The shocking allegations of bribery and conspiracy by state Sen. Malcolm Smith attempting to buy his way onto the New York City mayoral ballot deepen the distrust New Yorkers already have in their Legislature.
Federal prosecutors say Sen. Smith, onetime Democratic leader of the state Senate, plotted with three New York City political bosses to arrange for the backing of GOP leaders required to get his name on the Republican ballot. An undercover FBI agent, posing as a real estate developer, allegedly witnessed Sen. Smith offer tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Bronx GOP Chairman Joseph Savino and Queens GOP Chairman VIncent Tabone to facilitate Mr. Smiths mayoral ambitions.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Savino sought $25,000 while Mr. Tabone asked for $50,000 for his role. City Councilman Dan Halloran was allegedly paid $20,500 to set up meetings and channel funds to other co-conspirators. In exchange, the councilman, a onetime New York City police cadet, allegedly expected to be rewarded with deputy police commissioners job, if Sen. Smith won the mayoral race.
The wide-ranging scheme reached beyond the city to the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, where the mayor and deputy mayor were also charged with bribery in return for support of a sham development project proposed by the undercover agent. The two village officials allegedly conspired with Sen. Smith to have him provide $500,000 in state funds for a road serving the project. In return for his help, the developers were supposed to pay off the New York City GOP bosses.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the 28-page criminal complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed by six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching form Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.
The charges, he said, demonstrate, once again that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government.
Indeed, transcripts reveal a cynical disregard for the public the elected officials serve in putting greedy self-interests ahead of their constituents and all New Yorkers. Recorded comments cast aspersions on fellow lawmakers in portraying a business-as-usual attitude dominating state politics.
Its all about how much, Mr. Halloran said in one conversation. And thats our politicians in New York. Theyre all like that. ... You cant do anything without (expletive) money.
Sen. Jeffrey Klein, head of the Independent Democratic Conference, rightly stripped the senator of his leadership posts and perks.
Sen. Smith and his alleged co-conspirator are, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, but it will be difficult for him to function as an effective representative under another cloud of suspicion.
The sordid allegations taint New York state politics and are another smear on New Yorks ability to govern itself.