New York City and State's latest corruption merry go round is depressing for me personally, since I know some of those accused, and have interviewed several more than once. Even more mind numbing is the fact that in the past seven years 29 elected officials have been accused, tried, and convicted of crimes in the city and state. The latest pair of scandals is absolutely mind boggling in it's scope, bi-partisan avarice, and stupidity.
First, the Malcolm Smith situation, and keep in mind everyone accused here is innocent until proven guilty. This appears to be a convoluted scheme to get a Democratic state senator the Republican nomination for mayor. This might seem completely nuts, but in New York, it's not. At least not the end game. The allegation is that in order to secure the nomination, Smith was willing to bribe those in whose hands his chances lay.
His alleged partner in crime is one of the weirdest members of the New York City Council, Dan Halloran. He's been accused of everything from practicing a pagan religion to trying to muscle a local car repair shop because they made too much noise to falsely accusing sanitationmen of laying down on the job during the blizzard of 2010. The allegation this time is that in addition to cash payoffs, Halloran wanted to be deputy police commissioner if Smith won the mayoralty.
The whole thing is beyond delusional. Smith had no chance, and it seems everyone in New York knew it but him. If convicted, the epilogue to Senator Smith's once promising career could be up to 45 years in prison. In all, this daft conspiracy gives new meaning to the term, "what was he thinking"?
Hot on the heels of the Smith scandal (and I didn't mention the two Rockland County Democrats charged in a related case, or the GOP county bosses also accused) comes word that a sitting state assemblyman, Eric Stevenson, is facing bribery charges after allegedly taking $20,000. He's charged with four co-defendants, and the person that ratted him out was none other than a fellow assemblyman, Nelson Castro. He was facing felony charges, which were dropped in return for his co-operation and giving up his seat.
You would think with all this going on, politicians in New York would go out of their way to burnish their ethical credentials. They won't. The city and state has seen scandal after scandal erupt, and pol after poll led away in leg irons. The corruption seems impervious to laws ethical committees, and just plain common sense. For some, the worry is whether any of those indicted this week have the goods on them, and whether they'll hear the banging of law enforcement at their door.
No matter. In New York, business will go on as usual.