32 IN 7: That’s how many NY officials were charged with corruption in last 7 years

May 8, 2013 Associated Press
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ALBANY — With the arrest Monday of another former state Senate majority leader, Albany has seen 32 state level officials snared in corruption cases in the past seven years.

The fourth arrest in the past four weeks came as the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned to clean up Albany, had repeatedly insisted that state politics has shed its dysfunctional past.

“They can’t continue to go forward saying Albany is working great and it’s no longer dysfunctional,” said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “This is clearly not true.”

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New Yorkers seemed to doubt it, too.

Two weeks ago, more than 80 percent of New Yorkers in a Siena College poll predicted another indictment. On Monday, a federal prosecutor accused Democrat Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn of funneling funds into his failed campaign for Brooklyn district attorney.

The latest spate of arrests has sent fear throughout the Legislature because two lawmakers working as informants for federal prosecutors secretly recorded years of conversations in Albany and New York City.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Maurice “Mickey” Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University poll and a journalist who covered New York politics starting in 1960. “It’s one thing after another and it amazes me.

“The idea of not one but two legislators would wear a wire, it’s disgraceful,” Carroll said. “I’m not usually one short of comment, but, honest to God, this takes your breath away.”

The arrests “made a bad situation worse,” said Cuomo, who pushed through what he’d called a historic ethics reform in 2011. He said in a radio interview that the charges should energize New Yorkers to back his latest reforms, which include public financing of campaigns and what he would consider an independent enforcement headed by his appointee, with Senate confirmation.

“The governor loses an important part of his narrative in that he has made Albany work better and helped to make Albany a better place,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll.

“Do I think people will potentially look at statements he’s made and say, ‘You were wrong on that one?’ Yes, I think that’s possible,” Greenberg said. “But I don’t think anyone can hold any governor responsible for the illegal acts of legislators. … That’s where the blame lies.”

Other officials in corruption cases include:

—In April, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, a Bronx Democrat, is accused of bribery. Assemblyman Nelson Castro, another Bronx Democrat, was indicted on a charge of perjury in connection with a campaign crime and has worn a wire as an informant in Albany since 2009.

—Also last month, Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat and the former Senate majority leader before Sampson, is charged with conspiracy and extortion. He is accused of scheming to buy the Republican line to run for New York City mayor. He had been part of the Independent Democratic Conference that shares control of the chamber with Republicans.

—In 2012, Republican Sen. Nicholas Spano of Westchester was convicted of tax evasion.

—In 2010, Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who had been chosen by Democrats and later Republicans to a top leadership post, was indicted for on corruption and pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

—In 2010, Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell of Putnam County was convicted of corruption.

—In 2008, Republican Sen. Joseph Bruno of Rensselaer County, who was a long-serving Senate majority leader, was convicted of corruption, but that was vacated and he faces a new trial.

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