It was three Democrats and three Republicans.
The one-time leader of Democrats in the state Senate, a Republican city councilman, a Democrat mayor, a Democrat village board member, a Republican Party county chairman and, from the adjoining county, a GOP vice chairman.
All hogs at the same trough.
The trough that is New York state politics, where – according to a United States attorney – it’s pay-to-play at every level.
Where corruption is not the exception, it’s the rule.
That’s what it looked like yesterday as FBI agents showed up for an early morning introduction to Mr. Handcuffs.
The big catch was Sen. Malcolm Smith, a perennial target of federal investigators. The first black man to lead the Senate, he was a complete incompetent whose lack of ability led the legislature into a year of chaos.
When his party won legitimate control of the Senate last fall, he joined a small group of self-serving Democrats who broke away and worked out – at tremendous personal benefit – a power-sharing deal with the Republicans. His personal staff budget was increased some two-thirds, as a reward for selling out his party.
Then he set his sights on Gracie Mansion.
He wanted to be mayor of New York.
But knowing he had no shot at the Democratic nomination, he decided to wrangle for the Republican nomination.
In this usage, “wrangle” means “pay ridiculous bribes for.”
That’s where the Republican Party officials come in. They seemed quite happy to back Malcolm Smith, as long as he could put tens of thousands of dollars in their pockets.
In a convoluted corner of the scheme, it reportedly involved some deal to build a road upstate a bit. That’s what caught up the mayor and board member – apparently they were for sale.
Apparently everything is for sale.
Two elected officials and two Republican Party bosses were apparently completely happy to sell themselves and their offices.
It wasn’t about Left versus Right, or liberal against conservative. It wasn’t politics or principle or platforms. It was about money, pure and simple. It was about politicians using the entrusted power of the people to enrich and aggrandize themselves.
And that happens, the federal prosecutor said, at every level of New York government.
Which sadly confirms the gloomy suspicions of New Yorkers of every political stripe. It’s not my guy against your guy, or vice versa, it’s them against us, and us against them.
And they hold all the cards.
So it’s time to come clean.
It’s time for elected and party officials across the state to make a statement and take a stand.
It is guilt by association, and they all need to declare their innocence.
If that senator will do it, will your senator do it? If one county chairman was for sale, then what should we think of other county chairmen? People need to pledge their integrity and honesty.
And they need to do better.
There is immoral and electoral corruption in New York politics that stems from unchallenged power. The government operates in secret, often in the dark of the night, passing down laws and expenditures that have been neither disclosed nor discussed. There is no public input, no gauging of public support. The public means nothing. Politicians from both parties will lie to people from both parties, even to their faithful supporters.
But yesterday’s charges weren’t about that.
They were about criminal corruption.
The third-world political thuggishness that anyone with a conscience finds loathsome.
That’s what allegedly went on.
And it caught up both parties.
And New Yorkers got one more reason to move to North Carolina.
It’s time to clean house. Sadly, neither party is willing to do it. No politician is willing to do it. No do-gooder group has the pull to make a dent in it.
So we’re going to have to rely on the FBI.
We’re going to have to rely on federal indictments.
And I say bring it on.
Investigate them all.
Follow the money, follow the favors, hunt down the mandatory “contributions,” and stamp out these cockroaches wherever they’re found.
We deserve better, and we demand better.