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N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

Old 04-03-13, 07:56 AM
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N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

By Edith Honan and Atossa Araxia Abrahamian NEW YORK | Tue Apr 2, 2013 7:25pm EDT

Reuters) - A high-ranking Democratic New York State senator was arrested on Tuesday and charged with trying to buy a place on the Republican ticket in the city's mayoral race, in what prosecutors said was part of a bribery scandal that reflected pervasive corruption in New York politics.

Five other politicians, three Republicans and two Democrats, were also arrested and charged with collectively accepting more than $100,000 in bribes in meetings that often took place in parked cars, hotel rooms and state offices, according to court papers.

Authorities described the scheme - potentially one of the biggest political scandals to hit New York in years - as an attempt to game the city's first wide-open mayoral election in more than a decade. New York will vote in November for a new mayor to replace Michael Bloomberg, whose third term wraps up at year's end.

The charges center on State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat from Queens, who was widely considered a long-shot candidate for City Hall. Prosecutors say he made payments to a city councilman to set up meetings with top New York Republicans to assist in getting him on the mayoral ballot.

Smith and the councilman, Daniel Halloran, a Republican from Queens, were among the six politicians arrested on Tuesday morning.

Later on Tuesday, all six appeared in federal court in White Plains, and were ordered to post $250,000 in bail. They face charges including bribery, extortion, and wire and mail fraud.

"From time to time the question arises, how common is corruption in New York?" Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told a news conference. "Based on the cases that we have brought and continue to bring, it seems downright pervasive."

If Chicago is often considered the capital of political corruption, and New York City itself was known for graft in the heyday of the Tammany Hall 19th century political machine, New York has suffered its share of scandals in recent years.

Recent cases in New York state include another high-ranking New York state senator, Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., who was convicted last year of stealing more than $600,000 from Soundview HealthCare, a partly federally funded company he worked at; and a pay-for-play scandal at the state's pension fund that saw the state comptroller resign and serve 21 months in prison from 2011.

In New York City, the former campaign treasurer and a fundraiser for city Comptroller John Liu, who is running for mayor as a Democrat, face fraud charges for violating contribution limits. Both have pleaded not guilty and Liu has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The other politicians arrested on Tuesday were: Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret.

Jasmin and Desmaret, Democrats, were charged with mail fraud in connection with the sale of village property.

Following the court appearance, Smith's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said there is "much more to this story," and said his client plans to plead not guilty.

Lawyers representing Halloran, Tabone and Desmaret denied the charges while lawyers for Jasmin and Savino did not comment.

"It seems to be that they are trying to make the business of politics as usual into a crime" said Tabone's lawyer, Vito Palmieri.

'WHAT GREASES THE WHEELS'

The election ticket scandal, uncovered by FBI agents working with an undercover investigator and a cooperating witness, allegedly involved a series of secret meetings in which bribes were discussed or money exchanged as Smith sought the requisite backing to run as a Republican.

The criminal complaint, released on Tuesday, showed the people alternating between brazen and cautious behavior as they solicited and received bribes.

At a September meeting at a Manhattan restaurant at which he received $7,500 in cash, City Councilman Halloran told a cooperating witness working with the FBI, "Money is what greases the wheels - good, bad or indifferent."

At other times they were more wary. During a February meeting with an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a real estate developer, Queens Republican official Tabone frisked the agent to check for a recording device. He was unsuccessful and the conversation was recorded anyway.

Prosecutors said that two of the politicians charged in the scheme - Tabone and Savino - received a total of $40,000 in bribes for promising to support Smith. Halloran, the Queens Councilman, was said to have gotten $20,500 for setting up a meeting with people Smith believed were supporters but were in fact the cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent.

MAYORAL RACE

As Bloomberg prepares to leave City Hall after 12 years and three terms in office, the race to replace him is shaping up to be one of the most contested campaigns in years.

On the Democratic side, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, and Liu have all announced candidacies. On the Republican side are former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota and businessman John Catsimatidis.

Smith's motivation was winning a spot on the ballot as a Republican mayoral contender appears to have been that the Republican primary is seen as considerably less competitive than the Democratic contest in liberal New York.

In 2001, billionaire Bloomberg - a lifelong Democrat - ran for mayor as a Republican, though he later abandoned his party affiliation altogether.

A handful of Democrats, including Smith, have sought Republican support for their candidacies. To be listed on the ballot of the other political party, a New York politician must win the approval of the party chairman in at least three of the five state counties within the city.

Halloran helped Smith, who has represented his eastern Queens district since 2000, in hopes of securing a position as a deputy police commissioner or deputy mayor in a potential Smith administration, U.S. Attorney Bharara said.

The chairman of the state Republican party, Ed Cox, called the arrests "deeply concerning."

"The integrity of the electoral process for the voters of New York City must be preserved," Cox said in a statement.
I hope they make an example of all these sons of bitches and throw the book at them.

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Old 04-03-13, 08:39 AM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

Originally Posted by inri222 View Post
I hope they make an example of all these sons of bitches and throw the book at them.
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Old 04-03-13, 08:44 AM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

WTF? Haven't these retards learned the age old practice in politics?

Always use a bag man as a cut out. DIY bribe acceptance is for tyros.
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Old 04-03-13, 08:54 AM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

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Old 04-03-13, 08:55 AM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

It's nice to see bipartisan support when it counts.
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Old 04-03-13, 11:52 AM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

Originally Posted by Rockmjd23 View Post
It's nice to see bipartisan support when it counts.
Yep, the common ground between the parties.
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Old 04-03-13, 10:07 PM
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Re: N.Y. politicians arrested in alleged mayoral race bribe scheme

Pervasive corruption in NY politics? Man, at least we still have Chicago.
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Old 04-05-13, 08:02 AM
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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/ny...?src=recg&_r=0

A G.O.P. Candidate Heard His Party’s Message: To Run, You Pay

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM Published: April 2, 2013

Last August, George T. McDonald sat down in an East Harlem restaurant with the five bosses of New York City’s Republican Party, hoping to persuade them to support his bid for mayor.

The message he received, Mr. McDonald said on Tuesday, left him stunned.

“There was no doubt they were looking for somebody who had a big pile of money,” Mr. McDonald, an advocate for the homeless, said in an interview. “They all needed money, and it was more about what they needed than it was about the best interest of the Republican Party.”

Two of the attendees at the dinner — Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx party chairman, and Vincent Tabone, the Queens party vice chairman — were arrested on Tuesday, accused of involvement in what the authorities say was an attempt by State Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens to bribe his way onto the Republican line in the mayoral race this year.

The charges against Mr. Smith, which involved cash payoffs and meetings in parked cars, were far less savory than the message Mr. McDonald said he heard that night in Harlem: The Republican county chairmen wanted to support a candidate who could make contributions, all within the law, to the party’s coffers.

But the charges nevertheless highlighted the increasingly transactional, and potentially troublesome, nature of how the city’s Republican Party doles out its support in mayoral campaigns.

The process, derided by civic groups, often involves candidates offering large but not illegal payments that go toward consulting fees and operations like phone banks.

That process can yield big dividends to those who play it right. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg earned Republican support in his three mayoral bids in part by contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party. Last month, John A. Catsimatidis, the supermarket and oil refinery magnate, contributed $23,100 to the Queens Republican Party after it endorsed his bid for mayor; the official purpose was for “office rent.”

Mr. Smith’s case, unlike the others, was said to involve criminality, but some city Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the episode still cast a painful light on the way their party operates.

“These county leaders are essentially looking to sell out to the highest bidder,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich, one of two Republicans who represent Queens on the City Council. (The other, Daniel J. Halloran III, was charged on Tuesday and accused of conspiring with Mr. Smith in the suspected bribery scheme.)

His voice tense, Mr. Ulrich said he considered his party’s nominating process “demeaning” and added that he was concerned the charges could further erode the Republican image in New York. “We need to send a message once and for all that the Republican Party is not for sale,” Mr. Ulrich said.

Once a formidable rival to its Democratic counterpart, New York City’s Republican party has atrophied, losing influence and membership as the city’s population drifted even further toward the political left.

But every four years, the party’s five chairmen attract powerful suitors with a much-coveted prize: the Republican line on the ballot. The race for mayor, against all demographic and political odds, has been won by a Republican-endorsed candidate five times in a row.

Mayoral campaigns present the Republican Party in New York with a moment of maximum leverage, and party officials know it.

“They have to grab at the chances to raise money when they can,” said Jerry Skurnik, a New York political consultant. “This is basically one of the few times that people really care about the New York City Republican Party.”

Some Republican leaders suggested on Tuesday that Mr. Bloomberg, with his generous donations, had created an expectation of a quadrennial windfall in the party’s New York City leadership.

“The man is generous to a fault, and in this case it is a fault,” said Guy V. Molinari, a former borough president of Staten Island and a mentor to many city Republicans. “People are used to calling for money, and they get the checks right away.”

Mr. Molinari recalled once asking Mr. Bloomberg for a $20,000 donation to his political club. Mr. Bloomberg, he said, gave him a check for $30,000 instead. “That’s how easy it was,” Mr. Molinari recalled.

Randy Mastro, a Democrat who was an influential deputy mayor in the administration of a Republican mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that as long as candidates’ donations went toward legitimate operations, the practice of contributing to a political party was “perfectly legitimate activity.”

“If you have honest people running party organizations, this question never comes up,” Mr. Mastro said. “Unfortunately, in the unseemly world of New York politics, there are some who are not so scrupulous and ethical.”

But several Republican mayoral candidates said on Tuesday that the party’s nominating process could be particularly vulnerable to the influence of money, although they said the problems were not limited to Republicans.

Tom F. Allon, a newspaper publisher who switched parties to run for a mayor as a Republican, only to abandon his bid last month, said money could take on an outsize role in the campaign.

“Unless you’re a billionaire or a multimillionaire who can self-fund, or you’ve been in government many years and you’ve dispensed numerous favors to people who can donate to your campaign, you’re starting with a huge disadvantage,” Mr. Allon said.

Mr. McDonald, who has struggled to gain traction in his bid for mayor, said that as a candidate, “you’re up against this kind of endemic, systemic corruption.”

Calls to the Republican chairmen in attendance at the Harlem dinner were not returned on Tuesday.

Mr. Molinari, of Staten Island, said he was “sickened” by the news of the arrests and believed the city’s Republican Party was at a crossroads. “The question is, who does the soul-searching?” For the party, he added, “it’s got to start with the guys at the top.”
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