Major bust of Republicans over NYC’s Mayor’s race (racial politics and political corruption)
Lawmakers Charged in Plot to Buy Spot on Mayoral Ballot
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, a contractor and real estate developer who rose to become the first black president of the State Senate, and City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III were arrested early Tuesday on charges of trying to illicitly get Mr. Smith on the ballot for this year’s mayoral race in New York City, according to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Smith, a Queens Democrat, and Mr. Halloran, a Queens Republican, were among a half-dozen people arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the corruption case. Others included Republican County leaders in Queens and the Bronx, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, Noramie F. Jasmin, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint.
Mr. Smith, 56, was taken from his home in handcuffs by F.B.I. agents before sunrise and Mr. Halloran, a lawyer, was arrested about the same time, law enforcement authorities said.
Mr. Smith has said he was considering running for mayor as a Republican, and the charges contend that he made payments to Mr. Halloran in exchange for the councilman’s assistance in setting up meetings with Republican leaders as part of an effort to get on the ballot, the complaint said.
The criminal complaint was filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and was unsealed Tuesday morning. Mr. Smith, Mr. Halloran and the others were to appear later Tuesday before a United States magistrate judge in United States District Court in White Plains.
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 undercover agent and the cooperating witness served as intermediaries between the senator and Mr. Halloran, the complaint said.
“Public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment,’’ George Venizelos, assistant director of the F.B.I., said in a statement. “At the very least, public officials should obey the law. As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”
Late last year, Mr. Smith, who was elected Senate president in 2008 and ousted in 2010, joined a group of insurgent Democrats – the Independent Democratic Conference — and said around the same time that he was considering running for mayor as a Republican.
He was seen as a key recruit for the conference, a five-member faction that formed a leadership coalition with Republicans in the Senate. Before Mr. Smith joined the caucus, there was criticism that a faction of white Democrats was joining with the all-white Republican conference; the presence of Mr. Smith, an African-American and a last-minute recruit to the Independent Democratic Conference, helped blunt those concerns.
The move came with some incentives: beyond his increased influence, The New York Post reported that his staff budget increased by about two-thirds since he joined the conference.