By Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times:
"Our question for today is, who has the most awful political culture, Illinois or New York?
"Already, I have offended many, many readers who believe their state is being unfairly overlooked. I see you waving your hands, New Jersey.
"Excuse me. I was just distracted by the new 66-page federal indictment of Larry Seabrook, a New York City councilman who, along with multitudinous other charges, is accused of altering a receipt from a deli so he could get a $177 reimbursement for a bagel and diet soda.
"One point for New York.
"I was thinking about the dreadful similarities between the two states while listening to the New York State Senate conduct its business this week. First, there was a resolution demanding that the 9/11 terrorist trial not be held in New York.
“We can’t regurgitate that,” said one senator. Another claimed that America’s greatness was demonstrated by the fact that no other country had ever sent rescue missions to Haiti.
Except Costa Rica and Canada and Cuba and ... Stop. When you start having a mental debate with a state senator from Long Island, it’s time to move on.
So, who’s worse? Both states lost their governors to scandal. But Eliot Spitzer is not about to make his debut on “Celebrity Apprentice.” Point Illinois.
"After his sudden elevation, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois attempted to save money by giving early release to 1,700 nonviolent state prisoners, some of whom unfortunately turned out to be violent after all. He also gave a State of the State speech in which he boasted about having been named “Mr. Soybean” by the Illinois Soybean Association.
"Meanwhile, Gov. David Paterson of New York, who is mired in a controversy over a racetrack casino contract, demanded that The New York Times produce a list of all the things that are not going to be in a Paterson profile being prepared by the paper so people in Albany will stop speculating that there will be sex in it.
"I am going to call this one a draw.
"In their recent primary, Illinois Democrats — who should know the importance of a lieutenant governor — voted to give their nomination for the No. 2 job to Scott Lee Cohen, an excitable pawnbroker.
Cohen spent millions on campaign ads. Which apparently interfered with his ability to make regular child support payments. Also, he seems to have underestimated the chances that a run for statewide office would draw attention to the fact that he was once charged with holding a knife to his girlfriend’s throat.
So he withdrew from the race in a tearful press conference. At the Hop Haus Tavern. During the halftime of the Super Bowl.
"Illinois inches ahead.
"New York had an incident related to domestic violence this week, too, when the State Senate voted to expel Hiram Monserrate, who had been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. A special bipartisan committee went to great lengths to produce a complete report. It said that the 29-year-old woman in question, who wound up at a hospital with deep lacerations on her face, was quoted by the medical staff as saying that Monserrate had sliced her with a piece of broken glass.
"Hours later she signed a statement supporting the senator’s convoluted explanation that she got her injuries when he tripped while bringing her a glass of water. The deposition was in English, which she barely speaks. It was written by a Monserrate staff member and notarized by another. She was escorted to the trial by a third. In her testimony, she stood by her senator and insisted that they were in love.
"As the legislators argued about the case, some wanted to know why Monserrate’s crime was any worse than that of another state senator who has been charged with assaulting a photographer.
"O.K., ideally we would not be having our elected officials do either.
"But it was apparent that although these people had passed trillions of bills, resolutions and budget appropriations on the subject of domestic violence, many of them had no clue about what made it a peculiarly corrosive crime.
“A huge number of my male colleagues still don’t have any idea what domestic violence is about — the use of intimacy to manipulate, the power and control,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman, who led the committee.
"During a five-hour, closed-door meeting, Monserrate’s fellow Democrats yelled, threatened and occasionally appeared ready to throttle each other. “It was everyone hashing it out, making every possible argument, the living, breathing essence of democracy,” said Schneiderman.
"Well, actually it would have been slightly more democratic if they had done it on the floor of the Senate.
"Instead, after Monserrate read a statement pointing out that lots of other people in the Legislature get convicted of things, the chamber silently voted 53 to 8 for expulsion.
"It was not exactly the founding fathers at Philadelphia. But, for now, Illinois wins. "