April 7, 2013
Chicago, during the days it was ruled by Mayor John M. Daley and his Democratic political machine, was considered a hotbed of cronyism and corruption unequaled anywhere in the country (except, perhaps, in the nation’s capital, where such “qualities” are practically a requirement). And while things may not have changed much since then, Chicago at least now has a corruption rival: New York City.
In what some observers and media outlets are describing as a “stunning” and “wide-ranging political scandal,” a half-dozen highly-placed politicians have been accused of bribery in an attempt to rig this year’s New York City mayoral race.
CBS New York reported that “there were three distinct parts to the public corruption and bribery scandal,” but that in each of them “money flowed freely and, at times, city and state funds” – the people’s tax dollars – “paid the freight.”
“The charges we unsealed today demonstrate once again that a ‘show me the money’ culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.
Show him the money
The six who were arrested by federal agents come from a variety of government levels. They include:
— State Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, who stands accused of attempting to rig the 2013 mayoral race so he could run as a Republican;
— Republican City Councilman Dan Holleran, who allegedly assisted in setting up the bribes to buy Smith a needed waiver;
— Two more GOP officials who “had their hands out, reportedly saying ‘show me the money and the waiver is yours,'” CBS New York reported.
“Senator Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked it by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receive bribes,” Bharara said.
Scheming to run as a Republican in the NYC mayoral race is not without precedent. Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has developed quite a reputation as a tyrant who likes to ban everything from large sodas to guns, switched from the Democrat to Republican Party during his first successful bid in 2001. Candidates like doing this because it’s easier to get on the ballot as a Republican in a mayoral primary because there are usually so many Democrats competing (so apparently residents of NYC like their politicians to fool them).
Smith, however, can’t do that without the express written consent of three of the city’s five GOP county chairman, who had yet to meet on the issue.
That said, Smith has attempted cross-over politics before. Last year, reports said, he made a move in the state Legislature to join with Republicans “to form a first-of-its-kind coalition to run the fractured Senate,” said CBS. That move, which he made with four other “renegade” Democrats, allowed Republicans to keep control of the Legislature’s upper chamber.
Just another cheap political scandal, gangster-movie style
Federal officials said there were three distinct, though related, aspects to the mayoral race scandal:
— The attempt by Smith to buy a GOP label. According to prosecutors, Smith “allegedly arranged for $40,000 to be paid to Bronx GOP Chairman Joseph Savino,” CBS said, as well as “Queens GOP Assistant Chairman Vincent Tabone.” For his part as intermediary, Halloran was allegedly paid $20,500 in cash.
— Halloran reportedly received $18,300 in cash bribes and an additional $6,500 in straw donor contributions in exchange for guiding an $80,000 City Council contract to a company he believed was managed by one of the figures who paid him the bribes. In a wired conversation with a government informant, Halloran allegedly said, “You can’t do anything with the money. … Money is what greases the wheels … good, bad or indifferent.”
“After statements like this and a string of other public corruption scandals we continue to expose, many may understandably fear that there is no vote that’s not for sale,” said Bharara.
— The third scheme focused on Noramie Jasmin, mayor of Spring Valley in Rockland County, N.Y., and her deputy, Joseph Desmaret. Federal officials say they received financial benefits for approving a new road that profited one of the reported bribers; Smith was to receive hundreds of thousands in state money for the road.
“The criminal complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of greed involved (sic) six officials who together build a corridor of corruption,” Bharara said.
Being mayor of New York is a platform for jumping onto the national stage. Just another stellar example of how American politics today is not about doing the people’s business, it’s just about being there.