One of the stranger tales of political corruption to be seen in a while just took yet another turn toward the bizarre. In New York City, a man by the name of Harendra Singh pleaded guilty to trying to bribe the Mayor of the Big Apple, Bill de Blasio, during his 2013 election bid. That information had remained sealed until just this month. The bribery in question allegedly took the form of Singh bundling and otherwise raising more than $25K for de Blasio’s campaign coffers. In exchange, he was looking for a better lease arrangement for his restaurant in Queens.
It should be noted at this juncture that those funds were actually raised and donated to de Blasio’s campaign. It’s also worth mentioning that Singh wound up with a favorable lease for his eatery. Not that I’m insinuating that those two facts are causally related, mind you.
Somehow Singh took the fall while no charges were brought against Hizzoner. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, does de Blasio have some sort of explanation for how all this might have happened? Of course he does! As the NY Post revealed this week, the Mayor is confident that Mr. Singh lied about trying to bribe him. Why would he confess to something he didn’t do? Well… that part gets a bit more complicated.
“This guy to save his own skin struck a plea deal with the federal prosecutors. That’s what this is. He agreed to certain charges for his own self-preservation,” the mayor said on WNYC radio. “But I’ve been 100 percent consistent. What he said happened did not happen, period.”
When host Brian Lehrer noted that the mayor appeared to be implying that the criminal justice system allows people to plead guilty to something they didn’t do, de Blasio emphasized that his administration was not charged with anything by federal or state prosecutors.
In some ways it sounds as if de Blasio is saying that people plead guilty to bribery all the time when they didn’t actually do it. And maybe he’s got a point because – and make sure you’re sitting down for this part – this isn’t the first guy to plead guilty to bribing him. A man named Jona Rechnitz already made the same plea deal.
Since I’m not a lawyer (nor do I even play one on television), my poor brain becomes easily confused when facing such situations. So there were donors who were charged and pleaded guilty because they shoveled money into the Mayor’s campaign while wanting something in return. But the Mayor wasn’t guilty? I suppose that’s why they called it “attempted bribery” in the article, but this must be some advanced legal terminology. Bribery is the act of improperly giving a public official money to get something in return. But, assuming that all of the contributions were properly recorded and didn’t exceed campaign finance law limits, if you turn over all that money and get nothing in return, wouldn’t those just be donations as opposed to “bribes” under the law?
If these two men didn’t get anything for all that cash, why in the world would they plead guilty? They could simply claim to be enthusiastic supporters. There’s something really strange going on down in the Big Apple right now. And you should keep an eye on it just in case the national Democratic Party actually starts taking de Blasio seriously about his presidential aspirations.