We thank you for visiting our exhibition "First Responders for Democracy."  Here is additional information related to the panels.

Firefighters Panel

It took time and vision to unify disparate firefighter units into a streamlined and single-minded organization that was better able to serve the public (for more information on this story, visit  Unlike the mid-nineteenth century, today there are any number of watchdog groups and advisory panels that serve to regulate organizations in order to best serve the public interest.  Watchdog groups can be internal (that is, part of the organization) or external. Naturally, the challenge of internal watchdog groups is their ability to remain independent and unbiased. JCOPE, New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics is at times viewed as ineffective because of its close proximity to the very lawmakers it is supposed to oversee:  (

One of the most common ways most organizations today uphold best governance practices is by adopting a code of ethics.  A code of ethics can address personal behavior and interpersonal relationships, but most closely associated with issues of political corruption are those standards that address conflicts of interest.  An example of a Code of Ethics can be found at:

Whistleblowers Panel

Repercussions: Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers and Watergate
Following release of the papers, President Nixon orchestrated a smear campaign against Ellsberg.  Ellsberg and his accomplice, Anthony Russo, were tried on charges of espionage, theft and conspiracy.  The trial began in 1973 but charges were dismissed because of the manner in which evidence had been collected -- a group known as “the plumbers” broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrists’ office. Coincidentally, this was the same group who conducted the Watergate break-in which led to the downfall of the Nixon administration.  

The duel scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate led to a severe crisis in the public’s lack of confidence in its government.  Echos of mistrust and government abusing its power and the need for transparency resonate to this very day.

Hear the NPR report on how the Pentagon papers were officially declassified 40 years after the fact:

To learn more about the Pentagon papers and to view them yourself, visit the National Archive Website at:

Why was Boss Tweed’s comptroller Richard Connolly given the nickname “Slippery Dick?” 

According to English Language & Usage (, the derivation of the nickname is related in a an uncharitable appraisal of Mr. Connolly in an 1872 volume entitled:  The Life of Col. James Fisk, Jr. "The Prince of Erie." of Miss Helen Josephine Mansfield, "The Erie Princess." of Edward L. Stokes, The Assassin, and of Hon. Wm. M. Tweed, Of New York, the Notorious Leader of the infamous Tammany Ring: 

The facility with which he [Connolly] made and broke promises, was his most marked characteristic, and so notorious did this practice become amongst his political associates that he was unanimously accorded the marked distinction of being the most unmitigated liar in the community, and the pantonymic by which he had previously been known, soon gave way to the appropriate and significant cognomen of slippery Dick. The man who first applied the term to Connolly was a consummate judge of human nature, and hit the most appropriate term that could be applied to him, for in every position where he has been placed, he has proven himself to be indeed a "slippery" and unreliable man, and so convinced of this did his cronies become that they allowed a long series of years to elapse before he was again put forward for any political position.

According to the Wikipedia entry for Connolly, he served in various offices as a Tammany Hall Democrat between 1853 and 1871, when he resigned as City Comptroller just before being indicted for 15 misdemeanors. Wikipedia says that he became known as "Slippery Dick" after becoming a member of the Tweed Ring in 1867.  Additionally, there may be a connection between the slimy, evasive fish known as “slippery Dick” and a human being of similar behavior and temper:  A surprising number of fictional and historical figures in the nineteenth century bore the familiar name "Slippery Dick."

Learn more about the notorious “Tweed Gang” at 

Artists Panel 

Boss Tweed was so incensed by Nast’s pictures that he decided to buy off Nast.  He sent someone to inform Nast that some admirers of his work wanted to send him to Europe to study art. When Nast, suspicious, replied that he could not possibly afford to leave his work at Harper's, the reply was that $100,000 was set aside for him. Nast responded it would take more than that to make it worth his while. When the figure was raised to half a million, Nast said  "Well, I don't think I'll do it. I made up my mind not long ago to put some of those fellows behind the bars."  For the full story of Thomas Nast's Campaign Against Boss Tweed, go to this wonderful article:

Hy Rosen was a highly respected, much loved, creative force for over forty years as an editorial cartoonist for the Times Union. 

Like Thomas Nast, Hy used pictures to powerfully communicate his perspectives on local, regional, and national politics as well as other social issues.  For a deep appreciation of who Hy Rosen was and what his contributions were to the Capital District community, read local historian and award-winning author Paul Grondahl’s February 27th, 2011 eulogy of Hy Rosen at:  

Did You Know?  Thomas Nast is credited with creating the Republican Party’s elephant symbol.  While he did not originate the donkey (for Democrats), his use of the donkey popularized this symbol for the democrats.  Also “Nast was the first person to draw Santa Claus as a fat, bearded elf. Before that, Santa had mostly been shown as a tall, thin man.”


Reporters Panel

Nellie Bly’s real name was Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (1864-1922),  Her career as a journalist took her around the world -- literally! In 1888 she took a trip around the world seeking to replicate the famous Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eight Days.  She was already famous by that time for the stunning expose she wrote, Ten Days in a Madhouse, where she detailed the horrible conditions at the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.  In order to create that expose’ Bly went undercover as a patient at the asylum. Ten Days in a Madhouse has been made into a feature film. Watch the trailer at:   

It was in 1888 that Nellie Bly went to Albany pretending to be a lobbyist.  It was there, at the Kenmore Hotel on Pearl Street, where she met Mr. Edward Phelps, the “King of the Lobby.”  It was also there that she arranged a deal to “purchase” the New York State legislator to kill a particular bill.  Read all about it in Bly’s own words from her article “King of the Lobby” at:  

Read more about the amazing life of Nellie Bly at: 

The Museum of Political Corruption’s Walking Tour: is being designed by local historian and author Don Rittner.  We are anticipating launching this walking tour this May. The tour will most likely have an online component so participants can learn even more about the sights they are seeing. These sights will include some of the famous hotels, like the Kenmore, where the wheeling and dealing occurred.  Notably, the Kenmore served as a speakeasy during prohibition and featured the well-apportioned Rainbo Room where the notorious Legs Diamond hung out. To learn even more, join our walking tour in May! 

All of Us Panel

Here are some wonderful organizations where you can join to be a “First Responder for Democracy!” 

The League of Women Voters of Albany County:

Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy. We value Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Citizens Union

Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation are committed to reforming New York City and State government by fostering accountability, accessibility, transparency, honesty and the highest ethical standards. Always nonpartisan, since 1897, we have devoted ourselves to holding our government accountable and the enfranchisement of all New Yorkers.

New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
The New York Public Interest Research Group Fund (NYPIRG) is a non-partisan, nonprofit, research and public education organization. NYPIRG was founded in 1976 as an independent 501(c)(3) public outreach and education sister organization to the New York Public Interest Research Group.Over the decades, we have educated hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and recruited tens of thousands of community-based members from all parts of the state, enhancing NYPIRG’s institutional impact and helping to bring the voices of average New Yorkers to public policy debates. NYPIRG’s full-time staff examines important issues, produces studies, and engages New Yorkers in public education campaigns designed to produce policies that strengthen democracy, enhance the rights of consumers and voters, and protect the environment and public health.

Reinvent Albany 
Reinvent Albany advocates for transparent and accountable New York State government and increased transparency in New York City. We work to strengthen the Freedom of Information Law and put government information online, especially spending, contracting and budget information and we are vocal advocates for open data laws and practices. We also advocate for more accountable and better governed state authorities, including the MTA. We also work for transparent business subsidies and economic development spending rooted in facts and careful analysis. We seek to create a state government that is responsible, responsive and above board and thus we fight for public integrity measures and against laws and practices that increase the risk of corruption and favor the few and well connected over the public interest. We strongly support the work of New Yorkers who work to increase public integrity and public trust. We share many of their goals, especially fighting corruption, and we support their work to make elections fair, easy and clean.

Common Cause New York
Since its founding in 1970, Common Cause has been dedicated to empowering and protecting the voice of the people in our political process by promoting equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all. With chapters in 35 states nationwide, Common Cause works with policymakers, organizers, and community leaders at both the state and federal levels to build a truly inclusive and representative democracy where all people have an equal say.

The Brennan Center for Justice
​The Brennan Center for Justice is an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization that works to reform, revitalize, and when necessary, defend our country’s systems of democracy and justice. Today, we are in a great fight for the future of constitutional democracy in the United States. We are committed to the rule of law. We work to craft and advance a transformative reform agenda — solutions that aim to make American democracy work for all.

Vote Smart
Vote Smart's mission is to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans.

Center for Responsive Politics 
Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. OUR VISION is for Americans to be empowered by access to clear and unbiased information about money’s role in politics and policy and to use that knowledge to strengthen our democracy. OUR MISSION is to produce and disseminate peerless data and analysis on money in politics to inform and engage Americans, champion transparency, and expose disproportionate or undue influence on public policy.

The Museum of Political Corruption and its Center for Ethical Governance
​The Museum of Political Corruption, a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan institution, is dedicated to educating and empowering the public by providing a better understanding of political corruption, and encouraging solutions that promote ethics reform and honest governance. 

Send us your stories of how you have helped to keep our democracy strong

(we will share some of these on our website): 

It takes more than elected officials to protect our democracy.  It takes teachers and artists and firefighters and clergy and journalists and clergy.  In essence, it takes all of us.  We are the first responders for democracy.  This is the subject for the Museum of Political Corruption's upcoming exhibition at the Albany Firefighter's Museum opening on February 16th, 2020.


The Museum of Political Corruption

and The Center for Ethical Governance



​Which will open February 16th at the 

Albany Firefighters Museum