After Seabrook Conviction, Role Of Political Clubs Examined
A day after former city councilman Larry Seabrook was convicted on nine of the 12 criminal charges against him, there are new questions about the charges he was acquitted of, which center around his role with a Bronx political club. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
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An expensive bagel here, a video game system there.
They are so-called legitimate expenses for former Councilman Larry Seabrook's Democratic club.
The councilman may have been convicted of fraud on Thursday for sending tax dollars to nonprofit groups he controlled but he was let off on three other charges, all associated with expenses at his political club in the Bronx.
In fact, according to the State Board of Elections, a political club can really spend money on anything it wants, from Seabrook's American Express bill to books from Borders, including one on improving your sex life.
"It's unacceptable but unfortunately legal," said Dick Dadey with the Citizens Union. "Larry Seabrook's trial kinda pulled back the veil and showed this kind of shadow world of political campaign activity without the kind of enforcement that needs to take place."
Every political club is required to file with the State Board of Elections, including Larry Seabrook's. But the truth is, according to one board official, many of them don't actually file with the State Board of Elections. And of those that do, there is absolutely no oversight of how they spend their money.
Seabrook's club never filed with the state board. Some other clubs haven't submitted paperwork in years.
However, groups like the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club said these are just a few bad apples. They say the clubs aren't politicians' personal piggy banks.
"None of our elected officials would dare submit that kind of thing," said Steven Skyles-Mulligan with the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. "Not only would they not dare, they wouldn't even think of it."
So, if they aren't paying for lunch, what are these clubs doing anyway?
"It wasn't meant to buy $177 bagels or Xboxs, without question," said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "What it was meant to do, what clubs were meant to do and what parties were meant to do is turn out the vote. The problem is they don't do much of that anymore."
It's likely that the Northeast Bronx Community Democratic Club won't do it ever again.