Saturday, March 07, 2015

Barrett on the trail of Senate corruption, including Sampson and Kruger; Sharpton's incorrect appeal to racial pride re Heastie

From Wayne Barrett's THE DEAN OF THE SENATE: A commentary on the chronicles of corruption in the state Senate, originally published by City and State 2/12/15:
With all the focus on Shelly Silver and his Assembly apparatchiks, let’s not forget New York’s state Senate, where four of the last five majority leaders have been indicted and the fifth, Dean Skelos, is reportedly under investigation.
The first, Joe Bruno, got his conviction overturned because the U.S. Supreme Court significantly narrowed the “honest services” he owed his constituents, excluding the $3.2 million in conflict-of-interest consulting fees he collected from clients with public business before him. Pedro Espada was forced to resign as leader the same day he was indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands from a state-funded nonprofit, using $49,000, for example, to make a down payment on a Bentley. Malcolm Smith, who thought cash bribes were the quickest way to buy himself a ballot line for mayor, is now facing 45 years in prison. And John Sampson, who succeeded Smith, will soon go to trial for stealing $400,000 from foreclosure accounts and trying to get a list of the witnesses against him so he could, as he put it, “take them out.” He wasn’t looking for dates.
As one measure of how interlocked this two-house degeneration is, Frank Seddio, the former assemblyman who’s now the boss of the Brooklyn Democratic party and played a pivotal role in the elevation of new speaker Carl Heastie, took credit for Sampson’s 2014 re-election, running the indicted senator’s campaign out of his own Canarsie club.
Remember, as I reported when Sampson was charged, he has been an Atlantic Yards supporter and, as I reported 10/6/09, had a fundraiser hosted for him at Forest City offices. He's another project supporter tainted by criminal charges or convictions.

Public apathy

It's a dismaying tribute to political momentum and public apathy that an indicted elected official like Sampson could be re-elected. But it's not surprising. As Barrett writes:
Criminal charges have become so routine in Albany that the Senate Republicans just re-elected Tom Libous as deputy majority leader without so much as a word of public criticism. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has already indicted Libous and just convicted his son...
Of course numerous other senators have been nailed in recent years, including Carl Kruger, who chaired the Senate budget committee, where billions are bartered.
Kruger, of course, was another big Atlantic Yards supporter.

The Sharpton connection

Barrett writes:
It is comforting to note that local comedian Al Sharpton hosted new speaker Heastie at his National Action Network over the weekend and declared that any attempt to change the three-men-in-a-room nirvana in Albany would now be seen as racist. Along with a prayer blessing for Heastie, Sharpton issued a threat: “If you mess with Carl, you’re messing with us.”
“Don’t talk about breaking up the trio now. We just got into the trio,” Sharpton said, forgetting that Smith, Sampson and ex-governor David Paterson were recently part of the three, actually outnumbering white men at one point. It’s hard to believe Sharpton might’ve forgotten Paterson, Smith and Sampson, since all were involved with him in the Aqueduct scandal, with Sharpton collecting $100,000 in NAN contributions from bidders on the $3 billion, 30-year racino contract, the richest in state history.
(Emphasis added)

Sharpton specializes in such factually-incorrect appeals to racial pride and solidarity. At the March 2010 groundbreaking for the Barclays Center, he declared:
I'm glad I lived to see the color line in ownership broken in Brooklyn, where we've gone from Jackie to Jay-Z, where we can not only play the game but we can own a piece of the game. So my mother saw Jackie and my daughters will see Jay-Z--we have come a long way.
Not only was it odd that Sharpton would declare pride in someone having a tiny fraction of the team, he neglected to point out that in June 2006, the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, announced that Brooklyn-born Michael Jordan would become the second-largest investor--two black men running a basketball team.

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