Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Malcolm in the Middle – of a Big Object Lesson

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It's a cool July morning but Malcolm Smith is probably sweating.

Once briefly the Democratic head of the State Senate, Smith might be best remembered for not seeing the infamous "Gang of Four" coup coming in 2009 that somehow gave rogue lawmaker Pedro Espada the literal keys to the Senate and allowed chaos to reign in Albany for about a month.

Smith was relegated to the Senate's sidelines in the aftermath of the power struggle that was one part Shakespeare to three parts Keystone Kops -- but that didn't quiet his ambitions.

Through an odd and complicated scheme, Smith and several other marginal lawmakers and political fixers have been accused of unsuccessfully trying to bribe their way into getting Smith's name on the ballot in last year's mayor's race – as a Republican.

It's not clear if Smith was so delusional to think that he could actually become mayor – or if he just hoped he could live high on the campaign hog for a few months while getting some attention from a political world that has largely passed him by. (Never mind the fact that he's spent his whole life as a Democrat.)

One of Smith's co-conspirators in the case – former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran – had the book thrown at him yesterday by a federal jury.

Gone for less than two hours, the jury convicted Halloran on all counts – including charges that he took bribes to promise to allocate about $80,000 to a nonprofit group.

Smith, who has yet to go on trial, is busy putting out press releases – about his re-election campaign – including a "Cycle with the Senator" event in Queens this Saturday which follows a "30-minute power-up prayer service." My guess is Smith will be praying harder than he bikes.

All of this should serve as a reminder that there's a lot of crazy public corruption out there with politicians who are swallowing money like Hungry Hippos. With all this greed and weirdness swirling about, it was probably an unwise move by Governor Cuomo to have prematurely disbanded his anti-corruption Moreland Corruption.

On Monday, amid many questions of his putting his finger on the commission's scale, Cuomo defended shutting it down, telling reporters: "I don’t believe the state needs another expensive prosecutor’s office. That’s always the answer: Create a new bureaucracy. That was not the answer here."

Increasingly, it seems that the answer lies with the only person genuinely interested in pursuing political corruption: Preet Bharara. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney is literally following the work of the shuttered Moreland Commission by subpoenaing its files.

If we wonder why voter turnout is low while public cynicism is high, we only need to look at a federal courtroom in White Plains where the charges would be so funny if they weren't so sad. It could still be a sweaty summer.

A programming note: The ItCH will be taking a break and recharging its batteries until next Tuesday. Excelsior!

Bob Hardt

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