He's not yet governor, but Eliot Spitzer is already shifting the ground beneath the government's collective feet.
A month before he takes the oath of office, Spitzer has announced a stringent new set of rules governing behavior of executive branch employees, including himself. In doing so, he starts the long process of changing the tone of state government, and puts pressure on the Legislature to follow suit.
Among his first reforms, which he can impose on his own, Spitzer will:
Limit the size of donations to his campaign and close loopholes that have allowed donors to evade existing limits.
Prohibit former employees of the governor's office from lobbying any executive branch agencies for two years.
Ban gifts for all executive branch employees not covered by collective-bargaining agreements. Gifts of up to $75 are now allowed.
End secret "member-item" spending by requiring it to be listed publicly.
There's more along those lines, enough to attract praise from good government organizations such as the New York Public Interest Research Group, which applauded Spitzer for his prompt response to New Yorkers' demands for change in government.
As good a start as this is, though, it's only a start. Spitzer's changes do little to change the behavior of state legislators and they do little to prevent a future governor from backsliding. And, of course, they don't do everything that needs to be done. We hope the changes Spitzer has announced, and many others, will be written into a tough-minded and far-reaching ethics law that will deliver to New Yorkers the government a great state deserves.
In the meantime, Spitzer has given the great state a great start, even before he takes office. It's the kind of leadership New York needs. We hope there is much more to come.