And here we thought Michael Bloomberg was as bad as it gets. Instead of having a multi-billionaire buy the office, though, the FBI busted a half-dozen people this morning for allegedly attempting to rig the next New York City mayoral race, which will take place this year. The good news? Political corruption is bipartisan:
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, a contractor and real estate developer who rose to become the first black president of the State Senate, and City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III were arrested early Tuesday on charges of trying to illicitly get Mr. Smith on the ballot for this year’s mayoral race in New York City, according to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Smith, a Queens Democrat, and Mr. Halloran, a Queens Republican, were among a half-dozen people arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the corruption case. Others included Republican County leaders in Queens and the Bronx, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, Noramie F. Jasmin, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint.
Mr. Smith, 56, was taken from his home in handcuffs by F.B.I. agents before sunrise and Mr. Halloran, a lawyer, was arrested at about the same time, law enforcement authorities said.
The bipartisanship goes beyond the affiliation of the players in the alleged conspiracy. Smith wanted to run for Bloomberg’s office, but he wanted to run as a Republican. Why? Perhaps he thought he could triangulate among his existing supporters and lock up the GOP vote at the same time, or maybe the Democrats in New York have another candidate in mind. He had joined the “Independent Democratic Conference” in the state Senate, which aligned itself with the GOP, and had talked publicly about a run for NYC mayor at the time.
In order to do that, though, Smith needed to get authorization from Republican county leaders to run on the GOP line. That’s when the cash started to flow — although, once again, it seems a little odd that Republicans wouldn’t have welcomed a black candidate to run on their party line, or even paid him to do so. Instead, bribes of $40,000 were proferred and paid to get the documentation needed for the run, with another $40,000 promised afterward to two of the leaders. Halloran got $20,000 for his efforts to secure the documents and bribes. Also, Smith promised to direct state funds to a road project that would benefit the two men as well as a real-estate developer that turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
It’s not the first time that the feds have been interested in Smith’s activities, either:
Mr. Smith has been a subject of several criminal inquiries in recent years. One, which had apparently begun by early 2010 and was conducted by federal prosecutors from the same office that sought the indictment that led to Tuesday’s arrests, was focused on a nonprofit linked to Sen. Smith and United States Representative Gregory J. Meeks. In that case, the prosecutors subpoenaed records from Mr. Smith’s Senate office that detailed moneys he had directed to community groups for a decade. Mr. Meeks has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The subpoena, written broadly, sought information on all of Mr. Smith’s so-called member items — grants to organizations in his Queens district — and any appropriations tied to him since at least 2000, a person with knowledge of the subpoena said at the time.
Under those circumstances, just how stupid was it to engage in this conspiracy at all? And for what purpose? Granted, being mayor of New York City is a big deal, but at least on paper, it’s not terribly lucrative. If these allegations are true, it sounds as if Smith saw this a big deal for other purposes, a view reflected in his recorded response to the question of the value of the endorsement, with shades of Rod Blagojevich noted: “Look, talk to me before you close it. But it’s worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is.”
Maybe having multibillionaires who don’t need corruption to line their pockets are a better option for public service in the Big Apple. Who’s up for the Donald Trump campaign to replace Bloomberg? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?