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If you thought New York politics couldn't become any more incestuous, think again. Political inbreeding has been the cultural standard in Albany for a long time. Now members of Congress are joining in. . . .

In the next election, New Yorkers will elect only 29 members of the House of Representatives instead of the current 31. Because of population shifts reflected in the 2000 census, New York will lose two seats. The State Legislature will redraw district lines next year.

But incumbent House members aren't about to leave matters to chance. . . . At least two of them have hired lobbyists to argue their case in Albany. Both lobbyists have close ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. They are paying for the service with campaign donations.

The stakes are high, especially upstate. Census data is expected to show that most or all of the population loss was outside New York City and its suburbs. That shortens the list of representatives whose heads could wind up on the chopping block. . . .

All of this is perfectly legal, of course. That's because the rules are tailored to benefit those who make them. It doesn't necessarily make for good government. But it helps keep elected officials in office. . . .

As California State Legislator Jesse Unruh observed, "Money is the mother's milk of politics." Trouble is, it doesn't nourish the process, only the politicians. Ordinary folks can't hire lobbyists or contribute thousands of dollars to political campaigns. The more money rules, the more disconnected government becomes from the people it is supposed to serve.

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