“That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all all about how much. Not about whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else. You can’t do anything without the f*ing money…Money is what what greases the wheels — good, bad, or indifferent.”
FBI transcript quoting Dan Halloran, indicted NYC Republican City Councilmember.
A state senator, NYC council member, suburban small-town mayor and Deputy Mayor, and Queens and Bronx GOP leaders were arrested today by the FBI in a political bribery scandal that covers the spectrum of political corruption in New York. At the center of the scandal is a powerful state senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, who bribed Republican GOP county leaders to grant him a waiver to run as Republican in GOP mayoral primaries. (Why Smith, who is a prominent Queens Democrat, and African-American thought he had a chance in an overwhelmingly white GOP primary is a mystery.) Also prominent in the scandal is GOP City Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was contemplating a run for congress. The scandal is a hit parade of corruption issues involving money, politics and bribes in exchange for public spending.
Corruption Hit Parade Revisited
1. Member Items. In exchange for bribes, Smith promised to get $500k in Senate transportation earmarks for a road project and Holloran promised hundreds of thousands in NYC City Council member items. Member items are responsible for a hugely disproportionate amount of corruption.
2. Small town real estate corruption — Spring Valley in Rockland County is in the hot seat, but is the abuse of zoning and eminent domain ubiquitous?
3. Campaign Cash Crisis — Halloran faced huge pressure to raise cash for his congressional run.
4. Public road building for real estate profit — For decades, politically connected real estate developers have made huge profits by getting tax-payer funded roads and off-ramps built to their land. In this case, Malcolm Smith promised to find state transportation funds for a fake real developer for a project in Spring Valley.
Can improvements in transparency help reduce corruption and scandals like Smith/Halloran? Yes, and we’ll be exploring specifics in future blog posts.