De Blasio, Other Advocates Call For Reform In Wake Of Lawmakers’ Arrests
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is calling for the “outright ban of the controversial spending system” after the arrests of several lawmakers.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Dan Halloran and four others were arrested Tuesday in an alleged plot to rig the 2013 New York City mayoral race.
Federal authorities say Smith, a Democrat, wanted to run as a Republican. According to a criminal complaint, Smith met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy real estate developer and agreed to bribe leaders of Republican county committees around New York City.
The complaint says in exchange for payments from the developer to the Republican officials, Smith agreed to use his power as senator to help obtain state money for a road project in Spring Valley — a project he believed would benefit the undercover agent’s company.
Halloran, a Republican, reportedly helped arrange the bribes, authorities said.
“Time after time, the discretionary funding system has led to bribery, political blackmail and a boatload of big legal bills paid for by taxpayers,” de Blasio said. “Yesterday’s arrests of Council Member Dan Halloran and State Sen. Malcolm Smith were just the latest examples of corruption involving discretionary funding.”
De Blasio said if Halloran is convicted this year he would be the fourth council member to be convicted in the last four years.
“The notion of on average once a year a member of this city council going to jail and each and every case from misuse of member item money I think this has reached an unsustainable point and it simply proves that this system is no longer workable,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio, a former City Councilman and current mayoral candidate, took to the steps of City Hall to declare that Halloran should think about stepping down, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“I think he should seriously consider resigning. I respect the fact that there’s going to be a court process and he has a right to his day in court, but I think in almost every one of these cases we’ve seen, where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” de Blasio said.
At a different event, mayoral hopeful and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn made a similar suggestion.
“I think Councilman Halloran owes the people in his district a great deal of thought about whether he is actually able to continue to service them, conduct the defense I’m sure he believes he deserves and do both of those at the same time,” Quinn told reporters including Lamb.
Quinn said reforms already in place make a ban on discretionary spending unnecessary.
Other government watchdog groups say the alleged plot shows the ongoing need to remove money from Albany politics.
Karen Scharff of Citizen Action of New York says many legislators first get elected intending to work for their communities then learn they are in a system where money determines outcomes.
Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters says New York also needs strict campaign finance enforcement and has no investigators at the state Board of Elections.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron also said “fundamental reform of the system” is needed “including laws to create a better campaign finance system and more open and competitive elections, and to disentangle public service from for-profit business.”
On Tuesday, Smith was removed from his committee assignments and leadership post in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference. Halloran was also stripped of his committee assignments and money-allocating authority Tuesday evening.
Squadron called on Smith to resign, saying the charges outlined in the complaint “are simply shocking.”
“Regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges filed against Senator Smith, he has lost the public trust — and he should resign,” Squadron said in a statement Wednesday.
Smith is charged with fraud and bribery conspiracy. Halloran is charged with fraud and bribery conspiracy, accused of negotiating bribes for Smith and taking a share.
The mayor and deputy mayor of Spring Valley as well as the Republican Party chairman in the Bronx and the vice chairman in Queens are also charged.
The politicians deny the charges.
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