NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s a stunning and wide-ranging public corruption scandal.
Six highly-placed politicians are accused of using bribery to rig this year’s New York City mayoral race.
There were three distinct parts to the public corruption and bribery scandal, but in all three money flowed freely and, at times, city and state funds — your tax dollars — paid the freight, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.
“The charges we unsealed today demonstrate once again that a ‘show me the money’ culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
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The six defendants nailed by the feds Tuesday certainly represent many levels of government. State Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, allegedly wanted to rig the 2013 mayoral race so he could run as a Republican. Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran reportedly helped arrange the bribes to buy Smith a waiver, and two Republican officials had their hands out, reportedly saying “show me the money and the waiver is yours.”
“Senator Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked it by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receive bribes,” Bharara said.
An effort by Smith to run as a Republican is not unprecedented. Mayor Michael Bloomberg switched from the Democratic to Republican parties shortly before his first successful run for mayor in 2001. The path is attractive to candidates because it is easier to get on the ballot for the Republican mayoral primary in a city crowded with Democratic politicians.
Smith, however, cannot run as a Republican without the written consent of three of the city’s five Republican Party county chairmen, who were scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
It was not Smith’s first flirtation with GOP politics. He made a surprising move last year in the state Legislature to join forces with Republicans to form a first-of-its-kind coalition to run the fractured Senate. The move by Smith and four other renegade Democrats allowed the state GOP to keep control of the Legislature’s upper chamber.
Officials told CBS 2’s Kramer the mayoral race scandal consisted of three distinct but related bribe schemes.
First was the attempt by Smith to buy the GOP mayoral line.
He allegedly arranged for $40,000 to be paid to Bronx GOP Chairman Joseph Savino and Queens GOP Assistant Chairman Vincent Tabone. Halloran reportedly received $20,500 in cash bribes to act as the intermediary with the political leaders.
In the second scheme, Halloran allegedly received $18,300 in cash bribes and $6,500 on straw donor contributions in exchange for steering an $80,000 City Council contract to a company he believed was controlled by one of those who paid him the bribes.
Halloran allegedly told a wired government informant, “You can’t do anything without the money … Money is what greases the wheels … good bad or indifferent,” CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
“After statements like this and a string of other public corruption scandals we continue to expose, many may understandably fear that there is no vote that’s not for sale,” Bharara said.