Lawmakers arrested for attempting to rig NYC mayoral election
The FBI arrested Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens Tuesday morning for, as investigators claim, putting together a plot to bribe himself into position of New York City mayor. Even though Smith is registered as a Democrat, he tried to convince Republican lawmakers into buying him a spot on the GOP ballot. The FBI also arrested City Councilman Dan Halloran, who was charged for acting as a liaison in arranging the payoffs.
The agency is also rounding up four other politicians involved in the scheme, two of which have already been charged.
US Attorney Preet Bharara told AP that the scheme is “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 itself.”
By asking an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a wealthy real estate mogul, to pay off two of the Republican leaders, Smith got himself busted in the large-scale corruption scheme. Smith told the undercover agent that in exchange for the payments, he would use his power as senator to obtain state funds for a road project in Spring Valley, NY. The undercover agent recorded hours of conversations between November and last week and is acting as a witness against Smith and Halloran.
In order to be placed on the mayoral ballot without changing his party affiliation, Smith needed the support of at least three Republican-led boroughs. Halloran was promised $20,500 for helping Smith arrange the payouts, while Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino and Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone each received $40,000, with the promise of $40,000 more, the 28-page legal complaint states.
Throughout multiple dinner conversations with the undercover agent, Smith and Halloran spoke openly about bribing council leaders and using council money inappropriately.
“That’s politics. It’s all about how much,” Halloran said, according to the complaint. “That’s our politicians in New York. They’re all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drives that the money does for everything else. You can’t do anything without the f------ money.”
After Halloran was paid $7,500 in cash during one of the meetings with the FBI agent, he allegedly responded by saying, “money is what greases the wheels”.
But despite months of recorded conversations that will serve as proof in the case against the men, Smith denies he did anything illegal.
Gerald L. Shargel, the attorney representing Smith, told the New York Times that his client is innocent.
“Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these chases,” Shargel told the paper, while also admitting that he still hasn’t had an opportunity to study the charges.
The race to replace current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is still in its beginning stages, but Tuesday morning’s FBI showdown is likely to shed a new light on some of the schemes that can always occur backstage as lawmakers fight for a shot at Gracie Mansion.