Political corruption, New York style – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the August 13-August 19 issue of the Long Island Business News:

As New York sinks further into the fiscal abyss, shameless members of our political class are out of control in their quests to sidestep the law, line their pockets or enrich their families and cronies.

On the federal level, let’s start with the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. The 20-term representative has been charged with failing to disclose $1.7 million of personal assets; failing to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income; receiving improper benefits from the use of four rent-stabilized apartments and using office stationary to solicit funds for a charity named after him.

Then there’s U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman who, after making a $100,000 profit on Xenonics Inc., held a meeting in his congressional office with Xenonics employees and representatives of the Israeli government. His actions appear to violate House ethic rules.

He’s followed by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, who is being investigated by the Feds over a charity scandal, confessed to failing to report $55,000 in personal loans. (In 1985, Idaho Congressman George Hansen served time for not disclosing loans made to him.)

As for this year’s Albany scandals, here’s a sampling:

  • Gov. David Paterson is being investigated to determine if he lied about receiving Yankee tickets worth $2,000, and if there was a quid pro quo for awarding the Aqueduct racino contract to a politically connected consortium.
  • Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. was accused in a civil suit filed by AG Andrew Cuomo of diverting over $14 million from nonprofit clinics he founded. The U.S. attorney is heading a criminal investigation.
  • The Senate’s Temporary President Malcolm Smith is being investigated by the U.S. attorney concerning $111,000 in members’ items that were being steered to New Directions Development Corp. of Queens.
  • Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson did legal work for a shady Queens real estate broker being investigated for fraud and predatory lending.
  • State Sen. Hiram Monserrate was expelled by his colleagues after being convicted of assaulting a lady friend.
  • Former state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr. was sentenced to seven years for stealing hundreds of thousands from nonprofit groups.

Reacting to these scandals, Cuomo put it this way: “The amount of political dysfunction in Albany is matched only by the lack of integrity.”

Local governments are not exempt from corruption charges: New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook was hit with a 13-count federal indictment involving $1.2 million of city money granted to nonprofits controlled by his brother and two sisters.

And in Nassau, two former county legislators, Roger Corbin and Patrick Williams, and two North Hempstead officials, Neville Mullings and David Wasserman, were indicted by the D.A. on charges of theft, conspiracy and fraud in connection with the New Cassel Redevelopment Project.

Political parties are also in the muck: The Working Families Party, a creation of ACORN and public employee unions, is being investigated by the U.S. attorney over campaign finance activities.

Manhattan’s D.A. indicted Republican John Haggerty in June for allegedly gleaning $750,000 from the Independence Party. Party Chairman Frank McKay is under investigation by two district attorneys for roles he played in 2009 New York City races. Political wags are also wondering if it was a coincidence that both 2006 Republican AG candidate Jeanine Pirro and 2010 GOP Comptroller candidate Harry Wilson hired the Roosevelt Group, a mysterious political consulting firm with ties to the party, after receiving their respective Independence Party nominations.

Corruption in New York has reached epidemic proportions because too many pols are vain, arrogant people who believe that their lofty positions place them above the rules. Holding office is not about principles or the pursuit of the common good, but about the spoils of office: lifestyle, patronage, contracts, favors, deals and money.

Our state is in fiscal crisis and while many wonder whether the state’s best days may be behind it, this “damn the taxpayer” behavior is turning the once-mighty Empire State into a municipal desert.

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One Comment on “Political corruption, New York style – By George J. Marlin”

  1. pasnytech Says:

    What about corruption at NYPA? Is anyone going to start investigating what is going on there?

    Jobs for friends.

    All jobs must be signed off by our feckless leader, just in case he misses a chance to give a job to a LIPA or Albany lackey.

    Cars – all our wonderful new hires use the car pool as their own personal Hertz. No wonder there are never cars available for REAL NYPA employees to do REAL work.

    Expenses – feckless leader and his feckless followers – known unaffectionately as “The FOK’ers” (Friends Of Kessel) – there is a new rule about expenses which should be investigated by the AG. The most senior person no longer pays the bill. I wonder why that is?

    I could go on, but it’s pointless. Mr Marlin – could you please FOIL the car pool records? And expenses claims?

    -disgusted soon to be ex-NYPA guy.

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