Law & Order
After a series of New York officials were arrested and charged with corruption last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has the solution–or at least the first step. Accordingly, at press conference earlier this afternoon, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a legislative package aimed at curbing the problem.
“Over the past few days, there have been several charges brought against public officials; they span city and state government,” he began. “And they paint a truly ugly picture of our political landscape. I’d like to say that this is an unprecedented situation, that public corruption is a new problem. But it isn’t and, in many ways, that’s what makes it worse.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo is not happy about the barrage of corruption charges hitting various New York lawmakers throughout the week, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Dan Halloran and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. Accordingly, Mr. Cuomo released a statement this afternoon detailing his disgust.
“The allegations of public corruption by City and State officials revealed this week are appalling,” the governor declared.
As expected, Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who wore a wire to help indict his colleague, Eric Stevenson, announced his resignation today. Stepping down from office, in addition to cooperating with federal authorities, were steps he took in order to avoid prosecution himself.
“Today I announce that I am resigning my seat in the New York State Assembly, effective Monday, April 8, 2013,” Mr. Castro said in the statement, which can be viewed in full below. “On July 31, 2009, I was indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury for committing perjury in a 2008 civil matter, held prior to my election to the Assembly. I appreciate the seriousness of my misconduct. Thereafter, I agreed to cooperate with …. various investigations aimed at rooting out public corruption.”
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Two days ago, when U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said New York State corruption cases were beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, he was rather prescient. This afternoon, Mr. Bharara unsealed charges against Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, making him the third New York City lawmaker to be charged with corruption this week. Additionally, another Bronx Assemblyman, Nelson Castro, was the cooperating witness in the latest case and will resign today.
“So here we go again,” Mr. Bharara began. “This has become something of a habit. For the second time in three days, we unsealed criminal charges against a sitting member of the State Legislature. And based on what is alleged in this complaint, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the sad conclusion that political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that the ‘show me the money’ culture in Albany is alive and well.”
Malcolm in the Middle
“Today is another sad and disappointing day for every New Yorker,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced at his press conference this morning where he unsealed corruption charges against six officials–including State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran–accusing them of accepting bribes to boost Mr. Smith’s mayoral campaign.
“The charges we unsealed today demonstrate once again the ‘show me the money culture’ seems to pervade every level of New York government,” he continued. “The criminal complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany.”
Malcolm in the Middle
That was fast.
Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeffrey Klein effectively booted Senator Malcolm Smith from his breakaway Democratic caucus this afternoon, stripping him of his leadership position and all committee assignments in the wake of charges that he took part in an alleged bribery scheme.
also: sun rises in east
Quinnipiac University Polling Institute recently surveyed New Yorkers on a host of issues, from their feelings about Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the controversial topic of hydro-fracking, but, according to a poll released this morning, New Yorkers are especially passionate about corruption in their own dear state.
Indeed, 77 percent of New Yorkers described the problem of corruption as “very serious” or “somewhat serious,” while only 2 percent said corruption is “not a problem at all.” However, given the level of corruption in New York in recent years, it might be possible that 2 percent of the state’s total population currently consists of public officials being investigated for criminal misconduct.
What You Should Know
State Senator Ruben Diaz sent out one of his periodic “What You Should Know” missives today in which described the arrest of a campaign aide who worked for one of his charities as part of the government’s failed vendetta against him. Clement Gardner was arrested last month and charged with stealing $75,000 from the Christian Community Benevolent Association, which was founded by Mr. Diaz. Mr. Gardner allegedly took the money between 2004 and 2007, when he confessed his crimes to the FBI. In his message today, Mr. Diaz speculated the FBI didn’t immediately arrest Mr. Gardner because they wanted help in “their quest to get Senator Ruben Diaz.”
“Anybody would think that the right thing for the FBI to have done would be to inform the organization,” Mr. Diaz said. “You should also know my dear reader, that contrary to what reasonable people would do, the FBI authorized Mr. Gardner, through Agent Campbell, to go back to the agency where he stole more money. Was Mr. Gardner told: ‘We don’t care what you do we just want Senator Diaz. Go back keep doing what you’re doing and give us Senator Diaz?’”
Night of the Living Deals
Governor Andrew Cuomo defended himself against criticism of last week’s night of dealmaking in an appearance on Fred Dicker’s radio show, “Live From The State Capitol” this morning. While critics say the all night Albany negotiations didn’t allow for public input and went against the governor’s promises of transparency and his pledge to veto redistricting lines not drawn through an independent process, the dealmaking also led to the passage of some of his pet projects; pension reform, the expansion of the DNA databank, lifting the ban on casino gambling and teacher evaluations. Overall, Mr. Cuomo described the marathon legislative session as a success and dismissed critiques of the suite of deals that have been described as the “big ugly.”
“Last week, the government worked it performed it passed bills,” Governor Cuomo said.
What You Should Know
State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. sent out an epic press release today in which he again denied any involvement in the scandal surrounding his charity, accused Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of having a vendetta against him and urged local media to “go back to journalism school.”
“I am not a saint, and neither do I claim to walk on water. I have my own demons, but I assure you that they are not about a corrupt mind abusing the trust and confidence that my constituents have placed in me,” Mr. Diaz said.”
Mr. Diaz’s lengthy letter blasting the attorney general’s office and the press for looking at his charity’s finances was entitled, “God Hates Ugly and He is Watching.”