New Obama pay-for-play scandal: Adolfo Carrion

The media hailed Obama transition at one time as the best in modern history, but that assessment takes yet another hit as yet another Obama appointee carries pay-for-play scandal baggage to his new office.  Adolfo Carrion, named as Obama’s “urban czar”, took thousands of dollars in donations from developers as Bronx borough president just before and after the developers scored big with approved projects:

The man who is President Obama’s newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers’ money, a Daily News probe found.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show.

Most donations were organized and well-timed.

In one case, a developer became a Carrion fund-raiser two months before the borough president signed off on his project, raising more than $6,000 in campaign cash.

In another, eight Boricua College officials came up with $8,000 on the same day for Carrion three weeks before the school filed plans to build a new tower. Carrion ultimately approved the project and sponsored millions in taxpayer funds for it.

Some will say that this is just a coincidence.  If so, then Carrion has to be one of the luckiest fellows in New York.  The Daily News details a few of the highlights in Carrion’s ledger and in Bronx development over the last few years:

  • Jonathan Coren started fundraising for Carrion three weeks before getting permission to build 166 units of affordable housing.  Cohen had never raised funds for any politician before then, but managed to raise over $2500 for Carrion before getting the project.  He raised over $3000 in a few weeks afterwards.
  • Boricua Village first hit the books in March 2006.  Three weeks later, its backers raised $8750 for Carrion — all on the same day, from eight separate donors.  Over the next year, Carrion would get almost $70,000 from Boricua College and Atlantic Development sources, and it paid off as Carrion approved the project.
  • BTM Development Partners needed a critical zoning change for a project that elicited a large number of complaints about potential traffic and other problems in the community.  Its executives began writing $1000 checks to Carrion.  Three months later, they announced plans for hotel-retail complex, and four months after that, Carrion and the Bronx approved the zoning changes necessary.

After Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton, one might think that the Obama vetting team would have learned something.  Apparently not, although in this case, they may not have to worry much.  An “urban czar” doesn’t require Senate confirmation, which would have derailed Richardson and should have derailed Hillary.

Even apart from this, though, why does Obama need an “urban czar” at all?  Wouldn’t any of the tasks assigned to Carrion normally fall under the aegis of Housing and Urban Development?  Shaun Donovan must wonder why he’s attending Cabinet meetings.  Does a Secretary outrank a Czar?  If so, why have the czar at all?

One thing is certain.  Obama ran on a pledge to change the way Washington works.  Who knew he meant that he would increase the power of cronyism, payoffs, and patronage?*

* – We did.  We warned people constantly about Chicago Machine politics.  Too bad people didn’t listen.