state.
The governor’s actions are also problematic as she pledged to release her tax returns during her campaign. However, following her inauguration, she declared that the returns would not be released until next year. The lack of transparency is disturbing, and it presents an opportunity for mischievous actions that could raise eyebrows if revealed.
Overall, Governor Kathy Hochul’s policies that benefit her husband’s firm are not illegal, but that does not mean they are ethical or should be allowed. Her actions, or lack thereof, raise questions about her judgment and commitment to ethical governance. The circumstances are doubly perplexing because of her pledge to uphold ethics standards and revert the public’s faith in government in just a short time since she took office.
In conclusion, while Governor Hochul’s policies so far have helped her husband’s firm, it is still too soon to fully determine if her administration will continue on this path or not. The actions raise suspicions, but there is no hard proof that Governor Hochul is directly or indirectly furthering her husband’s interests. Nevertheless, the government must strive for transparency and accountability to restore trust in its governance. It is imperative that Gov. Hochul ensures ethics, creates consistency, and avoids perceptions of conflicts of interest, if her governance is to be considered effective and ethical.