By Raanan Geberer and Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The bribery arrests of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and Councilman Daniel Halloran (R-Queens) shocked many observers of the New York political scene, and many from both sides of the aisle blasted the incident as being symbolic of a culture of corruption.
The arrests, announced by Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York on the morning of April 2, took place in connection with a web of bribery and corruption schemes allegedly centering on Smith’s desire to run for mayor.
Bharara announced that Smith allegedly used Halloran as a go-between to set up meetings with Republican Party officials around the city in order to bribe them into allowing Smith, a Democrat, to run for mayor in the 2013 election as a Republican.
Halloran also faces additional charges of diverting some $80,000 in so-called member items, monies each council member receives for pet projects, to a political consultant.
Bharara said $80,000 in cash was promised or paid to Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, 45, and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, 46, who were both arrested Tuesday. The Brooklyn Republican Party leadership was not accused.
”The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that these are just ‘a couple of bad apples.’ Their pay-to-play mentality is a systemic problem, and it's directly harming regular New Yorkers,” said former Bay Ridge Councilman and current mayoral hopeful Sal Albanese.
"If true, the charges against Councilman Halloran and Senator Smith are further evidence that New York City government is riddled with corruption at every level,” Albanese said.
Smith was a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democrats in Albany who basically formed a partnership with the state Republican Party at the expense of their own party. State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), a co-leader of the group, said, "These are very serious allegations that, if true, constitute a clear betrayal of the public trust. As a result of these charges, I have made the decision to strip Senator Smith of his committee assignments and of his conference leadership position.”
Bob Capano, who served as district director for former Republican Queens-Brooklyn Congressman Bob Turner, said, "The right to run for mayor on my party's line is not for sale. Unfortunately, we see all too often career politicians putting personal advancement ahead of public service, and this needs to end.’ Capano, a Republican, served on the staffs of both Republican and Democratic office-holders.
Capano, a Bay Ridge resident, is supporting John Castimatidis for mayor. Rob Ryan, a spokesman for Castimatidis, said, “I think [Castimatidis] is totally shocked that people would act in such a fashion.” Early in the campaign, Ryan added, Castimatidis and his supporters were advised by law-enforcement officials of an investigation in progress, and they cooperated totally.
Assemblyman Jim Brennan (Park Slope-Kensington) said that while people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, “if the allegations are true, the cynicism is stunning.”
And Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Heights-Downtown) said that although the allegations haven’t been proven, if true, “it would be certainly shocking that two elected officials would go to such lengths.”