New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat who represents a Queens district in New York City, was among a group of six people charged in a bribery scheme aimed at getting him the Republican nomination for mayor.
Smith, 56, sought to bribe party officials so that he could run for mayor of New York City this year, U.S. prosecutors said today in papers filed in federal court in White Plains, New York. Also charged were New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican from Queens, and Republican Party officials Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino.
“A show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, calling the charges “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.”
The defendants, charged with six counts including fraud and conspiracy in a complaint unsealed today, face decades in prison if convicted. They were scheduled to appear today in federal court in White Plains.
Smith is among a group of five breakaway Democrats who helped form a coalition last year with Republicans, marking the first time power in the chamber has been shared.
The Democrats created the Independent Democratic Conference to share power with the Republicans over the senate agenda and state budget, they said at the time.
Jeffrey D. Klein, a Bronx Democrat who heads the IDC and co-leads the Senate, said in an e-mailed statement today that he has decided to strip Smith of his committee assignments and conference leadership position as a result of the charges.
“Given the level of criminality alleged, I believe that Senator Smith should seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents,” Klein said in the statement.
Republicans were in the majority the past two years. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat, relied on them to help push through a pension overhaul, budgets that cut more than $12 billion in deficits and a property-tax cap. He also persuaded four Republican senators to break from their party to support the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011.
It’s not the first time Senate leadership has shifted with the changing alliances of some Democrats. After taking the majority in 2008, four Democrats -- Bronx Senators Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espada, Carl Kruger of Brooklyn and Hiram Monserrate of Queens -- refused to back Smith as the chamber’s leader and threatened to join Republicans.
The leadership battle lasted through the first half of 2009 and ended with Democrats still in control, and critics calling it an example of Albany’s dysfunction.
Cuomo called the corruption allegations against Smith “very serious.”
“We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust,” Cuomo said at a press briefing in Buffalo. “It is very troubling.”
According to prosecutors, Halloran, the city council member, told an unidentified cooperating witness on Sept. 7, 2012, that he was seeking money for his campaign to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much,” said Halloran, according to the government. “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.”
The Police Department today denied published reports that Halloran had served as a New York City police officer. In an e-mail advisory, the department said Halloran was a police cadet, “the equivalent of a college intern,” for three months in 1990 before he quit.
Halloran’s City Council Web page and a site set up to promote his House candidacy say that Halloran “served in the NYPD and in three District Attorney offices, helping keep our communities safe.”
The case is U.S. v. Smith, 13-00852, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains).