By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The bribery arrests of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and Councilman Daniel Halloran (R-Queens) are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to political corruption in New York City, Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese charged.
”The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that these are just ‘a couple of bad apples.’ Their pay-to-play mentality is a systemic problem, and it's directly harming regular New Yorkers,” said Albanese, who spoke out in the wake of the arrests of Smith, Halloran and four other political figures in Queens and Rockland County.
Albanese vowed to clean up city government if he wins the mayor’s race.
The arrests, announced by Preet Bharara, US attorney for the Southern District of New York on the morning of April 2, took place in connection with a web of bribery and corruption schemes allegedly centering on Smith’s desire to run for mayor.
Bharara announced that Smith allegedly used Halloran as a go-between to set up meetings with Republican Party officials around the city in order to bribe them into allowing Smith, a Democrat, to run for mayor in the 2013 election as a Republican.
Halloran also faces additional charges of diverting some $80,000 in so-called member items, monies each councilmember receives for pet projects, to a political consultant.
"If true, the charges against Councilman Halloran and Senator Smith are further evidence that New York City government is riddled with corruption at every level,” Albanese, a former Bay Ridge councilman, said. “In the case of Councilman Halloran, it’s alleged that more than $80,000 in member items was brazenly diverted to a consultant in exchange for cash,” he said.
“Too many of our elected officials fund their campaigns and line their pockets with money from developers, lobbyists, and people who do business with the city - folks who have no interest but their own bottom line. For the sake of our city, this nonsense needs to end. I have insisted that we ban member items and strengthen campaign finance laws, and I have refused to accept contributions from developers and special interests,” Albanese said.
Albanese is one of several candidates, a list that includes Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill deBlasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for mayor in the November election.