State of Disgrace
by Jeff Kramer - Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Vote in the political Pageant of the Corrupt

Did anyone else notice that the crowning of the new Miss America from Fayetteville coincided with another bit of pageantry: the convening of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption?

Talk about a joke that has the setup and the punchline in one handy phrase. One of the commission’s co-chairs is our own District-Attorney-For-Life William Fitzpatrick, legendary for throwing campaign fund-raisers to restock his personal party budget and for accepting political cash from defense attorneys no matter how murky it looks.

As for Cuomo, it’s hard to wear the white hat once you’ve taken more than a quarter of a million dollars in donations from a law firm, and that law firm gets hired by Sheldon Silver and the state Senate to defend itself against your commission.

Let the cleansing winds of reform blow!

Anyway, the aligning of these events—the naming of a local Miss America and the anti-corruption hearings—got me thinking about staging a pageant of my own. Who’s the most corrupt and/or depraved current or recent public official in New York? Here’s your chance to decide.

Below I’ve compiled a far-from-comprehensive ballot. I am, after all, only one man. Feel free to write in your own contestant—Silver, for example. Bribes will be accepted, but no ballot stuffing.

Let’s meet the talent:

Assemblyman Eric Stevenson

Measurements: Pleaded not guilty to taking $22,000 from Russian businessmen in exchange for pushing legislation to block construction of new day-care centers in his Bronx district. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Told judge he cannot afford a lawyer and left court in Mercedes-Benz. Evening Clown: A “summer night jazz mixer” to raise money for Stevenson’s legal defense fund was canceled.

Quote: “My commitment to you is to continue being the voice of justice in our community.”

(Former) Assemblyman Vito Lopez

Measurements: Resigned in disgrace in May after a state ethics report found he groped eight young staffers. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Made aides touch his neck tumors. Evening Clown: Around Christmas 2010, he twice pestered a female staffer for a kiss under the mistletoe—the latter time in front of his girlfriend. Quote: “Rub it harder, though. . . . It feels good, is that all right, does that hurt you that you’re doing this?”—Excerpt from conversation with tearful complainant who was using an electric massager on Lopez’s hand.

Assemblyman William Boyland Jr.

Measurements: Accused of trying to extract $250,000 in bribes partly to pay for legal defense for an earlier indictment.

Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Mocked for not being able to spell what he was accused of stealing. He spelled per diem “per-dium” on a financial disclosure report. Evening Clown: Accused of claiming he stayed overnight in Albany when he didn’t. Facing federal charges of filing bogus travel and expense vouchers. State audit found $67K in suspicious expenses. Expected to plead guilty shortly, but to what is unclear. Quote: “Asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share goes a long way to ensuring lowand middle-income New Yorkers a more secure future for years to come. Quite simply, it’s the right thing to do.”

(Former) Rep. Anthony Weiner

(a.k.a. Carlos Danger) * Measurements: See Internet. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: No, really. See Internet. Evening Clown: Former sexting partner Sydney Leathers showed up at his primary night election night, capping New York City mayoral bid. Quote: “This is part of the problem with the way this has progressed, and one of the reasons I was, perhaps, if you forgive me, a little stiff yesterday.”

*honorary state official

Assemblyman Steve Katz

Measurements: 1/8th ounce Unsightly swimsuit revelation: One year after voting against legalizing pot for medical purposes and 11 weeks after being ticketed for possession, the Republican lawmaker voted for it.

Evening Clown: A veterinarian by trade, the Hudson Valley assemblyman was cited one night for illegally disposing of a 90-pound dead German shepherd. Charges were dropped.

Quote: “My personal life aside, I believe that we can do a better job managing pain for those with severe medical conditions, and that is why this year, I will not only be supporting this bill, but I will be a co-sponsor of the bill, as well.”

(Former) State Sen. Shirley Huntley

Measurements: Pleaded guilty to embezzling $90,000 from a sham charity she founded. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: After being confronted by the FBI about her scam, she agreed to tape record conversations with seven elected officials and two others. She wasn’t good at it. She kept double-clicking a keychain device, turning it off, and forgetting to ask crucial questions.

Investigators suspected her of being less than cooperative. Evening Clown: Admitted guilt yet accused prosecutor of “political attack.”

Quotes: “I sleep very well. I can survive {prison}. The only thing I’ll be missing is my brandy and my cigarettes.” Also, “What I am saying is there are certain ways you do your job and you need to give the same respect to the black community as you do to other communities, and that has not happened.”

State Sen. Malcolm Smith

Measurements: Accused of trying to bribe his way onto the ballot for the New York City Republican mayoral primary. Promised the man who provided the bribe money up to $500,000 in state funding for his real estate deal. Problem: Man providing the bribe money was an FBI agent. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Also indicted for trying to shake down a government witness for $100,000 to pay bribes to fellow senators in exchange for a leadership post.

Evening Clown: Reportedly spent $100K in campaign cash last year for trips, lodging and meals, including $20,000 in restaurant charges at such budget eateries as Le Cirque and the Statler Grill in Manhattan. (Sound familiar?) Quote: (Tweet, actually) “Someone in the Hollis area has lost their dog. If you see this little guy, I’m sure they would appreciate a call.”

State Sen. Kevin S. Parker

Measurements: Got off with two criminal mischief misdemeanors after attacking a news photographer. Narrowly avoided grand larceny conviction because it could not be established that camera cost more than $3,000. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Arrested in 2005 after the police said he punched a traffic agent in the face. The charges were dismissed after Parker agreed to enroll in an anger management course. Also exploded at state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) in a race-freighted verbal attack at a hearing.

Evening Clown: Winner of 2012 Stars of New York Dance Competition. Quote: “Dance is a powerful ally for developing many of the positive attributes of a growing child, including physical fitness, emotional stability, social awareness, and cognitive learning.”

State Sen. John Sampson

Measurements: Charged with embezzling $440,000 and using some of it to finance a run for Brooklyn district attorney. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: Sampson is accused of offering to “take out” a witness to the deal, worried that the “businessman” who loaned him money to help cover an embezzlement scheme might talk. Oops. The businessman was cooperating with feds.

Evening Clown: Sampson’s office promoted “Mold Awareness Training” workshop on evening of Feb. 7. “Learn where mold grows,” the program stated, as if the answer isn’t obvious: Albany. Quote: “Not everything I told you was false.” —Response to FBI agents when they accused him of lying.

(Former) State Sen. Carl Kruger

Measurements: Serving seven-year prison sentence for accepting more than $1 million in bribes. Unsightly swimsuit revelation: The feds described Kruger’s relationship with his co-conspirator Michael Turano as “particularly close,” one in which “they relied on and supported one another,” and noted that both men spoke nearly every day, sometimes in “baby talk.” Evening Clown: According to documents, Kruger “slept each night in the modest house he shares with sister and brother-inlaw in Canarsie every night since 1968.” At least those two came out ahead in this deal. Quote: “If you were to take my life and bottle it, and drink what was inside that bottle, it would be like a cough medicine. It wouldn’t taste very good, but it’d be good for you.”

Would it, Carl?

Send your completed ballot to the Syracuse New Times or email it to me at: jeffmkramer@gmail.com.

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