The Big Apple’s Big Political Scandal

I haven’t followed New York City politics very closely in a long time (certainly not like I did in 1965 when my father kinda lost it upon discovering I was staying up far past bedtime to follow that year’s Gotham mayoral contest–“Why do you care?”).

But gotta say, the latest Big Apple political scandal sounds appropriate large and sordid: a Democratic state senator, the very same one who recently helped sell out his party to give Republicans partial control of the state legislature, was allegedly trying to bribe Republicans to let him run for mayor on their ticket. Here’s the New York Times‘ William Rashbaum on the FBI sting that snared both Sen. Malcolm Smith and a whole bunch o’ local Republican party bosses:

Mr. Smith, according to the complaint, agreed with a cooperating witness and an undercover F.B.I. agent, who was masquerading as a wealthy real estate developer, to pay off leaders of Republican county committees in New York’s five boroughs. The bribes were to be paid to obtain specific certificates authorizing him to run for mayor as a Republican even though he was a registered Democrat….

The complaint details a brazen scheme hatched in a series of clandestine meetings in hotels, parked cars, restaurants and Mr. Smith’s office in Albany. The meetings, recorded by the undercover agent or the cooperating witness, were primarily among Mr. Smith, the undercover agent and the witness, and Mr. Halloran [a Republican city councilman arrested along with Smith] and the two government operatives.

Most of those involved, according to the complaint, were looking for something – cash bribes were sought by the party officials, and Mr. Halloran and Mr. Smith were seeking authorization to get Mr. Smith on the ballot in the mayor’s race.

Ah, it’s always nice when supply and demand curves meet and a price can quickly be established for a good or a service. But you don’t want the FBI acting as your broker.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.